Back in olden times I remember reading about prairie dogs in big sets of books called encyclopedias. The articles would feature photographs of the critters that must have been taken very close-up because they appeared to be the size of Ozark groundhogs.
When I arrived Phoenix in 2007, I finally got my first look at a prairie dog while sitting at the local Sonic and throwing pieces of my sandwich to the birds. Suddenly in the midst of the feathered scavengers there appeared a small furry animal about the size of a large hamster. He was sitting on his hind legs waiting for more of the sandwich. I asked the carhop about the little beggar, and she told me he was a prairie dog. "See that field over there?" She pointed. "It's full of prairie dogs. We feed them tater tots."
A few days later I was having lunch at the McDonald's next to the air force base where I work. I was sitting in my car at the edge of the parking lot looking out across a long, desolate ditch. I noticed several small hills of loose dirt in the ditch, and it wasn't very long before the little hamster-creatures began poking their heads out of the holes in the dirt piles. As I watched, they scampered about, playing and looking for the occasional morsels left by careless customers - or customers who could care less.
(Aside: With the mentions of Sonic and McDonald's, are you beginning to get some idea of the origins of my blocked arteries?)
My oldest, Nick, has been with me all week, and he set several goals during his visit - the most challenging of which was to get my backyard into a more presentable condition. The backyard has a weed issue, and it is home to several prairie dogs who keep it pockmarked with small holes and piles of dirt from their continuous excavations.
Nick declared war on the super-shoveling little varmints.
He started by leveling off the dirt piles, but before he could even get back to the house, the piles of dirt would begin to miraculously reappear. Then he began to water the yard with a vengeance, an act of war that did seem to slow down the rebuilding process. Yesterday evening after he ended his daily assault, Nick came in the house and we both watched an one of the industrious prairie dogs began clearing his tunnel - unfazed - for another day of life in the trenches.
Today I was doing something in the house when I suddenly heard Nick yell out, "Why you little rat gopher!" He was at the window watching as his brief victories from yesterday were quickly being obliterated.
The backyard does look better - but Nick has to leave in a couple of days, and the rat gophers are quite at home, thank you very much!
Why am I reminded of Caddy Shack?