Larry Dablemont column
The weather broke and the sun came out and it was such a beautiful sixty-degree afternoon I just had to go deer hunting. As I did, I noticed little white flowers blooming on some kind of non-native Wal-Mart garden center bush in the lawn. The little white blossoms typically come out in early spring. But there they were in mid-November! I glanced over toward the garden, and saw something red where there once was a beautiful row of tomatoes, and I’ll be doggoned if there wasn’t a four-inch, ripe red tomato hanging on a vine. Behind it there was a pair of pepper plants with 6 or 7 bright green ripe peppers growing. I took them all in the house and after hunting deer for a while, I came back and had one more BLT sandwich. I am not complaining mind you, I like the way November has been, and I wouldn’t mind seeing quite a bit of December like this, except for a week or so around Christmas, when a little snow would be o.k.
Of course, you pay for this balmy fall weather. I haven’t seen any mallards to amount to anything and the duck hunting has really been lousy. But I can tell you; I never saw better fishing this close to Thanksgiving.
The other evening on the river just about dusk I looked up and watched a couple of bats flitting around above me, “flitting” being a way of describing bat flight, which is certainly different. It would be expected, I guess, that flying mammals wouldn’t be flying like birds. They sort of “flit’! But what they were flitting around after was most certainly insects upon which they feast, and it is unusual to see insects flying in mid- November and bats flitting around feasting on them.
Now bats aren’t going to get together and head for the southern climates when it gets cold, like our migrating birds do. By and large they pack themselves into huge hollow trees or back in deep caves and they hibernate. Bats are true hibernators, like the groundhog or the bear. Flying squirrels are true hibernators, but fox and grey squirrels will hibernate for a few days at a time when it really gets bad in the dead of winter, as will raccoons and many of the ground mammals. Then they wake up and stir around a little when the severe cold breaks and therefore they are just partial hibernators, not true hibernators. A true hibernator’s body temperature drops, his digestive system empties, his heartbeat slows to almost nothing and his breathing can almost not be detected. How he comes out of it is one of nature’s wonders, something man can’t really understand.
Bats usually aren’t out and about this late, but when they have seen the last of these nice days, they will find a place to hang themselves by their feet, fold their wings around their bodies and get serious about a long sleep and intense hibernation. And I have thought about this often... with most true hibernators, the warming of spring, and lengthening light of longer days is a stimulus telling them to wake up and find something to eat and begin thinking about females. I know how that must feel, as sometimes I wake up just starved to death and could eat a half-dozen eggs and a half-pound of bacon before the gravy and biscuits are even ready.
But think about this... Back in a deep cave, where there is no light at all, and temperatures do not vary throughout the whole year more than a couple of degrees, how does a bat know when to end his hibernation, wake up and fly outside to look for insects hatching. They aren’t exposed to light or warming temperatures. Isn’t that puzzling? It amazes me that they even know there is a time to end their hibernation. Certainly there can be no stimulus back in that cave, they must just have one old bat who stays awake all winter and wakes up the rest of them when April rolls around.
Sometimes, sitting out in the deep woods, wondering if there is a deer left in the whole county, I think about things like that. And I wonder about other things, like what if those scientists who claim that 79-million-dollar rocket they crashed into the moon and kicked up a big plume of water are lying. What if there really wasn’t any way they could tell if there is water there or not, and they just decided to tell us there was, hoping they can get enough money to build another rocket and get a pay raise next year? Who could prove they are lying or not? Another thing I think about is, who really gives a rat’s ear if there is water on the moon? Why don’t we do something about the awful situation we have with our water on the earth? I guess it really doesn’t pay to be a thinker! Especially when you are deer hunting...
A couple of years ago I found a little red bat ensnared in a cocklebur plant and I swear, there was another one trying to help him get loose, fluttering around above him while he was stuck there, squealing away. I cut off the stalk of the plant and took it and him home in a box, to where I could find some leather gloves and free him. That little bat bit the heck out of those gloves, but I got all the cockleburs off of him and turned him loose into the darkness of the night. I have always wondered if that bat ever found his way back to the spot where that other bat was trying to help him. I hope so, as a romantic type might think it was his girlfriend, and it would be awful if I kept them apart forever. However, I figure if had I left him in the cocklebur plant they would have both been caught up perhaps, and I think the ending to their relationship might have been tragic. Sort of a Romeo and Juliet type of thing...
This is a good place to point out you should never touch a bat without gloves. Actually, don’t touch them at all! A boyhood friend of mine died last year of rabies after being bitten by a bat. They are known to be a carrier of rabies, no doubt more of a carrier than any other living mammal.
I hope you have a good Thanksgiving with your family. If you eat a lot you will notice that sometime in the afternoon, even if it isn’t real cold, you are apt to go into a short period of semi-hibernation.