Batshit Crazy

About a year ago, I published My Mirror Lies to Me, my third collection of funny stories and musings on life in my little corner of rural Michigan. In one chapter,  I talked about the time my husband, his brother,  and my father encountered some bats while working on our house.

I was reminded of that story this week, when workers discovered a mummified bat within the walls of that same house twenty-odd years later. Let that sink in for a minute.

They found a mummified bat within the walls of my house.

Seriously, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to other people, does it?

At any rate, Mr. Mummy Bat’s unexpected appearance made me want to share the other bat story. So here is a short peek inside a chapter of My Mirror Lies to Me. I hope you enjoy it!

Batshit Crazy

A few years ago, blueberries became the big trend worldwide. Everyone, it seems, has been singing the praises of those little buggers for their health benefits and anti-oxidant properties.

Yeah, I could have told them that. I live right in the middle of “Blueberry Country.” Between the sandy soil, the moist air along the lakeshore, and the short but intense summers, this part of the world was made for growing blueberries.

I grew up here. I’ve gone blueberry picking every summer, although I’d probably owe a small fortune to those farmers if they ever got smart enough to put my chunky ass on a scale before and after an hour in the field. I freely admit that I put twice as many in my belly as I put in the bucket, and so do my kids. If I take them picking later on in the afternoon, I can usually get away with not having to make dinner that day.

Here in Blueberry Country, we put blueberries in everything. Blueberry muffins. Blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup. Blueberry wine. Even blueberry bratwursts, for God’s sake. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing as tasty as a handful of fresh blueberries on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

They are delicious, but I really don’t understand how anyone absorbs any kind of health benefits from eating them. It’s not like we actually digest them. They come out in the same condition they go in. Better, in some cases. I’m afraid to even glance down at the toilet during blueberry season because I know I’m going to start worrying about the fact that I remember chewing those berries that are now floating whole in the bowl.

It’s like stomach acids have some sort of restorative properties when it comes to blueberries.

This doesn’t just happen to humans, either. The birds around here begin dropping bright purple grenades during blueberry season. Cars, laundry on clotheslines, slow-moving pets — nothing is safe.

Just to go off a tangent for a moment here, I’d like to share something that makes me unique.

I have been hit by seagull poop at least once every summer of my life.

Every.

Single.

Summer.

That’s fifty-one summers of seagull shit, people. Granted, I don’t remember the first few shitbombs, but family members tell me that the streak started early in my life.

And it’s not just a Michigan thing. One year, I went camping in Virginia with a friend and a seagull crapped on me at the campground. In Virginia. It’s like they have a secret seagull messaging system to make sure I get hit no matter where I go.

I even got nailed by one as I left work last night. At night. Birds don’t fly at night. That particular seagull must have been perched on the lightpost outside the hotel for hours, just waiting to complete its mission.

And yes, I know for a fact that most birds don’t fly at night. I learned that in the early days of my marriage, when the Big Guy and I sat in our backyard sharing a romantic moment under the stars. “Look at the pretty night birds over by the porch light,” I sighed, blissfully ignorant about my new life in the country.

“Birds don’t fly at night,” he told me. “Those are bats.”

Birds may not fly at night, but I sure did that night. I flew up the steps and through the door so fast that I’m pretty sure my feet never touched the ground.

I’ve learned since then that bats are truly wonderful creatures. They are complex animals with amazing talents, and they do so much to help control the insect population. Bats are not inherently a bad thing.

But they don’t belong in my house.

During our first few summers there, we were under constant bat attack. A bat can slip through the tiniest of openings, and our house was an old, old farmhouse that we were renovating, so there were many tiny openings. And big openings, for that matter. We seemed to have a bat or two flapping its way through the living room at least once a week every summer.

At one point, the Big Guy ventured up into the attic and discovered that it was Bat Central up there. I was one hundred percent in favor of abandoning the house and moving back into the city, but he swore he could take care of them. “We just need to figure out where they’re getting in, and then seal it up,” he told me.

True to his word, he gathered up a few friends and family members to stand in a loose circle around the house at dusk one night. As the sky grew darker, bats began to leave the cozy home they had made for themselves in our house. There was a narrow crack between the siding and the chimney, and that turned out to be a bit of a bat on-ramp.

He counted well over one hundred bats flying out through that crack.  When he thought they were all gone, he climbed a ladder and sprayed insulation foam into the entire crack to prevent them from coming back into our house in the morning. Later, he made a more lasting repair to the opening and solved the problem once and for all.

However, that left the problem of an attic full of bat poop. You can call it guano if you’d like, and rave about its wonderful properties as a fertilizer. But when it’s in my home, I’m going to call it what it is: shit. Bat shit. Nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

We had an attic full of it.

Unfortunately, not all of the bats left the house that night, so the problem sort of came to a head when the Big Guy rounded up his little brother and my father to help him while I was at work a few days later. It’s important to note here that the “little brother” is a ridiculously tall individual who makes the Big Guy seem more like a Medium Guy when they’re together. So I’m just going to refer to him as the Bigger Guy from here on out.

They didn’t tell anyone their plans for the day, probably because they knew I would have insisted on a few more safety precautions than they liked to use. I only figured it out because my mother-in-law was one of my clients that day, and she mentioned that she thought “the boys” were on their way to play tennis because they had stopped by her house that morning to borrow some tennis racquets.

Neither one of them plays tennis.

A tennis racquet is, however, the perfect defensive weapon when dealing with bats.

It wasn’t until years later that the Big Guy told me what actually transpired that day. Those three great big men went upstairs to begin ripping out the second floor ceilings to start the upstairs renovations. They took the tennis racquets to defend themselves against any remaining bats.

Apparently, none of them realized just how much batshit there really was in the attic. When they started ripping things apart, it began an ugly chain reaction that none of them would ever forget.

Along with the hundreds of pounds of batshit, the attic was also full of old bricks from some long-forgotten project started by the previous owner. Guano-covered bricks and boards began raining down, first on the Bigger Guy’s head and then on all three of them as the hole above them widened.

None of them had thought to wear any kind of hat or helmet, of course, or gloves. And I guess real men don’t wear masks, not even when dealing with hundreds of pounds of nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

They were covered with it. They breathed it in. It went into their eyes and ears and most likely other bodily orifices that I don’t want to think about. The two brothers leaned on each other, choking and gagging and gasping for air, tennis racquets forgotten in their hands as a few angry, homeless bats flapped around their heads.

My dad, however, stood a few feet away, staring at the guano on his arms with a calculating look in his eyes.

“You know,” he mused, “people would pay a lot of money for this stuff.”

“No,” the Big Guy told him. “We are not selling batshit from my attic. And we are never, ever telling anyone about this. No one. Not even Amy.”

“Especially not Amy,” the Bigger Guy agreed. “She’ll move out if she hears about this.”

“Just seems like sort of a gift from Mother Nature, you know?” my dad persisted. “Guano is worth a lot of money as fertilizer, and you’ve sure got a lot of it.”

“Batshit is not a gift, Dean,” the Big Guy said firmly.

He finally told me the whole story just before my father’s funeral a few years later. It was, he insisted, one of his favorite memories of Dad.

It made me feel good, too, in a way, because it made me realize that I’m luckier than my father  even though we both shared the same knack for being hit with bird poop. I may get nailed with wads of smelly, slimy, warm seagull shit every summer of my life, but I think I can say with all certainty that I will probably never share his experience of being buried under tons of guano.

Or, as I prefer to call it, nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

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Whippoorwill

Hey, everybody!

As some of you know, I put together a bunch of my earliest funny blog posts in a book called Have a Goode One a few years ago.  It wasn’t a great title and I knew nothing about making a good book cover, and it basically sank to the bottom of Amazon’s rankings. The nineteen people who bought it seemed to enjoy it, though.

However, I’m still very proud of the material, so I decided to give it another chance. I’ve re-vamped it with a new title, a better cover, and a little bit of rearranging of the essays on the inside.

For those of you who already own this one, a hearty “thank you!” I’m working hard to convince Amazon to “push” the new version out to you, and I promise to keep you all updated on that. But I really want to make sure that you know this is not a new book. I don’t want to trick anyone into buying something they already own!

For the rest of you, Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass is now available. It focuses mainly on parenting, marriage, and country life, with a few other topics thrown in just for snicks. It’s a little bit naughty in spots, and I freely admit to just a bit of profanity here and there, but it was an awful lot of fun to write. I hope you all have just as much fun reading it.

The new cover was designed by my friend and fellow author Margaret Brazear.

 

whipkdpcover

Girl vs. Squirrel

Growing up in a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan, the only wildlife I had to deal with was the rowdy family that lived on the curve at the end of our street.  We had two mice in our home in my entire childhood, and our cat was more afraid of them than we were.  After I moved away, I heard stories of coyotes encroaching on Lexington Avenue, but I found it a pretty big stretch to believe that coyotes only managed to run off with the most disliked of family pets.

When I married The Big Guy and moved to the country, I understood that we were going to have to deal with the occasional mouse.  We would probably have a few raccoons in the yard, he told me.  Maybe a possum or two.   Wild turkeys roaming free across our driveway.  I think I handled it all with aplomb, although the hubcap-size snapping turtle at the back door left me fairly rattled for a few days.

Squirrels in my kitchen were an entirely different matter.  Okay, I used to think squirrels were adorable little critters;   now, however, I realize that a squirrel is just a rat with delusions of grandeur.

The first one showed up on a muggy summer night when The Big Guy was working late.  I heard a noise in the kitchen and watched my beagle go into High Alert – she shot out of the room with her tail between her legs and hid behind me as though pursued by a two-ton monster.  I tiptoed toward the kitchen and flicked the light switch, expecting Godzilla but seeing what looked like an oversized mouse with a pretty tail.

It sat on my table and blinked at me in an offended sort of way.  I had an absurd urge to apologize for disturbing it.  Then reality set in.  There was a wild animal in my home, it was late at night, and I was wearing only the skimpiest of summer nighties that left lots and lots of exposed skin for Merle the Squirrel to nibble.  I imagined all kinds of dreaded squirrel diseases ravaging my body.

My first impulse was to leave the house, get into my car and drive to my big sister’s house in Kalamazoo.  But that involved crossing the back yard in the dark, and I was more afraid of the possible raccoons and possums than of the squirrel.

The Big Guy’s hunting boots were beside the door.  I stepped into them to protect my bare toes and grabbed the hockey stick that he always left behind the door.  I grabbed it because it had a long handle, and the only other long-handled item I could think of was the broom that was in the room with the squirrel.  I also grabbed Zeke the cat, who gave me an annoyed prrrrt at being awakened.

Armed with a cat and a hockey stick, I went back to my kitchen with some vague idea of tossing Zeke into the arena and using the hockey stick to defend myself if he failed me.  Zeke, unfortunately, wasn’t fully on board with that plan.

“Get ‘im,” I urged, aiming him at the intruder.  He yowled, twisted in mid-air, and promptly climbed my body like a human scratching post.   The squirrel vanished under the china cabinet.

It was at that moment that The Big Guy made his appearance.  He didn’t say a word as his eyes swept up and down my body, taking in the barely-there nightie, hunting boots and hockey stick.  I watched the smile spread slowly across his face as he carefully set down his lunchbox and hung his keys on the hook.  His voice was husky when he spoke.

“Aw, Honey,” he rasped.  “You dressed up for me?”

By the time I convinced him that I was dressed for self defense and not some weird sexual role-playing, the dog had gathered her courage and was barking and scratching at the china cabinet.   “Don’t let it get away,”  The Big Guy ordered.  He hustled into his office.  I expected him to return with a net or a trap or something reasonable.  Something that a normal person might use to combat a squirrel invasion.

The gun was unexpected.

I had no way of knowing that it fired BBs, not actual bullets.  All I knew was that my previously sane husband was standing in the kitchen doorway with what looked like a hunting rifle.  It made an ominous ssschk-sschuck sound as he pumped up the air pressure.

“In the kitchen?”  I demanded.  “Really?”

“Like you were doing better with the hockey stick?”

The BBs started pinging off the walls.  I prayed for my Grandmother’s Depression Glass in the china cabinet and then started praying for myself as a crazed look came into The Big Guy’s eyes.  It was like Buck Fever had settled in over a two-pound rodent.  I eyed the keys on the hook and wondered what scared me more:  the squirrel, the possible raccoons between me and the car, or The Big Guy.

Then it was over.  He used the dustpan to take the corpse outside and then came back in with an entirely different kind of craziness in his eyes.  He pried the hockey stick out of my grasp and pulled me close.  “The outfit is still working for me,” he whispered.

Apparently, squirrels aren’t the only ones with delusions.

Getting Ahead in Deer Season

I was a city girl and animal-rights sympathizer before I married a country boy who loved to hunt.  I could handle the live traps he used for the raccoons that wanted to move into our attic; I pretended to believe his story about his “catch and release” plan for them.  I told myself that the rabbit meat in our freezer was actually chicken.  I even learned dozens of ways to prepare venison, although there really is no way to disguise its old-shoe consistency.  But I learned early on that cooking venison was the easy part of dealing with a dead deer.

When a hunter takes a deer in for processing, it is common practice for the processor to return the head to the hunter to take to a Department of Natural Resources checkpoint.  There, a DNR official inspects the head for age and all sorts of statistical data that helps them keep track of herd information.

I didn’t know that.

During our first deer season together, my husband –whom I shall refer to as The Big Guy– asked me to pick up our venison from the processor on my way home from work.   The butcher shop, as it turned out, was in a converted outbuilding in the butcher’s yard.  To get there, I had to drive down a bumpy road that became a dirt path and eventually dwindled to a two-wheel track through remote parts of the Michigan countryside.   Just as I was about to give up and go home without the meat, I saw the plywood sign lettered in garish red paint:  Homer’s Deer Processing!

The driveway was a mucky, slushy mess.  I was wearing heels, and had to pick my way from clump to dryish clump of semi-solid ground.  Just as I reached the building, the door opened and an obese man in a bloody apron stepped out to greet me.

I immediately started wondering if I had done anything recently to make The Big Guy angry at me.

Mr. Bloody-Apron turned out to be Homer himself, who took one look at me and grinned.    “I think a city gal like you is gonna need help carrying this,” he chuckled.  “Honey, you just go open your trunk and I’ll have the boys load it up for you.”

Any other woman in the world would have been grateful for the chivalry, but I found his condescending attitude offensive.  I didn’t like the fact that he seemed to think me incapable of carrying sixty pounds of meat.    And I have never liked being called “Honey”, especially by people who know nothing about me.  I told him that I could get it myself, and his grin got bigger.

“You can carry the head,” he told me.

“Fine.”   No way was I going to let him see how repulsed I was.

He reached into a bin behind him and pulled out the spike-buck’s head.   I just stared at it, waiting for it to blink or scream or at least stop dripping down Homer’s arm.

“Could you put it in a bag, Homer?  I’d rather not get . . . blood . . . on the upholstery.”

He was laughing outright when he dropped it into a plastic Wal-Mart bag.  The little antlers immediately poked through the plastic.  I debated asking for double-bagging, but decided against it.  Instead I grabbed the bag and gave him my best smile and thank-you.

And decided to tell The Big Guy exactly what he could do with the deer head when I got home.