Armadillo Leprosy

Around seven in the morning Trip and I go out for our walk.  This is the first time in his life of ten years that he’s allowed to wander without a leash, and he’s not sure what to do with his freedom.  Confused and fearful, he usually just sits at the bottom of the porch, gazing at the big world, until I lose patience, pick him up, and carry him a distance, at which point I put him down and he makes his way back home. 

As I stroll up the driveway, dog in arms, I notice that some small animal has uprooted a patch of grass out toward the street.  I suspect armadillos.  An expedition to our new favorite store, Tractor Supply, is in order.  But first David and I must go be the new people at church. 

Being unfamiliar with the routine at the First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls, we inadvertently attend the modern service.  The first song is ten minutes long, the same two verses and chorus over and over again, with the congregation standing the whole time.  No one is singing—how can we, when there are no notes, just words on a screen?  How can we possibly know where the melody is going?  It bothers me that the people who choose this service are never exposed to the great hymns of the faith.  They don’t sing the Doxology.  I guess you don’t miss what you never know—but to never sing A Mighty Fortress is Our God or It is Well With my Soul again?  A disheartening concept.  However, the people greet us with smiles and several introduce themselves.  We’ve come at a tumultuous time—the minister has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and everyone is saddened. 

After the service I ask the woman in front of me what she would do to get rid of an armadillo. 

“Put out a trap,” she tells me.  “They’re so dumb they just wander in.”

After church we go to Tractor Supply, which carries every necessity for rural living.  David approaches a sixteen-year-old boy in a red vest.

“We’ve got an armadillo tearing up our grass,” David tells him.  “How do we get rid of it?”

“Shoot it,” the kid says.  As we don’t own a gun, this is not an option.  Amused by our citified squeamishness, the kid gets his swagger on, adding, “Sure, they’re fun to shoot.  They explode.”

He leads us to the small animal traps, which are basically wire cages that cost sixty bucks.  Having just moved way too many possessions into the house, we’re reluctant to purchase one more item that’ll have to be stored in the garage. 

“You don’t really need a trap,” he tells us.  “They’re slow and easy to catch.  They give you leprosy, though, so you’ve got to be careful about that.”

Leprosy?  What?  This can’t be true.  This kid’s just trying to make fools out of the new people in town.  Having recently been taken in by Curtis’s joke, I will not be proven gullible again. 

“Ha,” I say.  “Tell me another one.” 

We thank him and turn away from the traps.  There has to be a better way.  As we go back through the store, we come across the gardening section where we decide to purchase a packet of wild flower seeds for the corner of the backyard that, for right now, is mostly weeds.  Just like the kid who showed us the traps, the girl at the checkout counter is about sixteen.  She’s pretty with clear skin, shiny copper hair, and straight white teeth. 

“What would you do to get rid of an armadillo?” I ask her.

“Shoot it,” she says.  Seeing our reluctance, she adds, “Of course, if you want to be humane about it, you can use repellent.”  She points a couple of aisles to the right and we head that way, where we select a formula composed of dried blood, putrescent whole egg solids, and garlic oil.  In addition to armadillos, it repels rabbits and squirrels, mice and chipmunks, raccoons and skunks.   And yes, putrescent means exactly what it looks like it means.  I looked it up. 

When we get home, I rush to my MacBook and type in a search for armadillos.  Several articles about armadillos and leprosy pop up.  The kid was telling the truth.  Armadillos possess the bacterium that causes Hansen’s disease.  It’s not like I longed to have a close relationship with the creepy little beasts. 

 This field of wildflowers is right across the street from our house.  This part of Texas is beautiful this time of year.  

This field of wildflowers is right across the street from our house.  This part of Texas is beautiful this time of year.  

 Another lovely scene right outside our gate.  

Another lovely scene right outside our gate.  

 A local historic landmark, Deadman's Hole is about a quarter mile up County Road 401.  

A local historic landmark, Deadman's Hole is about a quarter mile up County Road 401.  

 The reason why it's called Deadman's Hole is because it was an expedient place to get rid of bodies.  

The reason why it's called Deadman's Hole is because it was an expedient place to get rid of bodies.