Teddy is not a skunk whisperer…

Nine banded Armadillo

There were so many lovely comments about my last post, The Owl and the Pussycat… that I hunted on Youtube for videos of skunk sounds.  Then I was perplexed – it didn’t sound like our noisy night visitors.  Did our skunks speak in Spanish or had we developed a special language?  Eventually I started researching all the other critters that live with us.  Possums can hiss but don’t say very much.  Skunks in the wild rarely talk at all.  Raccoons have a very distinctive chatter – most of it is swear words.  One of my neighbors is scared of raccoons, they are pretty feisty.  I came to the rescue and chased the raccoon up a tree where he sat swearing at me (I think Puta was in there…)

What on earth was it?  Light bulb moment!  It is our little armed ones – Armadillos!  What a wonderful surprise.  Here is a link to a short video of their distinctive chirrup.

Can you imagine that little noise, all night long, from our extended Latin American immigrants?  They wake up about 7 pm and start chirruping, ‘Bee Bee?”  Teddy responds, “Beeee Beep?” and on it goes.  Then I started reading about them.  They like to dig burrows and they are all still under the deck including a new one.  Curiously, they are happy to share their tunnels with skunks, possums and whoever else is there.  Happy hippy commune, man!  They aren’t predated by the Great Horned Owl but presumably they were all cuddled under the deck with skunks.  Maybe their chirping was meant to be reassuring?  They have very few predators and can live from 9 to 23 years.  That probably means that we have lived with the same extended family for the last 13 years.  Mami, Papi, Abuelita, Mijos – no wonder they talk with us.  We are THEIR people; not the other way around!

Even better, they are insectivores and LOVE fire ants.  Now I love my little armed ones with a passion…  For some reason fire ants love to bite me.  You are innocently gardening when one and then one hundred fire ants run up your leg, biting as they go.  Your only recourse is to run to the outside faucet and rinse them all off.  Then you get some lidocaine because it bloody hurts!  Armadillos are funny looking little creatures but harmless unless you eat them undercooked (yes, people are hungry in Central America).  Then you can contract leprosy from them – how weird is that?  We would start naming them but Teddy counted about 50 one night, all communicating with each other.   Imagine a busy barrio in Mexico.

Some years ago, Teddy got this wonderful little video of some baby armadillos snuffling about in the undergrowth looking for insects.  They were silent and when I have seen them in our garden they went straight under the deck – they didn’t seem scared though and now I know why.  It was their female person.

The Bluebonnet Saga

Texas Bluebonnets in Mercer Arboretum

Texas Bluebonnets in Mercer Arboretum

All the Texans will immediately know what bluebonnets are but for the rest of the world they are a small, indigenous Texan wildflower that grows prolifically on verges or prairie in the springtime. My first thought was that they looked like little Lupines (and they are). When we moved into our brand new house, 11 years ago, we were delighted that our township planted the verges along the walking paths with thousands of bluebonnets. I think the first year everything was fine – we loved looking at them. By the second year, locals and outsiders alike had discovered that they could take the annual Bluebonnet shot (grandchildren sitting in bluebonnets) just north of Houston instead of going into the hill country.

Our street was outraged because if you sit on them, you kill them and they won’t come up the following year. All you could see were sad little broken stems. In a large area, they seed easily so there is not such a problem. Not only that, we had PAID for them in our outrageously high rates! One quick thinking neighbor put out an adorable little sign that said –

PLEASE DON’T SIT ON US. BLUEBONNETS ARE VERY DELICATE AND WILL NOT GROW NEXT YEAR. THANK YOU FOR BEING CONSIDERATE.

My sign would have been more like this –

GET YOUR RED NECKED IGNORANT ASSES OFF MY BLUEBONNETS – REVENGE WILL BE MINE. F*** OFF BACK TO YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD OR I WILL GET MY GUN.

On the lighter side, my friend and I hatched so many nefarious plots to get rid of them that it kept DESPICABLE US amused during the slow murder of our bluebonnets. Her plan was the most achievable – we dig up a nest of fire ants and put them in the middle of the verge. I wondered about getting some snakes from my reserve but they might have killed them too. Blow darts are always a consideration in my mind (native ancestry, perhaps?) but I don’t know how to get the poison delivered. Do you think Amazon delivers that kind of thing? I think what incensed me the most that they actually blocked our street with their stupid red neck family vehicles.

This is not a Disney story – there is no happy ending. Over a period of years they systematically killed our bluebonnets. Finally, to our relief, the township decided that it was more sensible to seed a variety of wildflowers which change every year. As much as I loved the bluebonnets, I am just as happy with poppies, Indian Blankets, Indian Paintbrushes and the ubiquitous but cheery pink and red poppies.

The verges look like this now

The verges look like this now

A rosy rash of poppies!

A rosy rash of poppies!