Not long ago, I was sitting in my office at Twin Rocks Trading Post, bumping my head on the desk in an attempt to dislodge a thought or memory worthy of putting down on paper. This week's missive was due, and my creative well had run dry. As I sat there, I heard the door sensor announce a visitor and began to raise myself to discover their purpose. About the same time, I heard Steve greet someone and knew the guests were in good hands, so I sat back down and continued my personal assault. Half-listening in on Steve's conversation with the obviously German tourists, I heard someone say there was a hummingbird loose in the store. This is a common occurrence these days, so no one gets too excited about it. I heard Steve explain to our German friends that it was best to let the high strung aerialists calm down a bit, and that when they do we corner them, carefully execute our capture techniques and release them back into their sugar-saturated habitat.
In short order I heard the tourists take their leave. Shortly after they exited Steve began running through the store in pursuit of the hyped-up hummer. Before long Steve called out to me saying, "Come out here and look at this!" I reluctantly raised myself up again, thinking we would have to tag team the feisty little critter to be done with it. I walked into the trading post just in time to see the hummingbird fly into Steve's office. Before he closed the door to settle the debate, Steve pointed up and to his right saying, "Look at that!" Scanning the wall in question, I saw a small, brown, fuzzy thing, about the size of a Hot Wheels car, attached to the wall. It hung on the wood paneling, right next to our 1970s style cottage cheese and glitter ceiling. "A Bat," I questioned.
"This could be a windfall," I thought to myself, recalling what the Navajo people believe about these nocturnal beasties. Bats are some of the earliest recognized beings, they are of the first world of Navajo myth and legend. These flying fright-mongers are thought to be mediators, favored representatives of the "great gods". They occupy the humblest seat near the door of the ceremonial hogan, but their input is respected when it comes to matters of importance. "Humph!" I thought to myself, "I could use a little mediation, an intervention between me and the man upstairs". Steve came out of his office with the hummingbird in one hand and a small plastic bag of corn pollen in the other. We are in the habit of sprinkling each hummer we catch with pollen before we release it. This is because Priscilla tells us that will bring good luck. Although she refuses to adopt us into her clan, claiming the letting and joining of blood is no longer safe, she has let us in on a few minor secrets. Steve and I powdered the tired bird with the yellow substance, had Danny (our new internet manager and adjunct photographer) take images, said a little prayer and set the hummer free.
"Now for you my little pretty," I said to the bat. Steve had to run to the post office before it closed for lunch, so the deed was left to Danny and me. Danny found an empty, clear plastic CD container which I used to cover the flier. We then slid a piece of heavy card stock between the container and wall and gently dislodged the flittermouse. Realizing it was trapped, the hairy little beast let out a tiny scream of indignation. Steve must have taken the corn pollen with him and Priscilla denied having any, so I called Toni over from the cafe. Toni, I thought, would certainly have corn pollen, and she could use a little mediation of her own. My assumption proved correct, so, using Toni's stash, we powdered the bat's behind. When it screamed again we called another moment of silence. I then took the fanged one upstairs and let it loose in a deep dark area behind the building. "Mediate well," I said as I shook the bat from its containment. It screamed back at me one last time, as if to say, "Yeah, I'll do just that." As the bat disappeared behind a board, an ancient memory came to mind.
In the 1960s there were few street lights in Bluff. Those that did exist were situated on the curves of the main highway passing through town. Because of the sparse artificial illumination, it got dark quickly when the sun went down on southeastern Utah. Without those weak but effective street lights, the narrow, snake-like strip of asphalt would have claimed many an unfamiliar traveler. As kids, we discovered early on that those languid lamps drew bugs like moths to a flame, and where there were flying insects there were bats. On cool summer nights, the interaction between supersonic winged mammal and captivated creepers was too much of an attraction for my brothers and me to resist.
In an attempt to bring down those blood thirsty varmints, it became our habit to stand under the lights, scoop up hands-full of pea gravel and fling it at the bats. Either our aim was askew or our firepower under-funded, because I do not recall ever felling one measly bat. I do, however, remember having fallen behind on one summer's eve and coming up on Craig and Steve in full assault mode. As I approached, I could see them peppering the creatures flittering above their shaved heads. I also recall an incredibly dark blue evening encased by an over dome of magnificent points of starlight. From a short distance I viewed a solitary street lamp shining down a conical beam of soft yellow light. Two brothers, one dark like his mother, the other light like his father, aggressively tossing stones into the palpitating abyss. To me the scene was altogether singular, somehow set apart from the rest of my compressed understanding of the world. Time stood still, and I envisioned a real life snow globe. That scene remains with me, a treasured memory, to this very day.
Yup, I was sure that bat was going to do me proud.
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and The Team
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