Friday, May 7, 2010

Sugarloaf Bat Tower

This essay originally posted in May 2009 and appears here today courtesy of AT&T's inability to restart Internet service on Ramrod Key, which has been down for a week. I hope normal service will resume shortly. I apologize of course, abjectly for the major corporation's shortcomings.So here's the thing: it's 1929 and you are an unfortunately named land speculator who wants to make a killing in those booms years. You've found a delightfully uninhabited island in the Florida Keys, connected by rail and a rickety roadway to Key West some 13 miles to the south, and you want to develop the hell out of it. There's one problem; it's a mosquito infested swamp.Because you're smart and an innovator you know exactly what the solution is to this pesky problem: bats! That's right, Richter Clyde Perky figured that if he built a bat tower in the middle of Sugarloaf Key the flying mammals would eat up the mosquitoes freeing his land for development and profit.A dude in Texas was selling plans for what he called a Hygiostatic Bat Roost, and Perky built the thing fully expecting bats to love his new home for them. Well, I never figured bats for ungrateful beasts but history says they never took to Dr Campbell's Bat Roost, and no sooner did Perky pop them in their slots than they flew away never to return: It is my habit to bring guests to this tower, which is a somewhat well known landmark among local people who pay attention to this sort of thing. It is one of three surviving Campbell Bat Roosts, and the other two are found in Texas so this pile of wood is actually quite rare. Originally there were fourteen around the world but the others have faded away. So here we have our splendid oddity,gently crumbling in the heat and wet of Florida's climate.I have used the bat tower as a back drop in several of my photos but I decided that perhaps it was time to devote a few pictures to it before the thing crumbles away completely:The tower is of course irresistible to graffiti artists who stop by, as this area is a hang out for youngsters, but of restorers or supporters of this historical structure there are no signs: While I was taking my pictures a walking jogger arrived and made a circuit. We talked momentarily about the tower and it's chances of survival, especially with hurricane season upon us once again. I was glad to be taking the time to snap the pictures. He hobbled off, a martyr to his back problems he said, as I bent back to get some angled pictures of the tower:If you look at a map the bat tower is located in a place some geographers call Perky as though there were a town here, which there isn't. Old man Perky had hoped to be immortalised with a town named after him, but all there are is mosquitoes, a bat tower, a few homes near the airstrip and a bunch of trash:And to top off this slightly bizarre story there is the even more bizarre fact that there are no signs to this monument to optimism and unbridled development. Come to think of it I suppose we should be grateful to the mosquitoes for thwarting Perky's plans for sprawling suburbs around here. Yet you'd think there would be one measly little sign on the Highway marking this well known tower. Not a bit of it.No one in authority seems to care much about the Bat Tower, so if you want to find this sylvan spot turn off Highway One beyond the Sugarloaf Lodge as you drive towards Key West. Turn north at the first roadway past the lodge, at the sign to the airport, which is an airstrip nearby. The Bat Tower is unmarked, unloved and unheralded, noted less even than a 2700 foot landing strip of no great account. Typical of the Florida Keys.


AT&T told me Tuesday the system would be back up Wednesday at noon.
AT&T told me Wednesday the system would be back up at 1:20pm Thursday.
AT&T told me yesterday (Thursday) the Internet would be back up on Friday at 9:07am.
Until the Internet does come back I have photos in my files (which I cannot upload at work where I am writing and posting this) and my blog will be stuck in replay mode. My apologies.
This experience has also taught me how much I enjoy being connected with the outside world. Life in the Keys would be much harder for me if I couldn't peruse all those websites that lessen the physical isolation. I was never cut out to be alone and out of touch on a desert island.
Anyway I am planning to be out of town car buying this weekend so normal service will be resumed early next week and to that end I am keeping my fingers crossed and lining up replays to cover the gap.