Saturday, October 29, 2016

Turtle Rabbits

What’s ugly, has a hard shell, operates in the dark and digs holes for itself? No I’m not talking about our Presidential candidates. I’m talking about that great symbol of Texas, Dasypus Novemcinctus….the Armadillo. Or as the old Spaniards called it, the “turtle rabbit”.

I live just outside the city limits in what some folks would call “the country”. I’ve been out in “the country” before and I don’t consider where I live to be “the country”. Our road is paved, we’ve got high-speed internet, coop-water, I can get to town in ten minutes and to the DFW Airport in an hour and ten minutes. But we do live on 35 acres and there is a good bit of open land around us. There are cows and horses and chickens. And critters like coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, possums, skunks, etc. Feral hogs are close by and once in awhile you’ll see a deer.

We’ve got a heavily wooded creek running through the property and it is critter heaven. And somewhere in all of the tangled woods and briars and creek bed an armadillo makes its home. One would think that a nocturnal “turtle rabbit” would have better things to do than waddle up every night and destroy my lawn. I keep the yard around the house mowed, watered and fertilized. We like our yard. So do the little things that turtle rabbits like to eat. Therefore, turtle rabbits like our yard. But these tasty little morsels are not easily obtained. Turtle rabbits must work for their supper which means digging for it. So every morning, when the sun comes up, I find a new area with fresh diggings. In the long run it may be good for the soil and perhaps the armadillo is doing me a favor. But in the short run he's making the yard look like hell.

Armadillos are hard to trap and you really can’t poison them. If I wanted to stay up all night I could probably catch him in the act and put an end to it. But, in some weird way I kind of don’t mind their digging around. Trying to maintain a well-manicured lawn out in the country actually seems sort of foolish. We waste water, we spend money on fertilizer, we mow and edge and tend the flower beds and want to make it look picture book perfect to satisfy our own egos. And a hungry armadillo comes along and says thank you by digging it all up. Sometimes God has a way of using the foolish things of this world, like “turtle rabbits”, to put you in your place. And that’s not a bad thing.

“It turned out to be a young Dasypus novemcinctus, a nine-banded armadillo, about the size of a small loaf of bread. Although they were becoming more common in Texas, I'd never seen one up close before. Anatomically speaking, it resembled the unhappy melding of an anteater (the face), a mule (the ears), and a tortoise (the carapace). I thought it overall an unlucky creature in the looks department, but Granddaddy once said that to apply a human definition of beauty to an animal that had managed to thrive for millions of years was both unscientific and foolish.”
― Jacqueline Kelly, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

No comments: