Other than the fact that state unemployment doesn't cover the bills, being off work has its advantages.
- I can write just about every day, sometimes twice a day.
- I can work out on my schedule, not the Man's.
- I can fish with Blake.
- I can boss everyone around the house 24/7.
- I can take leisurely bicycle rides with the Mrs.
We, that is the Mrs and I, where leisurely pedaling our bikes through parts of Lakewood Ranch's commercial district. Well, the Mrs was leisurely pedaling, I was circling around her, jumping the curbs, speeding up and skidding, riding with no hands (She really hates it when I do that.), and generally making a nuisance of myself, when I noticed two black vultures in the bank's parking lot. Everything is closed of course for January First, so the lot was empty, and as usual, curiosity got the best of me. Why would two carrion loving, flying garbage disposals be in the bank's parking lot? As I called Cristal, and spun up the bank's drive to see what was up.
I was fixated on the vultures, and didn't notice anything until Cristal started scolding them. "You nasty, dirty birds!" she hollered. Both birds looked around them obviously shocked, "She's obviously talking to someone else." One said to the other. You could tell it was scandalized at the reference. "Yes you! That's right, I'm talking to you! Get away from him!" I was just as confused as the birds were. At that point Cristal went through the shrubs. "She's gone bonkers!" I thought. The vultures, wisely vacated the premises as I went up the drive-thru lane to circle the bank.
The screen of low shrubs kept me from seeing what Cristal had seen. It was a small nine-banded armadillo stuck in the vast expanse of asphalt. He had shoved his nose and face in a drainage grate in a futile attempt to escape from the relentless sun and the tormenting vultures.
Who knows how long he had been there. All day? Maybe two? A cursory visual examination showed no obvious injuries, lesions, or abrasions. I quickly, but gently, grabbed his tail and body. He barely resisted me when I picked him up. I flipped him over, gave him a once over, determined he was a boy, and saw that likewise he wasn't hurt underneath either.
He had a tick on his belly and with a deft pluck, the Mrs rid him of that bloodsucker. Other than that, the armadillo didn't seem to be injured, just very lethargic. We saw a wooded area not far away so it was decided we would release him there. I walked while the Mrs brought our two bikes. I figured a nice shady spot would be what he needed.
I gently put him down, and he walked a few steps forward and just lay down. The Mrs was worried. "He must be dehydrated." she said. "Probably." I countered and added, "Let me ride over there and see if there's any water. I was pretty sure that there was a pond or at the very least a drainage ditch. When I got there it was in fact a drainage pond, but unfortunately it had been treated. The water was a murky "Tidy Bowl" blue, with rotting vegetation around it.
The Mrs to one look at the stagnant pool and then looked at me and said "Take your shirt off and wrap him up in it, we'll put him on the patio until he regains his strength."
"Sure thing Baby." I replied. Off came the shirt. Now my masterful physique was exposed to all passers by. The little 'dillo was still in the same spot, and just as sluggish when I picked him up. I bundled him up like a baby, put him under my arm, and mounted up. After an uneventful five minute ride, and not a few catcalls I might add, we were home.
Cristal found a shallow plastic top that we put on the floor. I filled it with water, and set the little fellow down in front of it. You could see his nose wiggle one way then the next as he narrowed in on the water. When he found it his tongue and lips went to town. He was thirsty in an awful way.
While he drank his fill, we found him a cardboard tube to hide in, a box, and some leaves to fool around with until this evening when we will release him, probably by Whitetail Marsh. There's plenty of shade in the thickets that surround it. Their preferred habitat, moist soil near water, is also in abundance.
Within moments of finishing his water, he was up and about, obviously feeling oh so much better. He naps a few minutes at a time, but otherwise he walks around sniffing everywhere. Rollie-Pollie isn't too thrilled with the intrusion on her patio. Every time she lies down the armadillo isn't too far behind to shove by her.
As we encroach on every last square inch of the earth's surface, more often will we find animals trying to survive where they don't belong anymore. Sandhill cranes wandering forlornly as the pasture they called home gets scraped clean and turned into a subdivision. Gopher tortoises are buried alive because some developer gets a permit to do so. Softshell turtles being eradicated from every body of water to fill the insatiable desire for turtle in the Orient. One third of all amphibians are either extinct or are becoming so, on account of human actions.
Without some effort and diligence on our part, we will see the last of many animals in the wild.
I guess I'll dig up some grubs or worms for him this afternoon, just so we can say, "We watched an armadillo eat."
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...