Bats, bats, and more bats.

I thought I had posted this years ago, and find out now that it was in a letter to a Bucknell classmate. I’m country…not a city kid for sure, so, when I go to college at Bucknell University in Lewisburg Penna., I made what I thought was a standard effort to mingle. What a mistake, and what an experience with weird personalities. First time meetings were very strange mostly because I was country and they weren’t. Bucknell is an ivy league school I’m told and all the guys were lining up to join fraternities. I had No idea what that was about but I joined one…or maybe I should say, one accepted me. It took me only about 2 weeks to understand that the main reason to join a fraternity was beer. And so many of those guys had lives ruined by alcohol. I’m not opposed to drinking but I really don’t like BEing drunk. I quit after about 2 weeks of such mental aberration of frivolity.

I was not the only guy who either didn’t join, or who backed out like I did. There were about 6 of us that became friends, and we became known as GDIs. God Damn Independents. Seemed like a good choice all around. Some of us had shared classes and others either previous friends or another social entity that brought us together. My roommate John Hentosh was one and at the moment, I can only remember first names of another John, two Bills and Freddie. Freddie Olsen was special. He was a chemistry major and very intelligent, had a great sense of humor and philosophy of life. He had a congenital heart defect and more than once I would see him down sitting or on his knees and blue like scary blue. He had no fear of heights and would put himself in the darndest places to prove it. *I*…stayed on the ground.

I was in the library one day and saw a classmate reading a book about speleology. The word was unusual and unknown to me so I asked. He said Caves. It’s about caves. And then told me about the karst around the area in that part of Pennsylvania. It turned out that there was a cave within 3 miles of Bucknell….on a farm. Freddie had a vehicle permit because of his heart problem so we got to range a bit farther out, and faster because he could park on campus. We drove out to the farm on the map and the old guy in bib overalls pointed out a hill a couple hundred yards away. As informed, we climbed up to find a cone shape going down into a hole near the bottom of the funnel. The hole was about two body size and went straight down about 40 ft. It was natural stone lined and we went down like descending a ladder. Then the hole turned 90 degrees and was flat and easily traversed on our knees. I was in front and I didn’t go too far when Freddie about 10 ft behind me hollered for me to toss him the ONLY flashlight we had with us. Neither of us knew much about spelunking.

I flashed the light forward to see where I was going and then tossed the light to Freddie. I then proceeded on my hands and knees slowly till it was quite dark. I put my hand down to go forward and it went down sharply. I could feel I was on an edge, so I picked up a stone and dropped it into the void. Void indeed! No sound come back. I find a larger stone…toss it…no sound. Freddie handed me the light. I turn it ahead of us…and we could not see the other wall…or ceiling…or Floor!! This was the end of our first spelunking trip.

It turned out that the room we experienced, was like an huge hourglass, vertical elliptical configuration. We came to the edge of the room at about the 8 out of 10 level. The roof was about 50 ft above us and the bottom closed into a small hole that opened up to another similar room. Freddie was the only one of us to see the bottom room…he went down on a clothesline rope and immediately was screaming for us to pull him up. He could only see the hole he went thru.

So, we found and explored a fair number of caves over the coming 3-4 years. One in particular, was very attractive. One could go thru a lot of it in standing position and only a few of tubes that required crawling on hands and knees. It was especially attractive in winter as the temp was about 52 degrees after you got thru to the distance where winter quit. The “water” stalactites/stalagmites were unique. They were about 10 mm in diameter….ALL the way from top to bottom. I sure wish I had that image to share.

So, here we were collecting bats. Please know that we were not knowledgeable about bats and certainly did not wish them harm. They would collect in huge colonies or patches on the ceiling of this cave. And like I said, we could stand up while exploring most of this cave so reaching up to grab a handful of hibernating bats was no challenge. We collected about 4 grocery store paper bags and headed back to the car and the dance. Recall that it was a big over an hour drive and there was quite a bit of snow on the ground. We were well underway back and about the half way spot, one of the guys in the back seat complained that it was really cold back there, so the driver (my friend Freddie)…reached down and turned on the heat. Not thinking (obviouslY)…we had not travelled too far when the guys in the back seat started screaming and thrashing around..and opening the windows. The bats had come out of hibernation due to the heat and we had wall to wall bats, flying and crawling, all over the car. Even Freddie and I opened our windows too. He had to slow down to manage visibility and looking back, I could see cars behind us weaving back and forth because of the bats coming at them. I can’t even imagin what they were thinking.

The bottom line is….that we never got to release our bats into the gymnasium. I did keep one bat for almost a year before the landlords wife got freaked out about it and turned it loose. sigh!

Yes, I did have a bit of bat story and memories. Add that to the “A” I got in bacteriology because I swabbed a bats mouth to see if and/or what grew in the various tubes of culture medium. The prof. was in awe that I had done such an abstract effort.

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