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Thu, Jul 31, 2014

WOODY: Pimpleback not just an insult anymore

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I received an urgent message the other day from a nature-watch outfit advising me to look out for the Cumberland monkeyface.

It also said to keep an eye peeled for the orangefoot pimpleback.

Both are among some 70 endangered species in Tennessee, and we’re not supposed to mess with them.

It was fortuitous timing because I was just preparing to fry up a pan full of pimplebacks for supper.

And I’m not sure, but I think I backed over a Cumberland monkeyface in the driveway the other day.

I’m kidding of course. I wouldn’t know an orangefoot pimpleback from Engelbert Humperdinck or recognize a Cumberland monkeyface if one ran up my britches leg.

I have no idea what they look like or what they do, and the story didn’t go into any detail. It just said to try not to run over one with the lawnmower, so I figure they must be important.

Out of curiosity, I googled them up and discovered they’re members of the clam clan. They live in water, which means they could be trouble-makers.

Remember, several years ago when a massive dam project on the Duck River was halted because somebody claimed it would disrupt the mating cycle of the rare Tennessee snail darter?

The darn darter took precedence over the durn dam.

When it was announced on TV that the dam was halted, Daryl the Darter phoned his girlfriend Darlene and said, “Good news: The prom’s back on. Pick you up at 7 o'clock.”

That was several years ago, and I haven’t heard any updates on the snail darter's lovelife. But the Duck River is still dam free and flowing, so I assume life is good in Darterville.

That is just one more example of how we humans are willing to share the planet with less-fortunate species that haven’t evolved to the point where they can erect skyscrapers, split the atom, and watch NASCAR racing.

We’ve all got to look out for each other. Take the plight of bats suffering from white nose syndrome, for example. Initially, we assumed the little fellows were just eating too many powdered doughnuts, but then came the troubling revelation that the white powder on their noses was a sign of a serious narcotics habit.

I’m kidding again.

Our bats weren’t snorting doughnuts, they were sick.

Haven’t you heard the expression, “As sick as a bat?” Neither have I, but take it from our scientists, the bats were feeling poorly, and that’s what caused their noses to turn white.

There really isn’t much we can do for bats with a sinus problem except provide them with lots of Kleenex and urge them to stay in at night and avoid damp, dark places like caves.

We can also grant them endangered species status. That means that if you’ve been thinking about crawling into a cave to whack a bat, forget it. There will no more bat-whacking.

The same goes for the Cumberland monkeyface and orangefoot pimpleback. We’ve officially hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their door.

Generations from now, we don’t want our great-grandchildren to look back and blame us for the extinction of the monkeyface and pimpleback. They won’t want to hear such excuses as, “But, we thought they were oysters.”

Unfortunately, we woke up too late to save some species, such as the passenger pigeon. The last one was eaten a century ago by a vicious little fish called the Tennessee snail darter.

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