THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
In all the time Gwen the Beautiful and I have lived in Paradise neither one of us has ever had a mosquito bite.
For awhile we thought it was because of the bats who live in the caves in the ridge above the Original Settlers’ Cabins, but last summer we discovered we were only half right.
Yes, bats consider a mouthful of mosquitoes to be haute cuisine, but no, the bats who’ve been dining on the skeeters on our Mountain aren’t just living in the caves. They’re also right here in the house. In the space between the gable venting and the inside wall.
It was the chittering and fluttering that gave them away.
The noise started in late summer. One afternoon Gwen went upstairs and stopped dead in her tracks.
“Rats!” she shouted. “I hear rats. Or squirrels. Rustling and scraping in the wall.” She stopped, listening. “Uh-oh. Now I hear fluttering. Like wings.”
“Must be birds,” I said.
“Do birds chitter?” Gwen said. “I hear chittering too.”
Bats chitter, and they flutter too. I went on the alert and, sure enough, I spotted ‘em a couple of weeks later, flying out of the venting before dusk. In principle, neither Gwen nor I minded sharing the place with bats, but their activities grew louder day by day.
There was only one explanation for it. The bats were multiplying at an unusual pace. We had no choice but to take action. This was a job for Brannigan the Contractor.
“Get those things out of there and seal it up so they can’t get back in,” I told him over the phone, and after a week had passed Brannigan and his Bat Removal Ladder arrived.
He backed his pickup as close to the house as he could get. Set the ladder up on the bed. Offered Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper a handful of cash to climb up and nail some wire mesh to the open slats in the vent.
“I’m paying my own guy to go up there while you watch?” I said.
“Absolutely not!” roared Brannigan. “You’re paying your guy to go up there while I supervise. And you’re paying me too—“
He broke off as Burl Jr. cried out and hand-over-handed himself down the ladder. “There’s a ton of bats up there!” he said. “Big, mean, brown ones. They growled at me!”
“They won’t hurt you!” Brannigan said.
“That’s for sure. Because I’m not going up there again. I’m late for my day job.”
Off Burl Jr. went. Brannigan looked disgusted. “Kids!”
But he climbed up the ladder, and an hour and a half later pronounced all the bats gone and the venting sealed.
Or so we thought.
Until the chittering and flapping resumed.
“Brannigan didn’t get all the bats,” Gwen said. “Who knows how many are in there, starving to death because we sealed them up?”
“Not ‘we,’” I said. “Brannigan did the sealing.”
“Because we told him to. You’ve got to get him back here to let the poor things out.”
“You mean take down the screening he just put up?”
Gwen’s nostrils flared. “We can’t let them die!”
It took another week for Brannigan to get the time to come back. This time he didn’t bring the ladder.
“Those bats really do growl,” he said. “Go up there again? Not me.”
He took a long pole with a macheté duct-taped to it from the back of his truck, started jumping and poking and swiping…until, with a CRACK!, not just the mesh but the whole venting hit the ground.
The wall was wide open. A couple of fuzzy, brown, bat-faced peeked out.
“There you go, bud!” Brannigan said. “They’re free now.”
“What about the hole in my wall?”
“Nothing to worry about. Since we’re friends, you can have that for free! I’ll have to charge you to fix it though. We’re talking time, labor….”
If you’re a homeowner you know where I’m headed. Operation Bat Removal is over. New venting is in place, uncovered and awaiting the bats’ return from their annual migration. Everything’s just as it was when Gwen first heard the chittering and fluttering.
Well, not quite everything. Three hundred dollars flew from my pocket into Brannigan’s, and all I’ve gotten in return is this fair ole country tale.
There better not be one single, solitary, uneaten mosquito on this property come spring.