I dunno why, but bats were greatly feared by every kid, and most adults. Probably one too many Dracula movies, or possibly it was that goofy Dark Shadows show that seemed to be all the rage at the time. Our greatest fear was that the bats would land in our hair and bite us, resulting in a case of rabies. Every kid knew that there was no cure for rabies, and that once bitten, you had 60 seconds to say goodbye to your kin and country. This factoid was derived from watching Old Yeller on the Wonderful World of Disney. Herein, I’d like to ponder my memories of a summer evening on the dark side streets in my neighborhood.
First a bit of background. Dark Shadows was a creepy old black and white soap opera that involved a sinister vampire named Barnabus Collins along with a ghoulish collection of witches, zombies, and werewolves. The music was great, the plots were absolutely riveting, and the characters were completely memorable. Barnabus would occasionally turn into a bat puppet, dangling from a set of clearly visible strings, and extract the lifeblood from various scantily dressed women. We would rush home from school to watch the next adventure and then talk about it at school lunch the following day. One kid, Mike Vose, was so enthralled with this show, that he had his mother sew up a cape so that he could parade up and down the street with his cane and fake vampire teeth, scaring the crap out of of the younger kids.
OK, enough of that – back to the bats. I lived on a dead end street which was directly adjacent to two big manicured fields and the Cayudutta creek. So in the summer, there were massive clouds of mosquitos, fireflies, crickets, grasshoppers and the like. There were also these huge streetlights that attracted the bugs, which ended up attracting the bats, since the bats ate the bugs. On any given night, at about dusk, the bats would start their high speed maneuvers. We’d try to hit them with rocks, an essentially fruitless endeavor, because the bats would just swerve around them like so many orange cones. We eventually found that if you just threw something up into the air, the bats would sometimes mistake it for a slow moving june bug and try to gobble it up. This activity led to trying other more interesting objects, like firecrackers and flaming rolls of toilet paper. We were entertained for hours on end, showcasing the fertile young minds and future kings of industry that inhabited our neighborhood.
You would think that our fear of bats would have precluded us from attacking said bats with flaming rolls of TP. It sorta says something about the mob mentality. No matter how fearful you are of something, if you can line up enough armed imbeciles with a similar mindset, you are invincible. Strength in numbers and all of that. Brings to mind a few political organizations that are currently flooding the airwaves.