Saturday, July 08, 2006


By request, I'm going to put up some of the old columns here as well. What the hell-- it's only bandwidth...


(News-Herald, October 2001) This was a good summer for getting close to nature. Out on the bike trail I saw the usual rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and the occasional snake. One morning on my bike I raced a red fox. Early in the day the deer come to the river; I watched fauns grow up over the summer. Thirteen deer in one trip is my record.
Americans have a long history of nature-loving. No doubt that’s in part because we live in a part of the world where nature doesn’t seem too intent on killing us. Blizzards and sandstorms don’t leave you with an itch to get in touch with nature. It’s a lot easier to appreciate nature when you know you can escape it.
For instance, it’s fun at dusk to stand by the river and watch the bats fly, swooping and zipping by so quickly that they barely register as black streaks about a dark gray dusk. I can stand and marvel at their amazing gifts.
This is considerably different from how I feel about a bat in the house. A bat outside is a marvelous part of the food chain, a warrior in the war against bugs. A bat in my house is a detestably winged rat.
I would love to offer a narrative here that would cause my editor to entitle this column “Manly Tales of Bat Assault” or “Brave Two-Fisted Bat Whomping.” But the fact is that a bat in a flight pattern anywhere near me makes me dive for cover. If the bat surprises me, I will also holler (the noise is not articulate enough to qualify as a scream).
That is bad, ultimately, for the bat. I am not, by nature, a particularly violent or aggressive person. But no matter how civilized we become, it’s still true that human beings are capable of doing just about anything to something that scares them.
So a bat in my house is living on borrowed time.
When a bat violates my space, I stop caring about other things. If it insists on flying around, I will yell at it, using language that by all rights should make its wings curl up and its blister and shrivel.
I will look for a weapon. The only badmitton set I ever bought in my life was purchased only so that I could have strategically placed rackets around the house ( a house which, despite some concerted hole-plugging efforts, seemed destined to stay on the Fordor’s Four Star Bat Hotel list).
I don’t care how stupid I look. I want protection, and if I can’t get to a room with decent accessories (because, you understand, I am NOT going to walk through the bat flight pattern, and if the bat is NOT flying, it is only because he is perched somewhere waving to his bat-friends outside the window in bat semaphore for “Watch this. I’m going to make him jump AND make funny noises all at once”) then I will settle for whatever is handy.
Do I look silly dresses in a bathrobe, fedora, shorts and snow boots, clutching a badmitton racket, scanning the room for the next assault, ready to drop to the floor instantly? I don’t care. At that moment, I AM primeval man, adrenaline raging, fully prepared to pulverize my enemy.
I have occasionally swatted one out of mid-air. I have knocked one off its wall perch with wasp spray (my instructions said water would do to shock it off there, but I didn’t want to go easy on the little demon-spawn). Usually the safest bet is to wait until it tires and lights.
Then I move to the next phase: trapping the beast with an empty trash can and sliding a piece of cardboard in place as a sort of lid. Sometimes various little bat limbs become trapped, pinched or mangled in this process. I don’t care.
I know there are people from the “catch and release” school of bat maintenance. I tried that a long time ago and became quickly convinced that this is misplaced kindness. I suspect that the bats simply return, after telling all their friends about this great bat Hilton with some dancing bearded pushover innkeeper.
So I take the trapped bat on that great amusement park ride, the Bat Frappe. And while I’m treating it like a little bat maraca, I assert my manly homo sapienosity (“How do you like THAT?!” bonkity bonkity bonk “Teach you to bust into MY house” bonkity bonkity BONK). And then I kill it.
I hear that’s sort of against the rules. I don’t care. Whatever the fine is, it’s not more than I’d pay to make a bat in my house go away.

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