I have bats in my belfry this morning. Why? Because someone posted a photo of a bat on Facebook which prompted me to remember a game I played as a youngster. Placing blame on another—called projection or scapegoating—is a common affliction that seems to be extremely prevalent among human beings. “You drive me crazy,” is a rather common statement. So I accuse whoever posted that photo of a bat on Facebook responsible for my “batty-ness” this morning—for the “bats in my belfry.” Surely, I would not have bats on my mind if it weren’t for that photo.
The old “Wagon House” on the farm across the road from our house was full of bats when I was young—hundreds, perhaps thousands of them. You could not walk into the building without “smelling” the bats (a very distinctive smell called “guano”) and “hearing" them squeak and scuttle around in the rafters during the daytime. At dusk on a summer evening, the bats awoke and took to flight (the only mammal capable of true flight), darting, swooping, and diving in the twilight, and they did what 70% of all bats do—feeding on mosquitoes and other pesky insects (natural pest control). One little bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in an hour. There was a common fear, or an “old wives tale” about bats that I grew up with—that bats will attack you and get tangled up in your hair. (Again, it was somebody else’s fault that I should have held that false fear when I was young).
The game I played could only be played in early twilight when the bats could still be seen flying about. The only equipment needed was a broom or a garden rake and an open space where you could still vaguely see the bats in flight. The object of the game was to swing the broom or rake and “bat” the bat out of the air. Success was rare because bats have a highly sensitive radar system, but I do recall getting a few. A bat is one of the longest-lived mammals for its size, with a life-span of almost 40 years, except when they encounter a swinging broom or rake!
In recent years the bat population in the United States has drastically diminished and I’m feeling a bit guilty this morning for the game played so long ago. I feel like Zorba the Greek felt when he urged, too soon, a butterfly from its cocoon and watched the poor thing die in his hand. Did my game contribute to the dwindling bat population? I doubt it, but still, I feel a twinge of guilt. Oh, the “Games People Play,” (Eric Berne wrote a book about it) and what havoc and pain such games (projection, scapegoating, blaming, lying, bullying, etc.) have upon bats and people.