Thursday, August 28, 2008

Of Prairie Dogs and Grackles

by Pa Rock

I may live alone, but I seldom dine alone - and that is especially true of the many meals that I eat in my car. I am known far and wide, particularly in the furrier and featherier circles, as one who shares his bounty.

My morning routine is to wheel through the local McDonald's just outside the gate at Luke Air Force Base and pick up a sandwich and a tall iced tea. Then I pull onto base, park in the lot next to where I work, and read from my "car book" while eating breakfast. And as I munch on my sandwich, I routinely tear off little pieces and throw them out onto the lot where my regular retinue of grackles and pigeons - and the occasional desert dove - enjoy their breakfast. One morning a scroungy old cat showed up and kept the birds at bay while he ate their food, but usually its the birds who get fed.

At lunch I often go to the local Sonic where I can park under an awning and put the top down while I eat and read. The birds there also know to expect me, and one old grackle will even march across my car hood raising a fuss if I am late dispensing the grub. Yesterday I had thrown out a good portion of my sandwich and was lost in my book when I noticed something odd in my peripheral vision. There scuttling around picking up the bread crumb offerings was a rodent-like creature. He looked like a large, grayish chipmunk without the stripe and with an extra-long tail. He was very relaxed and would sit still and pose while he ate. Today I asked the carhop what I had seen, and she said it was a prairie dog. She pointed to the adjacent field and said there were a colony of them over there. "We feed them tater tots." She added with a giggle. As she counted out my change, I watched another prairie dog scooting along the far edge of the parking lot.

When you feed the birds every day, you get to where you can recognize some of them based on their odd features. There is one truly ugly brown and white pigeon that shows up on base, at the Sonic, and even at Taco Bell. He recognizes my car and always coos expectantly while waiting for a handout - a handout that I am happy to provide. We are both sustained by the relationship!

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