Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Honey Badger = Chuck Norris

I can kill you with my brain.

I've said before that my favorite animal is the hippopotamus. Granted that though hippopotami are chunky and they can kill you with their little toenails, they have sunk to second in my estimation.

The new fav animal? The honey badger. Everything else comes a distant third or more. "Why do you say this," you ask. Because those things can just about write their own ticket. I imagine in a few years they will be. Those critters are smarter than a first year college student.
Isn't he sweet?

The other day I saw a documentary about the little cusses. In spite of every effort by the studying scientists to keep them penned safely inside, the warts got out and raised Cain. Strains of Trashin' the Camp from the Tarzan cartoon ran through my head as I watched them empty the refrigerator and rubbish bin in the scientists' bungalow. They raided beehives, easily enduring thousands of stings. They rumbled with hyenas.

At one point they even burrowed into the lion enclosure and picked a fight with some lions. I've seen them take on full grown cobras, get bitten, pass out for a few minutes, and wake up a couple of minutes later to finish biting the head off the snake.

These bat-flappin' crazy animals are also known by their Afrikaans name: Ratel. Their scientific name is Mellivora capensis. They live natively in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, mainly in dry, forested, or grassland areas. They are fantastic climbers and swimmers. They can live as long as a quarter of a century in captivity.

Come at me, loser.
These honeys are part of the weasel family and are related to skunks, weasels, ferrets, otters, and other kinds of badger. Like a skunk they have scent glands at the base of their tails for marking territory or if you scare the crud out of them, and are therefor a species of mustelid. Just noting that I don't want to meet that thing that can scare a honey badger in a dark alley. They are some of the most fearless animals on the planet.

Honey badgers stand about 9-12 inches tall at the shoulder, they're anywhere from 29 to 38 inches long with their tails being about 4 to 11 inches long. An adult male can weight from 19 to 35 pounds and a female 11 to 22. It's mostly black but has a wide gray-white stripe almost like a skunk that runs from the tip of its head to the end of its tail. It has wicked long claws great for digging or tearing things to pieces and a squat, strong body.
Say "Baby Bees."

You'd think that honey would be their favorite food with a name like honey badger. But what they really crave are the juicy bee larvae. They're rather like my son, though, and will eat almost anything that doesn't get away from them fast enough.
All these pictures look so warm and fuzzy.

These lovable fuzz balls (not) are generally nocturnal and hard to observe in their natural habitats. If they make their own burrows, they are around nine feet long and up to five feet high. They are perfectly fine with subletting from other animals, though. Who's going to tell them 'no'? You don't start a fight with a honey badger and expect to get the upper hand. With their strong skulls, loose skin, razor-sharp claws and nasty scent glands, you'd be completely insane. And shredded. If you hear their deep, ominous growl, you're in for a world of hurt.

Honey badger dads don't hang around. With a wife like that would you? In the six to eight weeks it takes her to have one or (rarely) two babies she could flay you alive for looking at her funny. By the time the little darlings are fourteen to twenty four months old they're just like their parents and ready to trundle off and bite the heads off cobras.

Gnoshing on snake-kabob
Have I piqued your interest yet? If not, get this: These animals are smarter than apes. Sure, an ape can use a stick to dig insects out of a hole. Woo hoo. Great tool-using skills. But check it out. Honey badgers can get out of almost anything using a wide variety of tools. I've seen them use bending tree branches, sticks, rocks they piled up themselves from all over the enclosure, dirt balls they made themselves, and carelessly abandoned rakes. If they're hunting for food, they can do the whole ape/stick thing to flush out termites. These little bounders are the epitome of resourceful!

There are some things whacked out enough to go up against a honey badger and win: lions, leopards, and the occasional hyena can take them down, along with a man with a gun. I personally would rather watch them with a telephoto lens from the inside of a van.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Snippet of my W.I.P.

This is a snippet from my current work:

The Girl With the Razor-Sharp Scythe

The clangor of the wake up bell roused me from a mere doze. I'd been exhausted, but the fear that my cell-mates would eat me in the night kept me awake for much of the night. Breakfast consisted of a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of water. No spoon to eat with. I would have kept mine, if we'd had them. I would have sharpened it to use later. We ate with our hands.
All too soon we heard the thugs coming back down the row. They opened the cages and shocked stragglers with what were probably cattle prods until they shambled into some semblance of a line. A woman stumbled and fell in front of me as we edged to the door. The trooper leaned down to shock her but I sprang in front of her.
“Cut it out,” I growled. “She just fell.”
“You want I should spark you too, lady?”
“Please. I need a pick-me-up. For some reason I’m so full of breakfast I just can’t seem to move.” I even said it in my best joking voice. I guess Mr. Happy didn’t get me, because he reached out with his taser stick and shocked me to my knees.
“Get up,” he yelled. I hated the names he then called me. They made me feel little and filthy.
I resolved never to favor him with my ready wit again. I climbed slowly to my feet. The whole thing had done what I wanted, though. The woman who fell was able to shuffle into line without another painful message. I caught a glimpse of her slight smile as we moved slowly down the line, awaiting our turn to board the big carrier trucks. I wondered how they got enough gas to move those suckers ten feet let alone clear out to fields beyond the city. How the heck had we missed their engine noise?
Finally it was my turn to be yanked up into the truck. The door slammed behind us, leaving us no escape, even if we could bring ourselves to jump out of a moving vehicle. I heard the lock clang into place, a death knell to my hopes.
The trucks drove up a long ramp for seemingly miles, the women swaying like sides of beef in a butcher’s van. No one spoke or even looked up. I opened my mouth to say something but the nearest cadaver woman glared to shut me up. 
After a while the ground leveled off. The truck continued driving for about forty-five minutes more, bouncing and jouncing over ruts and potholes and minor stones. A few times we stopped and then started up again, presumably to pick larger rocks out of the road. I remembered having to do the same thing ourselves.
At last we turned off and circled around, bouncing over the rough terrain. The vehicle stopped and our masters came around to open the back door. They slung us out into the chilly dawn, handing each of us a threshing hook and a bottle of water.
The woman I’d defended came up behind me and whispered, “That has to last you all day.”
I nodded my thanks and followed her out to a section of field. Each woman bent and began threshing and walking, making bundles of the ripe-eared wheat. I remembered something my grandma said once. I could picture her smiling at me, up to the elbow in bread dough. “Thracey, there are lots of things you can do with wheat. We used to chew the wheatberries for gum.”

Then she’d made me try it. At the time, I thought it was a far cry from Edge gum and turned down another mouthful. Not this time. Every so often I stripped the berries off a stalk and stuffed them in my mouth, chaff and all. I spit the chaff out as I walked. The guards frowned on talking. We wouldn’t have had much to say to each other anyway. Each of us wallowed in our own pit of despair. Except that I wasn’t that far gone yet. I looked for escape.
We threshed all day under a blistering sun. 
That one tiny bottle of water didn’t last long. Soon I was trying to drag the last smidgen of moisture from the bottom.