Thursday, August 18, 2016

leaping armadillos

Stick with this video, if you will, I think you will find that it's worth it. It is children. Indulge them. It's worth hearing the girl laugh. Please bear with the photography. It's short.

My older brother called to ask a question. I answered  then hung up. Then he felt guilty for giving me the short shrift. (I didn't even think of it. That was ridiculously far from my thoughts, But bless anyway) Without anything in particular to say. 

I reminded him of a school friend in Louisiana and mentioned a very large parcel of farmland. Gary's mother was interested in buying a lot more acres for her husband's cattle. His small herd of cattle is the single biggest indulgence I've ever seen. He was actually a milkman. The cattle was his hobby. They had only 40 acres, a strip that ended with bayou at its narrow border. 

She bought 50,000 acres* much farther away, a lot less convenient, adjacent to the Red River.  The river shifted naturally and wiped out the entire thing. The whole strip is now under the Red River. Gary's mother died. Gary inherited zero from that.  I asked a lot of questions about that. Gary thought it was funny. He laughed anyway. In many ways he is incomprehensible. He insisted he tried everything possible and there is nothing legally he can do. Apparently the lot was described in terms of the river, such as between the river and the highway. I don't know exactly.  And now all that is gone. 

But, before all that happened we all went down there to see it. This was when she first bought it. The lot was a long narrow shape. Something like five sections with gates between them. We went through them all, inspected each section and returned to first at the road to the highway.  It was incredibly hot. Nobody wants to be out there. The temperature and the humidity sapped our energy. 

Gary and I were messing around pretending the scraggly jungle beyond the fence with the river nearby was tropical jungle. But it's not. That lasted about fifteen seconds. It is horrible vegetation. There is nothing attractive about it. It's all dirt and gnawed dying leaves in various degrees of degradation and saturated with insects. It's awful. A person cannot walk through it. Can hardly crawl through it. The mess was unlike anything I've ever seen and nothing at all like a forest as you imagine. A 3-D net of scratching snagging ripping dead and dying mean prickly vines. 

I saw an armadillo! 

My first one close up. They do not roll in a ball when scared, they run, and this I found again by his scratching desperately into the roots of a tree to escape me. His tail was sticking out so I grabbed it. It thrashed wildly in that horrible place and its claws could tear me to shreds and it's heavy. I was holding it extended forward so its claws couldn't rip me with its thrashing. 

"Throw it into the back of the truck!" 

But then what? What would be the point? The thing is mental. 

It was too heavy for me. I had to get rid of it so I twirled like a hurler and flung it far as I could, it took off into the filthy dry tore up half dead, half baked half drowned jungle. 

That right there put me off jungles permanently. Jungles stopped being Hollywood informed, expertly designed with  greenhouse plants, exotic tropical foliage and bizarre flowers that attract impossibly beautiful birds and with tall trees that have canopies and draped with climbable and swingable vines. That boyish fantasy finished right there. Done. Forever. 

Then Barry told me that he and a friend, a name I didn't recognize, went hunting with old school bows blunted  arrows. The punks. (See what I mean about being ditched? His story pissed me off because the story he told me would have been fun.) Not really hunting, just practicing marksmanship with moving living creatures. What an asshole now that I think about it. They encountered an armadillo. He shot an arrow at it. They frightened it and it jumped straight up. Right in front of his friend who shot it right in its side. Boink. I said the arrows were blunted. 

At first I thought he meant arrows with rubber suction cups on the end that seemed kind of weird. But no, metal blunted arrows. And rather weak bows. His story is about that quick reaction and successful shot especially surprised by  a leaping armadillo.

I heard similar stories before. There are a lot of dead armadillos in the south. The sides of the roads are kept mowed and that brings out the armadillos for easy insect pickings. They are startled by approaching automobiles and when they are on the road and startled they leap straight up right in front of the fast moving car and get hit by the grill. They literally jump into the grill. 

If they would stay low they could live. But you cannot expect an armadillo to understand this. 

At any rate, these things together formed the impression in my mind all along that armadillos jump rather high. Surprisingly high. So these videos I'm seeing disappoint me. 

But then, really, how could they jump at all? Their legs are so short, their bodies so heavy, their anatomy not made for jumping. But animals do impossible things. So I thought armadillos really do that.  But they don't. It's just that behavior is so unexpected. 

So I made this animation to compensate. No point in being bummed out about it. For the not so high jumping armadillos. 

And you know what? You really shouldn't touch those things. Apparently they are carriers of a leprosy virus or something, or somehow they can transmit the disease to humans. Some can. Yes, there you go, leprosy. 

* edit: The 50,000 figure never did sound right but Gary insisted on it. At fifteen years of age I gave Gary a hard time about it. I said, "50,000 inches?" He said, no, acres." I asked are you sure it's not 50 acres? Because that would be a reasonable addition." And since then I toured a 2,000 acre wheat ranch, and the Louisiana property was larger than that but not so much, the portion that I saw. I could have been even 5,000 acres which is an incredible high amount, but that property really was obnoxiously large.  I did ask again two decades later after the river moved and he insisted again it was that large. But I think he is wrong. That figure is ridiculous. It's amounts to nearly 80 square miles and I just can see his mother negotiating that. Garry did say a lot of outrageous things, he did always speak expansively. But except for this this they all turned out true. He told me studied classical style piano. That he wrote a few of his own songs. I thought, eh, there he goes again. Then at school we were called to assembly. Gary strode out, he really does stride, He's so fat that his arms are loose by his sides and move by his entire bulk shifting so his dangling arms waft back and forth to an "I don't give a s**t what anyone thinks as you all stare at me. He sat down a t a piano onstage and banged out an impossibly complex tune, again his fingers so fat they hit multiple keys but the cords so complex the mistakes are less apparent. He stopped and told the entire high school, "I wrote that." 

Everyone called him 'Haystack' because that was his actual silhouette. But after that it was Haystack spoken with awe and with respect. He is a remarkable and amazingly funny individual. I still think he must be full of s**t about the number of acres. All of Louisiana has only 145.5 thousand square miles. His mother did could not have negotiated 1.8% of it. 

1 comment:

ricpic said...

Don't beep at armadillos,
Such a rude thing to do.
Of course the armadillo jumped!
Who wouldn't. Wouldn't you?