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Discovery Magazine 10/1/1994

Little Town on the Prarie

by  Brad Bromling, D.Min.

Allen scampered along the dark underground tunnel looking for his brother and sisters. He thought about how much fun it was to be a black-tailed prairie dog. He remembered how his mother had told him that God had made the tip of his tail black. He swelled with pride when he thought about it, but he didn't stop to look at it now--he was too excited. He raced along the tunnel to his nest where he tackled his sister Amber. They rolled around wrestling on the hard dirt floor. Allen said, "Guess what Sis? Mom says now that we're seven weeks old, we can go outside of the burrow with her!" "Really? That's great!" Amber replied.

"Zachary! Miranda!" she called. "Mom says we can go outside today! Come on!" The four young prairie dogs raced along to find their mother. She was waiting for them at the end of the tunnel. "Come on my dears, we've got to climb up this tunnel to get outside." They climbed up the steep tunnel behind their mother and came out blinking into the bright sunlight. "Wow! It's awesome!" Allen said as he gazed at the prairie dog town all around them. There were prairie dogs everywhere. Some were eating grass, some were standing up looking around, some were digging holes, some were barking at each other and others were just sitting around in the sun.
"Wee this is like a slide!" Zachary called out as he slid down the steep volcano-like hill around their hole. "Be careful Zachary. Don't knock all the dirt off our hill." called his mother. "We built this hill around our hole so we would have a high lookout post and to keep flood waters out of our burrows. You must take good care of it."
"Mom, why are some of the prairie dogs standing up so straight and looking around everywhere?" Miranda asked. "They are watching for other animals who might want to eat us, like coyotes or bobcats or hawks." her mother replied. Miranda shuddered.
"Come on kids, I want you to try some of this good grass over here." mother said. As they were following her to get some food, they noticed another prairie dog approaching them. All of a sudden the other prairie dog and their mother dropped to their bellies and crawled toward each other. When they met, they kissed each other and then groomed each other before the other prairie dog ambled off toward their hole. 
"Mom, how come you kissed that other prairie dog?" Amber asked. "That was your Aunt Rose." her mother replied. "Whenever we meet another prairie dog in our territory, we kiss them to find out if they are a member of our family or a stranger. If it had been a stranger I would have told them to go back to their own home." 
All of a sudden while they were talking, they heard a shrill bark from one of the other prairie dogs. "Get back in the burrow, hurry!" their mother yelled. They all dove deep down into the burrow and ran along the tunnel to their nest. "What happened Mom? Why did we come back into our burrow?" Allen asked. His mother answered, "One of the lookouts saw a coyote coming."
"Mommy I'm scared" cried Miranda. Her mother hugged her. "It's okay to be scared. We all get scared sometimes. There is a lot of danger above ground. That's why God created us to live together in families and towns, so we could look out for each other and take care of each other. Now come on, dry your tears and let's go tell Daddy all about your exciting day.

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