Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Can Music Charm Kangaroo Rats?


Could the soft soothing music from Tony Feathers' guitar be luring in our new friends?

©Bert Gildart:  Whether it was the superb guitar playing, the warmth from our night fire, or the small pieces of peanuts we had apparently dropped on the ground I can’t say for sure, but one of the factors must have been responsible for the stealthy appearance of one of the desert’s most secretive creatures.

Though Janie and I have seen kangaroo rats as we’ve hiked the various deserts environs, we’ve never seen them at our feet – crawling over our boots, scampering across our hands. But that’s the way it has been the past several times we’ve sat around one of our cheery fires.

Curiously song writer and guitar player Tony Feathers has joined us on each of the nights, so maybe it has been the soft sounds of his instrument and voice that have coaxed in these mysterious creatures.

He plays frequently on Public Radio and at coffee houses in his home state of Tennessee, so I’m not going to sell this possibility short. He’s good, and the rats could have been mesmerized.


Another factor, of course, is the warmth from the fire. Perhaps the light from the fire has helped drawn them in. Possible, I suppose, but with their large, light-gathering eyes I doubt the fire improved their vision, so more than likely because the fire has lured us out, it is something about our presence that has drawn them in.

From our presence there is the possibility of food, and perhaps they’ve learned that. We chow on peanuts as we sip our wine, and when we chow on the peanuts, we inadvertently drop hulls. Still, it’s amazing that these timid creatures will forsake their desert ways — even for the chance of some free food.


Kangaroo rats are extraordinarily well adapted to this life in which they’ve been placed. Look again at their eyes, which are huge and excellent for gathering light. Then look at their huge hind legs, the source of the name. With these powerful legs, they spring long distances, soaring in huge arcs from one life-saving hole to another, chased sometimes by a coyote – and, yes damn it! — sometimes by the cats that some RVers allow to wander free from their campers.

But back to these charismatic desert denizens… look at their extraordinarily long tail, which enables them to adjust their trajectory in mid air with a powerful flick.


With their huge hind legs Kangaroo rats can leap long distances and then, with their long tails, even change the trajectory of their flights.

There are yet other adaptations, and most have to do with the conservation of water. Scientists say their kidneys are extraordinarily efficient, capable of extracting life-giving moisture from tiny seeds. That’s just for starters, for scientists have tabulated many features that go on for pages.


Those, at any rate, are some of the characteristics of the visitors we’ve been enjoying the past couple of nights as we sit around our warm campfire listening to Tony Feathers play his guitar. So fearless have these creatures become that I actually had one crawling over the palm of my hand. They’re fastidious little creatures and because of the trait some people have actually tamed them as pets.


Tug of War


We, however, like them where they are and will try and do our part to keep them wild, not always easy to do. The other evening I saw one of our new friends creeping toward the hull of a peanut. Trying to reach it before the small rodent did, I succeeded only in tying with the tiny animal, which resulted in a small tug of war.


Large eyes placed on the sides of its head provide these tiny rodents with ample light-gathering capability.


“Kangie” won, and we all watched as the animal bounded off into the night. Several nights later, it returned again, but this time with several of its friends, all of whom we tried to ignore. That, at any rate, is a summary of another of our evenings here in Pegleg, America.




Organ Pipe



2 Responses to “Can Music Charm Kangaroo Rats?”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Ah, I remember the Kangaroo Rats last year. Sitting at a picnic table talking into the evening our troupe noticed something moving around beneath us. A head lamp was directed toward the ground, and we found several of the little critters poking around for anything dropped from the evening’s meal.

    Of course, we might have “dropped” a few extra tidbits upon seeing them, and I snapped a few fun photos as well.

    Glad you’re still doing well out there Bert!

  2. History Safari Express » Blog Archive » Spring ‘stream reading: Bert Gildart Says:

    [...] with friends, or listening to performers, such as their friend Tony Feathers, who has a knack of mesmerizing kangaroo rats with his music such as “Old Black [...]