The Wife ran to the kitchen yesterday morning. No it wasn’t for another cup of coffee. She was running to get me. Excitedly, she said, “You’ve got to see this; we have a bat on our front porch!”
“What’s he doing?” I answered.
“Well right now, he’s just hanging out.” Funny Wife I have. She showed me the little brown bat about two inches long, which had taken up residence under the cover of our front porch roof. I found this to also be some exciting news: finally something desirable has moved into our neighborhood.
Bats are cool; they’ll eat ten times their body’s weight in bugs every night. I once knew a kid who could do that, but it took him six months.
One reason I liked Neighbor Thomas so much was that he had a pool in the back yard. Also, Thomas was a little bit bigger than me. A good thing when Down-the-Street Bully Brad came around — which he did most every day.
The Thomas’s pool had a sliding board in place of a diving board. The diving board had been broken the first summer by Bubba Hanks with his now famous double-jump-cannonball dive.
Bubba was the biggest kid on Flamingo Street, he was even bigger than Big Brother James, and that was big. Bubba had been held back in the third grade for a year due to a kidney infection. For six months, he stayed at home and didn’t do anything. Well, he did do one thing. He ate. And I don’t think it was a diet of bugs.
We all liked Bubba, and around the pool he was the best at cannonballs and belly flops. Let’s just say that when he entered the pool, a great amount of water displaced. With Bubba, we had our very own wave machine. And that’s how we found the little brown bat.
In all the years of playing, no one ever got hurt in Thomas’s pool ‘cause his parents knew a lot about water safety. They wouldn’t let anyone run in the pool area because someone could slip and fall down. Mrs. Thomas always had a phone next to the pool in case of emergency. Of course, Bubba thought it was so he could call for pizza.
They always had a cooler of cold drinks and popsicles on a table just outside the pool area. Mrs. Thomas said that even though we were in the water all day, we still needed water inside of us. Bubba said he’d just drink the pool water. Mrs. Thomas said no.
She taught us the “feet first-first time” rule. The first time you jump into water, you don’t know how deep it is. So don’t dive in — jump in, feet first the first time.
Bubba came up with his own rule, “belly first.” Mrs. Thomas said that was okay. She always made us wear sun block while we were around the pool, and when we were playing in the water she made us reapply it every hour. She said that playing in the water washed the sun block off.
Bubba washed all of his off by doing cannonballs. The first summer Thomas had a pool, Bubba did a double-jump-cannonball dive with a splash so big it blew the cap off the strainer, and the strainer basket was washed out of the pool.
And along with it came the little brown bat. Seems the pool light at night not only attracted bugs, but also bats.
The little brown bat survived the double-jump-cannonball dive and returned each night to eat its fill of swimming pool bugs. A mighty crack was heard that afternoon when Bubba did his now famous dive, but unlike the little brown bat, the diving board did not survive.
The next week the broken diving board was taken out, Thomas got a new sliding board for his pool, and Mrs. Thomas gave us a new safety rule. No Bubba on the sliding board.
Now what has happened to The Wife’s and mine little bug-eating visitor? We are now enjoying a bug-free environment on our front porch swing thanks to him.
How do I know our bat is a he? Just ask anyone you know: only the males of a species eat bugs.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]