Now, I know there are a few people who have heard the badger story before. Of those people, there are several who have suggested that I write it, and I have vowed to do so for…oh…about 4 years, give or take.
Now seeing that I have been neglecting this site like an exercise bike at Michael Moore’s house, I’ve decided to go ahead and tell the badger story. Enjoy.
To tell the badger story, first, I have to tell the story of the Oryx. Some number of years ago my Dad bought into a ranch in South Texas with some other partners. This ranch was bordered by a ranch that specialized in raising exotic animals. One day, the owner of that ranch contacted the owners of our ranch and said “Hey – if you see a giant white cow-like animal with big ass black horns coming out of its head – don’t shoot it. It’s my stud oryx, and it’s a really expensive animal.” Of course, the other members of the ranch all said, “we won’t shoot your oryx.”
There were signs on the walls of the house. In the hunting stands. In the bathroom…they basically said:
One would think that the message was pretty obvious. Yeah, one of the member’s idiot kids shot the Oryx. For those members of the ranch who knew this particular idiot kid, this was not a surprise. Nor was the kid’s story of the oryx “charging” him and claims that he was just protecting himself.
I learned a valuable lesson from the oryx: if you see an animal that you have no idea what it is – don’t shoot it. Not only could it be expensive, it could really make you look like an asshole to all of your dad’s friends.
So fast forward 6 or 7 years from the oryx incident. I’m on another ranch in South Texas during deer season. I was admittedly nursing more of a hangover than I cared to deal with in pre-dawn hours, so after I dropped a couple of buddies off to hunt, I parked my truck in a quiet little spot and took a nap. I woke up with about an hour of time before I had to start picking people up, so I decided to drive around a section of the ranch where no one was hunting, just in case there was something worth seeing. Little did I know I was on my way to a date with the devil.
As I was driving through a particularly thick section of woods, I happened to glance up to my rearview mirror and saw what I can only describe as a doormat running across the road. “That’s curious,” the rational side of my brain thought. “36 minutes to bacon, leave it alone,” the hungover side of my brain said, suggesting that I should just keep on moving. To this day, I will never argue with the hungover side of my brain, ever, in any way, for any reason.
So, of course, I backed up to where I saw the doormat waddle into the woods, and before I can even put the truck in park, what I can only describe as “17 pounds of hate and discontent” came flying out of the brush. The noises that came out of this little ball of fury were somewhere between a roar and the noise I imagine a demon with a chest cold would make when coughing. All I could see was claws, teeth, and fur attacking my driver’s side tire like my tire owed it money. My hand flew to the pistol in the holster on my hip…
And then I remembered the Oryx…
Now, you’ve got to remember, this was before the internet was available anywhere you might find yourself. I couldn’t just Google “what the hell is this angry little bastard eating my BF Goodrich tire?” I just knew that if I shot this animal that there would be some dramatic repercussion. I decided to go for scare tactics.
I very slowly opened my door, with the thought that whatever this hellspawn was, it might be afraid of movement, or people, or a boot. Nope. “Hateball” as we will call him, gave zero shits about anything other than eating my tire and being pissed off. When I opened the door, he just looked up at me with that angry little face, hissed, and went back to chewing on my tire. I started yelling at Hateball from the safety of the cab of my truck with my head out of the window. I’d like to think I scared him just a little because he waddled around the front of the truck. I sighed a sigh of tentative relief, right before I heard the telltale sound of a tire popping on the passenger side of my truck.
“Oh HELL NO!” I said as I jumped out of the truck, way before a rational thought could make its way to my brain. I came around the front bumper, and there, not 8 feet away, was Hateball. “Ohhhhhh Shit…” was all I could manage to say.
The alpha-male in my brain stepped up and told me to fight back. I stomped my feet and threw my hands up while yelling obscenities. Hateball snarled and scuttled a foot closer. Letting me know exactly how many teeth he had, and how big his claws were.
Any wind that had built up in my “you’re a big scary man” sails was immediately blown out. I’d never seen something so full of reckless, raw, live-wire anger. I took a step back…
The road I was on was slightly elevated, and I more or less slid sideways -away from my truck, as I tried to scramble to safety. I had no choice, I just went with it. Hateball moved like water over rocks. I stumbled, hungover and terrified. Between glancing over my shoulder at what I thought at the time was certain death, and trying not to run into a tree like some idiot in a horror movie, I saw my salvation…
In this particular part of South Texas, there are a lot of cacti. Not the cute little cactus you can put on your desk. Not the towering cacti that you see in the deserts of California and Nevada. I’m talking about giant, house-sized bundles of green pads and needles:
The thought didn’t even really germinate in my mind, my body just said, “this might work!” The next thing I know I am crashing into the cactus patch, apparently with the notion that there is no way that Hateball would be nearly as stupid as I was. I’ve never been more wrong. Hateball came into the tangle right after me.
Now I was dressed in jeans, boots, long-sleeved shirt, and a fairly heavy jacket (pretty much exactly like the guy in the picture). I thought at first that I might be okay against the needles of the cactus because of my heavy clothing. That thought lasted about 3.1 seconds which was the time it took those needles to find the weaknesses in my clothing…like my legs, crotch, wrists, neck, face, and hands.
I managed to make it through the back of the giant cactus patch looking like a very well used pin cushion, Hateball hot on my heels. I actually felt the swipe of a claw hit the back of my boot. I leaped into my truck, thankful that most of the cactus spines were in the front of my body, and managed to drive on a quickly deflating tire back to the ranch house. All that tire slime I’d put in my tires paid off because I was pretty sure that Hateball followed me at least halfway across the ranch.
I parked in the driveway of the house, and one of the other hunters who had already made it back came out to find me standing in the driveway with my arms outstretched from my body, whimpering, not at all unlike Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story” when he is all dressed up by his mother, and bleeding from what had to have been 19-20 thousand holes.
“What the hell…” was all my buddy was able to mutter in pure awe.
What came out of my mouth in response was less speech and more just a guttural expression of pain.
He immediately started helping me get out of my needle-ridden jeans. Believe it or not, taking your clothes off when you’re covered in cactus spines actually helps get them out of your skin. It’s also a sensation similar to removing a body-sized band-aid that’s been stuck to you for 24 days in the sun. And that was just the big ones. Cacti also have little fibrous spines that are too small to even pull out with tweezers. It’s a sensation similar to what I can imagine rolling around in fiberglass insulation might be like.
While he was helping me strip, he kept asking me what happened. Through winces, curses, prayers, and gasps I managed to tell him about “Hateball.”
“It was black, and it was as wide as it was long, it had a head full of teeth and limbs that were more claw than paw, and it was evil…” I ranted. The more I went on, the worse it got. “I’m pretty sure it cheats on its taxes, hates babies and puppies, and shows up to parties and drinks everyone’s beer and never brings his own…”
Very patiently, my buddy helped get the last of the big cactus needles out of my neck, and too casually said: “Oh, a badger.”
“A badger?!” I exclaimed, “There are badgers in Texas?!”
“Yeah”, he said with the same impassive voice. “Why didn’t you just shoot it?”
“Well, I didn’t know what it was…” I said meekly, “and I don’t know if I could…”
This seemed feasible to my buddy, and although he laughed at me, he understood.
The truth is, I was fairly convinced that as angry as that little ball of hate was, shooting it would have just pissed it off.
I spent the rest of the weekend getting laughed at, taking hot showers to try and relieve the nearly constant itching from a million pinpricks from cactus spines, and patrolling the ranch with the sole purpose of finding Hateball and killing him. Of course, I never saw him again….
That badger taught me a couple of lessons about life. The first of which is: at some point in your life you are going to be faced with something so overwhelming and terrifying that even jumping head fist into a cactus seems like a great idea. The second lesson is: jumping into that cactus is NOT the answer. Badgers don’t give a shit about crawling through a cactus.