Don Mathis Headshot

If you haven’t been to the Museum Reach recently, this walk is for you. Have no fear of the heat – or the bats. Most of the walk is in the shade and complementary water is offered at several stops. The guide will discuss the various flowers – and hotels – that are blossoming along the river.

Throughout the summer, San Antonio residents and visitors have been enjoying “Bat Loco,” a partnership between Paseo del Rio Association, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Downtown TuesdayBat Conservation International, and the San Antonio River Authority. Tuesdays at 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., the Bat Walk tour starts at the Travis Street bridge over the River and lasts about 30 minutes.

The annual summer series will come to a close tonight, Aug. 13, with the Bat Loco Bash starting at 5 p.m. Tonight’s bash/extended celebration for the evening will include the usual tour times but additional booths, children’s activities, food trucks, live music and more.

Susan Salzman tried not to laugh when a tourist asked her, “Do the bats come out just on Tuesday?”

“No,” she said, “The bats come out every night.”

The bridge’s bat colony at the IH-35 bridge near Camden and Newell Streets along the San Antonio River’s Museum Reach is a bachelor pad for 20,000 Mexican free-tail bats. The summer colony flies into the night from the eaves of the bridge to feast on insects every night. Though this is the last “Bat Walk” of the season, the free-tails will continue to come out at about 7:45 p.m. well into September.

Downtown parking for the free-tail flight is free after 5:00 p.m. at city-operated lots, meters and garages as it coincides with Downtown Tuesday’s deals. The bats emerge from the bridge as early at 7:30 p.m. some nights. Visit www.downtowntuesday.com for more information.

A group of poets, including Salzman, assemble periodically for what they call, “Writers take a Walk.” Several poems were generated on the Aug. 6 Bat Loco walk.

(From left) Lea Lopez-Fagin, Chris Billings, Susan Salzman, and Don Mathis were the Writers on a Walk, a Bat Walk, August 5.  They used the flying mammals as their muse. Photo courtesy of Don Mathis.
(From left) Lea Lopez-Fagin, Chris Billings, Susan Salzman, and Don Mathis were the Writers on a Walk – a Bat Walk – on Aug. 5. They used the flying mammals as their muse. Photo courtesy of Don Mathis.

Bats by Chris Billings

one
another
a couple more
followed by a scattering

then thousands of ’em stream out from under
the I35 bridge over the San Antonio River
Mexican Free-Tail Bats taking flight on their
daily nighttime foraging for insects
of which they will eat a couple hundred tons worth
in just this one night
that’s good for the farmers
but bad for the bugs
and that’s okay because that’s just the way it is
so the big black cloud of little brown bats
streams out and into the wind
safety in number until they reach their destinations
for some up to 60 miles away
where they will break down into roosting groups
then eventually into individuals to hunt
for their dinner of moths or whatever other flying insects
cross their path to be seen by the bats
because bats are NOT blind
and they will NOT nest in your hair
and they will NOT suck your blood (at least, not THESE bats)
they are simply looking for a meal
while, inadvertently, helping the ecosystem
and that’s no guano
but soon their annual visit will come to an end
they will fly back to Mexico
and the Texas bugs will rejoice
but for this night the bats will feed until the wee hours
when they will begin their journey back to the bridge
where they will all swoop up and in
and just before dawn
the whole colony will
have returned
every

last

one

***

Blossoms Along the River by Don Mathis

Many plants bloom along the river,
even in the heat of day.
Pride of Barbados glows
like candles on a cake.

Silhouettes of Palm trees
against the sky
appear as explosions
on the fourth of July

Time – and the current –
creeps by so slow,
almost at the speed
the ferns and grasses grow.

Mallards in the water
cause ripples in the stream.
The wake they make
is like a blossom in a dream.

But the wildest design,
the strangest bloom,
is when the bats emerge
just before the moon.

The flickering shapes
stream against the sky –
a mammalian flower,
Free-tails on the fly!

***

Batnado – Susan Salzman

It’s as still as the grave,
then, they come out in a wave.
Warm bodies fly up like a plume of smoke.
Are these the creatures of which Bram Stoker wrote?
No, insects are their prey.
Our necks are safe – this day.

***

Don Mathis served as president of the Texoma Poetry Society in 2011 (a Sherman member of the Poetry Society of Texas). And in 2010, ‘Dionysus Don’ was crowned champion of the McKinney Poetry Slam. Don is very involved in the poetry community in Bexar County. He is a founding member of the San Antonio Poetry Fair and participates regularly with Sun Poets and La Taza writers’ group. His poetry has been published in anthologies, periodicals and has appeared on local TV and national radio.

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Don Mathis

Don Mathis

Don’s life revolves around the many poetry circles in San Antonio. His poems have been published in many anthologies and periodicals and broadcasted on local TV and national radio. In addition to poetry,...