Arnie, I hardly knew ya
I’ve always been fascinated by animals and their antics. Furred, feathered, finned or scaled — it doesn’t matter. If they’re doing something funny, unexpected or even just interesting, I’m watching.
I’ve been this way since I was little kid, parked in front of the television, watching the adventures of Marlin Perkins and co-host Jim Fowler on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom — “While Jim wrestles the deadly crocodile, let’s talk about life insurance.”
Since the internet came along, I can and have wasted hours clicking from video to video, watching everything from spider migrations to dogs trying to carry very long sticks through a very narrow gap. The only thing better is a trip to a zoo or aquarium, where I can see them in person, and only one thing beats that — a live encounter in the wild, even if that’s just my own yard.
A few years ago, I saw something that I’ve only seen once before in my life. It was one of those things that — based on everything you know and believe with every fiber of your being — you never expect to witness. You know, the kind of thing that just catches you off guard, leaves you speechless for a moment and then you can’t stop talking about it.
It wasn’t a UFO, or a ghost, or even a Bigfoot. No, it was none of those. I saw an armadillo. A live armadillo. In my driveway.
Now, armadillos aren’t that unusual. You can find them in their natural state —deceased, upside down, little feet in the air — along many highways in this part of the world.
Thing is, this was in Missouri. In my driveway. And it was alive. That’s rare.
It was about 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday, and I was hungry. I was not, however, motivated enough to cook, so I jumped in the car and started backing out of the driveway.
Crash! Thud! Skitter!
“What the hell was that?” I wondered. I pulled back up a bit to angle my headlights into the driveway and, right there, in my driveway, was a full-sized possum-in-a-half-shell doing his best impression of a Roomba with a bad sensor, pinging off the carport walls, the wood pile and a couple of patio chairs like a duck in a shooting gallery. He finally found the breezeway and waddled off into the backyard.
“Cool,” I thought to myself. “A backyard armadillo.”
I mentally dubbed him “Arnie” — because who doesn’t love alliteration — and went on my way.
That wasn’t the last time I saw Arnie. But it was the last time I saw him alive
A few days later, as I was leaving for work at the crack of dawn, I saw him again. This time, he wasn’t going anywhere. Sometime during the night, Arnie got it in his head to cross the street.
Unlike the first live armadillo I ever saw, Arnie didn’t make it.
That first armadillo, one of Arnie’s Arkansas cousins, I spotted walking down the middle of the street several years ago in Jacksonville.
He seemed unconcerned by much of anything as he pulled up at a red light opposite me at a four-way intersection.
When the light changed, he made a left turn and proceeded on his way. As he turned, I half expected to see a little blinker on his butt. Maybe that’s what Arnie needed.
I guess I’ll never know.