From Our Farm to Your Table

Cacti, Rodeos, and Armadillos

Sun, 2019-03-10 21:00 -- Carole Soule
Rudy-dillo in front of the Alamo

It was warm for February...but not for February in Texas. Husband Bruce and I were down there buying a used truck.


  While my New Hampshire cattle were busy stoking their internal furnaces with costly hay, their Texas cousins were prancing and bucking around the show ring at the two-week Stock Show and Rodeo in San Antonio, where there is a rodeo for members of 4-H or FFA (Future Farmers of America). One competition offered is “Goat Touching” for ages 8 or younger. A young buckaroo rides a horse into the arena and dismounts a few feet from a tethered goat. The child must then snatch a ribbon off its tail (it's harder than you'd think), run across a finish line, and hand the ribbon to a judge. “Calf Touching” is for ages 9-12.

    Youths ages 16-18 ride bucking horses and steers, just like the adults, but on smaller animals and not on bulls. These kids are serious contenders, and interfering parents are not welcome. Rules are strict: Parents must stay out of it, and if they don't, the child is disqualified.

     A youth rodeo may seem exotic to a New Hampshire farmer, but as with our 4-H events in New Hampshire, the primary purpose is to “teach responsibility, respect and character,” as stated in the Lone Star Youth Rodeo Association regulations. So I think we're on the same page.

     Also exotic are the Texas flora and fauna. The prickly pear cactus grows prolifically in pastures. The stem, the base, and even the flowers are delicious. They are sold in stores under the name “tuna” or “nopalito.” But when a cow eats it, spines can lodge in her mouth. Eating becomes painful, and she could starve to death.

     And how about those armadillos? They are abundant in Texas – wild ones on the range as well as plush ones in gift stores. While it is illegal to keep a live armadillo as a pet, there is no limit to the number of stuffed armadillos one person can own. I acquired Rudy-dillo at the Alamo gift store in San Antonio and Alan-dillo in Fort Worth. They traveled uncomplaining to Hot Springs in Arkansas, the Kentucky Horse Park, and the Gettysburg Battlefield on the way home.

Rudy-dillo checks out his ride to NH The Prickly Pear Cactus

    Stuffed armadillos are fun, but real ones do serious work keeping the insect population in check. They eat larvae, scorpions, spiders, and other invertebrates. Sound like New Hampshire chickens, don't they? Unfortunately, when digging for food, armadillos create holes 3 to 5 inches deep. These holes are ugly in a garden but can be deadly in a pasture. A cow can break a leg by stepping in an armadillo hole, so ranchers are allowed to shoot them on sight. But that's not so easy because the critters only come out at night. I find them adorable...but then they are not a threat to my cattle.

    Even though the Texas winter is warmer and there is way less snow (yes, it can snow there), Texas is not where I want to live. After driving more than 2,000 miles, I'm glad to get back to New Hampshire where I can look forward to dealing with non-armored groundhogs, cattle dining safely on brush, and a summer significantly cooler than Texas offers. But thinking about the upcoming fair season, I wonder whether our New Hampshire 4-Hers would like to be grabbing ribbons off the tails of goats and calves. I mean, who wouldn't!?


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