Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Kudzu Stories: Aunt Mable and the Armadillo
The Kudzu Files
One night late this summer Aunt Mable thought she saw a UFO out behind the cucumbers. Now, that's a story in and of itself, one maybe I'll tell you some other time. Let's just say it set her back for a while, and made her think some strange force was behind everything that happened for the next couple of months.
Anyway, she finally got better, after Aunt Nelda Mae made her a special healing juice out of rutubagas, hot peppers, and vinegar. Nelda Mae took her up some a that juice every day for weeks - the first day, she just kinda opened Mable's mouth and poured some in, and Mable's eyes jerked open real fast, kinda, so Nelda Mae knew she was on to something. The same thing happened the next day, and the next, but within a few days, every time Nelda poured some in, Mable's toes would kinda twitch, then one day her whole arm kinda fluttered at Nelda - she knocked a whole pitcher of the special juice outta Nelda Mae's hand, 'course we knew she didn't mean to, she was just slow getting control of herself. Then one morning, before Nelda Mae got there, Mable came kinda half-walking-half-shuffling in the kitchen, and said - this was the first thing she had said since the UFO night, I was so surprised - anyway, she said she didn't want Nelda Mae to come see her that day, just some milk would do fine, thank you.
Anyway, Mable got to working in her garden again, 'cept she won't plant nuthin' where the cucumbers used to be, on account of the aliens were over there. But one day she noticed something was getting her vegetables, so she stayed up one night, and the next day she said a possum with some kinda helmet on was getting her lettuce! 'Course, I figured out she was seeing an armadillo, we call them "possum on the half shell", and Aunt Nelda Lou told her to just shoot it (Nelda Mae and Nelda Lou are sisters, their Mama wasn't Nelda anything, but her Daddy's sister was Nelda Jean, and that was her favorite aunt, so she named both her girls after her, sorta). But Mable didn't want to shoot it, she thought the museum up in Jackson might want it (I couldn't convince her there were lots of these), so she made up this trap for it. She put boards along the sides and back, so it couldn't crawl out, and put boards at the front in a sort of V shape, wide out away from the trap, and real narrow inside the box. She said it probably wasn't too smart, and it would go in throught the narrow opening, and get confused and not be able to get back out.
Well, she set that thing up, and waited. Nothing happened the first night, or the second, or the third. So Aunt Mable decided maybe armadillos were smarter than she thought, and maybe could get back out through the opening, so she took some wire fence and nailed it on one side of the V, and pulled it around so it covered the opening, but wasn't nailed on the other side. She thought maybe the armadillo would push through the wire, but then the wire would cover the opening back up. So she waited another night, then another, then another. She waited for five nights this time, but still no armadillo. So Mable decided maybe the armadillo could get in (she was putting tomatoes in the box as bait, and each morning they were gone, so she just knew the armadillo was getting in there) and get around the wire back out. So this time, Mable got the spring off a screen door (it was Nelda Mae's screen door, but Mable didn't ask or tell her), and wrapped the spring around the wire, so it would pull the fence back against the opening. And she also decided that maybe the armadillo could climb out, so she nailed more wire fence across the top. Then Little Tom, who runs the gas station in town (Little Tom ain't been little since elementry school, but Big Tom ain't dead yet), told her that he thought armadillos could dig pretty good, so Mable dug out all around the inside of the walls and put more fence down there.
By now, Mable has put out nearly two dozen tomatoes, and Uncle Elbert is some kinda mad about it. he says he's never heard of such a damn fool thing, and she's wasting all their tomatoes, and that armadillo probably wouldn't have eaten that many tomatoes if Mable had set a place at the table and asked him to dinner every night.
So anyway, Mable waited a few more nights, and still no armadillo. So she decided maybe she needed more bait, and she started putting out some beans and squash along with the tomatoes. Elbert got so mad that first night, I thought we were gonna have to call Doc Taylor to give him something, but he finally just said a real ugly word and went to bed. But she still didn't catch no armadillos. Then last Thursday, Mable and Nelda Lu were going into Jackson for a quilt show, and staying overnight at the motor hotel, and Mable heard the weather man say it was gonna be really hot and sunny Friday, and she got real worried about that armadillo that hadn't never gotten into that trap, but he might. So she got some of Elbert's rakes and hoes, and set up kind of a frame over the trap, and got the bedspread off the bed and put it over the whole thing, so the armadillo wouldn't get heat frustration and keel over. I really thought we were gonna lose Elbert then, he hadn't been that mad since Alabama beat Ole Miss in 1968. And he just got in his truck, and said he was gonna go see his brother Zeke down in Picayune, and he didn't know when he'd be back. I got Little Tom to follow him a ways just to make sure he didn't run off the road or over anybody.
That night I went out and I found one of them armadillos, and I grabbed it and stuck it in a bag, then I headed to Mable's house. I was gonna put it inside the trap, but as I came around back, I saw somebody running off towards Nelda Mae's place, and I took off after them. I wouldn't have caught 'em, but Mable had put a washtub upside down over the place where she says the aliens had killed the cucumbers, and this person tripped over it, and made a real loud racket. When that happened, ol' Biscuit woke up and came barking and running off the front porch, and he ran right over me. Biscuit and I went down all tangled up, and the sack with the armadillo went way up in the air. I forgot about it for a minute, and went to where that person was getting up. I caught up to 'em, and it was Nelda Mae, with the tomatoes and beans and stuff from the trap! Turns out she'd been coming over every night after Mable went to bed and getting the stuff! She said she knew about the spring off her door, but she never went out that door anyway, and besides the vegetables were good.
Now Nelda Mae has got a mean side, and she couldn't help but get that way after she found out what I was doing with the armadillo. But when we got the sack, the poor thing was dead - broke his neck, I guess, when he hit the ground. So Nelda Mae took that dead armadillo and laid it out inside the V, but outside the trap.
The next afternoon, Mable called me all excited, I needed to get down there right away. When I got there, Little Tom was there, and Nelda Lu and Nelda Mae, and Elbert, and even the Jones boys. Mable had caught her armadillo! She just couldn't figure out why it was dead, and why it wasn't inside the trap. She finally decided it had worn itself plumb out trying to escape, and died of exhaustion. But then one of them Jones boys said, no, it was facing towards the trap, and if it had been getting away, it would have been facing away from the trap. They said it musta come up on that trap, and seen it, and gotten so scared that it had a heart attack and keeled right over on the spot!
So now Mable's upset, 'cause she says she never meant to hurt the poor creature, she just wanted it outta her garden; and Nelda Mae's upset 'cause she's not getting any more free vegetables (but I promised her I wouldn't tell); Elbert's mad, but I don't think it's about the armadillo anymore, it's got something to do with something his brother said about his truck; and Biscuit and I just sorta avoid each other.