As a child, I was exposed to Halloween media depicting bats as creepy and evil. Stores sold bat decor that made the bats look like vampires with sharp teeth and dripping blood. It is no wonder that every October I would skip the evening firefly chase and hide in the safety of my house the moment the sky turned the slightest bit dusky. I was scared that a bat would fly into my hair, get stuck in my ponytail, and dig its sharp teeth deeply into my ear. I never told anyone about my fear; I assumed everyone felt the way I did.
Fast forward to two years ago. We were planning a trip to Texas to visit my sister-in-law and her family. We were planning fun, educational activities for our children. She mentioned that we could visit Bracken Cave. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I hesitantly agreed and went back to my packing.
Finally, the day came to visit Bracken Cave. Anticipation and nerves took control of my body. I started to pace. I finally sat on the bench made of half of a tree trunk and tried to stop my legs from shaking.
The guide started talking. I decided listening might distract my brain from my upcoming certain doom.
“A bat’s skeleton is the most similar to a human’s.” I looked at the poster with bones attached. This wasn’t reassuring me.
“Each mother bat leaves her baby in that cave,” the guide continued, “while she flies sometimes as far as fifty miles in a night- looking for food. She eats so that she can go back and nurse her baby. The baby has poor eyesight, but knows its mother by the smell of the milk. The mother bat nurses the baby- just like humans. These Mexican Free-tail bats eat insects that would otherwise destroy farmers’ crops. They also keep mosquitoes at bay.”
Now I was getting interested. They don’t want to hurt humans. All they want is to take care of their babies- same as me.
I watched in awe as tens of thousands of mother bats emerged in what looked like a tornado of black specks. It was nothing short of incredibly amazing. They flew away from the cave in search of food. They could be eaten by the snakes below the cave if they would fall and they could be snatched by a hungry hawk if they were not careful. My heart melted for these mama bats.
I decide to be brave and stand directly below their flight pattern. I could feel the wind from their wings while the wings created their own rhythmic song. They would not bite my ear or get stuck in my hair. There was no blood dripping from vampire teeth. My thinking changed so much because I understood. I no longer blindly trusted the media. I saw. I experienced. I know.
Bats get a bad rap. They are misunderstood.
Why does this story remind me of pit bulls? Media wants us to be scared of a specific breed. They want us to think that they are violent, fighting dogs when, in fact, that is a complete misconception. Every pittie I have ever met has been a playful, kind, fun pup. The biggest danger is that you get covered in too many kisses!
This Halloween, let’s remember not to be too quick to judge Earth’s creatures based on what the media wants us to believe. It is a pity to not understand a pittie. Judging without really understanding drives everyone batty- especially Alvin.