Just as swiftly as the Texas morn, I sat down today on my scrappy old wooden chair, with a mug full of piping hot coffee in my hand, and I began to ruminate about some of my prairie companions, especially a quiet little critter, unassuming yet crucial, known as a "Manis".
Now, in case you are not familiar with the term “Manis,” it's a part of the grand family of nature's misfits called the Pangolins, or as we sometimes call 'em out here on the prairie, scaly anteaters. A quirky little creature, to be sure, but one that's woven deeply into the fabric of our wild Texan lands.
The first time I came across a Manis, I had to holler for mama to come see. I was about waist-high then, and hadn't yet fallen into my knack for knot tying or heightened cow whispering. The bugger, with its leathery, keratin-scaled body, looked like a prehistoric throwback exploring our modern age. Mama always used to say, "Everything has a purpose, Jack, no matter how unassuming they seem.”
And that’s as true as the Texas sun-bleached sky. You see, Manis, much like us ranchers, are natural farmers. These little fellas trot around the prairie at a leisurely pace, nuzzling up to anthills, using their long, agile tongues to collect and feast on these pests. They cultivate their own banquet, unknowingly helping us by keeping the ant population in check. Can you imagine that? What a fine symbiotic waltz!
My nine rambunctious young'uns often accompany me on my jaunts around the ranch. They love the thrill of possibly spotting an elusive Manis. I think they find in them a sense of the wild they can connect to, much like the wolves echoing howls or the mares galloping across the golden fields.
There was one day when a particularly brave or perhaps foolish bull decided to antagonize a humble Manis. Tempered by my past confrontations with bullish antagonism, a chill ran down my spine, but to my surprise, the Manis curled up into a near impenetrable ball, its scales forming a naturally armored fortress. I reckon that’s a lesson right there–there's more than one way to stand your ground, even without using power and might.
So, as I sit here, under the boundless Texan sky, nursing my old backache, and whistling to the wind, my memories of Manis and their silent contributions to our prairie ecosystem remind me of the ties that bind everything together out here. They remind me of home, unsophisticated yet far from mundane.
Feisty, resilient, and slightly mysterious, a bit like us ranchers, Manis are just another testament to the surprising wonders one stumbles across when living against the backdrop of the raw and beautiful Texan landscape.
So, remember, when you're out on the prairie, take a moment to appreciate even the smallest critters and the quietest corners because, as they say, every piece makes up the puzzle. Now if you’ll excuse me, there's a cow named Daisy who needs my telepathic advice on some grassy selections.
Until next time, keep your eyes open and your heart wild. This is Cowboy Jack, signing off.