How To Catch An Armadillo And Cook It For Dinner

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 when women are inside.  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 come along with him and Renan and Santos and Grevin:

  • Wear shoes that tie and long pants, 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 horses’ 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.
  • Ride your bicycle through the soft black night with the laughing men.  They are all your friends.  They will bring a flashlight, the shovel and the dog.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Run with them when the dog starts to yelp and growl, clawing at the earth.  Follow them to the hole where she dances, desperate.
  • Stare in fascination as Grevin digs carefully around the mouth of the hole, opening it wider, and Santos peers into it with his flashlight.
  • Ask your husband if it will turn and try to run out.  He will snort, and tell you they are shy, frightened animals that can only try to hide.
  • When the men ask you if you would like the honor of pulling the armadillo out, say yes.  Ask how.
  • 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. Feel emboldened by their laughter.
  • Reach your hands gingerly into the hole that gapes in the flashlight beam.  Reach in past your elbows, almost up to your shoulders.
  • Squeal when you feel something stiff and snakelike move in the dark hole. It is the armadillo’s tail.
  • Grab ahold of the armadillo tail with both hands and pull.
  • Pull harder. Pull as hard as you can.  Feel the desperation of the creature as it resists you with all its might, digging into the earth with its terrified claws.
  • Listen to your cheering, chanting friends.  Do not let go.
  • Pull with your legs.  Lean all of your weight into the pulling, and feel the armadillo begin to come loose.  Feel its panic.
  • Do not think about your hands.  They will heal.  You have salve at home.
  • Inch backwards.  Curl into a squat.  Do not let go.
  • 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.
  • Stumble backward.  Do not watch while Grevin beats it to death with his shovel.  Do not listen.
  • 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.
  • Peddle home with the men, through the star-peppered night. Laugh when they praise your valor, which they which had not expected.

 

Part II:  How To Cook It

Your husband will peel the armadillo from its shell, skin it and gut it.  This is also a man’s job, one that does not interest you because it involves blood and a very sharp knife.

  • 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.
  • After it is 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, remove the meat from the bones, and throw the armadillo skeleton to the delighted dog.
  • Mince the rubbery meat with a large knife, bathe in fresh lemon juice and refrigerate overnight.
  • On the third day, sauté onions, red peppers, garlic and cilantro in a large frying pan.  When the vegetables are soft, add several scoops of armadillo meat. Sprinkle with chicken bouillon and black pepper.
  • Cook until the meat begins to toast.
  • Serve with rice, beans and a generous bottle of tabasco.
  • Note with relief that the meat tastes quite a bit like chicken.
  • Ask your husband how he feels about raising chickens.

Prayer To The Mantis

teach us, mother/sister
the moment for teeth
we are tender-skinned creatures
seduced by softness, softened
by a slow caress and close
breath

teach us, show us
when and where –
quick
before limbs are unraveled
just
below ear, left or right

(A very old poem I wrote once up on a time when I was very mad. It wasn’t supposed to be funny, but…)

The Chicken or The Eggs

Maria Lucía points to the hen, then to Fernanda and laughs.
I don’t understand.

Fernanda is eyeing my hen.
She wants to eat her.

No, no!  Fernanda says, pressing her hands to her heart.
Maria Lucía is eyeing her own hen.
She wants to eat her.

Now we are all giggling and I confess to myself that I also want eat her.
We laugh at each other’s hunger for meat, weighing one pot of stew against all those eggs.

Cascabel

I am picturing the baby, fat and brown like a potato, on the floor crawling toward the snake. It has a rattle he wants to play with. The snake shakes it tail and the baby comes closer.

I am picturing Elena, la mamá, young like I have never seen her. I feel the freezing of her blood, the seizing of her heart when she sees her baby reach for the giant snake. Her stomach wretches and from her throat bursts his name.

The baby stops and turns his head. She starts across the long floor to catch him.

I see the grandma see the mother see the baby. I see her grab the mother’s arm.

No she says.
No lo agarre.
Si lo agarra, le pica seguro.

This is Indian wisdom, older than the afternoon’s distant thunder. And they call him.

Papi. Papi venga.

The snakes rattles. The baby looks.

Venga mi niño.

They cannot touch him. He sits on the floor like a fat brown potato.

The mama is afraid. The grandma is afraid. The rattlesnake is afraid.

Papi, véngase.
Venga mi amor.