Keeping It Native

Keeping It Native

A Story by Fabian G. Franklin
"

Life is stranger than fiction...

"


 

         I was studying license plates on the interstate. Georgia: Peach State; Mississippi: The Magnolia State, South Carolina: The Palmetto State. There's not much else to do looking out the window of a truck bound for deliveries in the southern states. You can admire the Spanish Moss on the oaks in the rest areas of Old Miss. or a giant crayfish on a sign in Louisiana but that only gets you so far. My friend and I were trucking along the I-10 corridor and crossing the bridge that leads into Houston, Texas. Looking out across the black, brackish water I could see massive gators swimming; their broad backs exposed to the sun. And, strangely enough, young Cajun boys shin deep in the same water, fishing.

         It was early Saturday morning when we finally rolled into Texas. We got behind an older model pick-up truck with Louisiana plates and multiple rebel flags stuck to the bumper. I also noticed what looked like a .410 shotgun mounted on a gun rack in the back glass. The side windows were slightly down on the old Ford and now and then a thick cloud of smoke came billowing from the interior. I was about to ask my pal who would build a fire in the floorboard in the summer when the smell of marijuana wafted through the early morning air. These boys are partying awfully early ain't they, my friend asked. Or they are still on their Friday night binge, I replied. He just nodded like that was a more logical conclusion.

         There was a wide dirt pull-off up ahead leading into a truck stop that was lined with sand bags and orange traffic cones. The asphalt was mostly washed away. We needed diesel and coffee so we followed the old Ford on in. All at once the pick-up began to weave. It swerved first to the left and then to the right and then repeated the same motions. Don't tell me they are drinking too, I said. Then they skidded off the potholes and into the dirt; knocking over a few traffic cones and sliding into a shallow ditch. We came to a complete stop fifteen feet behind them. Suddenly, the driver's door flew open and the guy started to make a grab for the shotgun; thought better of it, and slammed the door back in a clearly disturbing fashion. He started saying words that one might hear in a longshoreman's bar in a most vehement perturbation.

         He was still stomping and cursing when the passenger's door flew open too. My buddy and me were just taking in the show to see how this was going to play out and praying nobody was feeling homicidal or was going to make a reach for the gun again. The fellow from the passenger side was beating his clothes like they were on fire and well they might have been with all the smoke pouring from the cab interior and out the open door. Then, another, smaller passenger, emerged from the vehicle. At first I thought is was a football but I'd never seen a black football and certainly not one with four legs under it. It pounced onto the ground and took off into the tall weeds with an incredulous speed.

          The passenger was dodging and weaving to avoid the alien-looking creature. This all happened in under a minute and my friend and I were still curious and wondering what the hell it was we had just witnessed. We had to ask. We pulled up along the Ford and asked if everything was okay and could we help in any way. The driver was still cussing and most of it seemed to be directed at his friend now standing in the weeds where the critter had run. He told us he was okay and then began to elaborate on what kind of idiot his friend was. It seems while entering Texas they had inadvertently struck an armadillo on the highway. His friend had urged him to go back and pick up the poor dead animal. He said, in no uncertain terms, he had no use for a dead armadillo but his friend, with a good buzz and poor judgment, had insisted so he complied. The things we do for our friends are sometimes not the best life choices.

            His pal put the young armadillo in a burlap potato sack, tied it up and threw it into the cab. " I told him if that thing starts to stink you are both riding in the back!", he said. But it seems the armadillo was not dead at all but merely stunned unconscious. His friend, who had the weed, promised to cover the smell with smoke and it had temporarily appeased the driver. But when they started to pull in for gas and let the windows down to air out the smoke, the creature woke from its stupor. It was not happy inside its new home. Armadillos have very sharp claws and it was not long before the creature had freed itself from the sack and then jumped straight into the air banged against the cab and landed in the driver's lap. The driver shook himself free from the creature and tossed it into the seat after nearly wrecking his truck. He slammed the door leaving the poor armadillo no escape but across his friend. As we were told all this with numerous expletives my friend and I tried not to burst into laughter. We were remembering the shotgun in the rifle rack.

             But once we had our fuel and coffee we laughed about it the rest of the day. On our way back through Texas we saw many more armadillos, mostly dead, along the roadside. A Texan told us they called them, "hillbilly speed bumps." But, being from North Carolina, I gave them the new name of "possums on the half-shell". As we returned to our home state and drove back through La. I remarked about the native wildlife and the two "good old boys" we had met from there. I playfully suggested to my friend we stop and pick up a young alligator to take back with us as a pet. He just laughed and said, I think we'd better leave the native wildlife native.

 


© 2017 Fabian G. Franklin



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Added on August 31, 2017
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Author

Fabian G. Franklin
Fabian G. Franklin

Boone, NC



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Visit my blog at http://thepoetsparlor.blogspot.com "No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness." Aristotle "The salvation of man is through love and in love." From Man's Sea.. more..

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