An article in the Robinson Argus "I Remember When" series by Don Catt.

There was a driveway between our barn and the corn-crib about twenty feet wide. During the 30s, every evening after sundown, a dozen or so bats flew back and forth between the buildings, feeding on insects. They were the small, common species with reddish-brown fur. National Geographic says there are 950 species of bats, two-thirds of which feed on insects. I was told that we have three species in our area -- the common brown bat, a larger fruit eating bat, and a tiny "Bumble-Bee" bat. I've never seen the latter two.

According to National Geographic, bat fossils from 49 million years ago, looked very much like they do today. Evidently bats have been around for a long, long time!

I think bats are the only flying mammals living in Crawford County. Flying squirrels don't really fly. They simply stretch out the webbing between their fore and hind feet and glide from one tree to another.

Although "blind as a bat" is a common expression, it is not true. Some species have excellent eyesight. The common species found around here are not blind, but do have poor eyesight. They avoid flying into things by sending out sound waves and listening for the echo -- like submarines use sonar. As fast as they fly, I can't understand how they have time to hear an echo before they fly into something, but after throwing hundreds of corn cobs at them, I know for sure that it works. I never hit the first bat and I've never seen anyone else hit one. It was fun throwing at them, but it didn't bother the bats. They dodged the cobs, flew on through, turned and came right back. They acted like they were having as much fun as we were.

My brother-in-law, Charlie Legg, and I tried to shoot some one time with a 410 gauge shotgun. We shot at least a dozen times and never hit a bat.

In those days we didn't know just how valuable bats were and considered them pests, like mice. Some women were afraid of them because we had always heard they would get tangled up in their hair. And then, of course, everyone knew about vampire bats, as they were portrayed in those scary stories or in the movies. There really are vampire bats. There are three species, all of which live in the tropics. They feed on the blood of animals by cutting a small hole in the skin with their sharp teeth and drinking the blood as it trickles out.

A substance in their saliva keeps the blood from clotting. Their bite is said to be painful, but not usually dangerous, although they do sometimes transmit certain diseases by feeding on a sick animal and later, a well one -- rabies, for instance. The movies made them appear much more scary than they really are.

In my time, bats have always been associated with Halloween and witches, which didn't help their reputation. I don't know why or how bats became a part of the witch stories unless it just made witches seem even more scary.

Bats like to roost during the day in caves or in trees. I've seen pictures of bats leaving caves in the southwestern United States to go out to feed in the evening. There were thousands of them. When I was picking pole beans one time, I found one roosting in the bean leaves. Around here, trees or attics are their favorite roosting places. A year or so ago, one came up from the basement during church and flew around awhile before going back where it came from. We never found it, so I guess it got back outside the same way it came in.

They sleep on cave ceilings or attic rafters hanging upside down, sometimes large numbers of them crowded together. Maybe they stay warmer in the caves that way. Our bats have only one litter per year and only one or two per litter. Their claws hold so well that they nurse their young and even give birth hanging upside down on the ceilings.

Around here, bats hibernate in hollow trees, under the bark of some trees, in attics or in bat houses. We put up a bat house a couple of years ago, but I've never seen a bat in it. In fact, I rarely see a bat anymore. I've heard there were still several of them around Palestine, where they roost in the attics of some of the stores. At twilight, on warm summer evenings, dozens of them fly out of the store attics to feed on mosquitoes and other flying insects.

There's no way a bat is ever going to win a beauty contest, but they really don't deserve the dangerous and scary reputation they have always had. None around here are vampires; they're not going to get tangled in anyone's hair or bite anyone and give them rabies. Occasionly, they do have rabies, but just don't handle them and you'll be okay.

Bats are useful animals, eating thousands of mosquitoes and other insects. We really shouldn't be throwing rocks or cobs, or shooting at them, although if no one hits any more of them than I did when I was young, I guess it won't hurt the bat population any.