I am one of those “early to rise and late to bed” folks who generally are up long before the roosters, and who do not go to bed until after the nocturnal creatures are far removed from their daylight slumber. Part of my morning sometimes includes taking a walk (something I will probably do in the evening when I finally return to work). As I live right here at the lake, of course it’s a great opportunity to enjoy communion with nature. Would that they were not so fraught with peril.
I was on my way to the side of the lake that borders the arboretum and did not see an armadillo hiding under thick foliage lining the trail. Certain of his own safety under cover, he at first did not move. Apparently overcome with panic when I failed to turn away, thereby crossing the boundary separating odd curiosity from threat, I came near him and he bolted out across the path. Had I not tried to skip over him, it is highly likely I would have kicked him as he ran directly at my feet (I suspect he greatly misjudged the speed of my approach). This particular path is on an angle of approximately 20° from side to side; therefore, my footing was already unsure with my left leg walking higher than my right leg.
His rapid assault on my personal space did not account for that situation, and it only got worse as we danced around each other.
Allow me to interject that perhaps “dance” implies a certain amount of grace which I can not claim in this situation. The armadillo, steady with all four feet on the ground, might wish to explain his actions as being imbued with nimble agility, and I certainly would not argue with such a statement, but I can make no such assertion.
We both zigged at the same time. In response, we both zagged at the same time. This binary error on my part occurred once more before we both halted at the same time. That left me completely off balance and rapidly falling toward him. Whether he knew it or not, he was in danger of having my full weight crash down upon him from above.
At what I perceived to be the last minute, he realized he was in jeopardy and promptly dashed to one side as I watched the ground rush up to meet me.
This won’t be pretty, I thought.
One dull thud and associated moan later, I was safely prostrate on the trail flush with embarrassment.
Where’d that little devil go?
I turned to look at him. He stood firmly on all four legs and peered at me from just under the bushes.
Oh, I see. That’s almost precisely where you were in the first place. After intentionally tripping me up, making me perform like some circus poodle jumping through hoops, and causing me to gyrate like I was in some sick and uncoordinated ballet, I hit the ground and you end up right back where you started. What are you, a sadist?
He was a rather large fellow with natural armor plating that was rigid yet flexible enough for him to move easily. Obviously more easily than I. As I looked at him, he scurried across the trail and into the thicket surrounding us. The crackle of leaves and small twigs grew fainter and fainter as he rushed along trying to escape whatever oddly uncoordinated and inelegant creature that just tried to kill him.
I listened to his rapid escape. Somehow, it offended me. There I was face down and he didn’t even offer any assistance, especially important since I could have just stumbled over him in the first place, fallen on him for extra padding in the second place, and in both cases hope he did not get hurt without making that a priority. Instead, I made a mockery of myself with my unrefined jig in the middle of a predawn darkened trail in an attempt to avoid wounding an armadillo. Oh, and that armadillo showed no concern for me when I fell to the ground instead of on him.
“Hey, thanks for the help,” I admonished, “and don’t worry about me resting face-down here in the middle of the path. I’m OK, and thanks for asking.” Sarcasm dripped from my fangs as I stood, brushed the dirt from my face and shirt and shorts, and continued down the trail.