“Why did the armadillo cross the road?” is a trick question, if I judge armadillo road crossing skills by what I’ve seen on the interstate this summer. In fact, I don’t think any armadillo has ever successfully crossed the road. All of the armadillos I’ve seen were dead as door-nails, flipped upside down on the shoulder, right next to the broken bottles, discarded cigarette butts, and mangled chunks of retreads that blew off the big rigs. On a trip to Madison, I saw dead armadillo after dead armadillo, spaced roughly as if they were little mile markers with tails. I imagined someone giving directions to an out-of-towner. “Yeah, go down Jackson Road a piece, until you come to the armadillo in front of the elementary school. Turn left, then go past three-and-a-half armadillos. My house will be on the right. You can’t miss it, unless a buzzard made off with one of ‘em.”
The entire time I was growing up, I saw only one armadillo. We were probably on the way to Florida when we saw it, and I’m surprised we even knew what it was. Maybe there was a talking armadillo on one of our Saturday morning cartoons. Who’s to say I didn’t read a comic book about an armadillo with super powers? Anyway, we knew what it was. The only thing stranger than seeing that lone armadillo was the time we heard that the man who ran the gas station at the top of the hill had an alien on display in a big bucket near the pumps. We all raced up to see what he had, but it turned out to be a bloated jellyfish he’d caught in Florida. Everyone was always going to Florida back then. Some of us saw armadillos. No one ever saw a real alien.
Now, armadillos are all over the place. Literally. Their armor protects them from bumps, but not from bumpers. Here’s a bit of armadillo; here’s another piece; there’s yet another. You feel sorry for these little, otherworldly creatures. You wonder why they can’t make it across the road. You wonder why they don’t just go back to Texas or the center of the earth, or the moon, or wherever it is they hail from. You wonder if you should scrape one off the road, put him in a bucket and scare a few elementary schoolers. You wouldn’t even have to drive to Florida to do it.
David McCoy, a notorious storyteller and proud Yellow Jacket, lives in Covington and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.