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July 30, 2014

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Return of Willie Nelson’s armadillo prevents ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’

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Willie Nelson’s missing good luck charm armadillo sits next to the Nike shoe box it was returned in Tuesday, April 2, 2014.

Willie Nelson's Armadillo Recovered

Willie Nelson performs during his concert at Lake Las Vegas March 31, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Map of Westin Lake Las Vegas

Westin Lake Las Vegas

101 Montelago Blvd, Henderson

Matt Boland’s phone rang at midnight Monday. It was folk-legend Willie Nelson’s road manager with a demand so strange, it sounded like an April Fool’s joke.

Someone stole Nelson’s stuffed armadillo during his show Monday at the Lake Las Vegas Westin, and he wanted to know who.

Boland, the hotel’s marketing director, knew the call wasn’t a prank. He had seen Ol’ Dillo, the band’s faithful straw-stuffed mascot, hanging out on the stage during the concert. He’s been the band’s good luck charm and travel companion for the past several years.

The call set off a hunt that sent the security team scrambling to find who kidnapped Ol’ Dillo. They were ready to “Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer).”

Westin officials watched security footage of the concert, pleas went out on social media promising immunity in return for Ol’ Dillo’s safe return, and Boland talked to guests in the hotel lobby for clues. No one knew the culprit, but some saw him the previous night, drunk in the lobby clutching the armadillo and bragging.

Call him “Crazy,” but Ol’ Dillo always seems to find his way back with Willie and family.

This wasn’t the mascot’s first kidnapping. A concertgoer snatched him during a show in Westchester, N.Y., before returning him soon after.

This time, minutes before Boland dispatched the security team to watch hours of hotel security footage for the rodent, he saw a man arrive at the hotel’s valet with a size-13 Nike shoebox.

The man looked hungover.

“He says, ‘This needs to go to Willie Nelson,’” Boland said. “‘This is very important, and this is not a joke.’”

Boland looked at the box and read the note scrawled in marker on the top: “Please return to Willie Nelson. Very important.” He wondered if the man – was it “The Troublemaker”? – was playing a joke, but then Boland opened the shoebox.

Inside rested Ol’ Dillo, the one-pound good luck charm, unscathed and safe at last.

Before returning Ol’ Dillo to Nelson and his band, Boland thought the mascot deserved a brief vacation. He set him up for photos around the hotel, showing him on kayaks, at a wedding and a nap on the beach.

Once rested, Boland bought him a one-way trip via UPS to take him to San Diego. It’s “On the Road Again” for Ol’ Dillo.

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