I wrote about an experience with a bat not long ago (if you missed it, you can catch that bit of foolishness right here: read A Bat Story) and I mentioned that our family lived in Story City, Iowa, for a few years while my husband Bryan got his PhD. Story City is a charming little town, whose founders and planners had an excellent vision of how charming a small town can be. They’ve promoted the town for its Scandinavian roots, when they could have just have easily have made a big deal out of the fact that it is absolutely full of bats. Yep. Instead of the annual Scandinavian Days celebration in the summer that brings thousands of people to town, they could have decided to have . . . “Bat Days.” Hmmph. Probably it wouldn’t have been as popular. I share a Scandinavian heritage with many good folks in Story City, but I certainly didn’t enjoy the predominant bat culture while we lived there.
For example, one evening we returned to our home late, from some event, and found that two freakishly gigantic bats had moved in to our house while we were gone, and were indulging in their own personal air show. All they lacked was an audience, and once we arrived, that need was met.
We lived in a tiny house, and our two front rooms were divided by a partial wall and two lovely columns. Those columns were such an attractive architectural element in such a humble little dwelling. These creatures of the night were doing a graceful, creepy, soaring dance of sorts as they gracefully flew between those columns, banking and swerving and completely silent, only baring their sharp little teeth menacingly at us whenever they’d get close enough to do so.
Bryan and I had the brief presence of mind to usher the smaller kiddos to safety in the other room, and then Matthew and Andrew, our two oldest boys, grabbed brooms (fly swatters not being available) and we opened the front door wide and tried to “encourage” them to take their aeronautical show outside, all while ducking and frantically trying to avoid actual contact with the soaring bats.
Unfortunately, the bats weren’t in a cooperative mood, and so after several minutes of ducking and squealing and swooping and swearing (not really), I did what I always do in times of great duress: I hid under the table and I called my dad.
I absolutely knew that Dad (even though he was a 4-hour drive away) would drop what he was doing (sleeping, in this case) and drive to Iowa to take care of those bats if I asked him to. . . my dad is awesome that way . . . but I couldn’t ask him to do that. It was ten o’clock at night! That meant that I’d have to put up with the bats until, roughly, 2 in the morning. (There are limits to what even a life-hardened prairie woman can endure.)
Dad gave us some suggestions, mostly stuff we’d already tried. Turn all the lights off inside, he said, turn on the porch light and they’ll naturally go out the door towards the light.
We’d already done that, and they hadn’t naturally done anything except pick up the pace of their wild flight around our living room.
Wave brooms around wildly, he suggested. Perhaps they’ll sense a hostile environment and flee for their lives.
Been there, done that, didn’t work, Dad. Good suggestion, though.
Finally one of the boys had the brilliant idea to suspend a large blanket between the two columns, thereby closing off half of the available flying space. Less fun for the bats, ergo they’d go outside where there was more space? Sounded good. So we did it, and I was amazed at how those bats adapted, even turning sideways to fly through the very small space between the column and the half-wall (a span of, perhaps, 12 inches).
I was getting tired, and bored with all the shenanigans these bats were enjoying at the expense of my good night’s sleep. I get tunnel vision when I’m very sleepy—all I can see is the hazy vision of my sweet warm bed, waiting for me, and the blissful moment when unconsciousness takes over. . .
“Maybe we should all just go to bed–being careful to close our bedroom doors securely–and let Daddy take care of this. . . the brave knight slays the dragon, eh? What do you think, honey?” I suggested, brightly. Um, well, that idea didn’t please my brave knight overmuch, judging by the maniacal grimace and narrowed, bloodshot eyes he flashed in my direction.
One of the bats finally landed on the wall, for a brief rest. My manly husband seized the moment, grabbed an empty trash can, and, in a desperate lunge onto the top of the couch, trapped the bat inside the can, against the wall. He perched there, panting heavily, listening to the faint rustling noises within the trash can, the little teeth-clicking noises which were sounding angrier and angrier. The other bat, meanwhile, continued to circle and click his sharp little teeth at us.
“Quick! Grab a cookie sheet!” he panted.
“Is Dad going to cook the bat?” one of the kids, cowering under the table, asked.
So I crept to the kitchen and grabbed a cookie sheet, trying to avoid the flight pattern of the second bat. Bryan slid the sheet gingerly underneath the rim of the trash can, and then, a huge smile of triumph on his weary face, he carried the enraged, entrapped bat to the door, trash can, cookie sheet and all—ducking the swooping of the free bat—and flung the whole shebang out the front door onto the front lawn.
As tired and frustrated I was at that moment, I did have the grace not to exclaim over the casual treatment of my cookie sheet. And for good measure, the second bat followed, pretty quickly. Apparently it was not comfortable being a Lone Bat.
We became pretty adept at getting bats out of our house after that. We had ample opportunities to perfect our technique, since we lived in Story City for five years, and the bat population there is astounding. We never did figure out how they were getting into our house, however.
(Wait. This just occurred to me: possibly our neighbor Audree, always highly knowledgeable about our comings and goings, would creep over and fling bats from her own house into our front door when we were gone, then cackle wickedly later while she’d watch our exploits from her darkened window. I can hear her laugh merrily. “Beats cable!” That makes complete sense and is probably how it happened.)
Audree was our elderly neighbor who had lived in The Bat Capital of Iowa for most of her life. She was what everybody called “quite a character” and she had a vicious, albeit effective, way of dealing with bats in her house—ah, that is, the ones she didn’t secretly fling into our front door.
She’d shove them down the garbage disposal.
I try to keep my blog G-rated, but if you are a regular reader, you know by now that time and again I must reveal, delicately, my knowledge of some of the grittier aspects of life. I am a prairie woman, after all, and gritty stuff happens out on the prairie.
Shoving a bat down your garbage disposal with a toilet plunger—and then—(significant pause for effect) turning it on, is pretty doggone gritty, wouldn’t you agree?
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