Newcomers to the eastern side of the Mighty Muddy may be surprised to learn that we didn’t have armadillos here originally. They migrated in less than thirty years ago. Rumors that the “armored possums” were stocked in the Delta by Federal Fish & Game biologists in order to take some of the Road Kill pressure off of native possums may or may not be true. I never personally saw a uniformed biologist turn loose an armadillo.
Hunting on west-side Mississippi River islands, I grew up with the hard-shelled little hole-diggers, and have seen horses hurt legs by stepping in their burrows. There used to be several civic “Armadillo Festivals” featuring barbecued, fried, and fricasseed armadillo meat, until it was discovered that the little devils carried leprosy, at which time such festivals came to an abrupt halt. The meat tastes a lot like pork, barbecued.
The kids used to make a game of catching the surprisingly fast scuttlers on The Island, riding around in the Ghost (a 1948 Jeep) until they’d filled a couple of croker sacks. Then they’d take them out to the River in a boat to teach them to swim. I had repeated the old wives’ tale that they can’t swim, but hold their breath and cross rivers walking on the bottom. The kids proved that false, establishing that ‘dillos swim like pigs, with only their snouts above water (depending of course on how far they have to swim!).
Once they came up with some luminous spray paint just before Halloween, and scared several club members plumb sober when glowing spooks kept appearing in the headlights’ gleam. A few were so shook that I advised the kids not to mention that they were the culprits for a couple of years. Some folks have NO sense of humor!
Howsomever, the armored possums did manage, walking on the bottom or otherwise, to cross the Mighty Muddy, and become established on this side of the River. They regularly dig up flower bulbs, root under the pecan trees, and burrow into the yard. Here at Brownspur, they have been ruled fair game, and until the government places them on the Endangered List, we encourage their annihilation, at least around the houses and pasture. Yet it was by accident that I came up with the perfect Armadillo Trap.
Betsy and I had been cleaning out The Store, our old commissary-turned-guest- house, and saved a thick glass top from an otherwise-deceased cabinet. We toted it out of The Store, and lacking a better place, leaned it against the Tallow tree outside the kitchen window. The glass was about five feet long and two feet wide – or, high, when you lean it against a tree. There it still sits, until she decides where to put it permanently.
The other night I picked up the Slung Coffee pot, and stepped outside to toss the grounds. Without cutting the lights on, I walked out and let the screen door slam behind me as I flung the used coffee grounds out. I was startled by a commotion in the fern bed beneath the kitchen window. As I looked, an armadillo, disturbed from his digging up fern roots by the slamming door, darted out of the fern bed to escape me, his sworn enemy.
He had a clear path across the yard to the fig tree, as far as he could see.
Armadillos, as noted, are surprisingly fast, and their acceleration from a standing start, even when not scared by a slamming door, is even more amazing.
This ‘dillo emerged from that fern bed like the proverbial striped ape, or scalded dog, or streak of greased lightning, or even bat out of Hell. After all, he had to cross 50 feet of what appeared to be unobstructed yard.
I once walked slap into a patio door which Betsy had just cleaned, so I can somewhat appreciate the armadillo’s predicament. “WHOP!” he hit that sheet of glass!
To make matters worse, Betsy had recently trimmed some limbs from the Tallow tree, and had left the aluminum extension ladder propped up only a foot from the glass.
“CRASH!” the armadillo rebounded from the glass into the ladder. Dazed, he eyed again his seemingly clear escape route, and accelerated like a pro fullback.
“WHOP!” “CRASH!” “WHOP!” “CRASH!” resounded from the darkness as I widened my eyes to try to see as much of the action as possible. “WHOP!” “CRASH!”
Finally, the concussed armadillo staggered around the corner of the glass and headed across the yard. I was laughing too hard to pursue.
Adam found him the next day, dead as a doornail, just short of the fig tree.
We decided to leave the Armadillo Trap right where it is.