Cumberland's lighter side

Here's a column I wrote for the paper after we returned from the vacation.
-- Brad

A couple of weeks ago, I'd have told you that armadillos don't exist as living animals. That's because I'd only ever seen them on their backs, on the sides of interstates. In fact, I had a theory that they were all rubber, manufactured by Goodyear from used tires through some sort of recycling grant.

But they do live. They all, apparently, come from Cumberland Island on the Georgia coast. How they all sneak on the ferry to the mainland only to be run over by a Peterbuilt truck is anyone's guess. They're everywhere on the island proper, though -- on the trails, in your campsite, in your tent.

The true existence of the armadillo is only one of many valuable lessons I learned on a recent vacation to the gorgeous, isolated national seashore. Among the others:

• There are clear signs that you've been attacked by a snake, per a poster tacked up at Cumberland's Sea Camp headquarters. Those signs are "bites" and "pain." There are even more troubling signs that you've been attacked by other wildlife, consisting of "bites" and "bleeding." Those are good to remember, in case, you know, you forget actually being attacked by an animal.

• The spiders you can see spanning the live oak trees everywhere are called banana spiders. You might think this is to make them sound harmless, but it's actually because they're as big as bananas. Also, the names Giant Spiders of Death, Wild Hog Bloodsuckers, and Spawn of Shelob were deemed bad for tourism. (I'm not sure what these spiders really eat. Clearly, not mosquitoes.)

• The nearby city of Folkston, Ga., boasts "Train Watching at its Best!" on highway signs at its bounds. I don't know which is nuttier, making that claim, or knowing that there's another city close to Columbus that might challenge it.

• When given a choice, sharks prefer roadways to open water. How else do you explain the preponderance of shark teeth on the sides of the shell-paved roads at Cumberland? Rangers will tell you the teeth are dredged from the water along with the sand and shell. Hogwash, say I.

• And speaking of hogs, I learned that there are ninja pigs. When my wife and I were riding bikes north on the main road, we stopped when we heard a bit of a stirring in the brush. She's looking to the side, where we heard the noise. I'm looking back at her, and I see two shadowy oinkers dart across the road behind her. I know what you're thinking: So that's how Miss Piggy learned karate.



Anonymous said...

Funny you mention the elusive "live" armadillo. I've driven about a half million miles on North American highways and camped extensively and I have only ever seen two alive. One surely died after my viewing, though; as I straddled the Pizza Hut delivery truck over him to spare him a crushing wheel he incredulously jumped straight up just before my crossing, which resulted in a deadly thud on the bumper of the truck. I have since heard someone else report this jumping behavior.


Brad said...

Yeah. My good friend Susan says they used to do this for fun in the Carolina low country. Their instinct is to leap when startled, which was great and all before cars came around...