It's that time of the year when the pecan trees in our back yard begin to earn their keep by producing, well, pecans. We certainly look forward to a great harvest of that nutty goodness, with visions of pies and ice cream toppings and pecan-crusted tilapia dancing in our heads...which is where those visions will stay because since we bought this house three years ago, we have yet to taste a single homegrown pecan thanks to the ever-increasing population of squirrels.

It's bad enough that they chow down on our pecan crop before it even matures, but they add insult to injury because they drop the discarded pieces of nut onto our deck. This creates a real mess as well as a good approximation of a lego-strewn floor for the unwary barefooted resident (i.e. us). We actually can't sit on our deck during the day because of the continuous deluge.

You're probably thinking, "well, how bad could that really be?" I'm glad you asked. Just drag the yellow bar on the photo below to the left to see a before-and-after comparison to show the effects of the pecan bits raining down.

Back yard deck after 3 hours 'Clean back yard deck

I'm not sure these photos do justice to the actual situation. It's important to understand that this mess was created in a space of three hours, and is repeated every three hours during the day until ALL. THE. PECANS. ARE. GONE. In fact, the annoyance factor is so high that I actually went to the trouble of setting up a GoPro camera to film a time lapse of the phenomenon:

Time lapse sequence of pecan pieces dropped by squirrels onto our deck
This will be Exhibit A in my self-defense strategy if I'm ever hauled in for shooting up our trees with a 12-gauge.

This is, of course, a fairly short-lived problem, given that over the course of a week or so, the squirrels will completely decimate the pecan crop and go back to simply chewing our chair cushions. And, frankly, because our trees are a native variety (rather than one of those PED-amped hybrids), the nuts aren't really very good. But it's the principle of the thing, you know?

If you've followed this blog long enough, you know that I've always been partial to mammals of the Sciuridae persuasion, but I've just about reached the limit of my tolerance. (Plus, they dug up my DIY pecan pie!) I've even started to think about a solution.

Bass Pro Shop online listing for a Ruger air rifle
Firing shotguns within the city limits is frowned upon. This is not a shotgun.

Four-footed Follies
August 14, 2019 3:07 PM | Posted in: ,

Update (8/14/19): I guess I should complain about the weather more often. Shortly after posting this, we had a brief rain shower...almost two tenths of an inch. That won't break the drought, but it certainly was enjoyable.

We've gone more than a month without measurable rainfall and the creek will likely cease flowing within the next week or so if the depressing 10-day weather forecast is accurate. The city is in a catch-22 position of banning vacant lot and pasture mowing because of the danger of wildfires resulting from sparks...but that leaves a LOT of combustible material in the fields. 

Most of the hummingbirds have deserted us, and even the cicadas seem to have given up (as has our lawn). But the heat hasn't seemed to slow down the parade of animals past Casa de Fire Ant and into our traps. 

Here's the latest tally, as of this morning (this is a cumulative total dating back to August, 2017, when we moved into the house):

Critter trapping scorecard

I updated the totals to account for the possum that wandered into the cat food-baited trap. The possum count is a bit misleading. Since I don't relocate possums, it's likely (probable) I'm trapping the same one over and over. They don't seem to be the sharpest knives in the critter drawer, although MLB has a different take. As she puts it, "they get a free meal inside a safe enclosure, and get released after a few hours so they can do it again that night; what's not to like?" I can't really argue with that logic.

But, they're still stupid. Even after I open the trap, it takes an average of an hour before they figure out they're free to leave.

Possum in cage
This morning's possum awaiting his MENSA invitation

However, in an overabundance of fairness, I'll give it the benefit of a doubt and assume that it's being cautious, given one of its fellow mammals that's continued to lurk in our neighborhood. 

Animated gif: bobcat

Yep, the bobcat is back. The above series of photos was taken a couple of nights ago, and this marks the third appearance -- that I've been able to capture on camera -- in about a month. These frames give a little better idea of the size of the cat. The cage in the foreground is 32" long and 13" tall.

Of course, possums and bobcats aren't the only visitors. Up until a couple of days ago, I was catching a raccoon every night. That action is no longer newsworthy...until something unexpected shows up. Take a look at this 30-second video:


The raccoon had been in the trap a while before the fox wandered up and took notice of the caged critter. If you watch closely, you'll see the fox bark at the raccoon (who doesn't seem to be the least bit exercised by the fox's presence, or apparent threats). 

I can't help wondering if the fox has tangled with a raccoon in the past, given its unwillingness to get too close. My guess is that a raccoon can more than hold its own in a battle with a fox. They're smart and probably fight dirty.

As far as the fox's bark goes, while the game camera doesn't capture audio, I was able to find an accurate rendering of the animal's vocalizations. Based on this, it's easy to come to the conclusion that carrying rabies isn't the worst characteristic of the fox.



Please accept my apologies for resurrecting this...music. I blame the heat.
Alert Gazette readers will remember how I teased them with this preview of potential Independence Day bicycle decorations in preparation for our participation in the local (Horseshoe Bay) parade. The final modest result pictured below belies the hour or so of toil in the sauna-like confines of a garage in the middle of a Texas summer. It also doesn't capture the copious amounts of gaffer tape and nylon cable ties employed to ensure that decorations stayed comfortably (and safely) away from such operating mechanisms as brakes, chains, shifters, and wheels.

OTOH, it DOES show that we were appropriately patriotic (or, if you prefer, garish and gaudy), and ready to parade.

MLB and I pose with our decorated recumbent tandem
Photo courtesy of the very personable golf cart driver who had
the misfortune of following us in the parade.

This was our second year to ride in the HSB parade, and it was a lot of fun.  This year we were blessed with cool and cloudy conditions, unlike the Great Heatstroke Tour of 2018. The route is short -- less than 1 1/2 miles -- and lined with people of all ages from start to finish (plus a leashed pig wearing an Uncle Sam hat). There are scores of decorated golf carts, cars and truck both old and new, and the obligatory appearances of city dignitaries riding in convertibles and fire trucks. And, of course, one weird recumbent tandem bicycle.

With all due immodesty, I confess that our bike gets some of the most animated reactions from onlookers, and especially the kids. The procession moves slowly enough to allow some interaction with the spectators, and it's a blast to hear the comments. And one media photographer was apparently impressed.

Photo in the Horseshoe Bay Beacon of us riding our bike in the parade
They even spelled our names correctly.

This photo appeared in the July 11 edition of the weekly Horseshoe Bay Beacon, and ours was the only non-dignitary-transporting vehicle that made the paper. Granted, we appeared on page 9 (of a 12-page edition), but at least we were above the fold.

Disclaimer: I know, I know. Helmets. We do normally wear them. But our average speed in the parade was about 2 mph, and I doubt that we ever exceeded 4 mph, so give us a break this one time, how 'bout? Of course, at those speeds there is a distinct challenge of staying upright, so perhaps we were pushing the boundary. But that's how we roll. [Heh]

I had originally intended to use our new celebrity status as a soapbox to address some bicycle/motor vehicle interaction etiquette issues, but I think I'll save that for another day. The main takeaway would simply be: please don't run over us, even when we're not so obviously patriotic. Thanks very much!

Oh, yeah; I almost forgot. Thanks to the post-holiday sale at Hobby Lobby, next year's decorating scheme will be even more awesome. Stay tuned.
A couple of weeks ago I spotted something in the adjacent vacant lot that looked out of place. It was a turtle -- a Texas river cooter (Pseudemys texana) to be precise -- in the process of creating a "nest" in which to deposit eggs. Being the insensitive-and-nosy jerk I am, I immediately set up a couple of cameras on tripods to record the process. (Alert Gazette readers will recall that this isn't my first turtle-egg-laying rodeo.)

While I didn't catch the mother-to-be at the very beginning of her quest, she was early in the process and I was able to video and photograph it through the very end, and it took a couple of hours (and a few swap-outs to recharge batteries). 

The nest building process is fascinating to me. The turtle had picked out a seemingly random location about a seventy-five yards from the creek where she resided. Using only her back legs, she dug a hole at least nine inches deep. The soil was completely dry when she started, but somehow during the process she emitted enough water to create a muddy environment before laying the eggs. When the laying process started, after each egg was deposited, she pushed it down into the hole with a hind leg. That action seemed to be rude and rough, but the leathery shells weren't damaged, nor were their contents (I assume).

I didn't hang around to observe the entire two hours, but I did check back in time to watch the actual egg-laying, and I counted at least eleven eggs. 

Photo - Turtle laying egg
Turtle egg being deposited in new nest

Once all eggs were deposited, she reversed the initial process. Again, using only her hind legs, the turtle pulled dirt and plant material back over the nest, and arranged it so that it was completely unobtrusive, even to a close visual inspection.
By the way, turtles get no respect when it comes to baby animal names. "Hatchling" is about as generic as it gets. I think they deserve better, so I propose something like "turtleini." Or "turtle tot." Or "turtlette."

OK, maybe we'll just stick with "hatchling."
Photo - Camouflaged turtle nest
Would you have known there were a dozen turtle eggs hidden beneath this patch of ground?

It was gratifying to think that we might be able to observe the hatchlings in three-to-four months.

Or not.

As it turns out, Mother Nature is often cruel and capricious. A mere day later, I walked past the nest and it resembled a miniature bomb crater. What was indiscernible to the human eye was apparently easily discovered by one of the several species of predators that live around the creek. I counted at least eight eggs in various states of consumption (and one still whole but obviously damaged). The only remaining question was: which varmint was to blame?

Photo - Ravaged turtle nest
The ravaged nest, circled in blue; egg remains are circled in yellow

I theorized that whatever had attacked the nest was likely to return at least one more time, so I pointed my game camera toward that general vicinity. Sure enough, the answer appeared when I downloaded the contents of the SD card onto my computer the next morning...and that answer was a bit shocking to me. Here's a screen capture from the short video captured by the camera:

Photo - Armadillo digging in turtle nest
Yes, it's an armadillo, digging back into the remains of the nest.

If an armadillo would have been at the bottom of your list of potential turtle egg eaters, join the club. But, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (a website for which the armadillo should be the centerfold, IMHO), the species is omnivorous to an extent I never considered. I'll save you a click and give you this excerpt from the ICWDM website:

The eating habits of armadillos

(Parenthetically, [Ed. -- This is redundant since it's already enclosed by parentheses.] this behavior received additional confirmation a few days ago when I found an armadillo in a raccoon trap baited with cat food.)

So, in the end, the river cooter's diligent efforts will likely come to naught, although it may be possible that a couple of the first eggs were deep enough to escape the marauding mammal. Such is life in the wild kingdom we call our neighborhood.

The following video is a condensed compilation of the footage I gathered over the duration of the events described above. If you have 8 1/2 minutes to burn and find moving pictures more interesting than my rambling text, feel free to check it out.


Rocket Raccoon beating up grass
Actual game camera footage from our front yard

The weather isn't the only thing heating up around Casa de Fire Ant. As I've previously documented -- feel free to scroll through past entries; I'm too lazy to find the links -- our newly sodded front lawn has been an irresistible siren call to armadillos and raccoons bent on destruction. The situation devolved to the point where I purchased an additional trap for each species, with mixed results. More on that later.

Education can be painful, particularly at my age, but it's still worthwhile, and what we've learned lately is that the worst of the damage that I've attributed to armadillos is actually more likely being caused by raccoons. We've found several reports of newly-laid sod being rolled up like a rug, and the culprits are NOT the bulldozing armadillos that I've been blaming. That doesn't absolve the armored raiders from all blame; they just tend to create shell craters instead of scorching the earth.

But not all the "education" has been effective. Desperation can lead to trying some weird-sounding tactics. For example, one of the anti-critter tips that MLB ran across was that raccoons and armadillos disliked the smell/taste of (1) cayenne powder and (b) garlic powder. She followed that advice and for several days our front yard smelled like an Italian restaurant. Seriously...you could detect the aroma from a block away.

This tactic actually seemed to work for a while, although I worried about the effects on the lawn of the spice dumping. And, of course, we had to start over after every rainfall or bi-weekly watering. And, eventually, it seemed that the garlic just made the turf more like a tasty salad for the varmints.

So, we moved onto the next tip, which alleged that raccoons don't like to walk on weird surfaces (my interpretation). There was a recommendation for putting down bird netting in the areas frequented by the animals. I was skeptical, but we were desperate, so off to Home Depot went MLB and she returned with a hundred dollars worth of netting and garden staples. We spent a few hours yesterday putting down almost 2,000 square feet of netting around the perimeter of our front lawn (which has four sections subdivided by sidewalks and driveways, so the perimeter of the grass is larger than you might think). 


I had visions of waking up this morning to find animals hopelessly entangled, like dolphins in ghost nets, and actually lost some sleep wondering how I would go about freeing an angry raccoon from such a snare. I thought about searching Amazon for "suit of armor." (Of course they have one.)

The good news is that I didn't have to unwrap a mammal. The bad news is that armadillos don't give a whit about bird netting. They managed to cross no-man's land, as it were, and continue to divotize the lawn.

Photo - bird netting covering a section of lawn
Bird netting is apparently not the threat nor hindrance we were led to believe.

There was a silver lining. As I mentioned above, I now have two raccoon traps, and both of them were filled with raccoons this morning. This represents significant and heartening progress in our quest for a lawn that doesn't resemble a battleground. And, interestingly, the double trapping occurred by yet another tip that actually worked.

I had always known that raccoons had a fondness for cat and dog food, but since I had had good success with the sardines, I continued with the smelly, messy baiting. But it had been more than a few nights since I'd trapped a raccoon, and I had game cam footage showing them ignoring a baited trap. I have no idea why they'd apparently lost interest in sardines, but I decided to buy a small cheap bag of cat food at the store on Monday, and that's what I used as bait in both traps last night (I used my last can of sardines -- again, in vain -- on Monday night).

My hope is that getting rid of this pair of raccoons will at least give our lawn some time to recover, and allow me to concentrate on the wily armadillos. I'm not naive enough to believe I've solved our problems, but as you can see by the following tallies, the past month hasn't been unproductive. So, unless I'm trapping animals that someone else has trapped elsewhere and dumped into our neighborhood (sadly, not an impossible situation), I have to think I'm making a dent in the natural population of varmints.

Graphic showing tally of trapped animals as of 5 June 2019
Trapped animal tally as of 6 June 2019

Graphic showing tally of trapped animals as of 5 June 2019
Trapped animal tally as of 9 July 2019

I'll save you some math: in just over a month, that's 7 raccoons, 5 armadillos, 2 possums, and 1 slow-learning feral cat which I caught multiple times but counted only once. Actually, I may have caught the same possum twice, but they all look the same to me. I hope that doesn't sound speciest.

Raptor in Flight
July 2, 2019 8:14 PM | Posted in: ,

Alert Gazette readers will recall that we have a[t least one] (possibly murderous) red-shouldered hawk living abiding in the trees adjacent to our house. He or she (or they) frequently fly around the vicinity and since we're not small mammals, it's a treat to see them and to listen to their plaintive cries.

I'm hardly ever (read: never) able to video the hawks in flight because they're fast and I'm not, but one recently flew into the frame of my game camera and triggered a short video. I find the flight of raptors somewhat fascinating, and I pulled a few frames of that video into a short gif.

Animated gif of a flying red-shouldered hawk

Pretty cool, huh?

This animated gif is eight frames of still photos, six of which actually show the hawk in flight. Following are those six frames in their uncropped splendor. The contraption in the foreground is one of my armadillo traps (sadly ineffective on this particular day).

Photo - flying red-shouldered hawk
Photo - flying red-shouldered hawk
Photo - flying red-shouldered hawk
Photo - flying red-shouldered hawk
Photo - flying red-shouldered hawk
Photo - flying red-shouldered hawk

The only thing that could have improved this sequence of photos is if the hawk was carrying a raccoon in its talons.
It's been an interesting week or so here at Casa de Fire Ant, thanks to the endless parade of wildlife traipsing past our abode, occasionally stopping to destroy our lawn on their way to whatever other endeavors attract them. 

Last week, we went out of town for a couple of days but I left my game camera activated to see what went on in our absence. That turned out to be a wise decision, from this amateur naturalist's perspective. I've stitched together something like a "best of" compilation from the several hundred photos and short videos recorded by the camera.



While the buzzards provided a bit of comic relief, the obvious star of the show is the bobcat that appears around the one minute mark of the video. We had recently heard reports of a bobcat in the neighborhood but this was the first time since we moved here two years ago that I've actually captured an image of one. Here are another couple of looks at the big cat:

Photo - Bobcat at night
Note the distinctive black bands on the front legs, a distinguishing mark of the species.

Photo - Bobcat at night
The bobcat's name derives from its stubby tail; the spots on the fur are another distinction.

The bobcat appeared on camera again, a couple of nights later, at almost the same early morning time. It walked so close to the camera that this is the only image that was captured.

Photo - Bobcat at night

A day or so later, I noticed a flurry of activity on the ground in the vacant lot on the west side of our house. It was a gathering of buzzards, and even from a distance I could see that they were intent on devouring something.

Photo - Four buzzards in a live oak tree
Four buzzards in a live oak tree

I walked over and the scavengers flew into nearby trees, unwilling to completely abandon their meal, which, to my dismay, was a whitetail fawn. The carcass was significantly damaged, but I couldn't discern whether that was due to the work of the buzzards or evidence of the fatal attack by...something.

Of course, my immediate thought was that the bobcat was responsible; its repeated appearance in conjunction with the dead fawn seemed like more than coincidence. Bobcats are known to take young deer, even though the latter are often larger than the cat.

However, the more I learned about both the bobcat and the other predators that prey on fawns, the less sure I became about the identity of the perpetrator. It seems that bobcats don't usually leave their prey after a kill. It's also entirely possible that a raptor such as a hawk or an eagle could kill a very young fawn, and there are red-shouldered hawks nesting in the trees (see photos below) near where I found the carcass. (I was also told that caracaras have been known to prey upon fawns -- yeah, I had to look them up, too. I've never seen one but that doesn't mean they're not around. The Audubon link shows that they're "uncommon" in this part of Texas; their common Texas habitat is in the far southern part of the state.)

Photo - Red-shouldered hawk sunning itself next to our driveway
Red-shouldered hawk sunning itself next to our driveway

Photo - Red-shouldered hawk nest
This hawk nest is about fifty feet above the ground, in a tree in the same vacant lot where the fawn carcass was found.

At the end of the day, the mystery of the deceased fawn is still just that: a mystery. I still lean toward the bobcat as the prime suspect, but we haven't even considered that a copperhead or rattlesnake dispatched the little guy. It's a tough world out there, sometimes, and the story doesn't always have a happy ending.
[Ed. note -- This is actually a Random Thursday (Monday edition) post, but the author has overridden staff protests in order to use, in his words, "an ever-so-cute" headline.]

First, please feel free to ignore my editor's snarky comment, which stems from an obvious case of envy. Those who can't write, edit.

The Artwork Detective Saga Continues

Alert Gazette readers will recall a couple of previous posts -- here and here -- about Atlantic Richfield's Corporate artwork collection and my minor role in helping to dispose of it following BP's devouring acquisition of ARCO. Even though it all took place more than a decade ago, I still get occasional inquiries about it from various "stakeholders" who have apparently exhausted all legitimate and credible sources of information. A lot of these inquiries originate in California, where ARCO was headquartered, and I'm able to answer almost none of their questions since I only dealt with the artwork in the Midland (Texas) office.

But I received an email last week from someone in Midland asking about a specific piece that they had acquired. They had the artist's last name and an ARCO-assigned serial number and asked if I had any additional information about the piece. I pulled up the old inventory and, sure enough, found the artwork in question (an intaglio print from 1972). The person expressed excitement over the new info, but then asked if I had any information regarding the value of the print.

I did have an appraisal spreadsheet provided by the Corporate department, but when I opened it, there was no value assigned to the piece in question. A review of the spreadsheet showed that only artwork appraised at more than $150 was assigned a value (there were pieces valued at up to $35,000 in our office, by the way), and thus if a piece had no appraisal, it was deemed to be of little value. I conveyed this information to the owner, expecting a response of disappointment. 

Instead, I received this in reply:
Thanks Eric for all of your help! I don't feel as nervous to give it to my grandson for his college dorm room now and he loves it!
I'm now excessively proud of the work I'm doing to decorate dorm rooms. I think I'll add this skill to my LinkedIn profile.

The Armadillo Destruction Continues

Alert Gazette readers will...ah, never mind. I've beat that one senseless. Anyway, despite having trapped four armadillos in the last week (I'm up to 29 in total), they continue to wreak havoc on our newly sodded front lawn. Lest you accuse me of exaggeration (which, admittedly, is almost always a sure bet), here's some photographic proof of the typical damage we find each morning.

Photo - Lawn damaged by armadillos

I don't have a "before" photo for comparison, as I never anticipated needing one, but I assure you that this area was nothing but smooth green turf, pre-armadillo. I confess to a complete loss of patience, and if I didn't think the neighbors would complain, there would be no future live catch-and-release in effect, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Photo - Armadillo Excavator (Excadillo)
An actual unretouched photo of the Excavator sub-species of armadillo (Dasypodidae cavator horribilis)

The Fourth of July Decorating Commences

The city of Horseshoe Bay has an Independence Day parade* every year and it's open to anyone with a vehicle capable of going a couple of miles down city streets. So, last year MLB and I decorated our tandem recumbent bicycle and pedaled along the route, sandwiched between a Seventies-era Mustang convertible and a 1953 Mercury convertible. We hung a few flags from the bike, put some red, white and blue glittery wreaths on the rear rack and wrapped the frame with decorative ribbon, and we felt pretty festive.

We're planning to do it again this year, but obviously need to step it up a bit, so we hit the Michael's in Bee Cave and came away with more ribbon, plus the stuff pictured below. I'm especially excited about the double pinwheel, which I plan on mounting on the front of the bike. My only fear is that I'll be hypnotized by the spinning colors and we'll fall off in front of the throngs lining the street. Wouldn't be the first time, but that's another story for another time. Or never.

Photo - Fourth of July decorations

*They actually have three parades. One takes place on the lake and is for boats (duh), and another is a short jaunt for kids on bikes and trikes. Pretty sure we don't qualify for either of these.
Note: The following contains critical armadillo trapping advice. Ignore it at your own peril. You've been warned. There's also a walking stick gif.

Alert Gazette readers will recall the account of my armadillo trapping woes, wherein the creatures were zooming in and out of the malfunctioning trap as if it were a port-a-potty next to a Tijuana taco stand*. 

This situation quickly escalated from a frustrating inconvenience into a costly debacle as the armadillo(s) began to cause significant damage to the several thousand dollars worth of new zoysia sod installed in our yard. I'm not talking about a few holes here and there. The animals were actually burrowing under entire sections of sod and rolling them up like rugs. I was desperate for a solution.

I went so far as to use a Dremel tool to smooth any rough edges on the trap doors and the side channel guides to reduce the possibility of binding when they dropped down. I tested the trap and it seemed to work perfectly, but the next morning (and the morning after that), I found one door dropped and the other one halfway down and in a bind, indicating (or so I thought) another in-and-out armadillo escape. And our lawn continued to look like a used-up minefield. I finally gave up and ordered a new trap.

Photo showing bottom door groove in the trapThe new trap arrived yesterday and as I unpacked and assembled it, I took the unprecedented step of reading the instructions and tips that came with it. This caught my eye: Armadillos are messy. When they are caught, they will cause dirt to fill the bottom door grooves. Clean them from time to time, or the doors will not close properly.

"Whoa!" I thought, "what if the problem is not that the doors aren't falling shut, but that they're being forced open again by a trapped armadillo?" I had never considered this possibility, but when I inspected the trap I found that the bottom door grooves were indeed packed with dirt so that the doors dropped down level with the floor...and the armadillos were able to either nose one of them up, or reach under with a claw. The purpose of that groove was obviously to prevent the animal from lifting up the door from the bottom. And what I assumed was a trap door that stuck on the way down was actually one that had been put in a bind when it was lifted by the escaping animal.

It was a simple matter to test this theory. I cleaned out the grooves and placed the trap along the path where they normally ambled before diving into our lawn (they are definitely creatures of habit). And this morning when I looked outside, both doors were down and there was a snoozing-and-securely-trapped armadillo inside.

The irony is that while my enlightenment came as a result of reading the material that accompanied the new trap, the new trap trapped nothing last night, while the old trap did the work. Anyway, I'm not naive enough to think there's only one armadillo in our neck of the neighborhood, and now I've got both sides of the yard armed and ready for additional action.

Oh, and here's the updated headcount, in case you're wondering:

Graphic showing number of trapped animals, including 25 armadillos and 21 raccoons

And here's a walking stick gif, because not everything is about mammals:

Animated gif of a walking stick


*I have no idea what this means, but I'm told it's always a good idea to add a simile or metaphor or something to otherwise boring narrative.
Armadillo blithely walking past trap (animated gif)

It's been awhile since we've published a Random Thursday article [Ed--After reviewing this, it's obvious that it hasn't been long enough.]

Trapping Fails

Following a very quiet winter and early spring in which I actually contemplated the notion that I had trapped out the nuisance wildlife population in our immediate neighborhood. Lately, however, our game camera has captured images of cavorting raccoons and armadillos, and while I myself have been known to cavort, I draw the line at the divots those animals have begun to inflict upon our lawn. So, out came the traps.

I did catch one raccoon last week, but as the images above and below demonstrate, my attempts to corral the armadillo have been futile. The gif at the top of this page shows the 'dillo blithely traipsing by the open trap. They follow the same path pretty much every night, but I managed to miss that path by about a foot.

The following gif demonstrates a more frustrating situation, wherein the armadillo actually enters and activates the trap, but one door drops only half way, and the animal makes a u-turn and walks out the same way it walked in. As it turns out, the trap wasn't completely level, so one of the doors was caught in a bind.

Armadillo escaping from trap (animated gif)

In the immortal words of Snidely Whiplash...Curses! Foiled again!

Update (05/29/19): And the fails just keep coming. I trapped a raccoon overnight but waited until after breakfast to haul it away. That gave it enough time to bang into the trapdoor and escape. Does it have enough discipline to avoid the temptation of more sardines tonight? We shall see.

Texas Music

MLB and I spent last weekend in Fredericksburg (that's Texas, y'all, not Virginia) at the annual Crawfish Festival (which has been the subject of a previous Gazette post), and we spent several hot and humid hours over two days dancing to a variety of music, mostly country but also zydeco and rock & roll. On Saturday evening, we cruised over to Hondo's for stacked enchiladas, and stuck around for some dancing on their patio. It was a fun time, made more so by the musical antics of the Mitch Jacobs Band

I suspect that most of margarita-fueled crowd at Hondo's didn't even notice that the lead singer inserted an entire verse of The Who's Pinball Wizard into the band's rendition of Folsom Prison Blues...but I certainly did. Can't quite get a handle on it? Try these lyrics with this tune:

He ain't got no distractions
Can't hear those buzzers and bells
Don't see lights a flashin'
Plays by sense of smell
Always gets a replay
Never seen him fall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pin ball

It works, right? The only logical question might be "why?" but there's no logic in Texas music.

Later on, the band performed the Waylon Jennings classic, Luckenbach, Texas, and the singer took the liberty of impersonating Willie Nelson, Julio Iglesias, and -- wait for it -- Bob Dylan. Again, I don't think he got the crowd reaction his skillful performance deserved, but I was impressed.

The Dogs of John Wick

I took my truck in this afternoon for scheduled maintenance and [the always ridiculous] state inspection. Since the garage is within walking distance of the movie theater in Marble Falls, I suggested to MLB that she meet me there for the matinee of John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. [As an aside, the use of both a colon AND a hyphen in a movie title is incontrovertible evidence of the producer's delusions of grandeur.]

If you're familiar with the John Wick franchise, you know that the main character has an affinity for dogs, and there's a canine sub-plot in each installment. JW:C3-P is no different, except there are TWO dog plots. Without spoiling anything, MLB and I both felt that some German Shepherds absolutely stole the show, without even being main characters. I suspect at least some of the dogs' performance was CGI-enhanced, but it was seamless with the actual animal acting which was nothing short of breathtaking. I wouldn't bother going to see the movie if you're only in it for the dog action -- the overall level of violence makes the first two seem like Mary Poppins spin-offs -- but if you know what you're getting into, the Shepherds elevate the action considerably.