Javelinas in the Morning!

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Music, my father and love were the themes presented in my first blog post. In this, blog post, I am bringing my theme a little closer to my temporary home in Arizona by sharing an animal encounter I experienced on my first day in the desert.

While rattle snakes, free range cattle, baby squirrels, skunks, gila monsters, tarantulas, cardinals, owls, road runners, coyotes and a hedgehog named Henry all feature in the entire story of my desert animal encounters, for today’s brief blog post, I’ll start the longer narrative of animal encounters with a short reflection on my encounter with Arizona javelinas. In fact, this is where all my animal encounters actually began.

You say you don’t know what a javelina is? Well, neither did I until this first encounter removed my unfamiliarity. This dramatic encounter, on my first night in Arizona, proved to me – early on – that the desert night has its own world of determined nocturnal denizens.

The story unfolds when I arrived in Ajo, Arizona to rent an apartment from Ed and Charlene. Ed shares the same health condition as I do, Environmental Illness (EI), and he built a number of homes that are uniquely suited for people with this challenging illness. I’ll share more about Environmental Illness in another blog post but for the moment suffice it to say, this illness necessitated me moving from my comfortable life on the east coast to pursue temporary housing and long term healing in Arizona.

I arrived at Ed and Charlene’s house after a lengthy three day journey from Dallas, Texas. Dallas had hosted me for about two months as I sought treatment for Environmental Illness from a well known EI doctor there.

The last leg of the journey took me through the dusty desert of southern Arizona. When I arrived at Ed and Charlene’s house, as you might imagine, I was beat from a long journey. Having never visited the southwest desert before, I found myself a bit shell shocked, disoriented and downright weary from my late afternoon drive through the desert. The perceived desert emptiness seemed endless to me.

Ed and Charlene received their tuckered traveler graciously enough with a hearty meal and warm table fellowship. It was good to be among folks who were living vibrant lives and shared similar health experiences. After this satisfying meal, I was lead to my apartment and quickly prepared myself for sleep. I was bushed!

Prior to getting readying for bed, I went outside to my little Nissan Versa (Which I named Rocinante. No offense to Steinbeck.) and removed two large plastic totes, my sleeping bag and other travel items and placed them carefully beside the back of my car. They seemed safe enough resting there against the cement wall dividing Ed’s property from the neighbor’s yard. I thought everything was well secured for the night. Little did I know.

Get! Get out! Get out of here, screamed Charlene at 3:00am in the morning just outside the window of the room in which I was sleeping! I was sound asleep and her cries were more like distant sounds in a strange faraway dream than an actual call for alarm. I had been traveling hard and consequently was dead asleep. I never fully woke up to investigate the commotion and just rolled over and fell back asleep. Dead to the world.

It wasn’t until the morning that I realized the filthy and disorganized consequences of a javelina attack lay just outside my door.

Three or four stinky javelinas evidently came charging into the yard earlier in the morning and Charlene chased them away from the property and the goodies they encountered in my food storage totes. They also seemed to have fun with my sleeping bag which was left outside.

As I looked at my ripped apart plastic totes, rice cakes, almond butter and organic crackers strewn all over the yard, I knew something unexpected had taken place in the early morning. In addition to the mess, this havoc was accompanied by a filthy smell that was something like a combination of a wet skunk, a dirty gym sock and a musty bitter stench of old garbage rolled into one. This smell, along with a filthy black residue, was all over my totes and seemingly infused into my sleeping bag. Such was what awaited me this first morning in Arizona. I was not happy.

What had happened, I thought to myself? I knew I had encountered something unknown from my own experience but I had no idea what had happened. Then I vaguely remembered Charlene’s shouts from a few hours earlier.

Dazed and curious, I walked around to the back of the house where Charlene and Ed lived and gently knocked on the door. Charlene presented herself with a slight smile on her face and I, after saying good morning, asked, “What happened here last night?”
”Javelinas” she responded somberly. “Javelinas?” I shouted! “What in the hell are Javelinas?” I stammered completely confused by what they were but quite convinced I understood the consequences of their actions. She laughed.

Charlene couldn’t contain herself and let out a full laugh. “You don’t know what a javelina is?” she asked incredulously? Shaking my head, surveying the detritus filled yard and looking a little stunned she knew I had absolutely no idea what animal had attacked my food supplies the night before. For all I knew it could have been the infamous and mysterious chupacabra from Puerto Rico. Charlene went on to explain the javelina is an animal about the size of a large hog which looks like a wild boar or pig but is actually a giant RAT originally from South America. “A giant rat?” I thought. Yuck!  I was further amazed to learn it was not just one javelina that devoured my food and left a mess but several critters. Evidently, these animals travel in packs!

As it turned out these active night creatures, which Charlene had chased out of the yard at three am, are protected and it’s only legal to hunt them certain times a year. They have actually become somewhat of a nuisance in the small desert town of Ajo, Arizona. They will eat just about any garbage they can find and will surely break into food supplies left outside thinking they are snacks for the whole javelina community to enjoy.

I learned an early lesson on my first night in the Sonoran desert. There are indeed creatures lurking in the Arizona dark and it’s wise to leave no food outside for these roaming characters to consume! Moreover, what I initially thought was a barren lifeless landscape is actually brimming with animal activity!

As my encounters with animals have unfolded here in the desert, most were far more enjoyable! All have been educational. More on those in future blog posts! Have you had an interesting animal encounter? Please share your experience as a comment here! Thank you for reading! Until next month, wishing you all the best!

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22 Responses to Javelinas in the Morning!

  1. Great story Andrew! I have to admit that after 5 years living in AZ I actually didn’t know exactly what a javelina is (I’ve never seen one), so was glad to be both enlightened and entertained!

  2. Andrew,

    Thanks for the great story! When I think of javelinas, I first think of the outrageous smell! That was my first encounter – the odor of a pack of javelinas. Whew! Then I was lucky enough to drive by a couple different packs at different times. A quick drive by was ok, no smell, and just the impression of very large, but pretty quick on their feet, animals I had never seen before! The excitement of the southwest desert!

    Looking forward to more of your blog posts!!

    Kathy

  3. Enjoyed the story. I have a not as interesting animal (poop) story. I was in Greece several years ago; I went back to visit my grandmothers village. I was in the village for a few days and I couldn’t understand why there were what looked like blueberries all over the road everywhere. they were dry (it was summer and hot as heck) but they littered the roads in the village. I made a point of asking my grandmother when no one else was around what the little things that looked like blueberries were. She laughed and told me it was goat poop. Thank God I didn’t try to eat or smell them. I had to fly halfway around the word and travel to a tiny village in the mountains of Northern Greece to understand a little more about goat poop-and humility.

    Great post, thoroughly enjoyed it.

  4. That’s a great story!! I would be fine with almost anything there except spiders and snakes……..maybe scorpions too! The best thing about living here in NC, NO skunks!

  5. Thanks for sharing, Andy. Mom always used to say “some day you’ll laugh about this” whenever I encountered adversity, frustration or the like. It seems I can laugh quicker now knowing I am going to laugh about some day anyway. Keep the smile inducing adventures coming even when the smiling is long after the clean up is completed!

  6. “I love the smell of javelinas in the morning.”

  7. I have a high school friend who lives in Arizona and has talked and shared pictures of these Javelinas. Sorry for the damage they caused you.

  8. A few weeks ago, at about 10:30 p.m., my 80 pound Rottweiler started barking in a way I had never heard before. I was already in bed but I got up and looked out the window where she was focused. I saw a javelina headed into my carport. I went to the window overlooking the carport and saw the pack of what neighbors later counted as eight javelina. The sack of dog food that had been left in the carport was torn open and dog food was all over the carport. Knowing they would not leave until the dog food was gone, I opened the door. My dog dashed out and tried to run them off. She was more or less successful but got quite a few puncture wounds for her efforts. I don’t know if she hurt any of them. By this time all the neighbors were out, calling out the progress of the troop. I got the dog food inside, with my dog, in spite of her wounds, still trying to get out to get them. For over an hour, the pack ate plants and flowers, overturned garbage cans, and created general havoc along the entire block. My dog was a sick puppy for a few days but has now recovered. I can tell when she smells the javelina on our morning walks but happily we haven’t seen any since then.

  9. Hmmmm…a Collared Peccary! Interesting. I didn’t realize they were so smelly. Then again, back in caveman days they were more closely related to pigs. But they aren’t rats, although I realize some folks think they are – they certainly act more like rats! I did read that Arizona started issuing hunting permits about 6 or 7 years ago. Probably because the local preditors weren’t keeping up with the growing numbers. They sound pretty pesky. But still, very interesting. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for signs of them when I visit the desert in May.

    On another note, I enjoy your writing style. It flows nicely and I don’t find any “jarring breaks” in it that take me away from your story. Nice job, cousin!

  10. Andrew,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am looking forward to reading more of blog.
    Best wishes,
    Carol

    • Hey Andrew!

      Great blog! didnt know they were big rats! Boy oh boy do I remember those strange javelinas in Ajo and your story! I had never heard of them either. The worst encounter I had with them was when I saw a huge one chasing a young school girl who was running down the middle of the street, terrified. It was early for the animal to be out. You don’t see them usually until dusk. I was on my way to dump some food scraps in that place Ed and Charlene told us to for the javelinas to eat when I saw this awful scene. I immediately called to the animal and showed it the food I had in my hand and then tossed it and ran back to the house, yelling to my then 4 yr old son to get in the house now! Thank God the javelina listened to me, ran to the food and forgot the young girl. I yelled to her to see if she was ok. She just called back with a “thank you” and kept running. I can only imagine how that experience has haunted her. If that were me as a kid, I’d be afraid to go outside ever again! Wonder what he would have done if he was able catch up to her. Do they eat people? I don’t think so. Maybe she was eating a snack or something and he smelled the food. He was huge! Don’t like javelinas. Glad they don’t live here in Califirnia!

  11. Kirsten Coelho Sultemeier

    Ah, the Southwest is so amazing. It is rumored the infamous chupacabra lives in Texas also.

    Ron and I drove back roads from Texas to Illinois a few years ago. We were traveling to our youngest daughters wedding and were tent camping along the way.

    We found a lovely spot at Lake of the Ozarks State Park (or something like that) and heard strange noises all night. We looked out to see the largest raccoon we had ever seen. He had removed a 20-lb cast iron camp skillet, a 30-pound cooler full of ice and drinks and dug into the bottom cooler z he was sitting at our picnic table, carefully opening packages and eating our snacks, proving how he had gotten so large.

  12. Thank you everyone for your comments! I enjoy writing a blog very much. It’s particularly fun to have an interactive element as I especially like reading your comments! Thank you, again!

  13. I had never heard of javelinas before and thoroughly enjoyed the story! Thanks, Andrew!

  14. Thanks Andrew,
    I always love an animal yarn, particularly when I learn something new. Living in Australia we often encounter “different” but this creature sound Different!!!! Looking forward to more.

  15. Angelita Bandita

    Hi Andrew!
    I’ve been looking forward to this particular post of yours…knowing it was to be a story about animals. I enjoyed it very much! I have to admit that I was sort of expecting a soft, sweet, warm and fuzzy animal story. Haha! Javelinas?? Wow…what a way to welcome you to the Arizona desert, eh? 😉 The way you described their unpleasant odor…I could almost smell them! Whew-weee!! I hope that was your first and last close encounter with Javelinas!

    I’ve had some animal encounters, but none so entertaining as yours. :)

    Looking forward to future posts!

    Blessings!

    A.B.

  16. Interesting-wow!…There is a lot more than the amazing cacti out there!…. :)

  17. I just looked up the javelina… The naturalists say that they may attract predators such as mountain lions to your yard as well! Be careful about that! Did I tell you that I once saw a mountain lion in Shenandoah Nat. Park in Virginia?… That was amazing!… (but a bit fearful)… :)

  18. peter e. m. hunter

    Javelinas……… Do you know how long I have waited to see javelinas? Among all the other places you have seen and which I have been awaiting my release from this bondage? Again, nicely written…..