The Bat Princess Story – a true story –
I’m going to tell you the Bat Princess story. It really happened. Years ago, I rented a room in a boarding house in Dookeyville for a little while – that’s Douglasville, Georgia. This house was owned by a preacher who had turned it into a boarding house. There were ten men who lived there and me. I rented what was like a closet. It was where the dormer window on the second floor had been enclosed into a room with a twin bed. There was only about enough room for the bed and a few feet at the end of it, barely enough to turn around or sit on the floor and eat at a long bench I had against the wall. It cost $55 a week and the house was otherwise huge with a shared kitchen that had 20 foot ceilings and plenty of space. Every other room had been turned into rooms for the boarding house, so the kitchen was the only community area except the huge hallways and stairs. The house was two stories and over a hundred years old. It could’ve been there during the civil war or built just after it. All of the rooms downstairs had tall ceilings and there were wide porches on the front and back of the house. On the grounds that could be seen sitting on the stairs of the porch in the evening, there were lots of hardwood trees spread out with soft green grass beneath and a feeling that is indescribable.
While I lived in that little room, the ceiling tiles from its drop ceiling fell into my room. It was only a couple of them and I didn’t really think much about it – they had been bulging out anyway from something staining them that I thought was probably water from a leak in the roof that had happened at some time. A couple nights after the tiles had fallen out of the ceiling – those old acoustic kind that were usually put in offices rather than houses – I was asleep in the old-fashioned maple bed in my room that looked like it was straight out of Father Knows Best when something buzzed me. I felt a flutter across my face and hair then looked because it woke me up – to find absolutely nothing. There was a window right next to my bed and not really a foot of space on the side to get out of the bed, so I looked for the window to have let something in – but there was nothing and I figured the wind had kicked the curtain across my face since the bed was right up against it and the wall that held it, then snuggled back into my covers to go back to sleep. A few minutes later, the same thing happened again waking me up again. Something had flitted across my face and hair, then was gone and was nowhere to be seen once I got up and turned the light on to look for it. There was nothing under the bed, and not against the wall behind the spindles of the headboard, nothing over at the low table I used for eating and nothing anywhere I could see. So, I went back to bed after turning out the light but I was laying there awake with my eyes open and sense alert to find out what it was if it happened again. Never in my mind would I have guess what it was. I thought it may have been the curtains to begin with but by the second time, knew it was not and my mind’s thoughts were about a bird or dragonfly, a large flying roach or maybe even a rat that was racing so fast across me that it only seemed to be flying. But, I was wrong – it was all of those things yet none of them.
It didn’t take long laying there in the dark for the flutter of something to come back across me low and swooping at my covers, face and hair. This time it had come from the end of the bed beyond where the small space and table sat. It came fast and low, it swooped and was large enough to have a shadow so it obviously wasn’t a bug but I knew it could be a bird that somehow had gotten caught in my room. Swooping down across me again, I saw the thing swoop into the tiny space behind the headboard at the wall. There was no way I was going to stick my hand in there and see what it was reaching up from my covers and I sure didn’t want to look for it by only the light from the window filtering in from the streetlight the preacher had put out in the yard for security with its blue neon glow. I carefully left my blankets in place and slid sideways out of the bed, sneaked quietly along that little space beside the bed to get over to the light switch on the wall by the door and flipped it on as fast as I could before the thing could get away from me where I couldn’t see it. But there was no movement at all. I thought maybe I had dreamed the whole thing and got myself in a state. Feeling like that was probably the case and pretty silly because of it, I went slowly back over to where my bed sat against the wall and started to look, just in case it was real. There was a quick flurry of wings and a black shape flew up into the curtains from behind the headboard. I had no idea what it could be. There are some animals that can do that, birds of course and flying roach waterbugs definitely do it, so here I was on my knees standing up on the bed trying to not fall over while gingerly checking the curtains hoping there wouldn’t be a roach flying into my face. I barely moved on fold of the curtain when I was buzzed again right by the side of my face by something that flew really fast and went straight to the table at the end of the room where there were several bowls and things sitting. I nearly fell off the bed.
After going over to the little bench I was using as a table, it was sitting there looking at me like a propped up bird, but it wasn’t a bird. It looked like a bat that was about the size of a dime’s worth of bat – very small, brownish and black with big sad eyes – but it was little bitty for any bat I had ever seen having watched them out in the yard at night flying around the street lights. It flew past me within a few seconds and I watched it land almost like falling into the space behind my headboard. Well, I knew that wasn’t going to work. I thought about going back to sleep, letting the bat settle down and just figure it out the next day. It seemed like a pretty good idea. So, the bat would fly back and forth a few times, eat some spiders or something and basically leave me alone. That seemed like a pretty good idea, yes. That’s what I did. I said to the bat, look I’m going back to sleep now, you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. How about not buzz bombing me anymore, just chill out your bat self and we will get along fine. So, having explained it to the bat, knowing what was doing it, and thinking the bat would get tired, leave me alone possibly, and maybe even just sit behind my headboard till morning, I got back in the bed to go back to sleep. I don’t remember if I turned out the light but it probably was left on, just in case I had to jump up and do something with the bat. Sure enough, the bat didn’t stay still for long. If it had not been for its swooping down to dive bomb me every time it passed, I probably would’ve still not tried to worry with it until morning, but no. That bat would come up from behind the headboard flitter right next to my face and hair, swoop up high to the other end of the room, then sit on a bowl at the table or fall in behind the table by the wall. I bet it did that thirty times before I gave up and got up to go find some way to catch it.
Ten men in that house and me. Who you gonna call? I wasn’t about to wake them up at four in the morning to deal with a bat in my room. I put my shoes on and day clothes, went down to the kitchen and got a large popcorn bowl. Then I went back upstairs to my room not sure where the bat was at that point, rounded up a piece of cardboard from a box and stood as still as I could by the door looking for where it flew next. It wasn’t long and the little buggar flew right past me into the bowl on the table and I popped the bowl over it, slid the cardboard under both bowls, then got it up with my hand under the cardboard to carry it outside. It wasn’t daylight yet and of course the door to the back porch was locked, so I put the bowls on the floor, unlocked the door and took it out to the porch. I had caught crickets and spiders this way, usually flinging them from the cup or bowl once outside, but this time I didn’t know what this flying animal would do, so I placed it on one side of the porch near the steps and took the top larger bowl off, then went back inside. The bat didn’t move. I didn’t want to wait for it to move, but was kind of afraid I might have hurt it putting the bowl over the top and hoping it hadn’t. About the time I walked across the porch to the door, I heard a movement and looked back just in time to see it sit up perched on the bowl and I went inside. Then I went back up to my room after putting the popcorn bowl in the sink in the kitchen, snuggled back into my blankets and went to sleep with the light on and my regular day clothes still on. It was snuggly and fine and surely there would not be any more problems with bats I thought, even though my mind kept trying to imagine how it had gotten in my room. It didn’t even occur to me that the falling ceiling tiles had anything to do with it.
The next day, the bat was gone from the bowl and I took the cardboard piece and the bowl back into the house, then went on my way to do the things I had to do that day walking into town and never seeing anybody that lived in the house to tell them anything about it. In the afternoon, I came back to the house to find two of the guys chasing a bat down the hall with a broom and rolled up newspaper as it flew back and forth caught in the hallway with its 20 foot ceilings and large stairway. They would chase it one way and then the other as it swooped down across them each time it passed. It was probably closer to early evening than afternoon and they had come in from work, found the bat flying back and forth in the hallway and decided to kill it by hitting it with the broom and then stomping it with their workboots once they got it down. I was laughing so hard, I almost couldn’t tell them a thing or help any with it. They looked like Keystone Cops from some old movie with that bat outsmarting them every time it passed. I said to them that they couldn’t kill it because bats are endangered and protected by that law so they stopped long enough to hear what I was saying with the broom in their hand still ready to kill it if they could get to it. I told them that aside from that, their plan to hit it with a broom or a rolled up newspaper was letting the bat get the better of them anyway and wasn’t going to work because it could fly higher and faster than they could ever get to. I said, let it land somewhere and we’ll catch it and put it outside – that’s more likely if ya’ll quit hitting at it. Then I went in the kitchen and got the bowl, went upstairs to get the cardboard, waited for it to land in the hall behind a chair and popped the bowl over it. The bowl was sideways but it was easy enough to hold it in place and carefully slide the cardboard behind it capturing the bat. It took only a few minutes once the guys had stopped flinging around at it and then I took the bowl with the bat in it outside to the porch, set it down, removed the cardboard and the bat flew away. Those guys watched the entire process absolutely stunned like they had never seen anything like that before. I asked them, didn’t you ever catch bugs when you were little kids? And to my surprise, being such brawny men, they never had and were scared to get close to anything like the bat because it might get them. I couldn’t believe it. It was just a little bat anyway.
That’s when they started calling me the Bat Princess and every time there was a bat to catch, they’d call me to come get it including when one decided to land in the milk of a cereal bowl that one of the guys was eating for breakfast. I just popped the bowl over it and took the whole thing outside again. I wasn’t sure if it was the same bat or different bats but they ended up being caught in just about every room and hallway of that house before we figured out where they were coming from. Most nights there would be one, sometimes two in my room buzz dive bombing me and several ceiling tiles had fallen out after the first one. I told the landlord about it, and he had intended to call an exterminator despite me telling him that bats have to be handled a special way because of being on the endangered species list. The exterminator companies did explain it to him though, because they wouldn’t come out to deal with bats for that very reason. The specialty company that would come out was specific to dealing with animals including bats that have to be relocated rather than killed and when they came out to study the problem, the falling ceiling tiles in my room were the first place they looked. Apparently that house had been used for years before becoming a boarding house, as the home of a taxi service and was known as a bat house. The bats had made the entire space above my room in a vaulted, almost two story pitched roof attic area into their home and there were thousands of them. They would come in at daylight through the eaves of the house and were hanging throughout the eaves and filling the attic space as well because their colony had grown so large. The man from the animal company said that it was the small baby bats that had been caught in my room essentially doing flight lessons when they had come through the hole in the ceiling, gotten lost and couldn’t get back. He was glad we hadn’t killed them because it turned out to be one of the Federal laws that are pretty serious in holding anyone accountable who does. He left after looking at the problem and came back a few days later with bat houses that he placed throughout the yard. He also put a bat door on each of the eave openings that would allow the bats to get out but not get back into those spaces which would force them to take up their new home in the bat houses being provided. And, my entire ceiling was ripped out and remade after I had a chance to look up into that amazing space above where I was trying to live in that tiny closet of a room. It was a space being enough to put a whole house up there nearly as big as the two-story house that could be seen below it and looked much like a pyramid set on top of the house two stories tall, entirely made of oak wood planks and beams. It was amazing. No wonder the bats liked that space. There was plenty of room for flying, constantly dark and right next to yard and trees where mosquitoes and bugs were easy to find.
Those guys continued calling me the Bat Princess even after the bats had been moved. It took only a few days for the bats to relocate into the bat houses once they were unable to get back into the attic, but once or twice they did come into the house through the open door trying to get back up there. We caught them and put them back outside, but it did surprise me that the men in of the house were still scared of those little bats especially after learning more about them from the animal specialist that came out to help with them. Those guys would still call me to come get those bats and act like that little bat could actually get up and get them. It was too funny.