Part I: How To Catch It
Women don’t hunt for armadillos; armadillo hunting is a man’s job involving dogs, shovels and being out in the hills and fields after dark. But if you are a foreigner, you have by nature thrown the rules into question anyway. And if you are married and if you pester your husband with your ceaseless curiosity, maybe he will invite you.
If he invites you to go along with him and Renan and Santos and Grevin, follow these instructions carefully:
2. Wear jeans and closed shoes that tie no matter how hot it is . You won’t be able to see where you step in the dark fields and there will only be one flashlight between the five of you. There will be sticks on the ground and you won’t be able to see stones or little cornizuelos. You won’t be able to see snakes or the spiders called picacaballos that can make horse hooves fall off and the hills of fire ants will look like harmless mounds of earth. Wear a long sleeved shirt to keep off the mosquitoes.
3. Ride your bicycle through the soft black night with the laughing men. They are all your friends. They will bring and flashlight, the shovel and the dog.
4. After you park your bikes, follow them through the field trying not to trip. Listen as Renan sics the dog and she whines, wheels on her hind legs and begins to dash madly in an opening spiral, snuffling the dry ground.
5. Stand with the men listening to them tease Renan, telling him his dog is no good. Look up at the glowing carpet of stars overhead. The Milky Way looks close enough to be the cloud of your own breath on a cold night long go and far away.
6. Run with them when the dog starts to yelp and growl, clawing at the earth. Follow them to the hole where she dances, desperate.
7. Stare in fascination as Grevin digs carefully around the mouth of the hole opening it wider and Santos peers into it with his flashlight.
8. Ask your husband if it will turn and try to run out. Be amazed when he tells you they are shy, frightened animals and can only try to hide.
9. Say yes when the men ask you if you want the honor of catching it. Ask how.
10. Kneel by the hole in the ground under a million stars. Ask the men if they are sure you will not be bitten by an angry snake and feel emboldened by their laughter.
11. Reach your hands gingerly into the hole gaping in the flashlight beam. Reach in up to your elbows. Reach in almost up to your shoulders.
12. Feel something stiff and snakelike move in the dark hole and squeal. It is the armadillo’s tail.
13. Grab ahold of the armadillo tail with both hands and pull.
14. Pull harder. Pull as hard as you can. Feel the desperation of the creature as it digs into the earth with its terrified claws and resists you with all its might.
15. Listen to your cheering, chanting friends. Do not let go.
16. Pull with your legs. Lean all of your weight into your pulling and feel the armadillo begin to come loose. Feel its panic. Pray that you will not be left with just a tail.
17. Do not think about your hands. They will heal. You have band aids and antibiotic cream at home.
18. Inch backwards. Curl into a squat. Do not let go.
19. Pull this breech child of the dinosaurs out of its hole with your bare hands, your legs and your back. When your husband lunges forward to take it from you, let him.
20. Stumble backward, away. Do not watch while Grevin beats it to death with his shovel. Do not listen.
22. Catch your breath and remember that you and the armadillo are both children of the earth and stars; that someday you will lay within the earth you have pulled it out of.
22. Wait in the star-peppered night while the dog searches in vain for another burrow.
23. Peddle home with the men, who are praising your valor they which had not necessarily expected.
Part II: How To Cook It
Your husband will peel it from its shell, skin it and gut it. This is also a man’s job involving blood and a very sharp knife, neither of which interest you even though you are a curious foreigner.
1. Place the newborn-rat-like carcass in a pot of boiling water with lemon and several cloves of garlic. Try not to breathe the foul-smelling vapors.
2. After it is well-cooked and cooled, refrigerate it overnight and then boil it again the next day in a new pot of water with lemon and garlic. Pour away the smelly water and when it is cooled, removed the meat from the bones.
3. Throw the armadillo skeleton to the delighted dog.
4. Mince the rubbery meat with a large knife, bathe in fresh lemon juice and refrigerate overnight.
5. On the third day, saute onions, red peppers, garlic and cilantro in a large frying pan. When the vegetables are soft, add several scoops of armadillo meat. Sprinkle it with chicken bullion and black pepper.
6. Cook until the meat begins to toast.
7. Serve with rice, beans and a good bottle of tabasco.
8. Note with relief that at this point it does taste quite a bit like chicken.
9. Resolve to get yourself some chickens.