Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Armadillo

April 1. Kick off day for the A to Z Challenge April 2013 wherein I, and a couple others—okay, over a thousand—bloggers challenge ourselves to blog every day in April except Sundays. That's twenty-six blogging days, equal to twenty-six letters in the alphabet; hence the title, A to Z. So, in honor of the letter A, I begin with a creature that makes a cameo appearance in my first novel, Everything That Matters: the humble armadillo.

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.

Microsoft Clip Art

Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ~George Eliot


Lara said...

Did you know armadillos are also used in medical research? It's true--they are used in the study of leprosy.

I've never eaten armadillo myself, but as a native Texan, I do think they're pretty cute! ;)

Deborah said...

Yes, I did read about the leprosy research. Very cool. And I think Armadillos are cute, too. Too cute to eat; not cute enough to let dig up my lawn. Not that I have to worry about that in the frozen north... *g*

Take care!

Arlee Bird said...

Appropriate start for you to take in the A to Z. Interesting facts about an animal that I've only primarily seen as roadkill.

Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog

Beverly Fox said...

Hello Deb!

Lovely to meet you! I discovered your blog by linking over from Lara, FYI.

What an informative start to the challenge! I never knew that about the Hoover Hog- what a fantastic historical tidbit!

I'll be checking back through the month to see what other interesting facts you have to share.


Deborah said...

Thank you, Arlee. Yes, unfortunately the Armadillo is not know for its speed; tends to lose the race against Chevrolets and Fords. :)

Hi Beverly. Thank you for linking through! I'm glad you enjoyed the Armadillo post. I hope to keep you entertained for the whole of April!

*sweat beads on brow* ;)