Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bats+kids+tornadoes+gramma's cabin

Elaine's journey continued....

A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud.

(National Geographic picture of tornado)

Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera ( /kaɪˈrɒptərə/; from the Greek χείρ - cheir, "hand"[2] and πτερόν - pteron, "wing"[3]) whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight.
(bat catching an insect..notice it is NOT sucking blood from innocent children)

Biologically, a child (plural: children) is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty.

(my sister Mallory, my cousin Sharon and me)
In a perfect scenario, such as the one we experienced on Rainy Lake, all of these forces came together to create one memorable night.

In Northern Ontario, some tornadoes go undetected by ground spotters because of the sparse population and remote landscape; they are often discovered after the fact by aircraft pilots, where aerial observations of damaged forest confirm occurrences...this however was not the case for this particular tornado..rather, a handful of small children and two sisters were in the eye of the storm..clustered together for safety, and definitely aware that a tornado raged around them. In tents, somewhere else on our island, my older cousins and their friends were camping.

One sister was our mother, Elaine, the other was our Auntie Vi. Auntie Vi was older than my mom, but my mom was clearly the leader of the two. After all our mother's nickname was "Nails" whereas Vivian's was simply Vi. Our two families often spent summers together at the island we shared on Rainy Lake in NW Ontario. My father and Uncle Fred built several cabins, none of which was large enough to hold both our families simultaneously. Babies slept in the first cabin with their parents, and older kids were housed in a string of cabins which meandered down the rocky path to the lake. The older you were, the further you were from parental control.
(cabins at our island on Rainy Lake)

Something in the way the storm collected itself over Rainy Lake that afternoon told my mom that we were in for one heck of a storm. Dad and Uncle Fred had gone to town for supplies, and had not yet returned. In his entire life, I don't think my Dad ever owned a boat with anything more than an unreliable 9 horse motor, so a "quick trip to town" for groceries was never possible.

As the wind gathered itself more forcefully, Elaine and Vivian decided it would be safer if we collectively moved to Gramma Mallory's cabin on the point. There was no time to search for the older kids camped on the other side of the island.

Why Gramma Mallory ever even owned a cabin on the lake remains a mystery to me..she didn't swim, she thought sitting in the sun was foolishly barbaric, she detested fishing and she was scared stiff of bears. Consequently, her cabin was not used very often, and bats had made themselves quite at home in the eaves of her cabin.

My mom might have been able to "read the weather", but her knowledge of bats was severely lacking. In her mind, all bats were blood sucking, rabid and filthy. As Elaine lit the gas lamps in the cabin, the bats emerged from their roosts in the cabin rafters..and much to the horror of both sisters began flying around inside the cabin.

Being in charge, mom immediately began to bark orders at Vivian like a seasoned drill sergeant..get those kids under the covers..grab a broom..don't let the bats bite them, they will get rabies..put this scarf on your head so the bats won't get caught in your hair.. and with that she took up a broom and began swinging wildly at the flying bats.

(available from

The bats with their echo location and masterful flying abilities seemed to taunt her...she leapt from bed to bed while Auntie Vi ran around the room screaming for us to stay under the covers and repeating the part about all bats having rabies. Of course all of us peeked from under the covers to observe the two sisters racing around the cabin in some manical version of "bat baseball".

Eventually, the storm blew itself out-but not before it took down giant pines that had grown on the island for years. My cousins emerged from their tents, unaware that a tornado had almost engulfed us and followed the smell of bacon back to Gramma Mallory's cabin. We could hear the noise from the 9 horse motor coming across the bay. High up in the rafters, tired bats drifted off to sleep.

Comment from my sister Mallory:

I also remember they tied scarves around their heads so the bats wouldn't get tangled in their hair lol. We counted 7 trees down the next morning and several came within feet of the cabin. But what surprised me the most is that you didn't scream your head off that they were hurting the bats.