No, not baseball bats, real bats, the ones that fly and that made vampires famous. Those bats. Now, you may be wondering what a kid from New York City would have to say about Bats. That’s understandable, but please remember, I am in Summer mode, so I am recalling events that took place in Lake Hopatcong , NJ, where Rob and I spent many a memorable summers.
So, it is to lake Hopatcong we go.
When Dad first scraped enough money together to purchase the Bungalow on Sante Fe Trail, there were basically two other houses (Bungalows) on our street . That was it. In the time frame I reference, Hopatcong was still considered “the country”, and, relatively speaking was scarcely populated. There were a few other houses on neighboring roads, but on Sante Fe…. there was three. The rest of the area was woods and fields and, trust me, a swamp. (More on the Swamp another time)
The large track of land directly across the road from our house was a wide open field. It was covered in weeds and high grass and even some wild blackberry bushes. In the daytime, it was not our favorite place to play because the ground was very uneven, making baseball or football more treacherous than we normally made them. In addition, it was an open field with literally no trees making it very hot and unpleasant during steamy summer days.We gravitated toward play areas( the woods) that offered at least some protection.
However, at dusk , the field was the place to be because the bats came out at dusk. This is when they searched out food in the form of small flying insects. Dormant in the wooded area surrounding the field, they came alive in great numbers at twilight.
I had thought of doing some research before writing this so I could tell you what kind of Bats they were and how common they were to this particular part of New Jersey, but I decided against it. Who cares? They were Bats and there was a lot of them. They are fascinating and intriguing to young kids and we waited with baited breath each evening for the first bat sighting.
“There goes one!!!” Someone would yell and before long they were coming out of the trees in large numbers and heading to the field.
As knucklehead kids we thought that it would be fun to try to hit them with rocks we threw at them. Have you ever seen how quick and erratic the flight of a bat is? Chances of hitting one were slim and none. I don’t think we ever did, which I am very grateful for. They are wonderful creature and why kids can be so cruel at times amazes me.But, alas, we were no match for their wild flight path.
One of the things I remember most was the spreading of what was a dumb , but believable rumor. I don’t remember who started it, probably Bobby from the third house on our street. He started all kinds of rumors. This one had to do with the harm these “dangerous” creatures could impose on we vulnerable humans. It seems, as the story went, one would have to take every precaution under the sun ( or moon, to be more appropriate) to insure that these kamikaze bats did not find their way into your hair. If they did, life would get bad. First, you would most likely get bit. Second , and even more frightening, the bat would get entangled in your hair , resulting in the need for a trip to the hospital ( I guess) to have all your hair shaved off in order to be free from the insidious bat.
This insane fear resulted in quite a comedy for an wise spectator. Take the spectators view for a moment. You are looking out at the field as darkness starts to descend. In the field are five or six kids tossing rocks into the sky. You are curious and look to see what they are throwing at? You see nothing and assume said kids have lost their feeble minds. Suddenly, you see a few bats in flight… quickly and erratically zipping across sky. They are pretty indifferent to the flying projectiles , much more concerned with the mosquito’s and other insect delicacies at their disposal.
Now, one of the bats makes a low run, the mosquito only about 10 feet off the ground. As the bat makes its move you notice the five or six kids screaming and diving to the ground as if under attack by flying banshees out of a horror novel. This insane ritual goes on until the well fed bats go back to their trees and the kids give up their quest, thankful that a bat is not entangled in their hair resulting in certain disfigurement and perhaps death.
One more hilarious note, and it regards Dad. As both Rob and I have alluded to in other posts, Dad was not much of a fan of wild life.Any creature was a predator to him, and he was their prey, especially if said predators resembled rats with wings.
As soon as dusk descended, dad would put on a hat to thwart the evil bats. At this point in his life , dad’s hair was thinning noticeable, so the bats probably thought he was a lousy target anyway. However,He very much bought into Bobby’s legend. If he decided to take a walk around this time of day, which he and mom often did,that spectator would view an entertaining dance of survival: a man and woman walking side by side. The man would constantly looking into the twilight , diligently on the look out . At the first sighting of one of the vampires, he would be seen flaying his arms and hands frantically over his head trying the wars off “The attack.” You would laugh aloud at the sight. You would also noticed him flaying arms and hands over his wife’s head to protect her from a horrible fate.
After all, she had long , sleek black hair…
A perfect target…. for bats.