Armadillos come in a variety of colors and sizes, but only one type exists in the United States, and for my purposes, Texas, where a good portion of Everything That Matters is set: the Nine-Banded Armadillo.
Somnolent and waddling, with a tapered snout, rat-like tail, and bony-plated outer-shell that earned it its name—Armadillo is Spanish for "little armored one"—the nine-banded armadillo resembles a geneticists' experiment gone wrong.
Cat-sized, and leathery grey in color like an elephant; slow-moving and hard-shelled like a tortoise, grub and insect-eating like the ant-eater, the armadillo is not as hardy as its appearance or name implies.
Though its tough outer-hide protects it from most predators the armadillo's slow metabolism and pedantic pace leave it defenseless against extreme or sustained cold. Prolonged dips into freezing weather can wipe out entire armadillo populations, which is why the sloth-like mammal is more likely found ambling through the grasslands of Texas than trotting across a snow-crusted meadow in Idaho. Unassuming—and plain-headed—as the armadillo is, it's been endowed with two weighty titles of distinction: The Texas State Small Mammal, and Hoover Hogs.
The first title is self-explanatory; Armadillo as Texas Small Mammal Ambassador. The second title is less magnanimous.
The Hoover Hogs nomenclature refers not to the armadillo's appearance—it's more armored rat than plated piggy—but its ignominious reputation as Texas larder fare during the Great Depression, sustenance many Texans resorted to in order to survive the economic disaster for which they blamed President Hoover. Whether barbequed or chucked into chili, armadillo is reputed to taste like pork, and is still popular fare today in Mexico, Texas, and other southern United States.
The armadillo, Texas State's amiable, edible, small mammal emissary.