D’Arcy At The Bat

A bat. [Source: Wikipedia]

bat n : any of an order of night-flying mammals with forelimbs modified to form wings.

[Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary]

I considered naming this post “Listen to them…they are the children of the night. What beautiful music they make” but I decided: a) it was too long for a title, and, b) the possibility of a copyright violation because it was the classic line spoken by Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film Dracula (Universal Studios retain some killer lawyers, I hear).

But, actually my chosen title speaks more to the point of the story (all true, I assure you) as I am about to relate.  Less than 24 hours ago (as I write this), my friend and seasonal neighbor (his real home is in Ohio), D’Arcy Havill, had an hour-long, somewhat contentious, battle with a real bat that entered his house in the dark hours, after sunset and during a rainstorm.

In a sense, it all began as my wife, Mariam and I were finishing dinner at the Belvedere Restaurant in Saranac Lake.  The dinner (I had Salmon) was to celebrate D’Arcy’s wife’s birthday.  Her name is Judy.  You’ve read about this couple in past blogs.

It was a warm muggy afternoon and there were scattered evening thunderstorms.  We drove home in a light sprinkle of rain.  I pulled our car up to their garage and parked.  Judy and D’Arcy opened the garage door and went into their house.  Mariam and I followed…but we took the walkway to the front door.  We were there to end the evening with a bit of chocolate cake and ice cream.  No sooner was I inside and heard the screen door slam shut behind me, I heard D’Arcy say the dreaded words: “Who let the bat in?”  I thought he said “Who let the cat in?” and I became confused because I could see their two cats, Delilah and Sylvester standing in the hallway.  The cats suddenly began to act as though they were walking on a bed of hot coals…they hopped about and were looking up.  There it was.  A bat had come in behind us and was making circular flights around the ceiling fan.  The cats were immediately banished to the master bedroom…and for good reason.  When cats and bats tangle, things can get rough and ugly.

Being from the mid-west, D’Arcy probably had an edge over Mariam and me when it comes to bats.  The Adirondack bat population has plummeted in recent years because of something called “white nose disease” (don’t ask).  Consequently, the mosquito population has spiked (keeping me indoors until the first frost…probably in late September).  So he (D’Arcy) issued the first command: “Open the doors!”

Meanwhile, as the bat kept circling the ceiling fan, Mariam took my iPhone into the kitchen and found “bat calls”.  I had no idea there was an app for that sort of thing.  I thought at first that she had found a really awful jazz station on the radio, but they were indeed, bat calls.

I thought for a few minutes and realized she may have been playing an aggressive angry call instead of a mating call (that would have attracted the bat, one would think), so I suggested that she not play the calls.  Next thing I hear is some conversation that was recorded by a family who were facing the same situation…a bat in the house.  Their problem ended when the mother shooed the bat out of an open door with a broom.

“Let’s get a broom,” said Judy.

“No,” said D’Arcy, eyeing the ceiling fan and several antique paintings, clearly envisioning an interior design fiasco.

The radio did suggest that the lights should be turned off.  The bat would become disoriented by a lot of light since they used echolocation and are known to have poor eyesight (you know…”blind as a bat”).

So the adults retreated to the screened-in porch to ponder the situation.  Here we were, four adults, all past retirement age, with three and a half Master’s degrees between us.  I was a science teacher but I never taught a lesson on bats.  What were we going to do?  Mariam and I just couldn’t say “good night” and leave the Havills with a rogue bat flying around their white vaulted ceiling.

Someone suggested using a butterfly net.  The only problem was that none of us caught or collected butterflies.  But, no authentic Adirondack camp is without an antique fishing net…the hand held kind.  D’Arcy had two.

We went back into the living room and found that the bat had landed on the wall, about fifteen feet above our heads.  We went back to the porch.  The fishing net thing gave me an idea.

“Just a thought, but why don’t we attach one of your nets to a pole and capture the bat while it is resting on the wall?” I said.

D’Arcy went to work like a true mid-westerner.  He grabbed his wooden hiking stick, disappeared into the garage and soon we were duct-taping the handle of the fishing net to the stick.

Back to the living room.  We turned on a single light and we soon had the bat trapped by the net (after a long reach). But as he was dragging the net down, the bat crawled out from the gap where the net handle and walking stick were joined.  Off it went to make more orbits of the ceiling fan.

Back to the porch.  Mariam suggested that if he turned the net inside out, there would be no gap.

“Then we would slide the bat down the wall and slide a piece of cardboard against the wall and the net, thereby trapping the bat.

We waited until the little mammal needed a rest and sure enough, it went to almost the same place it had been a few minutes earlier…only a few more feet higher.  D’Arcy made the supreme reach and covered the bat.  He dragged it slowly down, this time leaving the creature no gap to escape.  I slid the cardboard against the wall and before you could say “strike two”, we had it outside.  But then the problem of getting it out of the net presented itself.  It was hopelessly tangled.

“Scissors!” he yelled.  He was like a surgeon and Judy promptly brought a huge pair from the kitchen drawer.

We snipped and cut and gently, string by string, finally freed the bat, who promptly flew off toward our house…hopefully to gorge itself on all the mosquitoes that had been eyeing me for the last few days.

We let the cats out of the bedroom (where they had clawed the edges of the carpet trying to escape).

Mariam and I went home and watched two hours of a tense murder mystery series on PBS.

It’s been said that the last few Batman movies have become darker, more brooding.  I can totally get it.

And, even though we all lost a precious hour, I still believe, “Every little bat is sacred”.

Not like last night, but close. [Source: National Park Service. The Carlsbad bat flight]

D’Arcy’s net the morning after. [My photo]






The Great Guano Goldmine of Rainbow Lake


[WARNING: The subject matter of this post may not be suitable for general readers.  If you are offended by such words as “droppings” or “do-do”, then please move on to another, more appropriate blog about late summer recipes or crocheting cat napping pillows.]

On the afternoon of August 6, 2015, I was sitting quietly in my Adirondack Chair on our back deck.  Beside me, on the little table where we burn our citronella candles, was my new Exterminator.  At first glance, it appears to be a small tennis racket and that’s the point.  It’s not supposed to look like an Exterminator.  Inside the handle are two batteries.  When a black fly or other biting and sucking insect approaches my arm, I pick up the “tennis racket” and zap the bug with 500 volts of electricity.  How one can get 500 volts from two D cell batteries is something that is very hard to explain.  It’s too technical for the lay-person to understand, so I won’t go into it.  Let’s just say it has to do with electrons and leave it at that.

But, I digress.

I was deeply engrossed in Immanuel Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, a riveting work of suspense, gratuitous sex, violence and Epistemology.  I was nearing the end and, let me say, it’s a real page-turner.  I won’t be a spoiler, but I expected the end to have a proper climax to the narrative arc complete with fading action and resolution.  I was not disappointed.  As I was nearing the final fifty or so pages, I suddenly felt that I was being microwaved.  I blinked and I raised my eyes to the small patch of sky that is visible from our deck.

The sun was out!

I hate the feeling of Ultraviolet radiation on my skin so I called Mariam to come out and help me.  She promptly pulled apart a velcro band and raised our umbrella.  I pulled my chair into the shade and continued reading–after thanking her, of course.

A few minutes later, Mariam comes out to the deck and settles into her Kindle book.  It was a picture of domestic bliss. Here were two middle-aged people sitting side-by-side, each engaged in our own little world of reading and thinking.  I closed my eyes for a few moments to reflect on what I had just read, and I began to drift into an August Adirondack daydream.

That’s when I heard the movement.  It seemed to be coming from the umbrella.  I slowly raised one eye lid, fully expecting to see a squirrel playfully scampering around on the green canvas.  How wrong I was.  I opened the other eye lid and looked up into the inside peak of the umbrella.

Was it…?

I slowly went into the house to get my Zeiss Wild Bird Spotter Scope and tripod.  I focused the monocular at the inside peak.

There it was.  It stared back at me with the red eyes of Satan himself.  The pointed ears, the claw-like feet and the leather-like wings filled my field-of-view.  I was looking, eye to eye, at a bat.

I crossed myself and hurried to the kitchen to retrieve a clove of garlic.  This was surely a Vampire Bat of legend, making its yearly migration from Ohio to the heart of the Transylvanian Alps in Romania.  I was taking no chances.  I got more cloves for Mariam.  She reminded me that we needed a salad for dinner that night.  I asked about radishes and she said she could pass.

She looked at the cloves of garlic I had strung around her neck.  I told her that they would protect her from the loathsome Vampire Bat of legend that was living in our green umbrella.

She looked up and saw a foot and a pointed ear partly hidden by a fold in the canvas.

“Honey,” she said, “that’s a Small Brown Bat that is native to this part of the country.  It’s an Eptesicus fuscus.  The wingspan is only about eight inches or so.  It’s related to the Big Brown Bat.  I’m glad we have him.  They were nearly killed off a few years ago with a strange disease.  Now they seem to be coming back.”

I looked back at the bat.  It’s didn’t seem so large to me this time.

That’s when I noticed them!

“Look”, I said, “droppings.”

My mind raced through memories of stories of how spelunkers sometimes come down with serious respiratory illnesses after entering a cave filled with guano, or bat droppings.  I asked Mariam where our surgical masks were stored.

“There’s only two or three tiny pieces,” she said, “I don’t think we have to worry.”

As I stared at the tiny pieces of guano, I began to think of the Civil War.  I began to make serious connections with what was on our deck and the fortunes that were made during the War by entrepreneurs who collected, processed and refined guano into gun powder.  I thought of all the hunters in the Adirondacks and I realized that there were quite a few.  A fair number of them, as well as new age frontiersmen and survivalist, still used flintlocks or muskets for hunting.  It didn’t take me long to see that we were sitting beneath a gold mine.  All we needed to do was collect the guano and sell it to gun powder manufacturers.  We’d need a few more deck umbrellas, I knew, but it would be worth it.  Soon, we’d be rolling in guano money and thinking of buying a certain condo I had in mind in Labrador.

I quickly explained my plan to Mariam, knowing she’d be on board when I made it clear to her that there was money in those little black specks on our deck.

She just stared at me for a few minutes and went back to her Kindle.

Me?  I went downstairs and brought back a quart-sized Bell jar that I had used for storing my homemade pickles.  I carefully scraped together the few black grains of what I saw as gold, black gold, that is.

This is how fortunes are made, by far-sighted guys like me.

I went back to Kant, comfortable in the fact that my mail would be forwarded to Labrador within the next ten years, or so.

[WARNING: The image below may not be considered appropriate for general viewing.  Discretion is advised!]