Nothing to Do But Shriek

There are certain ingrained important reactions in life.

When you look at a baby or a puppy, you go awwwww.  When you look at plumber butt-crack, you go ewwww.

When there’s a bat swooping frantically through your hallway over your head, there’s nothing to do but shriek.

I suspect the bat was doing the same last night, in its ultrasonic way.

Bats and I go way back.  Seems like every now and then, it’s just time to get one out of the house.  Truth is, after my first encounter, the rest have been pretty tame.

That first encounter started one evening years before I sold JESS but while I was writing a first draft of SEER’S BLOOD (which sold several books after JESS, but sometimes that’s the way it goes).  I liked to write at night, then as now.  I had a brand-spanking-new Leading Edge computer and I was still using Leading Edge word processing software.  The lights were low, the then-dogs were asleep, the house was quiet…

And the bat skimmed over my shoulder from behind and landed on my keyboard.

There was more than shrieking.  There was LEVITATION.

That encounter ended when I snapped the bat out of the air with a towel, which sadly didn’t go well for the bat.  I went back to work.

The next night, a bat came swooping down the stairwell and flapped wildly over my head in the living room until, yes…I snapped it out of the air with a towel.  And I thought, “Uh-oh.”  Then I composed a little song about bats in the attic, bed bugs, and the blues, and went to bed.  (I still have it somewhere.  I promise to share if I find it.)

The next day…

And the next…

It would perhaps be pertinent to mention that I was living in the gorgeousness of deep Appalachia.  No longer in the log cabin in Eastern Kentucky, but instead living at the end of a Southwest Virgina ridge that I can pinpoint on a map to this day–close enough to Kentucky to see the line.  That old farmhouse was the first in the area to have electricity (the Dad came home from the mines one weekend with wires and said, “Here, boys!  Wire it up!” and they did).

It still had a spot for the outhouse, and the bathrooms were (1) built into the attic dormer with the piping on the outside, and (2) on the porch where until recent renovations, one went outside to go back inside to the bathroom.  The upstairs was originally finished more like a loft, and the closet stuck out from the bathroom in the dormer: a long, narrow section of sharply sloping ceiling–maybe 3.5 feet on one side, and 6 on the other, and just wide enough to put clothes along the very long rod and still have room to scootch by and take them off the hanger when you wanted.

The house had many other interesting features, but those are the important ones of the moment.  For as I discovered, a colony of bats had indeed taken up residence in the roof…which means they’d established themselves in the closet, going undiscovered because it was summer and we had barely-used cold weather clothing in there.

And there I was, and there they were.  In the closet.  In my clothes.  The long, narrow, cramped, crowded, hot, closet.  Don’t talk to me about exterminators…there was no money.  Also, there were no exterminators.

I got a walking stick.  I got a broom.  I got a fan.  I closed the door to the house and I poked the first shirt on the rod.  A bat flew out directly at me, I screamed, and I thwacked it with the broom.

Then I tried to identify it, because I am, after all, a naturalist.  Born that way, and trained that way.  But what did I know from bats?  It turns out that the Indiana bat (endangered) looks a whole lot like the Little Brown Bat (quite happily populated just about everywhere).  And the one way to tell them apart is…

The dentition.  In the skull.  Only visible if there isn’t actually any bat hanging around on the outside of the skull.

Well, it happens too that I had the beginnings of what is now a healthy skull collection. (Don’t ask me what’s sitting in a bucket in the garage maturing right now.  I’m not telling.)  So it wasn’t a big leap of thought to stick a bat head into a soup pot and commence the boiling.  Except…halfway through, I suddenly realized what I hadn’t considered, and so I called the nearest vet (who wasn’t near at all, but that’s another story, too.)

Me: Can you get rabies from a boiled bat’s skull?

Receptionist: *incomprehensible noise*

To spare you the rest of the conversation, the answer is No.  Too bad the Internet wasn’t around at that point; it would have known.

So back I went to my soup pot.  The bat, it turns out, was a Little Brown, AKA “The Doomed Bat.”  Thus I ended up back in the closet with gloves, stick, broom, and fan.  I poked the next shirt on the rod.  A bat flew out directly at me, I screamed, and I thwacked it with the broom. I removed that shirt, and poked the next shirt on the rod.  A bat flew out directly at me, I screamed, and I thwacked it with the broom.

This went on for quite a while.  Ahh, the reflexes of the young.

Then I disposed of the pile of corpses, did a hellacious amount of laundry, stuffed steel wool in all the closet cracks, and lurked on the roof at dusk so I could see where the bats were coming and going.  Eventually I got the holes plugged up, and there were no more bats swooping down into the house or pooping in my winter shoes.  The end of the first Bat Encounter.

Over the years, I dealt with a number of other bats.  In Flagstaff I even made a bat catcher out of a garbage bag and a big (big!) quilting hoop, although that little arrangement was dismantled for my move here to New Mexico. So last night’s singular bat incursion didn’t find me without a routine or resources.  (Duck, shriek, and throw a towel over the bat…)

Of course, I wanted to know what kind of bat it was.  I didn’t take any joy in thwapping all those bats all those years ago; bats are wonderful insect eaters and excellent neighbors (when outside the house).  And I had no intention of boiling any skulls this time around!  So I’m happy that he was a really identifiable little bat: the Pallid Bat.

Is he not adorable?

Does he not have the most awesome teeth?  The most stupendous ears? And to guess by that expression, an impressive vocabulary?

This is a ground-hunting bat who goes for crickets and scorpions–he’s even immune to scorpion sting.  And he has a thing or two to say about his predicament, that’s for sure.  He was happy to leave.

Bye-bye, Pallid Bat!

So be kind to your little mosquito and pest-eating friend when you can.  Most of them will find their way out if you can turn off lights and open the door.  Or if the bat isn’t flying, you can take a small container and place it over the bat, then .  Slide a stiff folder or thin cardboard underneath to secure the bat.  Carry the arrangement outside, remove the cardboard, and voila!  Bat is free!

Batventures.  Had any lately?


About Doranna

My books are SF/F, mystery, paranormal romance, and romantic suspense. My dogs are Beagles, my home is the Southwest, and the horse wants a cookie!
This entry was posted in Behind the Scenes, Land Keeping, The Arroyo and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Nothing to Do But Shriek

  1. Tina says:

    Not lately. I like it that way. My most note-worthy bat encounter was the time a bat came sailing into the kitchen at eye-level, followed by the gray cat (at eye-level) who snagged it in mid air. In my second bat encounter I was astonished to find that screaming and leaping behind the couch are actually involuntary actions, while my voluntary brain was still in the midst of thinking “oh, cool! A bat!”

  2. Crysta says:

    Never dealt directly with bats, but there was one that got into the apartment complex we were living in when I was five… and we had one that lived near/on the house in Arkansas, but he never got in.

    We do, however, occasionally hear them going after insects on our door at night, which is a little freaky.

  3. Doranna says:

    Yes! Involuntary reactions! Even if your front brain is thinking, “Don’t be stupid, it’s only a frightened bat,” the lizard brain is going EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

  4. Doranna says:

    Crysta– “scritchy scuffle scuffle gulp!”

    Kinda cool. I’d be tempted to watch!

  5. Patty says:

    So, one night, my husband got up to use the loo and he noticed in that half-asleep way, that some one had disgustingly failed to flush a large poo.

    Then the poo spread its wings!

    That’ll wake you up!

    It was a brown bat, if I recall.

  6. Doranna says:

    BWAH HA HA! “Then the poo spread its wings.” BWAH HA HA HA HA!!

  7. Linda C says:

    Not recently, but when we lived in our big old house (built in 1914) in PA, every year we had to evict one or two who’d made their way down the chimney. That usually involved the towel method. We’d often find them by hearing terrified chittering coming from a spot that was suddenly intensely interesting to all the cats.

    One year, I remember coming into the kitchen to find our two cats circling a bat who was spread-eagled flat to the floor. The youngest cat was opening her mouth as wide as it could go and trying to figure out how to engulf the bat, failing because wings-and-all it was the biggest thing she’d ever tried to eat. The elder cat was serving as overwatch; periodically the bat would bound up into the air in terror and elder cat would slap it back to the floor for younger cat. That state of affairs persisted long enough for us to find a towel and scoop up the poor thing and shake it off into the great outdoors.

    When we came back into the house, elder cat and younger were both still staring at the spot where the bat had lain. We were just in time to see elder cat look up at younger cat accusingly, then suddenly haul off and whack her soundly. It was obvious what he was saying: “You lost the bat!”

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Robin McKinley had a bat nursery in her attic for a couple of years–not willingly, because they’d come into the bedroom (through various chinks in an old house) and swoop around her in the dark, and also excite the hellhounds. They preferred to do in and out the window rather than find their way back to the attic exit. She thinks she’s finally got all the entrances from attic to house sealed.

  9. Doranna says:

    That sounds so…pleasantly exciting! *coff*

  10. 6_penny says:

    When I had a bat in the house I discovered that they don’t like light – so I turned all the lights on except for the upstairs bathroom – with the door left slightly ajar. The bat dashed for the dark cave of the bathroom and snagged itself to the ceiling in relief. I popped a bucket over it and opened the screen of the window and walked the bucket to the window. Exit bat. A nice side benefit was that the mosquitoes that had gotten into the house were all gone!

  11. Doranna says:

    That is an awesome idea! Boy, am I going to do that next time. Thank you!

Comments are closed.