Sunday, July 22, 2007

Happy 60th Birthday, Texas style...

A couple of weeks ago, walking into my house one evening, I ran into my next door neighbors. (This is a pic that I took this evening of their gorgeous backyard, or rather, of the gorgeous fence that surrounds their gorgeous backyard, and puts my backyard and every other backyard in a couple of miles quite to shame).

I've known Charles and Melissa since I moved into my house in 1984. They're terrific neighbors: warm and friendly and totally likeable. With them, it's easy to do all the usual neighborly things: when they're out of town, I watch their house and take in their mail, and the favor is returned when I'm away. When my house caught fire a few years ago, as the boys and I stood on the sidewalk, in shock, watching and shivering, Charlie and Melissa came over and stood with us, and I remember Melissa wrapping a jacket around my shoulders and saying quietly, "Anything we can do, you let us know."
That was a real comfort to me, because I knew that she meant it. The B's are people you can count on, and I hope they view me the same way.

We don't socialize much, although sometimes we do grab a bite to eat together. These days, when we run into each other, mostly we commiserate on being aging boomers.
When I ran into them a couple of weeks ago, though, both of them were all smiles.

"Hey, watch your mail, we sent you an invitation,"
Melissa said.

"Woo hoo! What's the occasion?"
I asked.

"Charlie's turning 60 and we're throwing a party,"
Melissa began, and Charlie continued, "Yeah, and it's a Western theme, and there's gonna be LIVE entertainment, and Judi, I'm not gonna say what it is, but here's a clue: don't STEP on the entertainment!"

Hmmmmmmm...don't STEP on it?
I tried to think what that could mean, other than snakes, but came up with nothing.

This morning, I ran into Charlie and Melissa again.

"You might be mad at us,"
Charlie said.

"Why would I be mad at you?"
I asked.

"We sprayed your yard for mosquitoes,"
he said, and then corrected himself, "Well, we sprayed HALF your yard, the half closest to us. We sprayed our yard too..."

"You think that's gonna make me mad?"
I asked, incredulously. "Nah, I can live without the mosquitoes, thanks, guys!"

"Well, we did it because we wanna have some people in your yard at the party tonight...we didn't think to ask you until now, but is that OK?"

"Of course that's OK,"
I said, and wondered if they were going to have fireworks.

"Bring Xander,"
Charlie said mysteriously, "He'll love what's going to happen!"

Xander will turn 5 next month. "It's gotta be fireworks," I thought.

It rained today but cleared up in late afternoon. This evening after showering, I put on jeans and a plaid shirt. I went into my back yard and picked a yellow shasta daisy and a cluster of Dahlburg daisies and placed the fresh flowers in the band of my old white straw Resistol.

Then I put on my hat and stepped outside. It was a little after 7:00, and as I walked toward the alley that lies between my house and Charlie & Melissa's, I saw that a rectangular Plexiglass enclosure had been set up. It ran the width of the alley and was approximately 3 feet high by (as I would later learn) 16 feet long. Inside the enclosure, the concrete was covered with cedar shavings, and three small animal carriers, of the size and type that I use to take my cats to the vet, sat at one end. I noticed that the three carriers were filled with straw.

I was surprised, and thought, Charlie's celebrating his 60th birthday with a petting zoo? They don't have grandchildren yet...that's sort of strange. Charlie's right, Xander will love it, but it's not what I expected at all...

Xander was standing at one side of the enclosure, studying the carriers intently. A tall guy with a moustache, boots, and a hat much bigger than mine was unloading some things, including a big megaphone, from a trailer in the alley.
I wonder if he's all hat and no cowboy? I thought.

Before I had time to think about that, Xander voiced what I wanted to know, asking, "What's in THOSE?!?!?!" as he pointed at the carriers.

The man grinned, and said in a slow drawl, "AHR-MUH-DILLOWS, LAHV AHR-MUH-DILLOWS, Ah'm an ahr-muh-dillow wrangler, and we're gonna have LAHV AHR-MUH-DILLOW races RAHT HEE-YAR!"

That said, he opened the first carrier, thrust an arm inside, and with a flourish, retrieved an armadillo, by its tail, from the straw. He placed it on the ground where it was soon followed by two others. He then filled a shallow pan with cold water and placed it on the ground. To my surprise, all 3 armadillos made a beeline for the pan and jumped in, splashing around on top of each other.

"They're hot," he said, and then he went on to explain that a
rmadillos are mammals, not marsupials or reptiles, and that 9-banded armadillos like these (Dasypus novemcinctus) are the State Mammal of Texas. (Do you know the state mammal for your state? Huh? Do you?!?!)

9-banded armadillos like these are the only species of armadillo that occurs in North America. Approximately 20 other species of armadillos exist, but all of those are found in South and Central America.

Adult Texas armadillos like these weigh anywhere from twelve to seventeen pounds.
The wrangler didn't tell us this, but I found it on the web: Because of the bony carapace and ventral position of the genitalia, copulation occurs with the female lying on her back.

Uh-huh. Moving right along...
births occur in the spring and are always identical quadruplets.

Soon it was time for the races. The wrangler
began by pointing out that unlike races licensed by the Texas Racing Commission, e.g., NASCAR, armadillo racing does not require a huge, expensive track. He explained that the length of the run is 16' because that's the width of most country roads in Texas, and it's a known fact that armadillos can make it across those roads fairly quickly when they need to. The wrangler waxed eloquent about other virtues of armadillo racing, e.g., unlike parimutuel racing, armadillo racing is unfettered by unsavory underworld types; unlike professional sports, including the NBA, NFL, Baseball, etc., armadillo racing is unscathed by strikes or ludicrous player salaries because armadillos race only for earthworms (and for the sheer joy of racing, or so I'm told...)

Uh, except for these two...I'm sure it was just a COINCIDENCE that they retreated to a corner where they piled up and appeared to be sulking immediately after a couple of the guests were heard discussing David Beckham's
five-year contract with the Galaxy that will pay him a base salary of $5.5 million annually...

Gentlemen, start your, jockeys, grab yer armadillos!

Note the jockeys are wearing gloves, not because armadillos bite (they have small, peg-shaped teeth that aren't much of a threat to anyone) but because like humans, nine-banded armadillos can carry Hansen's disease, or leprosy. In fact, I read on the net (The Straight Dope), "other than humans, 9-banded armadillos,
of which there are 30 to 50 million in the southeastern U.S., are believed to be the only significant natural reservoir of leprosy, although a few cases have been found in chimps and mangabey monkeys in Africa."

All too soon, the armadillo races were over, and it was time to have some birthday dinner in Charlie & Melissa's beautiful backyard...

The hammock beckoned, but I resisted...

It's fair to say, a good time was had by all...


Tammy said...

That was fascinating information on them varmints. :) The one pic looked like armadillo stew. I bet that was the best adult party ever! Only in Texas. :) XXOO

Great yard!

Jan said...

What nice neighbors! I've always been intrigued (from afar) with armadillos, so I appreciate all the info you gave us. It sounds quirky and fun.

Erin said...

Oh my gosh, this is awesome! I bet you had a blast! Great description of the event...I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Lisa :-] said... you have to wear gloves so you don't catch leprosy from these little guys? I guess I'd be inclined to just...leave them alone, then. ;)

Nice yard, though. And beautiful fence!

dreaminglily said...

OMG!!! I loooove armadillos lol Dad got chased by one once lol I'll forever have him shooting straight up and bolting for the car embedded in my memory lol Mom and I STILL make fun of him for trying to catch it lol


Chris said...

That is TOO DAMN COOL! I can only imagine all the laughter:)

We have neighbors like that across the street and their daughter is Trevor's best friend. We don't hang out together a lot (we do social birthdays, etc) but I know I can trust them to watch our kids and vice versa. It's nice having someone like that.

The B's fence is unsightly....what, was the fence company out of chain link and razor wire on the day they put it up? ha ha