Speaking of badgers, I once spent some time with one, in South Dakota. I was camping with a friend, not far from the town of Badger, and I here confess that neither of us was any good at camping, and every night we had trouble setting up the tent, and making campfires, and the idea of actually cooking over the campfire remained a distant dream, which is why we resorted to sandwiches, although one night we did try toasting sandwiches over our feeble flickering campfire, which did not end well, and produced mostly charred shreds of sandwich, which may well be what drew the badger.
He or she joined us during the night; I slowly grew aware of a pronounced chortling and snuffling either in or immediately outside the tent, but the tent was so poorly erected that I could not be sure, and also my tentmate snuffled and grumbled a good deal also, mostly about my poor camping skills, so I was unsure who or what was making the riveting noises either inside or immediately outside the tent. After a while I distinguished the sonorous snoring of my tentmate from the chuffing and muttering outside the tent, and I stepped outside to see who was making all the noise, which sounded very much like the sound an aggrieved uncle poking into the refrigerator after a holiday meal might make if he discovered there were only scraps of turkey and pie left. An aggrieved uncle, in that situation, would make a harrumphing annoyed disgruntled sound, the sound you make when you are poking around in the basement for the saw that was absolutely right here not three days ago but which is certainly not there now despite firm and articulate instructions from the owner of the saw that it is not to be borrowed for any purpose whatsoever without specific written permission followed by a three-day waiting period while your application is reviewed, and that is exactly the sound I discovered coming from what looked exactly like a large silvery throw-rug nosing around the fire for sandwich shreds.
I realized quickly, even in the dim light, that this was almost certainly not a throw-rug that had come to life, and that it was probably a badger, although you never saw a badger that looked more like a large disheveled rug in your whole life. If you had a rug that used to be thick and white, but which had suffered the slings and arrows of fate over the years, and had never been properly washed, and had begun to fray and tatter at the edges, and had been rushed headlong through the wilderness so that it had accumulated twigs and bits of leaves and even some pebbles and old teeth, and sap or jelly or blood had coagulated in a couple of places and created snarls that would have mystified Houdini, and then the rug had been given hundreds of dust baths, and been used by a clumsy matador, and then been set upon by a Lutheran with an attitude, then you would have a rug that looked exactly like this particular badger, although this badger had a small pointed head, which few rugs have.
I said something insipid to the badger, probably about sports, as I recall, and he or she glared up at me and then hurried off into the darkness, looking unbelievably like your bedroom rug deciding suddenly to go downstairs and see if there’s any pie left from dinner. So that was the end of the time I spent with a badger. Since then I have spent no time with badgers, not from lack of interest but more from lack of opportunity, and if ever I get the chance to meet a badger again, you can be sure I will not open the conversation with sports. The fact is, no matter what you think, or what odd sound you make deep in your throat like you swallowed a squirrel and now are thinking better of it, that not everyone is interested in sports.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland and the author, most recently, of a novella, Cat’s Foot.