There’s No Place Like Home

Judged only by color, the small, snuffling creature making its way along the roadside east of Alamo Springs might have been taken for just another limestone rock. But rocks don’t have ears, or pointed snouts, and they certainly don’t dig into the dirt with the energy of a hyperactive toddler.

When the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is foraging, there isn’t much that distracts it, partly because of its poor eyesight. The animal relies on its ears and nose to detect food or predators, and it’s easier than you might think to walk up on one from behind. When it finally senses your presence, it often raises up on its haunches to evaluate the situation.

I was surprised that this one seemed content to keep foraging even after spotting me, rather than scurrying away into the brush. I was especially pleased to be able to see some of the hairs around its sides; they function much like whiskers on a cat, helping the poorly-sighted creature to find its way around.

For nearly twenty minutes it wandered the roadside, stopping occasionally to sniff or to dig.

Eventually, it stopped sniffing and crossed the road, moving so quickly I had a hard time keeping up.

All was well until it came to the fence. For nearly five minutes, it walked back and forth along the wire, stopping occasionally as though considering whether it would be worth digging its way to the other side.

Apparently, it decided digging would be too much trouble. In a flash, the athletic armadillo jumped straight into the air, propelling itself onto the fence wire.

Then, as gracefully as you please, it pushed off the wire and landed on the ground.

With what might have been a grin of self-satisfaction on its face, it trotted down the fence line until it came to a patch of clean, soft dirt.

Claws flying, it began creating and enlarging a hole until, finally, it slipped beneath the fence, and out of sight.

It seemed our beloved Texas icon — the state’s official small mammal and well-known Muse — had arrived safely at home, just like Gary P. Nunn at the end of his London trip. Whether it celebrated by writing a song, I can’t say.

 

“London Homesick Blues”  aka “Home With the Armadillo”

 

Comments always are welcome.
For some interesting Texas armadillo history, visit “Armadillo Whispers” at The Task at Hand.

In the Country of the Wild-Haired Corn

 

I don’t know
if the sunflowers
are angels always,
but surely sometimes.
Who, even in heaven,
wouldn’t want to wear,
for awhile,
such a seed-face
and brave spine —
a coat of leaves
with so many pockets —
and who wouldn’t want
to stand for a summer day
in the hot fields,
in the lonely country
of the wild-haired corn?
This much I know —
When I see the bright
stars of their faces
when I’m strolling nearby,
I grow soft in my speech,
and soft in my thoughts,
and I remember how everything will be everything else,
by and by.
                    “By the Wild-Haired Corn” ~ Mary Oliver

 

Comments always are welcome.

My Love is Like a Red, Red…

 

Milkweed!  Red milkweed, that is: Asclepias rubra. Despite its common name, the flowers usually are shades of pink, giving rise to a second common name: tall pink bog milkweed. On a recent visit to the Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve, most plants appeared pink rather than red, but these isolated examples of deeply saturated color seemed to meet Singhurst and Hutchins’s description of “dull red.”

Red Milkweed grows in pitcher plant bogs, seeps, and wet pine savannas from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Texas. As much as four feet tall, its terminal umbels are easily spotted above its companion plants.

Red milkweed ~ Asclepias rubra
Tall pink bog milkweed ~ also Asclepias rubra

Like other milkweed species, A. rubra already has been busy forming its attractive follicles, or seed pods. This sleek, smooth example, nearly four inches long, may have riped and released its seeds since my visit.

Comments always are welcome.