Monday, September 08, 2008
The Armadillo Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, Fall 2008
The armadillo is a creature of habit and it’s blind and practically deaf. What does that leave? Smell. It has a very strong sense of smell. It follows edges of things (because it’s blind) and it follows scents it picks up, of things to eat, and of where it’s been and where it’s safe to go again.
That’s the theory.
The perimeter fence is secure. The rock plug in the hole discovered over the weekend is undisturbed. All gates closed. No other point of entry exists — except the cliff face. Armadillos do not climb cliffs. Again, that’s the theory.
Ah, but when the facts rip your theory to shreds sort of like an armadillo rips a nicely tended garden to shreds, or a wire fence to shreds, well, you need to reexamine your theory.
This morning I got a really lucky break in the quest to stop one part of the garden from destroying another part of the garden. When I went out this morning to see how my theory was holding up, I was greeted immediately with the evidence: it wasn’t. There, right by the front porch, was not only a torturous path of dug-up garden soil, but the armadillo himself, wantonly having at it. Muddy-clawed, silver-backed, snout sniffing the air, there he was. I resisted my first instinct, which was to kill him. “We could do that, but it would be wrong,” I said to myself, picturing Nixon all over again. Actually, I instantly recognized that I had about as much chance of success killing him as I had of scoring a free-throw in a Laker’s game. And for whatever reason, I guess my stars and planets are aligned or something, I instantly recognized that I had right here the absolute best source of information about where he was coming in, because it was 7:00 and way past his bedtime and he was going to be headed out any moment now, especially since only a few seconds after I spotted him, he smelled me and kitty. Kitty confronted him — sort of. She was curious at best, but not hostile. He got the message though. He scooted through the garden ground covers, but as I did not wish to frighten him, I wanted him to take a leisurely route out of the garden, not the emergency escape hatch, I didn’t follow closely or make loud noises. I just watched what he did. (By the way, in that moment, I realized I could do this research scientist thing I have been contemplating, so long as it is in the service of a practical goal.)
Well, he slipped easily over the first ledge taking one of the three routes down that I had identified over the weekend as probable routes up from level two. Check. He hung out on level two for a minute, going first in one direction along the edge of the cliff face, then in the other. Check. He made no attempt to go into any of the caverns under the ledge, suggesting that none of them is his daytime abode. Check. But then he surprised me. He headed for the edge. He seemed to be searching, not digging, but sniffing the ground, zigging a little, then he quickly slipped over the edge of level two to level three right below the bird bath bed, and was gone. The fence stops at the edge of level two because the cliff face to level three is fairly daunting, too daunting, we thought, for an armadillo or even a deer to scale. Well, I think we have to rethink that. There may be a place. I have to go check later, examine where he went down from the path below that level to see what the chances are that he could have come up that way. Dennis says no way. I’m thinking, at this point, way.
One of the first tenets of science is that when you have carefully examined and rejected all the likely explanations for a phenomenon, the unlikely, and even the seemingly impossible, have to be examined next. There’s a hole in the theory, and we have to figure out what the hole is and fix it.
Image credit: Photo taken by Mike6158, turned up in Google search "armadillo jump texas" on page 5, near the bottom. Although Google image search shows the original context of the photo, the site, called Photography on the Net, does not actually show the image. I think one has to be a member and be logged in, even to see a member profile (that's why I can't show anymore than Mike's username, above -- I can't learn anything about him without being a member), let alone an image. The Armadillo Journal needs a proper credit line for images, so I'm going to get Dennis to draw me an armadillo. This tacky photo credit is temporary, I promise! It'll be better next time.