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2011 06 07 shaggy dog?

        The woman I live with ~ not to fear, I have a license. . . . Whenever she sees an advertisement for a nature guide or another, she sends for the first free volume offered. I'm up to the gums with encyclopediums! On page one of every nature encyclopedia: Aardvark.
        Dutch colonists named this animal of South Africa in the seventeenth century. They ignored its African name and called it aarde ~earth, varken ~pig: earth-pig. The English thought to improve with ant-bear. It is neither pig nor bear ~ though it does burrow into the earth, and it may eat ants. . . .
        A large aardvark may weigh 140 pounds. Since it eats primarily termites ~ which build very strong nest-mounds as high as twenty feet and so hard a pick-axe is needed ~ the aardvark has a stout, heavily muscled body, and strong clawed legs. It is strong enough to give a good account against such formidable attackers as leopards and lions. But its first line of defense is to run away, or to dig in. It is a superb digger!
        It is able to bore its way through the hardest soils at astonishing speed. It will literally disappear before your very eyes, scooping with the forepaws and pushing dirt, rocks and boulders out with the hind legs in a steady stream about two feet in diameter. And arcing some twelve feet in the air. It digs so fast that it outstrips a team of six men with spades.
        Little is known about aardvark habits because it is a nocturnal animal ~ coming out to eat only at night. It may go long distances for food but is shy and secretive. Years can be spent in Africa without seeing one. Often the only way to know they are in the countryside is by finding the burrows in which they live and rear a single young.
        The entrance is large enough for a small man and some tribes hunt them in this way: One crawls down into the hole armed with a short spear. If he's lucky he'll find the animal before it starts to dig and fill the tunnel with soil, when the hunter gives up. If he comes to it he kills it, and taps in the tunnel to let his comrades locate him by sound and dig down to find him five- or six-feet below the surface.
        One of the most remarkable things about aardvarks is the difficulty zoologists have had in finding it a place in the scientific classification of animals. First it was known as: Orycteropus afer. Classified as a mammal in an insectivorous division of Edentata. Dentist,... dentata, . . . e-dentata ~ no teeth. No front teeth only, actually. It was thought to occupy an intermediate position between the armadillos and ant-eaters. Now, from the order of Edentata (the toothless ones) it's been placed by itself ~ in the order of Tubulidentata (the tube-toothed) because of the fine tubes radiating through each tooth. These teeth are in themselves quite remarkable, for they have no roots, nor enamel.
        The aardvark is out on an evolutionary limb, a species all of its own with no near living relatives; it is perhaps an evolutionary dead stump ~ the last of its line. Its basic anatomy is unlike all other mammal families and gives no clue to its affinities. No extinct link in any order is known from fossils.
        The aardvark must be of ancient lineage, for the most recent kind of extinct animal with which the most conservative expert will link them existed in the beginning of the age of mammals sixty million years ago.
        Various races of fossil aardvarks have been found across the globe. It was not long past that archeologists discovered remains of its culture ~ a finding that shook science. Partial structures, an enormous number of artifacts, . . . have established the existence of an extensive Aardvarkian civilization. New exquisite form and decorative pattern set fresh standards for art.
        The most important find has been that of the Aardvarkian Scrolls. Unearthed on the shore of Lake Chipewayan, the deciphering of the 'Chipewayan Varken Writing' showed the philosophical underpinning of Aardvark civilization.
        It has become unmistakenly clear that it encompasses an ethic that human intelligence has not thus far been able to attain. It establishes a new standard for human achievement, in the light of which all of peoples' assumption and beliefs will have to be re-examined.From this time forward all we do must be judged by whether or not it conforms to the teachings of the Chipewayan Varken Writings and ~ ultimately ~ whether it can be said our efforts are in a true aardvaricose vein.