"St. Pete or Bust! 2000" story # 10

Caladesi Island, Florida           November 2, 2000

"The animals I've trapped have all become my pets..." - Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), "Something in the Way"

About a week ago, my roommate, Johnny, said, "Justin, is it okay if I get two cats for the apartment?"
     "Sure..." I smiled evilly, knowing if he got pets than it would open the door for me to get some myself. "As long as you don't mind me getting some armadillos."
     "Where are you gonna get those?"
     "Catch 'em."
     Johnny's old girlfriend, Raeni - a pet store manager, biology student, and Modern Oddyseus-hater - piped in. "Armadillos carry leprosy!"
     How absurd of an idea is that? I hardly believe a pet can give you leprosy. "Oh, yeah?" I said. "Well, cats carry depression."
     "What?" said Raeni. She obviously didn't catch my joke. "Cats don't carry depression!"
     "Great," said Johnny. "We're getting new pets."
     "Just be careful," I said. "Cats carry unemployment!"

Last night, I talked to Garrett, who also catches lots of animals for pets. (But, between you and me, he's kind of a wuss and he just catches dinky animals like fiddler crabs and tree-frogs)
     "I'm thinking about getting an armadillo," I said.
     "Eww. Those things carry diseases!"
     "Dude, you gotta read up on animals before you can take care of them. I know what tree-frogs eat and drink and..."
     "I don't know anything about armadillos." It didn't bother me in the slightest. "Hey, bud, look them up for me if you get a chance."

Neglecting Garrett's advice, I woke this morning and biked north - the direction of the armadillos. Sadly, my bike is a miserable piece of crap. The brakes fail to apply any pressure to the wheels, while the bike frame constantly scrapes against the rear tire. I can't go fast, but I also can't stop. But, I had a long ride ahead of me, so I tried to keep it fun by pretending I was in a race.
     I even gave play-by-play announcements when I passed other Pinellas Trail riders. As I passed a little girl with scrappy blond hair that stuck from her head like fuzz on a peach, I ducked the wind and yelled: "Justin's coming on strong from the left...He's behind by two bike lengths...Ohhh, and he takes the lead!" My opponent took defeat lightly and just laughed at me.
     After 30 miles, my shoes were a little worn out from my Fred Flintstone-braking style, but I'd finally reached Caladesi Island. The island has a sand floor, with small cacti, thick shrub brush, palm trees with thin, spiky leafs, and the occasional patch of oak trees to provide shade. The ocean here is often turquoise, giving Caladesi the look of a tropical oasis. It's very pretty - easy to see why it's Home to the Armadillos.
     I'd chased armadillos here before, and mostly I remember that it's a blast. You have to leap cacti and dodge branches as you give high-speed chase. Like fighting in a war, but with no fear of death. There's no fear, because armadillos are defenseless, slow, and incredibly dim-witted animals. They seem not to have gained a single evolutionary advantage in their whole history. I don't know how they ever avoid being eaten. Heck, they're even shaped like loaves of bread!
     A more formidable Caladesi Island opponent would be the snakes, many of which are poisonous. I wouldn't know a garter snake from a black racer, but I HAVE studied with tv's The Crocodile Hunter. So, I feel confident handling any reptile, "By Kraiky!"
     This brings us to the Joke of the Day:

Q: How do you know if a snake is poisonous?
A: Let him bite you. If you die, then you know.
Ha, ha! What a GREAT joke! Let him bi...ho ho...if you di...ahhh ha ha!

OK. I'll admit, that joke stunk. Maybe Raeni was right. I'm not much of a jokester.
     But, I DID volunteer with The Crocodile Hunter. As he taught me, when chasing animals I use only what God gave me to subdue them - not a net, not a grenade, not even my shoes. The way nature intended.
     I searched some brush for armadillo-tracks, but I didn't really know what I was looking for, so it's not surprising that I didn't find any. I walked along the sandy path, scanning the wilderness for signs of the armadillos' homes, called "chunnels."
     Entering an oak forest, I heard a loud noise coming from behind some sticks. Could it be a group of armadillos - technically called a "shplod!?" Oh, no, it was just some squirrels.
     I continued my search, and I spotted something twitching on a sand dune near a cactus. Was that a distinct armadillo walk - which biologists collectively refer to as a "trobble-cock" - that I recognized? No, only a little bird's hopping.
     There were no chunnels, no shplods, and no trobble-cocks!!! (And if you actually think those words are correct, you haven't been paying attention! Remember, I know nothing about armadillos. But, those words sound good, so I'll keep using them.) Dang! I kicked the sand.
     Ah ha! A breakthrough! Tiny footprints lay below me. I counted the toes...1...2...3...4. 4 toes! The footprints must belong to an armadillo! I followed them across the sand and came to a chunnel in the ground. Woohoo!
     I peaked in the chunnel and yelled, "Rrrreeeee, rrreeeee!" No answer. That must not have been an armadillo call I just did. So, I stuck my hand in, figuring if one was there it would let me know by biting me.
     This brings us to Joke of the Day 2:

Q: How do you know if an armadillo is carrying leprosy?
A: Take him home as a pet. If your arms and legs start falling off, then you know.

Back to the story. There was no armadillo in the chunnel. I walked around. I found one more chunnel, but no trobble-cocks and definitely no shplods.
     It was hot, so I took a swim.
     And when I got back to the beach, guess what I found!? Tiny footprints! I counted the toes...1... 2...3...4...5. 5 toes! The footprints must belong to an armadillo! A breakthrough!
     No, no, wait a minute. The last set of footprints had 4 toes, didn't they? Awww, now I was totally confused...
     It's at about this time when I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I gave up on my search and started walking back to my bike - emptyhanded of snakes, emptyhanded of armadillos.
     It seems Garrett had been right all alo...
     ("Bang! Kablam! Boom!" sounded from the left) What's that I heard? It sounded like something's trobble-cocking around over there.
     And there it was! Just off the path, under a tree. A ten-inch, shadowy brown, big-eared armadillo with wrinkly, cylindrical back armor.
     I snuck up and pinned him to the ground. He barely struggled against me at all. Ha, ha, ha! What a pathetic, dim-witted creature.
     But, THEN, with an abrupt burst of power, he was gone into some brush. I had to give chase. I side-stepped a cactus and crashed through the sticks after him.
     He got scared and jumped out, onto bare sand for a second. I hurdled the plants to grab him, but (get this!) the stupid little fellow actually made a fool of ME and retreated back into the brush.
     I thrust my arm into the sand, spun a circle, and just missed getting a hand on the breadloaf-shaped baffoon. Arrr!
     I went back in the brush and flushed the rodent-wannabe into plain view again. He trobble-cocked furiously over the path, with his eyes set on reaching the impenetrable maze of trees on the other side.
     I had only one chance. I dove.
     My body became horizontal, as I stretched my hands as far as possible to try to nab the lowly beast. Just as I was nearly wrapping my fingers around his body, he got one of his amazing power bursts and sped from my grasp.
     After I'd bounced to a stop, the cursed armadillo was well into the oasis depths. I gave a brief chase in desperation, but it was all over now... I'd failed to outsmart one of the world's dumbest animals. In the battle between me and the armadillo, my wits proved to be dimmest.
     Oh, shame...

I feel low. The Crocodile Hunter wouldn't have messed up that catch.
     In order to feel better, I wanted to inform you that, even without brakes, on my ride home I only fell off my bike one time. Alright! And, on top of that, no other bikers passed by me. Which means:
     "...And the checkered flag of the Pinellas Bike Trail 60 goes...along with the ice cream prize... thanks to an armadillo-like burst of speed used to overtake the peach-headed girl...while riding his crappy mount, as always, Aqua Shitbox...

"...to Modern Oddyseus!"

"And the crowd goes wild!" (Pet or no, there's still reason to celebrate) Rah, rah, rah! Three cheers for Modern O, he's nearly as smart as an armadillo! Hip, hip, hooray!!!

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