A man in the third row raised his hand, and Susan called on him. An assistant quickly hustled over and handed him a microphone.
The man stood, took his baseball cap off and scratched his balding head. The tan line showed he rarely took the cap off, and the deep color difference showed he spent a lot of time outside. Susan looked over the hall, more people were wearing baseball caps than were not. A few cowboy hats as well. But not many.
“What is it–”
A feedback squeal caused the microphone to painfully assault the ears of the entire Grange Hall while the same assistant quickly adjusted the controls to the speakers that lined the thin wooden walls. The man in the cap waited patiently, then spoke again when the assistant gave the thumbs up.
“What is it called again?”
“Glyptotherium Texanum,” Susan answered. “A type of Glyptodont once native to the entire southwest. Mostly Texas, Arizona, and Florida.”
“And you have some of these things?”
It was hot and stuffy in the hall, no air conditioning. Why bother? It rarely got used more than an hour or two in any given week. But the hall was full today, over a hundred people adding their body heat to the April Texas mugginess. Folding metal chairs had to be requested from the church down the street, so the front six rows were of one brand, and the back six were a different style. Every window was open and the breeze that occasionally blew through was very welcome.
“Yes. We managed to create a set of artificial wombs large enough to incubate twenty of them. And found compatible intestinal bacteria in current Priodontes species in order for them to digest grass, seeds and leaves. We have them in an enclosure in Yuma, Arizona. Six of them have now been bred, raising our total to thirty-four.”
“Well, why the hell did you do that?” someone in the fifth row shouted out.
“Shut up and show some manners Walter! Wait your turn,” said the man standing with the microphone. He then turned and faced Susan again. “Apologies Ma'am, and while I got the microphone, I’m a bit more interested in how the hell did you do that?”
After the nervous rustle of laughter ended, Susan responded, “It’s pretty impressive really. We have hundreds of partial skeletons, and several bog and tarpit preserved specimens including quite a bit of DNA that we were able to coax back into stem cells. And our great find, we uncovered a preserved female Glyptodon, and we were able to recover over thirty egg masses that we replicated with lab equipment. The offspring were healthy and viable.”
At that, the man sat down, his expression unreadable.
The hall assistant–Is his name David? Susan asked herself. Yes, that’s right.–David ran over to the place where the man had been standing, retrieved the microphone quickly, and handed it to Walter who was already standing.
Walter was elderly, and his wrinkles revealed that he spent most of his time in the Texas sun.
“Now it’s my turn,” he said, “and I’m gonna ask again! Why the hell did you do that?”
Susan smiled nervously.
“Glyptodonts used to eat a variety of grasses, bushes, tree nuts, and shrubs native to the Americas, quite a few of which depended on the Glyptodonts to propagate. There are over thirty species of edible nuts and seeds that once thrived across what is now a desert. The Glyptodonts had some unique digestive systems that made them perfect for processing nutrition from these seeds, while passing them eventually so they could grow again in their substantial manure. We want these plants to thrive again.”
“If you wander over the Texas scrub, you will see a lot of old trees and bushes that are now several hundred years old, but no new ones because they needed to go through a Glyptodont gut before it could make a new plant. It’s doubtful any surviving trees actually followed this path, but the evidence points strongly that they evolved along those lines. Without some sort of megafauna, they will all become extinct.
“The desert we are in right now used to be a lot wetter, and full of plants perfectly adapted to these conditions, but they needed a large grazing animal, bigger than a bison, able to swallow the equivalent of a cantaloupe whole.”
Walter spoke up again.
“So I’m going to be blunt Ma'am. You are asking us not to kill these things if we see them? These giant armadillos the size of cars?”
“Yes, that’s right. We plan to release them into the wild within the year. Within sixty miles of this hall.”
At that the entire hall erupted.
Walter spoke up first.
“Ma’am? I’m just going to say this straight: I’ve got my own shotgun. If something like THAT comes onto my property, it ain’t leavin’.”
Susan had been expecting this.
“I’d like to point out that that would be illegal.”
“And Ma’am? I’d like to point out I’ve got my own backhoe as well. Good luck finding what happened to them.”
Mutterings of agreements began to swell.
She said, “I’d also add that these will benefit the land in a large variety of ways. They will naturally deposit manure randomly in the scrublands. They tend to roam a great deal. And will spread across a large part of the land, acting like Johnny Appleseed spreading grasses, trees and vegetation as they wander. These are gentle creatures and not a particular threat to your livestock.”
Walter spoke again.
“And Ma’am, I’d also add they will ignore electric fences, and push through anything not set in cement and rebar, eat a raspberry bush like the thorns don’t exist, and have skin thicker than a Rhino!”
At that, the crowd turned and looked at him. Walter pulled out his smartphone.
“Wikipedia! I looked the damn things up during the slideshow,” he said.
The crowd turned back to face Susan.
Susan continued, “They will thrive in the deserts around here turning them into gardens wherever they roam, as long as they can roam a bit. They could travel a hundred miles over the course of a month. Part of the deal I’m asking from you is to let them. Their feet will ignore cattle guards, those metal poles over a pit that a cow won’t walk on, so they will tend to wander in and out of your pastures without needing you to do anything. Adding more of those cattle guards instead of fencing, might be more effective in the long run. You already tag more of your cows with a GPS ear clip, so they won’t wander far off your property.”
Someone else yelled up from the audience.
“Ma’am that ain’t helping your case, that’s still gonna be dozens of fences these meat tanks plough through. What happens when they decide somebody’s flower garden tastes better than these grasses and weeds you hope they will eat instead? Not much chance to shoo off something three times as heavy as a bear and covered in armor, if it decided to eat your cabbages!”
“They tend to be slow, but they do travel long distances and they avoid obstacles. They won’t be pushing down too many fences. Only the ones they don’t notice. Barbed wire and electric fences mainly.”
At that the muttering grew louder.
Another voice from the crowd replied, “Ma’am, three quarters of the fences in Texas are barbed wire or electric.”
“True. But you do realize that’s why desertification has increased, right? The restriction of herd animals is causing natural grasslands to erode at terrifying rates. We have to have a return to roaming. Buffalo, cattle, and, yes, Glyptodonts must be allowed to graze in the scrub, either by moving them directly from field to field which helps, but does not cover enough unclaimed land, or by reintroducing something that doesn’t care. Ignoring fencing is not a bug, it’s a feature.”
Another rancher stood up, half the people in the audience were standing now. He had to speak loudly over the muttering.
“No Ma’am, anything that busts our fences without noticing ain’t gonna be welcome on our property,” he said emphatically
She sighed. “Let me put this another way. They reach maturity in four years and need to raise their young for the entire time. They show signs they can age to thirty or so, we aren’t sure. They breed in litters of four to six, so they grow relatively fast for such a large land animal.”
Someone else responded.
“So these things will triple in number every four years, and you think that’s a good thing?”
Several people rumbled in agreement.
Susan had to speak up, even with the microphone on, “They can likely be bred to mature faster, but we don’t see a point. Although you might.”
“What the hell do you mean by that?” Walter said.
Susan continued, “They are docile and domesticate easily. We can turn them away from those ‘cabbages’ with a garden hose or a loud noise. A guy with a broom in a Glyptodont’s face will easily chase them away. They can share a field with cows just fine and prefer to eat the things the cows don’t like. The hides are very tough and durable, similar to alligator or rhino with interesting and marketable patterns and colors. The bone is dense and would work well as a replacement for ivory. They thrive in wasteland scrub and turn it back to prairie and forest land over time. There is no apex predator right now that can take one down. You don’t have to feed them and they find their own water just fine.”
She paused before she said her last bit, her ace in the hole. “They taste fantastic.” Susan spoke up to call her assistant.
Everything got quiet as David emerged from the the front door with a large picnic cooler. Stopping at every row to hand out tiny hoagie rolls with some sort of brisket on it. The smell permeated the hall instantly. Mouth watering.
It was ten minutes before anyone spoke as everyone ate their little sandwiches. There was no dissent. They tasted delicious.
Walter spoke first.
“Why didn’t you say so in the first place? How much for a breeding pair?”
Discussion broke out all over the hall. What kind of fences could keep cows in but let the damn things wander in and out?
They were discussing the feasibility of swapping the bottom of electric fence posts with a metal spring as Susan smiled and left Grange Hall.
One down, sixty more to visit, before the reintroduction began. This went a lot easier than she had anticipated. In fifty or so years, there should be enough Glyptodonts in the wild to start actually becoming a problem. But this should make a huge difference in turning the land from desert back into a very pleasant place.
Fifty years from now, when people see these giant armadillo’s as a regular thing, spotting them from the highway the way we do cows now. She smiled to herself.
When they become a pest, well, that will be her next phase. She needs the Glyptodonts. Needs them badly. So she can reintroduce her real target.
Laston lives in a small two bedroom apartment with his wife, three daughters and an old cat. He writes with one hand, gently holding the rest of the world at bay with the other. He's fond of tabletop boardgames and all things nerdy.
How to cite the above article in APA format:
Kirkland, Laston. (2013). After the presentation.
The Journal of Social Era Knowledge, Volume 1, Issue 3. Retrieved from
About the Artist:
Peter Gentenaar writes:
My interest in paper started while working as a printmaker, when my engravings had such deep relief, that commercial paper could not fill it.
I decided to make my own paper and was helped by Jo Persoon at the Royal Dutch Paper Factory, KNP. He taught me about beaters for making paper pulp and vacuum systems to suck water out of pulp, to make paper. The laboratory beater I used was unable to process long fibers, so I built a beater of my own design.
A paper sheet is thin and strong and, reinforced with very thin ribs of bamboo, can be compared to a leaf. By beating pulp a long time, an extraordinary play of forces occurs during the drying process of my paper sculpture. The paper shrinks considerably, up to 40%, and the force of this puts the non-shrinking bamboo framework under stress, just as a leaf when it drys.
My sculptures start as totally 2-dimensional, colored sheets of pulp laying on my vacuumtable. The forms in my work are caused by pulp drying and shrinking in unison. The simplicity of the material, which is the carrier, the color, the texture and the form, in one, makes working with it wonderful and direct.
To bring paper art to the public and to be inspired by fellow paper artists, I instigated the Holland Paper Biennial in Museum Rijswijk and CODA, Apeldoorn. With friends, Pat and I have published seven books with the first seven Biennials.
To learn more about this fascinating artwork or to reach the artist, Peter can be reached through his website at the following URL: