Physics is a cruel thing for the stupid, even for those of us stuck by momentary lapses in reason, and the combination of the two can result in pain. Previously on The Night of the Armadillo, I was holding a charging Bert with my right hand under his collar. I was holding the billion mega watt oversize flashlight in my left hand. With my right heel I was going to do the ninja strike upon the head of the smallish cottonmouth and of all things on earth, I missed the snake entirely. I wasn’t even close. I blame Bert for pulling me forward at the last moment, but the truth of the matter is I just plain whiffed it. The bottom fell out of hell.
Bert noticed there was a change in my body posture and realized something was going on behind him. He turned, saw the Cottonmouth, and charged the snake with bad intent. All my weight was on my left leg, and I didn’t realize it, but I had adjusted my momentum to match Bert’s pull. Bert went from pull straight away from me to charging with my hand under his collar underneath my right foot which was still in midair.
The flashlight had to go. I couldn’t let go of Bert because (a) my hand was under his collar and (b) he was charging a venomous reptile and I had to stop that. I managed to get into a sitting position, managed to pull Bert back from where I thought the snake might be, but honestly, I thought it might be one of three dozen places, all of which were underneath either Bert or myself. No sooner did I get into a sitting position than I was wearing Sam, who thought this was a pettings fest and he wanted in on it. Bert was slowly pulling my hand off of my wrist and pulling my shoulder out of the socket. Sam was pushing me down, towards where I though the snake was. I was trying to pull Bert, push Sam, get my hand out of Bert’s collar, and get upright.
I finally got Bert to sit, got Sam to lie down, because sitting is so much harder than lie down when someone is yelling at you, and I got the billion mega watt oversize flashlight back into play. There at Bert’s feet…nothing…over by where Sam was…nothing…down at my feet…nothing. The billion mega watt oversize flashlight caused grass to curl up and smoke to rise from the ground it was so powerful, but there was no sign of the snake. Sam nearly knocked me down again as he went for the armadillo and Bert followed a millisecond later. I went back inside and got the leashes, and some boots.
The leashes are signs that I am serious about mutt control. Sam was, and still is to some degree, terrified of a leash. Put a leash on Sam and he’s going to lie on his belly and shake. Put a leash on Bert and he realizes that bolting is out of the question and he calms down. By this time, Bert also realizes something has happened. He isn’t sure why I’m mad, but he is sure that I am. Sam is also equally convinced the furless monkey who brings dog food is angered, but Sam is also unsure why. I check for the snake with the dogs close to me. Nothing…the snake has disappeared into dark air. I lead the mutts inside and put them in the bedroom. I get the .22 out and plan to end this night’s disruptions with a single bullet to the head.
Armadillos are singularly stupid animals. No, really, they are. They are not very handsome creatures either, and they lack grace of any sort. I balanced the rifle on the arm holding the billion mega watt oversize flashlight and the armadillo tried to climb just a little higher. I almost squeezed the trigger and from inside, I heard Sam whine. Sam, Sam, the Happy Hound. Someone tried to kill Sam, and left him for dead. I had lived at Hickory Head for nearly four or five years at that point and I had never killed a snake, and I hadn’t tried to until that point. I was protecting the dogs, certainly, but why was I holding a gun on one of the most stupid animals on earth? Did I really move out into the woods to declare war on nature? The armadillo kicked a couple of times but it was stuck fast. Dammit.
I waded through the water, the same water I was fairly certain there was at least one smallish cottonmouth, to get a bucket out of the shed, which had a foot of water in it. I waded back to shore to trap the armadillo in it, and then release it over the fence into the pond. I watched it with the billion mega watt oversize flashlight as it swam away. I figured I better force it to swim away from the backyard or it would wind up back here again in a few minutes. It made it to the edge of the woods, climbed out of the water, and scurried out of sight.
By the light of the billion mega watt oversize flashlight I walked the dogs for a few moments in the backyard, and then we went inside where I toweled them as dry as I could. They both consider being toweled dry some sort of pettings and so you can see why keeping a dog dry might be a problem. But everyone walked away, or slithered away, alive. There was no hope of resurrecting sleep after all of that, but I was able to write. Bert and Sam, after checking the door a few times and realizing it wasn’t going to be opened again, curled up and snored, dreaming of armadillos and water.
The real odd thing in this was before the Night of the Armadillo, I had never found a dead snake in the yard. After that night, there were more and more bodies of dead cottonmouths in the yard when I came home from work. Having seen me try to kill one, I think the dogs took it upon themselves to go after the snakes with a vengeance. Oddly, the small cottonmouths came into the flood yard because it was safer than the flooded pond, I suspect.
Living with nature means there will be a risk assumed. It means there is a loss if nature and what you love comes into contact, and things go badly. But the effort to live with nature is a lesson in life itself, and worth what you pay to receive it.