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Batman in love

Little brown bats lead Brad, Gail Petch to each other's arms

They don’t describe Maybell as the hottest dating scene around.

But Brad and Gail Petch say the rural setting was just what they needed to meet, fall in love and get married.

Brad Petch moved to Maybell in March 1988 to be a district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Gail Sis wasn’t far behind, moving there in August to teach kindergartners through sixth-graders at the one-room Maybell Elementary School.

“We both thought we were doomed to singlehood when we moved out there,” Brad said.

But the Maybell residents were determined to make sure the two young recruits found love in a town that boasts around 370 people. Gail could never have imagined how they would meet.

A few months into the school year, Gail and her students noticed some little brown bats in an outside corner of the school. Boys in her class began throwing rocks at the animals, so Gail knew she needed to get them moved before the bats were hurt.

One student recommended, “Call Brad at the DOW. He’ll know what to do because he’s the game warden.”

Turns out, Brad had no idea how to capture bats.

“I was mortified when I got this call because it was something I didn’t know anything about,” Brad said.

To make it worse, he knew Maybell’s only single young woman was the teacher who called him. And when he arrived, Gail asked if she and her students could watch.

Gail said the class expected nets to catch the animals, as a previous game warden had done.

“Instead they got some ignoramus who didn’t know anything about bats,” Brad said.

But a paper cup and paper bag seemed to do the trick. Brad captured the bats and simply moved them to another side of the school building, where students could not see them.

This brief encounter turned into what has become a long and happy marriage, the couple said.

The two spent time together — observing sage grouse at 5 a.m. — but did not have their first “official” date until the spring of 1989, when they attended the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquet together.

“I was a little slow,” Brad said.

But Brad didn’t waste much time getting a ring on Gail’s finger.

In the spring of 1990, Brad proposed at Vermillion Falls, also in western Moffat County. Brad and Gail wed on Aug. 11, 1990, and spent their honeymoon at Trapper’s Lake.

The Petchs, who now live in Craig and have two children — Adrienne, 15, and Shane, 12 — said after all this time, bats still have a prominent place in their relationship.

Gail attended a bat workshop several years ago in Alamosa, where she was able to hold a live bat and purchase a freeze-dried little brown bat like the ones once at Maybell school.

Brad comes to Gail’s third-grade classroom at Sunset Elementary School each year to teach her students about bats and other wildlife, just as he did at Maybell school.

“It’s been really neat that our jobs correspond as well as they do,” Brad said.

Gail got Brad a groom’s cake with a bat design for their wedding, and Brad bought Gail bat earrings. The couple has a bat house at their home west of Craig.

They hold close to their hearts their beginning with bats in the small community they still adore.

“It’s just funny,” Gail said. “You never know when you’re going to meet that one special person.”

Brad added, “And if you don’t know, the people in Maybell will tell you.”

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.