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Maureen Haley stares down a beer in France

Lone Star play The Bridges June 30


It’s Getting Crowded in the Great Outdoors

(Oh-Be-Joyful) The place is overrun. Just the other night while camping out under a newly installed municipal street light up the Slate we watched in horror as thousands, well hundreds, of fruit bats circled our tent with lord knows what intent. They are nothing more than little rats with wings. I don’t care if they are blind and operate on radar. They don’t bathe regularly and can carry rabies (in their back pockets?)

Then it was the bears. Damn, the bats finally got tired of their mindless orbit and the fury beasts emerge. Damn, I strung all the Spam up in the tree like Mr. Ranger said to do, but bears can climb trees! I banked the fire and now they want marshmallows.

Wow, that bruin just ripped the lid off my cooler and he doesn’t appear to have thumbs! I hope he doesn’t come into the tent — that’s where I’ve hidden the rum. I’ve been informed that the animals are most active at dawn and at dusk so I guess we should just sleep in the daytime and hike at night. Are flashlights legal in a pristine, wilderness area? I’ll have to consult my Nashville Forest brochure written by uniformed men over in Denver. They manage the land, you know.

Hey, the reason we are out in the forest in the first place is to observe butterflies in their natural habitat but I think the bats and bears have scared them off. We wait all year for the weather to turn warm so we can drink a glass of wine and munch on some overpriced exotic cheese and we have to share this time warp with pests. Wait. There’s a butterfly now. Where’s my net?

Do people collect butterflies due to some sadistic flaw or because they can’t stand to see a being so very colorful cruising the skies at peace all day? What eats butterflies and how did they get tagged with such a dreadful label?

At least they aren’t like bats. Despite the fact that bats eat mosquitoes they still swoop. That’s it. That’s what gets under my skin. It’s the swooping. In Mexico bats don’t tend to swoop as much as the peso. In Costa Rica someone left the bats out all night and they were stolen. In the jungles of South America they have vampire bats which is one reason travelers are subjected to all those barely pubescent soldiers standing around with machine guns. It’s bat control. That’s all. If you have a problem just call the American Embassy.

If one comes in contact with a bat, waving at it does little good. They just wave back. Flies, oh thou little bat of snot, will go away for a while. Bats, on the other hand, seem to think that if you are so intent on driving them away there must be something you are attempting to protect, like mosquitoes, rum, mosquitoes or some other treasure. They don’t know. They are like the IRS with wings.

The best way to handle a bat is to grip the bat at the bottom with both hands, spread you feet, don’t crowd the plate and keep your eye on the ball. Take a few practice swings in the on-deck circle. At the last moment of contact squeeze and swing through the ball. When reaching first base you are on your own.

I had a friend once who fashioned himself quite the mountain man. He tried this conventional approach to handling a bear, grabbing low and squeezing. He is buried in our backyard under a Russian olive tree.

Long before the native cape buffalo were run off by the high winds the butterfly and the bear were compatible. Most likely this mutual toleration resulted from the primary reality that neither had anything the other needed. Instinctually any bear will tell you that butterflies don’t generate honey. Likewise butterflies aren’t hot on eating parasites (even with béarnaise sauce) off their shaggy counterparts nor do they enjoy munching on a rotten cow that has been buried by a member of the Ursidae clan so as to create the ultimate gourmet treat. Both are generally omnivorous but, like the Epicureans of the Pacific Rim, will consume an assortment of canned meats if they have access to a can opener. Bats hate Spam, often picking at it, then feeding it to the family dog when no one is looking.

If you encounter a bat in the wilds you probably won’t notice the intrusion since they are nocturnal and hard to see in the dark. Bears on the other hand are up all the time due to their fascinating habit of sleeping all winter. In truth, bears can do without folks and usually retreat unless food, cubs, or harsh political differences are apparent.

Responding to a bear encounter is simple enough, unless it doesn’t work well. First of all, stay calm. This may be difficult considering the fact that a 300-pound prowler has just entered your domain. Make noise so that the bear knows you are around.

Pretend you haven’t seen the beast and he/she may retreat. If you are wearing aftershave or perfume that smells like honey or dead cows, dispense with all logical thought and make a run for the truck. There is little truth to the rumor that bears eat Californians and Texans on sight. Statistics lie.

If you find yourself toe-to-toe with a bear back away slowly and avoid direct eye contact as the animal may perceive your stare as a threat. Give the animal an escape route, like the state of Montana. Don’t run. That bear may look chubby but he ran track in college. You can’t outrun a bear. Sudden movements (even those associated with the bowels) can provoke an attack. Speak softly. Reassure the bruin that no harm is meant. Most bears speak American. Just flip out a couple of fifties and, miraculously, most will understand you.

Try not to show fear. That’s what it says in the brochure. Fight back. If you are attacked hit the bear with a rock or a stick. Chainsaws are effective and so are child-proof cigarette lighters, Swiss Army knives, political opinions and last night’s pot of beans. Most likely the bear will tire of the struggle and go back into the woods where he belongs. If not there’s a plot next to our mountain man friend. Biting, kicking and grabbing the bear by his privates is considered dirty fighting by most animals of the forest.

If you are attacked by bats you are probably dreaming or drinking too much cheap gin. If you are attacked by a butterfly you should probably spend your next outing at the dog track or the local mall. The outdoors isn’t for everyone although this time of the year it sure seems like it.

– Melvin O’Toole

American Cheese Slice Survives Century Mark

(Crested Butte) An individually wrapped American cheese slice has passed another decade in a local man’s refrigerator it was disclosed today. Longtime resident Herb Ditchwater, although reluctant to disturb the cheese, has agreed to present what is technically an antique to interested parties in front of the post office on Friday afternoon.

“It was in there behind the frozen dog chewies, the simulated macaroni strips and the dehydrated snails,” laughed Ditchwater, who is hoping for some sort of extensive cash prize for his startling discovery.

Analysts say this kind of over-processed cheese is synonymous with the mindless tailings of our right now American culture. While countries like France, Ireland, Greece and even Costa Rica produce delicious gourmet cheeses the United States still continues to settle for the plastic chemical variety. More and more consumers here are willing to go for foods, and other products, that only look like the real thing.

“Yeah, but I’ll bet my cheese lasts longer,” said Ditchwater who plans to present the preserved slice to the Smithsonian as a classic example of American culture.

According to the maker of the cheese it’s all a matter of supply and demand.

“Americans prefer convenience to quality. Just look at our electoral process,” said one cheese executive who dabbles in politics. If people don’t like things the way they are here in the U.S. maybe they should go somewhere else.”

– Jolly Pena

Happy to help…

Answers to Spring IQ Test

1. If you said “the wrong way around” was the only safe route to Point B, give yourself one point. If you said “Point B was not really worth the trip”, give yourself two points.
2. The correct answer was “a dog and two birds”. Other acceptable responses include: 1. Mount Whitney 2. rice curds all around 3. The Hangman of Babylon 4. [42] x pr@yx-[24] 5. May 4, 1691 6. sort of greenish or anything written in French. Give yourself 1 point.
3. Only if the electrician’s assistant leaves the building by the third floor west parking loft, north window and if he/she avoids every third step down the false fire escape on the way to the bottom can he expect to survive through the weekend. Worth 3 points.
4. The answer to this one is “the train arrives at 4:31 am. (Participants must show work on this one…although it doesn’t matter to whom one shows said labor.) Worth 2 points on Tuesdays.
5. Either the Crimean War or the Rose Bowl Parade. 1 point.
6. The correct response was 12 but if you submitted any number between 8 and 57 you are all right. (2 points). In fact, any number below 150 gains one point. OK with 150. We might accept any number except 666, which is the work of the devil, and 33, which is the work of an idiot. Bonus point for the trouble.
7. The problem with our society is ignorance and apathy. The proper response is “I don’t know”. If the tested added “and I don’t care” give yourself 4 points.
8. Follow your heart down the drain. 2 points.
9. The red star is under the third cup and the monkey has his hand on your wallet. Close one eye and share the bananas. 2 points. Note: Red stars may appear as black chickens or staple guns in Canada.
10. Trick question: Was Calvin Coolidge ever caught dressing up like a giraffe? One point.
SCORING: If you scored below zero you are a moron but one that can achieve success in mass merchandising. If you scored 1 – 3, you are of average intelligence, which can be quite frightening in the warm-blooded sector. If you scored 4 – 7, you are above average, which guarantees nothing. After all the average American can name all of the contestants on American Idol but cannot spell the name of the current president of Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan or Yemen. If you scored higher than 10 you are a cheater and should seriously consider running for public office.