Monday, April 28, 2014

Bat Sack, NANANANANANA, Bat Sack

My father was a biologist in a former life. He's never really told us a lot of stories about his adventures in graduate school, other than being the keeper for the small animal lab where he obtained his first gift to our mother: a white mouse.

The first of these stories that Dad told recently was about bat collection. He wrote his thesis on the Little Brown Bat. He was required to collect his own research specimens, so he'd round up a few other biology grad students (and my hapless godfather, an engineering major, who had a car and was Dad's roommate at the time) to head out to the caves around the Kentucky River to collect bats.

Back in the 1950s, they didn't know much about bats and rabies. Bat collection, as they did it then, consisted of Dad and company carrying burlap sacks through the caves, plucking bats off the walls, and stuffing them into the sacks...barehanded. If you know anything about bats and/or their habits, that should really gross you out and make you marvel at the fact that my dad et al. did not end up foaming at the mouth in the ER at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Yesterday I got to hear a new one that had put my poor godfather on the spot; Uncle Ralph was a long-suffering soul. His parents were gentle farm folk from down in Scottsville. Since Lexington was all the way across the state and they assumed that "Little Harry" (Daddy) was taking good care of their son, they didn't travel up to visit very often. When they did, Mrs. Johnson came bearing the bounty of the farm: hams, sausage, beef, chicken, her canning, fresh vegetables, fruit, and baked goods.

That semester, Dad had been assigned to capture mice to supplement the biology department's collection. He was supposed to catch, skin, reconstruct, mount, and catalog them...but he didn't like doing it one mouse at a time. He devised a plan to speed things up by collecting a bunch of mice and doing them as a batch. He also decided that the best place to stash the corpses was in their shared apartment refrigerator.

About this time, along came the Johnsons. Dad was at the lab, so he wasn't there to hear the screams when Uncle Ralph's mother opened the freezer to find, stiff as little boards, my father's mice.

After they got her calmed down, Mrs. Johnson told Uncle Ralph to pass it along that she was going to telephone my grandmother about the mice- I'm just glad that she didn't tell the landlady because they would've been evicted. When my sister dared to say, "EEEW, Dad, that's GROSS!" his response was, "Well, the freezing killed all the microorganisms that they might be carrying..."

Yep, that's my Dad. We get The Weird from both sides.

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