“What is that?”
That’s a question posed to me generally by someone pointing in the direction of where my waistline should be. And before somebody comes up with a smart aleck remark, it’s not what you’re thinking.
It’s my belt buckle, or, more specifically, what’s on it. The “that” in question is an armadillo.
That’s usually the follow-up question asked by unknowledgeable Yankees.
Armadillo. Also known as a hard-shelled possum, possum-on-the-half shell, Hoover hog and other equally endearing names. A creature largely indigenous to the southern reaches of the country, particularly that former republic south of the Red River and north of the Rio Grande where some have started giving it a sort of honored position in the animal kingdom.
Not very many armadillos make it even this far north because the climate tends to be a little cool for them, although there have been occasional armadillo sightings around here. Some people think it’s a dumb animal, but considering its avoidance of the northern portion of the colder northern portion of the country, the armadillo probably should be considered among the more intelligent of animals.
The armadillo probably is best known for being a roadside attraction because of its unsuccessful encounters with moving vehicles. I know of no reports of an armadillo ever wining in gladiatorial combat with Detroit’s finest. However, it is rumored that the critter may stand an almost equal chance against some of those automotive imports from the land of the rising sun. After all, some of those vehicles aren’t much bigger than an armadillo.
Now, some people don’t like armadillos. They think they’re vile, disgusting creatures. Of course, the same can be said for a somewhat sizable part of our population as well. I agree they can be nasty little varmints when they want to – the armadillos – especially whenever they root their way under a house in search of whatever armadillo delicacies might be there. It’s sort of like having a kangaroo in armor jumping against your floor.
Despite the somewhat dingy reputation some have thrust upon nature’s little tank, I still must admit to a certain fondness for the creature. I’m not really sure what it is about the armored animal that strikes my fancy, however.
It may be their persistence in constantly trying to get across highways and, more often than not, becoming pavement patties. But their descendants continue the quest anyway. Of course, this alleged persistence also could be interpreted as rank stupidity on the part of a creature whose brain cavity is about the size of an extra-large hickory nut.
Another reason for their appeal may be that they have been the object of scorn and ridicule for so many years. No matter what strides have been made in man’s relationship with other animals, the poor armadillo has been treated as a second-class creature.
But this may be changing. During the last few years, the lowly armadillo has risen to an almost cult status in some places. You can find its image on shirts, caps, beer ads, posters and other mass-market items, including belt buckles. Business establishments use its likeness and name in their names.
Perhaps the armadillo is finally being given the recognition it so richly deserves. And I’m certainly going to do my part to correct the social injustices inflicted upon this creature.
Armadillo lovers of the world unite!
(Since I wrote this, armadillos have become full-fledged residents of northern Arkansas. Our friends at Cave City have trapped nearly three dozen armadillos this summer to keep them from dozing up their yard. Unfortunately, armadillos still haven’t figured out how to cross the road.)