Part 1 of 2Back in the 1930s and 40s, many weird stories hung from the tails of bats—they would get tangled in your hair, they were mixed up in witchcraft, a bite from a bat would condemn you to a life married to a witch. The list went on, despite the fact they were all rooted in fantasy. In reality, bats are almost a best friend to humans, partly because of their diet of flying insects.
As a youngster, I watched my father and various neighbourhood men swat bats with brooms in an attempt to rid the town of what they saw as a witchcraft-y nuisance. It wasn’t until later in life that I got to better know these amazing creatures.
When I was 24, I worked in the lab for the International Paper Company out of London ,Ontario. I was a pilot of small airplanes. In the winter, I flew some local deer yards, counting the deer in the winter yard. I then passed this on to the local conservation officer. One day he asked me if I wanted to become a deputy conservation officer. I jumped at the offer and balanced day shifts in the lab with evenings going out with him at night after deer poachers. On the weekends I joined him in his patrol boat and learned the ABCs of operating a patrol boat.
Eventually I was offered the position of conservation officer. I was 24, but because I had a baby face, they wanted me to dress as a plainclothes officer in order to help cut down on illegal commercial fishing in the Erie district. At the same time, I’d just been notified that the International Paper Mill would be moving to Toronto. I didn’t want to follow, so I jumped at the COs job.
After months playing snooker in pool halls, connecting with poachers and following up with raids and court dates, word got around about a kid CO, so my boss offered a patrol area of my own in eastern Ontario. I drove home, anxious to talk to my wife about the possibility, when I noticed a large man coming towards me on the back road I was taking. He was walking away from a game reserve, carrying a double barrel shotgun and a couple pheasants. He cut down the railway tracks and I got out of my car, walked up to him and showed him my badge. A second later, he showed me the barrel of his shotgun. He pulled both triggers back and screamed that he hated cops.
Fast forward a few months and I had moved to the small community of Winchester, just south of Ottawa. For a while, I continued working as a plainclothes officer, but eventually got detailed to a bat project. At the time, all I knew of them was what I’d learned as a child—their bodies were made up of very fine hair and they were pug-nosed creatures with membrane wings. But that next year, my job was to collect live bats for the lab. At the time, rabies was spreading across Canada and bats were the carrier of the deadly disease.
And so we close with a quote from the late John F. Kennedy, former President of the United States of America. “A man does what he must–in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures–and that is the basis of all human morality.”