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An older married wombat. January 20, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, wit and wisdom.
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Like our friend Ben, you may have seen yesterday’s headlines about the imminent extinction of the Tasmanian devil. For once, the extermination of one of our fellow species is not due to human encroachment on or polluting of their habitat, but to a fast-growing, contagious oral cancer that the devils spread by biting rivals for food or mates in ritualistic displays. Since it’s impossible to train the devils not to engage in this behavior, and the cancer has already wiped out over 90% of the wild population, the fate of the Tasmanian devil looks all but sealed. Poor Taz! We’ll miss you.

Heading over to my good friend Google to read up on Tasmanian devils, I discovered several of their relatives with which I was completely unfamiliar, including the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, which preceded the devil in extinction in 1936, and the various species of delightfully-named quolls. But what brought me to write this post was a reference in the Wikipedia article to wombats, one of the devils’ favorite foods.

Now, our friend Ben has been a friend to wombats from childhood, thanks to the New Yorker. My parents were devout New Yorker subscribers, and were doubtless chagrined to note that the only parts of that august publication that held any interest for the youthful Ben were the grammatical bloopers recorded in tiny type at the bottom of various pages, always accompanied by hysterical sarcastic comments from the New Yorker editors. Our friend Ben has no idea if these sterling examples of bad grammar (or bad thinking) are still featured in the magazine, but I adored them, and always managed to sequester myself with each new issue until I had found and enjoyed every one.

Alas, brainfade being what it is, I can now recall only one of these classic gems, but it managed to make an indelible impression on such brains as I actually possess. Excerpting a review of a recent performance of Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again, the alert editors found that the reviewer helpfully explained to his audience that the plot revolved around “a young man who had an affair with an older married wombat.” (And to think, this was before SpellCheck totally screwed up the English language!) The editors astutely remarked, “Who’d want him to come home?”

Shameful as it is to reveal this, our friend Ben loved the quote but failed to look up wombats and find out what they looked like or anything about them. I just assumed they were some sort of marsupial bat, presumably with an adorable, cuddly koala-like face.

However, brought face to face with a link to the Wikipedia wombat article, even our friend Ben had no excuse to continue acting like a sloth. Clicking the link, I saw my first wombat, not at all batlike, in fact, OMG, it looked just like a groundhog (aka woodchuck)! There was, however, a notable difference: The wombat can weigh up to 77 pounds and has been known to attack humans and bowl them over! (I’m sure Punxsutawney Phil would love that.)

Sadly, there is no mention in the article that Australians and Tasmanians gather on February 2 to see if the wombat sees its shadow, predicting six more weeks of summer. Maybe they’d prefer to avoid a broken leg or, say, a possible entanglement with an older married wombat.



1. Benjamin - January 20, 2011

I want a wombat. Would look good guarding the garden gate.

Maybe it would even keep the groundhogs away!

2. Alan - January 20, 2011

This explains so much about the writers of this blog… Thanks for the glimpse into the minds of MacArthur Award hopefuls.

Gulp, not sure what you’re implying here, Alan! I swear, I’ve never so much as looked at an older married wombat in my whole life!

3. scm - January 21, 2011

Would have read the book decades ago if I’d known this!

Ha! American fiction at its finest!

4. Helen at Toronto Gardens - January 21, 2011

Thank you so much for ending my day with laughter. The mind boggles (slightly) at imagining how the writer’s fingers managed to conjure up “wombat.” I suppose a woman is where the womb is at?

Ha! Glad you enjoyed it, Helen!

5. Jen - January 22, 2011

Haha – I suspect those New Yorker quips may have inspired you in some way. You do the same with your hilarious responses to the strange search words that bring people to your blog. I love those posts. You are one funny wombat.

Ha! Thanks, I think, Jen! Sadly, we haven’t done a “wacky searches” post in a while because winter seems to bring out the practical in people, and most of the searches we’ve gotten for the past couple of months have been perfectly reasonable (sob). (Except, maybe, “homely dog names.”) Hopefully we’ll be back with more wild and wacky posts soon!

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