Those Were The Days

The Midnight Phantom


A brand-new house, a newly landscaped yard, and Jon’s first-time garden…things are looking up…but that’s when it all started…an unknown creature was invading our private domain and causing havoc!  Jon and I had been married for twenty-plus years, lived in five different homes, and never ever had a dilemma like this.  Our problem was every morning, we had these holes everywhere in the yard and garden.

Well, it didn’t take long to discover the identity of our intruder.  We asked our neighbor, Sam, who owned a farm, and Jon and I both swore that Sam knew everything about everything…He could tell you when it would rain just by looking at the moon; he could tell you how to win out in Las Vegas, when to plant a garden, and on and on.  Sam was wise.  Well, he took one look at our divots and said, “You’ve got yourself an…armadillo.”   

Oh great. Now, how do I get rid of an armadillo?  I can’t shoot him because we’re inside the city limits, and the police would haul me off to jail.  It was time for a sit-down strategy session. (Webster’s Dictionary defines STRATEGY as the science and art of conducting a military campaign in its large scale with long-term aspects.)  Yeah, that’s Jon and me…two frustrated people ready for a military campaign with long-term results.  It’s the armadillo or us!  And I don’t plan on being outsmarted by no armadillo!

Here’s what we decided to do:  We’ll get a trash can and drop it over ol’ Distructo, or perhaps throw a fish net over him and grab him, or if that doesn’t work, we will have shovels handy and hit him over the head, knocking him out.  Another plan would be to build a trap and lure him into it with a bunch of grub worms…armadillos love grub worms. 

Okay, now how do we spot our little critter, which we have named “The Phantom” because we have never seen our adversary?  The first week was chosen because there was a full moon shining.  We began sitting out on our raised deck (four feet high) each evening from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., but our phantom never appeared until after we went inside.  The second week, we took turns, but our little critter never appeared. 

Then came the third week; it was time to change our strategy.  Since I had a daytime job, it was decided for Jon to sleep out on the deck under the starry sky.  That afternoon, we ran string with little bells attached all over the garden so when our little phantom entered the garden, he would hit the bells, causing them to jingle, which in turn would awaken Jon, who would then awaken me by pulling on the string that ran from the deck through the house to our bedroom and attached to my right big toe.  We would then jump out of our beds, grab the lightweight trash cans, sneak up on Mr. Phantom while he is busy destroying our garden, and place one of the cans over him.  Hey, is that a great plan or what…Minimum movement…minimum noise…maximum results!   

So, we waited for the next full moon. Jon’s cot was on the deck, mosquito netting rigged over it, and trashcans rested at the edge of the deck.   For the dry run, the string was attached to my toe; Jon pulled it…tug, tug, tug; I tugged back.  Okay, it works!!  Excitement prevails…doom awaits one little destructive critter.

It happened…jingle, jingle, jingle…tug, tug, tug…I sit upright in the bed, my heart pounding!  It’s time to catch that little varmint…to war…to war!!!  I hop out of bed, all elated, pull on my shorts, slip on my Converse tennies, and head for the deck, thinking Jon would be anxiously waiting, but no Jon anywhere.  She’s probably spotted Mr. Phantom and is in hot pursuit.  So, I grab a trashcan and flashlight and head for the garden…Still no Jon, and not one sound do I hear.  I flip on my flashlight and move into the woods behind the garden.  I am whispering, “Jon, Jon, you back here?” Still, not one sound. 

So, after tiptoeing through the woods and not finding “nary a thang,” I knew Jon had to be in the front yard, probably sitting on her trashcan with Mr. Phantom trapped inside.  I pick up my pace and head around the side of the house.  This little armored creature suddenly appears, running full tilt and heading straight for me!  I react by dropping my trashcan and maneuvering into a crouch with my arms coming up, ready to catch the onslaught.  When I am ready to grab him, he takes a hard right and runs smack into our outdoor tools, leaning up against the house.  The devices go flying and falling everywhere.  I was about two feet behind him in hot pursuit and reaching for his tail.  Jon, in the meantime, has appeared running and hollering… “Catch him, catch him!”  I can sense she is all out of breath.

Just when I think things can’t get any more interesting…blap…Jon steps on the garden rake, and the handle flies up, hitting her smack across the forehead, knocking her out cold, and in the fall, she hits her head on the brick walk.  I didn’t see any of this, as I am still chasing Mr. Phantom and have moved into the backyard, determined to catch that ugly varmint. 

Now, I take great pride in staying in top physical condition.  I had continued to play basketball and jog in the off-season and was determined to be a hero for Jon.  After all, she depended on me to save her garden from annihilation.  I am trying my dead-level best to get my hands on this stupid critter.  It’s not easy, you know, to run in a squat position.    I ran first this way, then that way, with him changing directions every five feet.  We must have covered every inch of that backyard, including Jon’s Garden, four or five times, with me jumping over the jingle bells so I wouldn’t get tangled up in them. 

Finally, in total frustration, I made a dive for him, hitting him on his rump but missing his tail.  To my surprise, he jumped about four feet straight up in the air and then hit the ground running again.  I just lay there on my belly, wincing in pain, soaked in sweat, and gasping for breath!  It suddenly struck me that all is quiet.  Where’s Jon?  Why hasn’t she been participating in this fun chase?

The last time I remembered seeing her was her “rooting me on” around the side of the house, so I picked myself up and headed back.  …Oh my gosh! What’s happened to Jon?  She’s lying there silhouetted by the moonlight, spread eagle, and totally unconscious.  I knelt beside her and removed the rake.  I began shaking her, repeating her name, and tenderly slapping her.  Holding her in my arms, I repeat her name, “Jon, Jon.”  She starts to moan and mumbles, “What, what…what hit me?”  I helped her to an upright position and noticed her rubbing the back of her head.  I felt it, and sure enough, there was a big goose egg square on the back of her pretty little noggin and one forming on her forehead. 

We headed for the back door, and her only comment was, “Well, did you catch him?”  “No, dear, I’m afraid he got away.”  I thought she was going to hit me!  The next day, she went to the doctor with her unlikely story and bruises.  Between catching his breath from laughing, he told her she had a slight concussion and a black eye.

So, it’s back to the drawing board…. literally…you see, Jon and I took three years of mechanical drawing in high school.  Actually, we were in the same class.  More determined than ever, we decided to design and build the best armadillo trap ever created by human hands.

We mentioned to some friends what we were doing, and after they gained control of their laughter, they told us the city animal control had all kinds of traps for varmints.  So, the next day, Jon called them, and sure enough, they had just the trap, and they even came out, set it up, baited it, and that night, our little troublemaker was caught.  We were told when they picked up the trap, they would find a good home for Mr. Phantom.

By the way, Jon now has a collection of armadillo paraphernalia that has been presented to her as a reminder of that fateful night!!

Ahhh, those were the days!