If you have bats in your belfry (or attic, or basement, or even your van), rest assured your government cares.
Uncle Sam also wants to help if you and your teen-ager don't understand each other, if you want to rid your garden of slugs, fear getting counterfit money or bed bugs, want to can tomatoes, build a better rabbit hutch or plan for retirement.
The government yearly prints 12 billion useful items, from postal cards to fallout shelter blueprints. U.S. bookstores list pamphlets and guides on 20,000 subjects from the Battle of Gettysburg to the battle of the bulge (calorie guides and diet hints) and nearly all points in between.
The all-time federal best seller is Infant Care. It has sold 17 million copies since the original version was produced in 1914, long before Dr. Benjamin Spock took pen in hand.
Other top publications: Prenatal Care, Your Child From 1 to 6, and Simultaneous Oil and Gas Lease Application, which tells you what is on people's mind these days.
Whatever your thing, odds are the government has advice on the subject and a booklet advising how to get it, lose it, make it grow or shrink, profit from or avoid it. Whatever. Take bats, for example!
Bats (the flying kind, not Louisville sluggers) seldom come up in conversation. But they are of interest if you live in or near a cave, or are troubled by nocturnal visitors who, despite their excellent radar, sometimes confuse bungalows with Carlsbad Caverns.
U.S. agencies get lots of complaints about bats, which -- no matter how cute they look -- are sometimes rabid. In 1976 a Cecil County man was bitten by a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus to its friends) that landed on his shoulder. The bat turned out to have rabies.
Maryland, according to federal bat complaint records, ranks fourth in close encounters with bats. New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania residents make the most complaints, according to U.S. bat data. This does not mean bats are strictly an East Coast problem. The government says there are complaint "hot spots" in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Texas and California.
Because of homeowner complaints about uninvited bats, the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service regularly updates Resource Publication No. 143, House Bat Management. The original version was produced in 1911 by Arthur M. Greenhall. The government considers it one of the definitive works on home bat problems. The book gets more popular all the time. Probably because bat hunting ranges are shrinking and there are more homes for them to invade.
Bats in the bedroom, the publication makes plain, are no laughing matter.
Bats scare people. The 33-page book (complete with mug shots of more common U.S. bats) advises how to handle them (with gloves and very, very carefully) and how to bat-proof dwellings.
For bat fanciers, the book tells how to build Artificial Bat Roosts. Idea is to give the critters some place to hang their little feet until a good cave vacancy comes along. In fact the government operates several bat motels. Human visitors are not encouraged.
So if you have a problem with bats, or just about anything else, head for the nearest federal book store, or write the superintendent of documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 20402, and ask what they have on your subject. They're certain to have this pamphlet . . . .