So we made it.

Dec. 21 has passed, and the world’s still here. Kind of a mess, to say the least, but nonetheless here.

I’m not at all surprised. The whole Mayan calendar thing was just another example of the runaway train that is the American media grabbing onto a subject and blowing it way, way out of proportion. Basically, it’s only because of misunderstanding and lack of information that anyone was even interested in the issue.

You see, the Mayans weren’t “wrong,” it’s just that their now infamous calendar differs from the Gregorian version we’re used to. I don’t pretend to fully comprehend how it worked, but I do know that rather than being based on the repeating cycle of a planet revolving around a star, the Mayan calendar was a linear projection and people who went end-of-the-world with it failed to take note of two crucial factors: It didn’t actually “end” on Dec. 21 (it actually continues on from there for who knows how long), but Dec. 21 was singled out as a point in time when some sort of cycle would end and a new one would begin.

Since no big change occurred last Friday, we’ll obviously never know what the Mayans were getting at. And of course, we can’t really ask them, because their civilization met the ultimate change several centuries ago.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

But while everything didn’t go poof last week, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in for clear sailing from here on out. On the contrary, there are plenty of people who are quick to cite myriad ways the world might meet its demise in 2013.

Some point to numerous potentially catastrophic events related to deep space, like great big asteroids, rogue planets having a close encounter with ours, giant

solar flares, and, well, you get the idea. And maybe someone in the space-doom camp will be right; if you really think about it, there are plenty of ways our puny little rock could be annihilated by what God has set in motion in space.

But then again, other people proclaim that the end will come via a manmade source, like the melting of the polar ice caps, the poisoning of everyone’s water supplies, or, of course, nuclear holocaust (not nucular – there’s no such word). And I guess all of that might be possible, which begs the question: which artificial calamity comes first? And will it be in 2013?

Now, I’m not making light of what lies ahead, because I can’t shake the feeling that we’re in for something big that won’t pretty – probably sooner than later. I don’t know what that is, and I have no date in mind for its manifestation, but I’m certainly not going to begin worrying about the laundry list of ways being presented that will bring about the end of world (either as we know it or literally).

Anyway, 2012 is about to be a memory and it’s time to move on to 2013. No more dates with three repeating numbers for another 88 years or so (you know, like 12-12-12), and no more references to the Mayans’ supposed prognostication of doomsday. Just another year with another set of problems – some that have carried over and some that will no doubt crop up along the way.

Personally, I plan to keep my eyes wide open and observe with amazement the blatant stupidity that will be touted as “solutions” to those problems, but I’ll probably also focus on some good old fashioned enjoyment along the way. I look forward to eating more terrific meals cooked by my wife, the self-proclaimed “one hit wonder” of the kitchen (she doesn’t think she does well trying to reproduce some of the creations she comes up with, but man, are those first shots delicious), and I’ll try to have some fun with my cool dogs Jamie and Gertie, my strange horse Sur, and friends who share life in a place I’m convinced occupies a spot on a rapidly decreasing list of places that are still worth living in.

By the way, I think we’re far enough into the century for everyone to quit saying “2-thousand” this and that when referring to a year. It’s easy: “Twenty-12” just ended, and we’re entering “Twenty-13.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

As part of my continuing effort to explore that which is unusual, funny, strange, aggravating or downright weird, I submit to you three brief musings. One is about a familiar animal, another is about a scary fish and the other is about – well, you decide.

Stubbornness personified

I was heading home the other day and when I reached my driveway, I came across an armadillo.It looked like your average armadillo, but I don’t think this was your average armadillo.

Now I realize armadillos aren’t known for their expertise at avoiding becoming road kill. To the contrary, they seem to be very adept at getting run over and ending up as upside-down roadway shoulder ornaments.

But this one was extraordinarily immobile when I approached him; it was as if he was oblivious to the presence of the pickup truck I was in that was now four feet away from his four-pound body.

He would take a few steps, stop, root around a bit and repeat, staying right in the middle of the downhill portion of the driveway we were on and right in the way of a ton of Detroit steel.

Each time he’d move, my truck and I gained a few feet of driveway. This continued for at least seven minutes as I patiently allowed him to do his thing and not get squished. Then he finally turned to his left and walked slowly into the bushes.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I think this armadillo may have been completely deaf and had absolutely no peripheral vision. I mean, there has to be a logical reason why he didn’t get out of the way, right?

One of my co-workers didn’t think so.

“He was probably just being stubborn,” she said. “They can be that way.”

So if that’s true, while I was courteously waiting and not mortally injuring him, he was actually saying (in an annoyed, George Costanza-like tone), “I’ll let you know when I’m done over here.”

Wow, excuse me. Stubborn to the point of choosing to remain in harm’s way; go figure.

Armadillo means “little armored one” in Spanish. Maybe that’s gone to their heads.

Maybe they’ve mistaken their armor for the kind that’s found on an M-1 tank and they’ve developed an attitude over it. But I’ve got news “little ones,” if that’s what you think, you’re sadly mistaken and the next F-150 you don’t get out of the way of may be the last one you ever see.

That’s not a threat. I just think you should be more careful around objects that outweigh you by 1,996 pounds.

There’s no telling what’s out there

To get the date exactly right, I’d have to look back in the archives of the White County News in Cleveland, Ga., but I think it might have been in 2004 when a boy caught a strange fish in Lake Lanier.

North Georgia’s Lake Lanier is similar to many lakes in the Ozarks; it’s a huge body of water backed up behind a dam on a river (which happens to be the Chattahoochee River). You may have seen the lake on TV; rowing events were staged there during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

The unexpected fish the boy pulled out of Lake Lanier while fishing off of dock with an average rod, reel and line was a pacu, a name used for several species of omnivorous South American fish related to the piranha.

Pacus have sharp teeth and can reach weights of over 50 pounds. The one the boy caught was about a five-pounder, which was probably a “pet” before it began requiring too much sirloin and broccoli and was dumped into the lake by its owner.

Basically, the boy was dropping a line to catch sunfish or whatever and caught a big piranha. In Georgia. In a popular swimming lake surrounded by homes.


The story inspired me at the time to write a column titled “A Call to Fishing Arms.” I wondered what in the Sam Hill else was in that lake and I thought maybe a Discovery Channel-like effort to find out was in order.

Anyway, all that came to mind the other day when I was shown a photo of a gigantic alligator gar that was caught last week near Vicksburg, Miss., by a man using a rod-and-reel who was trying to catch buffalo fish in a relatively small body of water called Chotard Lake.

If you have access to the Internet, Google “giant gar Mississippi” or something like that and you’ll be amazed at some of the photos.

The thing was literally a monster. It was 8-feet-5-inches long and weighed 327 pounds. It was estimated to have been lurking in the small lake for 50 to 70 years.

Lurking indeed.

It’s not like it needed to move quickly; when you go 8-foot, 320, and have a 20-inch tooth-lined snout, you probably don’t need to. You just lurk up, open wide and CHOMP.

And I can’t believe the gar’s conqueror’s description of how “it took a lot of effort to get him into the boat.”

Ya think?

Sheesh, that thing’s not getting in my boat; if I see it coming up at the end of my line, it’s cut and run time, baby.

The monster fish’s existence spurred a conversation in our office about how there are probably other, way stranger creatures lurking about in oceans, lakes, rivers, sloughs and canals on this planet that would blow peoples’ minds to find out about.

I believe that.

If there’s a 327-pounder in Lake Chotard, what kind of alligator gar are hanging out in much bigger lakes and rivers? If a Georgia pacu reached five pounds before biting on a worm and ending up high and dry, are there others in southern waters that are nearing the high point of their possible weight?

And if a supposedly extinct coelacanth that had been “walking” around on the bottom of the Indian Ocean near Madagascar can be pulled up in a fishing net, what else might be living in the waters that cover 70 percent of this planet?

And do we really know for sure that there isn’t a “Nessie” in some 1600-foot deep lake in Siberia?

It’s enough to make you stay on the shore. Where are Brody, Hooper and Quint when you need them?

Who’s ready for snotty rocks?

I have always found it to be amazing how much real life can sometimes rather suddenly resemble a science fiction movie.

There’s an article in the Messenger of last week’s Houston Herald that documents the latest aquatic “invasive species” we need to be worried about.

Called Didymo and nicknamed “rock snot,” the stuff is apparently a species of algae that’s native to many parts of the world, including North America. It likes warm, shallow water in lakes, rivers or streams, and when it grows too much, it can form a thick mat on the bottom that can and will pretty much choke out other life forms that attempt to share space.

Rock snot has apparently been found in the White River in northern Arkansas and the Missouri Department of Conservation is concerned enough about potential spreading that public open-house forums are scheduled for March and April to help educate anglers and boaters about its dangers.

Great. Rock snot.

It’s not enough that the world might be on the verge of some sort of economic catastrophe or an ideological clash of unprecedented proportion. Now we also have to be concerned with being overtaken by Martian river bottom slime.

Wikipedia describes didymo as a diatom, or single-celled algae, and that “the life history of diatoms includes both vegetative and sexual reproduction, though the sexual stage has not yet been documented in this species.”

If I understand that correctly, rock snot could be a plant AND an animal – but we’re not real sure on the animal thing. Yikes. Sounds to me like we are not alone.

I don’t care what it is, I cannot believe I haven’t heard about this stuff before and I do not want to see it show up in the Jack’s Fork River or any other stream in Missouri. Or in anyone’s lagoon, for that matter.

Oh well, maybe Planet X will arrive soon, a complete polar shift will take place or sun spot activity will immediately turn all of the inner planets into char-broiled rocks.

Then we won’t have to worry any more.

Doug Davison is a writer, copy editor and advertising representative for the Houston Herald. E-mail: