Armadillo Terminator

A number of years ago, my beautiful wife Kendra’s magnificent Aunt Fran was a recruiter for Hardin Simmons University, situated in majestic Abilene, Texas. Her own three sons having attended Hardin Simmons, Aunt Fran was the ideal woman to tell their story of superior educational opportunities.

Aunt Fran loved her job, mainly because she believed wholeheartedly in their mission and purpose. But, as with every vocation, there’s always a downside. In Aunt Fran’s case, it was all the driving. Her position required that she tool all over the great state of Texas (and to parts beyond) to spread Hardin Simmons’ good news. She had this teeny little car. (I believe it was an Isuzu Impreza or some such, but honestly, it could just as easily have been a Toyota or Mazda. The point is, it was small and efficient, and apparently a joy to drive.)

One day, Aunt Fran was blasting somewhere through the Texas panhandle, across a desolate no-man’s-land populated primarily by mesquite. Oh, and also small critters. As is typical of that region of the State That No One Should Mess With, she hadn’t seen another car for probably 30 minutes or more.

She was barreling around a long curve, pretty much at full bore, when suddenly she locked eyes with a desperate creature: A lone (star) armadillo was standing, dumbstruck, smack in the middle of her lane. She only had an instant—not really enough time to swerve. And even if she could have swerved, it would not be possible to ascertain whether the creature had been appropriately trained by its armadillo momma what exactly to do in such circumstances anyway.

(I suspect armadillo madre likely smoked a little “wacky weed” with special rolling papers from time to time—or at the very least engaged in some other miscreant behavior—having never had the good sense to teach her precious armadillito that it was sheer folly to stand in the middle of the highway in the first place. In fact, if my own life experiences with armadillos offer any indication, I find it highly unlikely she was even married to her offspring’s daddy. Not that I’m judging.)

But all of that is I suppose irrelevant. Whether it was mommy’s lack of parenting skills or his own stubborn rebellion which placed him in that most unfortunate situation, results are all that matters. And the immediate result was that Aunt Fran plowed right over him at circa 70 MPH—although honestly it’s impossible to know for certain her precise velocity at the time, as she was mercifully slamming on her brakes.

She came screeching to a halt. Slowly, with great sadness, she lifted her eyes to check his condition in her rearview mirror. What she saw was a little gray ball rolling for several moments in slow motion, until his body finally came to a full stop, limp, arrested there in the center of the highway. Saintly Aunt Fran sat panting, her heart still pounding within her chest, her eyes locked on the motionless crumpled heap. And then it moved.

It wiggled just a little at first. Then he fully unfolded, clearly bewildered, and began staggering drunkenly toward the side of the road. Her heart sank. He was wounded. He was suffering. And she felt responsible. So she did what any merciful human being with the love of Jesus fully alive in their heart would do:

She cranked that little car into reverse, threw her arm up on the passenger seat, turned so she could see out the back window, hammered the accelerator, and plowed clean over the top of him again, this time going backwards. It was the right thing to do, of course. It was pure mercy.

Wha-bam-FWUMP! Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump!

She screeched to a stop again and watched out the front windshield, waiting. Again he rolled. Again he fell limp and lay still. For much longer this time. And again he twitched. Again he unfolded. Again he began to stagger. Only this time more desperately. With greater conviction. Very likely wracking his tiny armadillo brain, thinking,

“My…God! Who IS she?!? What did I DO?!? She’s trying to KILL ME!”

Did he owe her money? Was she part of the Jackrabbit Mafia who controlled this region of the panhandle? Was she being initiated into a gang? “Why, God? Why?!?”

And of course Aunt Fran knew: “The poor little thing! He’s just going to suffer and suffer and drag himself off somewhere into the mesquite and die a horrible, painful, long death… Unless…
I can get to him first!”


And she steamrolled right over him a third time, mashing the brakes once again as soon as she had cleared him…checking the rearview.

But this time was different. He made it! She caught him in the mirror clawing desperately into the brush. Apparently, he had escaped her murderous intent. Or so he thought…

She backed up to where she thought she had seen him leave the road, got out, and searched all around for him. She says it was because she just felt so bad for him, and she couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering. I don’t know what she was thinking she was going to do. I mean, did she have a baseball bat in the trunk or something? Was she planning to just finish him off?

I picture him crouching under a mesquite bush nearby, still able to see her, tucked just out of sight, panting, bleeding, sobbing softly, trying to keep quiet, thinking,

“Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygod! Please-please-please-please! Why? Whyyyyyyyy?”

Fortunately for both of them, Aunt Fran never found him. She got back into her little car and continued on. And the question that haunts her—haunts us all, really—it is in fact the question that drives us:

If Aunt Fran had run over him just the one time, would he have survived?

DISCLAIMER: This is a story told from memory, without first conducting my usual rigorous interview process, which I routinely use to maintain historical accuracy and veracity. For this reason, I reserve the right to one day revisit this topic for corrections. I’m actually going to see Aunt Fran today, so I’ll run it by her and see how she remembers it.

What’s the most vicious, pernicious animal you’ve ever attempted to off with your car? (Let’s assume they had it coming.) Have you ever been to the Texas panhandle? If so, for the love of God—why? How do you think armadillos have survived the Interstate onslaught?

16 Responses to “Armadillo Terminator”

  1. Mom October 8, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    Do you have any recollection of the bunny in the Datsun curb finder, alternately screaming and flapping the pavement as the car moved forward?

  2. Brannon October 8, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Yeah…that was actually in my list of stories to tell. But now I guess I can’t. :(

  3. Cissa October 8, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Have Mercy! What a way for me to wake up in the morning! Yep, been through the Texas Panhandle, but only to drive to Oregon. Ran over a Rattle snake once. I had a nature lover sitting next to me begging me to pull over to see if it survived but I feigned deafness. I have no thoughts on the armadillo.

    • Brannon October 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm #


  4. Bea October 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm #

    One of your best works, Mr. Golden!!! Belly laughed

    • Brannon October 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Liz October 9, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    this bothers me: circa 70 MPH – circa is really more of a time thing, not a velocity thing… The story was wonderful fun though, I certainly felt for the armadillo – and do wonder why their mother’s don’t teach them stay out of the middle of the road.

    • Brannon October 11, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

      That’s precisely why you want to keep a Physics guru handy at all times. (I’ll refrain from pointing out any grammar or misspelling issues in your Comment. ;-D )

  6. Cooper Strange October 11, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    Seeing that you not only mentioned mesquites, but properly referred to them as bushes (as we all thought they were 80 years ago), I wonder if this story might have been less in the Panhandle and more in West Texas.

    How about a black cow? My family has a fine heritage of black cow incidents.

    • Brannon October 11, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

      I did receive some minor adjustments from the damsel in question from the story. I have yet to address them. But yes, she said it actually took place in west Texas, near the old house in Ty (sp?).

      How is it possible that I haven’t heard any of the black cow stories?

  7. Melissa Brown October 11, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    I’m pretty sure Kendra’s Aunt Fran helped recruit me to attend Hardin-Simmons University & I don’t remember her being mean at all! Quite the contrary…small world.

    • Brannon October 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

      Wow! That’s amazing! I didn’t even know you went to Hardin-Simmons. And yes, that would be her.

      By the way, she IS extraordinarily sweet…to humans. It’s armadillos she has it in for. Truthfully, one of the adjustments she wanted me to make was that she was sobbing pretty much the entire time this whole incident took place, feeling just awful for the poor creature.

      You know…the one she murdered.

  8. Aunt Fran's friend Carolyn October 13, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    But she is such a caring soul!! Should I leave a message for the possum that comes to visit my porch each evening when it should watch out for her? Thanks for good chuckle. Love this Strange woman!!Carolyn

    • Brannon October 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

      I don’t know her position on possums. To be fair, she puts out corn to feed the deer and draw them right up to her back porch. And if I had had a bow with me this weekend…

  9. Cooper Strange November 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    Black cows? Oh yes, they have it in for the Stranges. It took a whole burnt offering of a 1982 Plymouth Arrow pickup, but I must have made them think twice in the last known black cow encounter for our family back in 1999. I tossed her neigh on 100 feet.

    • Brannon November 8, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

      I prefer not to get involved where the issue of race seems to play a significant factor.

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