I've been fighting a monster for ten weeks. He attacks while I'm innocently dreaming about heirloom tomatoes and new cultivars of columbine. In the morning I rush to my garden to repair his destruction: over-turned begonias, pentas, and portulaca with exposed roots and wilting leaves who gasp—the armadillo did it—before they die.
I lasted two minutes in the garden battlefield today. The armadillo's persistent tunneling for grubs and worms killed my beloved Japanese Peony Tree and I couldn't produce a single tear. It was ninety-five degrees at 10 a.m. I didn't care because the heat was killing me.
I reminded myself the armor-coated, plant assassin couldn't really make me crazy. Surely a Master Gardener could outwit one, dimwitted armadillo. During our monthly Master Gardeners of the Ozarks meeting, I turned to my colleagues for suggestions to remove the monster.
State Nursery Plant Inspector: "Trap him. Get two ten by twelves. Make a V with your ten by twelves to guide him to the trap because he's nearly blind. Fill a nylon stocking with worms. Place them in the trap. Hopefully he'll smell the worms and follow the lumber to the trap."
Me: "Where do I buy a trap?"
Master Gardener #1: "Oh, don't buy one. They're expensive. You need to make one."
Me: "Anybody have armadillo trap instructions?"
Master Gardener #2: "It's easy. Make it just like your woodchuck trap."
Me: "Don't have a woodchuck trap. Don't have a woodchuck problem."
Agronomy Specialist: "You will."
Me: "What do I do with the armadillo, if I manage to trap him, because he managed to find the trap I managed to make?"
State Nursery Plant Inspector: "Take him to the lake and drown him. Make sure he's down there a long, long time so he meets his maker."
Me: "Drown him! Okay. Why hold him under so long?"
Retired Science Teacher: "Because armadillos can hold their breath for an incredibly long time. They can actually walk along the bottom of a river. This unique feature permitted them to migrate north from Mexico. We postulate they'll walk across the Mississippi River by September 15th, 2011."
At least they can't walk on top of water. Me: "Is there anything else I can do besides trap 'em?"
Master Gardener #1: "You can borrow my fourteen gauge shotgun.
"Missouri State Nursery Plant Inspector: "You can borrow my .22."
Master Gardener #2: "You can borrow my stun gun."
Retired Science Teacher: "You can borrow my Colt 45."
Me: "A handgun? Isn't that overkill?"
Agronomy Specialist: "No. Armadillos have been known to survive shotgun blasts."
I thought about it…I could tuck a .45 in my gardening bag beside my pruners and gloves. Practice out back and shoot some weeds. With time, I might be good enough to deadhead petunias at fifty yards. With luck, I might accidentally shoot the nearly blind, underwater-river-crossing, shotgun-blast-surviving armadillo as he strolls by.
After my conversation with my colleagues, I decided to throw in the trowel. When my husband, RJ, came home from work, I announced we were no match for the damn 'dillo. He was virtually impossible to trap and we had no experience with guns. Borrowing a gun was out of the question. My husband didn't say anything but he nodded, an obvious sign he agreed with my decision.
Two days later I saw RJ crouched over something in the yard. I grabbed my pruners and carefully stepped around the lemon thyme and sweet basil to see what he was doing. "Where did you get that armadillo trap?" I demanded.
"But we conceded to the armadillo."
"You conceded. I didn't."
"Well," I huffed. "I'm a Horticultural Therapist. I've accepted I'm powerless over the armadillo. I'm Zen with it."
My husband laughed. "You're not Zen with the armadillo. You're still complaining. I'm sick of it. He's going to die."
"Is that a gleam in your eye?" I accused as I snipped spent salvia flowers.
"No, of course not," the armadillo killer said calmly.
"Good luck <snip>," I snapped. "Finding any earthworms to use for bait <snip, snip> since the armadillo already ate most of them <snippety-snip-snip-snip>."
"I'm not using earthworms. I'm using marshmallows."
"Marshmallows? We don't have any marshmallows."
"Yes we do. I dug them out of the Lucky Charms."
"Wonderful," I said. "The only thing you'll catch is leprechauns and ants."
"Armadillos love ants," RJ stated smugly.
"I wonder if that's why we haven't had ants in the house for a few months." I narrowed my eyes, "If you kill the armadillo, you could upset the entire ecosystem surrounding our home."
RJ sighed. "Make up your mind, no ants or no plants."
"Fine. What are you going to do with the armadillo if you catch him?"
"Have Rudy shoot him."
"Great. Our 82 year-old, trigger happy, squirrel-shooting neighbor is going to be the executioner." I whacked at the base of my Artemisia arborescens 'Powis Castle' with indignant vigor.
"You want the armadillo to disappear but you don't want to get your hands dirty."
"Yup," I tossed over my shoulder as I headed for the house with an armful of artemisia. "The only dirt I want on my hands is dirt."
"What are you doing with the artemisia?" RJ asked.
"Trying a new recipe."
"The only thing you can make from artemisia is absinthe."
"Exactly. I'll need a strong drink for my first armadillo killing."
"You don't really know how do to make absinthe, do you?"
I smiled and walked to the kitchen, arms carefully wrapped around my treasure.