As a magazine writer, I’m as perpetually confused about what time of year it is as a department store window dresser who dreams up beach scenes in the dead of February. I’m always ahead or behind the season by months, researching Christmas-shopping articles in August and checking out swimming holes in the freezing winds of March. So when I decided to write about bats for my July column, which would be due around the first of May, I should have known I was setting myself up for an untimely failure. Let’s face it, Mother Nature doesn’t respect Texas Monthly deadlines.
The Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve, which is outside Mason and home to an estimated six million bats, wouldn’t be open to the public until mid-May. Prior to my deadline, few, if any, of the two million bats who roost in the Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area near Fredericksburg had arrived from their winter homes in Mexico. My attempts to catch emergences at Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge or the Frio River Bat Cave near Concan, both inhabited by late April, were thwarted by stormy weather; those smart bats don’t fly in the rain. (Several years ago I went on a two-week tornado chase with a professional—and perhaps certifiable—storm-chaser. During our insane wanderings through the Midwest, we never saw a storm like the one I watched blow across the Hill Country toward me as I sat on a nice, high promontory outside the Frio Bat Cave, waiting for a) the bats to never emerge or b) to be struck by lightning or c) to drown in the four-inch-an-hour deluge).
And although I was fortunate enough to visit