The B.E.T.F.

We’ve been up in New Hampshire for a vacation, staying with my parents at our family’s summer house on a small island on a big lake. Total heaven to get away from Texas in August!

My brother and his wife, who’d been out on the island for the weekend, had just returned home to The Pickle Farm (their home) and had texted us photos of some unexpected visitors to their patio—wandering horses from the farm next door, sticking their noses right up against the screen door to say a horsey helloooo.

I’ve always imagined that horses would do the Jerry Seinfeld voice:

My brother did just move from Manhattan to The Pickle Farm, but he is aware that pickles do not grow on farms. Or at least do not grow as pickles. So don’t worry about him.

We had a good laugh about the fact that when we have unexpected visitors at our Houston house, they are either rats, squirrels, or opossums. My brother and his wife get coyote/feral dogs and horses. I don’t count horses as pests.

After the horse text, Allen went to bed. I stayed up for another hour to finish a book.

When I joined him, it felt lovely. The night was chilly, maybe upper 50s, so the windows were open (screens on). He had warmed up the bed to the perfect temperature. I fall asleep quickly when the weather is right, and the weather was right. 

A sliver of light came through the transom window because my dad was still up reading. Did I mention this has been a family vacation? 

Just as I closed my eyes, I saw a shadow dart across the ceiling. I settled down a bit more, opened my eyes one more time, and saw it again.

Right before we left Houston, I had purchased my first prescription glasses, as my 20/20 vision has, as my mother once predicted it would, become a thing of my youth. The third time I saw the shadow flicker over, I realized that I could not blame its presence on my bad vision.

We had a bat in the bedroom.

We get bats in the house every so often, and are careful to keep the screen doors shut near sundown especially to reduce the risk of these flying mosquito-eating machines finding their way inside.

I didn’t want to wake him up, but I figured that Allen would want to know. I quickly got up and put on my clothes. Quickly, and stooped over, but calmly.

I could dress quickly but calmly because my clothes were right on the floor where I’d taken them off. If I’d been listening to my mother for all these years and had carefully hung them up, I’d have had to face the bat mostly naked, and who wants to face a bat that way?

I ducked into the hallway and shut husband in the room with the bat. That was the first part of his plan, not me being cruel, I swear. We needed to lock down the rest of the house before we could execute phase I of the plan to de-bat our bedroom.

I knocked on my parents’ door to tell them to stay put. My mother was out cold, lying peacefully on her back not snoring, and not even breathing a bit louder than usual. My dad was reading, and looked disinclined to get involved, which was fine. I warned him to stay put and keep his door closed.

We were a B.E.T.F. of two, a Bat Extraction Task Force. Our goal, other than extracting the bat from the house, was doing so without any screaming or hysterics. My mother being asleep greatly increased the odds of achieving our goal.

In my teen years, when my mother, brother and I were on the island without my dad, we’d had a bat invasion. Immediately, we left the house, and I suspect my mother was planning to just lock the door and never return. Since that didn’t seem totally reasonable, we called our neighbors a few houses down, and a bat posse was formed.

We all donned hats, as the myth that flying bats would become tangled in our hair had a particularly strong hold on the members of our posse with very tightly curled hair.

Several people wore gloves: some of which were actual leather work gloves, some of which were baseball gloves, and one pair of which were pot-holders.

The posse showed up armed: lacrosse stick, fishing net, canoe paddle, and a long, sharp fishing knife.

Betsy swore she would filet the bat on the wing.

Much ducking, yelling, screaming, and dangerously wild swings by people with eyes firmly closed ensued. I think the bat finally realized that we were crazy and left.

We didn’t need that kind of chaos last night. That kind of chaos would have awakened my mother, and honestly, that would not have helped anything. Trust me. If you ever need to form a B.E.T.F., do not pick my mother.

I came out into the main room. Shortly thereafter, our bedroom door opened and Allen army-crawled out, his bath towel wrapped around his waist.

  1. It turns out that he does not share my fear of facing a bat naked.
  2. Somehow, he associates the stop-drop-and-roll lessons of fire safety with bat safety.
  3. He should perhaps not be as quick to put his clothes in the hamper. I don’t really want to encourage him to be as slovenly as I am, so please don’t point this out to him.

But I digress.

Allen army crawled into the main room, and the bat followed him shortly. I ducked back down the hallway and closed that door. Unfortunately, I was in the hallway, not the main room, so our communications abilities were hindered. I had to re-enter the main room, pull the door shut again, and quickly get to the best vantage point for locating the bat that would not put me in the flight path. I did just that, using the table as my command post.

Allen was stretched out on the floor by the front door, trying to pop the screen door open each time the bat came near. The door being popped open inevitably attracted, then immediately repelled the bat.

Because the bat had initially gone into the bathroom toward the nightlight, we assumed it would be attracted to light, so turned off the indoor lights and left the porch light on. We could still see the shadow swoop through the main room, and hear it as it bumped into things and wriggled around trying to get back to the cozy bedroom. I feared its echolocation instruments had been disrupted and it would never leave.

Eventually, I went onto the porch with a flashlight, shining the beam straight up. Allen turned off the porch light, and propped open the screen door. After a few more swoops, including one that swept right over Allen’s lower back, it jetted out into the mosquito-filled night.

For the past two hours, my father has been upstairs trying to seal off any places bats might be migrating from the attic to the main part of the house. Tonight, or perhaps tomorrow, depending upon the weather, we’re going to station ourselves at the four corners of the house to see if bats are flying out of any one particular eave or soffit. As this B.E.T.F. will include my mother, I anticipate some shrieking, so have warned the neighbors.

My mother, determined to help, although not by direct participation, found this useful and entertaining entry about getting rid of bats. I like that it gives us permission to shut her in her room the next time this happens:

If you have a bat in your house it’s a good idea to get all of the family into one room, close the door, and then open every window and door in the rest of the house to allow the bat to escape on its own. Don’t worry too much about the family part; they tend to do this themselves albeit with a lot of shrieking and commentary about the location of the bat.

This entry was posted in advice you didn't ask for, story time, vacations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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