Monday, January 1, 2018

The Ancestors

Prairie Dogs and Other Animals

When we first saw the prairie dog "town" on the McNamara place we were very interested in the fat little animals, but as we saw the damage that they could do we were glad that there weren't any on our land, but by fall we were surprised on morning to see three or four of the little hills that they made when they made their burrows, and almost overnight there were a dozen of the hills.  A group from the big town had decided to start a new town.  After the first dozen or more they seemed to quit coming and Clyde didn't do anything to get rid of them until the next spring, when he poisoned them with liquid gas put on corn cobs and into the burrows and the entrances and exits sealed up.  We never had any more move in on us.  That fall when Lloyd was out there he spent hours trying to shoot one, but they were too quick for him.  He never got one.
We missed the little owls though.  They sounded so cheerful.  But we had meadow larks the year around, and they sang all winter, too.  Sometimes it seemed like there was a meadow lark on every fence post.  Then there were cerleews, a large bird with a wing spread of nearly two feet.  Once when we were riding along, Clyde spied some baby cerlews beside the road and brought one to the wagon to show the children and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the mother bird flew a Clyde's face, snapping her long slender bill.  He put her baby down in a hurry.  I have read since that there are very few of them left.  There were chicken hawks to menace our nice big chickens in the summertime, too.

In the fall there were just millions of migrating ducks and geese.  Once in awhile a flight would light in our valley, but they mostly settled on the lakes ten or fifteen miles north of us.  Clyde used to take our dog Don with him to go into the water to retrieve the birds that he shot.  I had a big roaster that just held six small teal ducks or three big mallards or redheads.  I always pick the down off the birds and saved it for pillows.

Clyde had brought Don home when he was just a puppy when we lived back in Kansas.  He was a short-hair English pointer.  His mother was fine hunting dog and when Don was old enough Clyde used to take him down to Pottawatomie county to hunt quail with him.  He trained easily and I got my first demonstration of his skill one Sunday afternoon when we started up to look a the area that we were planning to build on.  We were horseback, Clyde riding one of the little grey team with Ruth on behind him and me riding the more gentle one with Dick in the big saddle with me.  All of a sudden Don made a point, nose straight ahead, right foot raised and tail straight out behind.  Clyde hadn't brought his gun, but he put Ruth on behind me and told me not to move, and tore back for his gun.  My horse stood still as Clyde thought he would and when he got back, Don was still standing in the same position.  Clyde walked up slowly behind Don and then Don too some steps toward the prairie chicken that was crouched in the grass, until the bird flew up and Clyde got it.  Then Don turned toward another chicken that he could smell and flushed it out.  He did this until he had raised eight birds.  When there were no more, he obeyed Clyde's order to pick them up and bring them to him.  I had never seen such work by a dog.  He wouldn't work for anybody else at first, but we had a neighbor, the young man who had drawn the section that joined outs on the north, who spent a great deal of time and our home and seemed like family to Don.  His name was Jim Matusy, a railroad man for Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Jim had built a little one room sod house, that he lived in the required seven months until he proved up on his land.  He loved our kids, read the funnies to them.  He made a deal with Clyde to let us run our cattle on his section in exchange for help in fencing his place.  Clyde had wire and posts enough to fence three sides of his section and our adjoining north fence served his, too.  We were expecting a carload of cattle in the spring.  Clyde wanted to run them on Jim's land during the summer months and use our pasture for winter grazing. 

*******Happy New Year to my readers!*******

1 comment:

  1. "But we had meadow larks the year around, and they sang all winter, too. "

    While reading diary entry, I had a feeling of déjà vu and recalled the meadowlarks singing in the winter in San Carlos, California. We could hear them singing as we listened to our high school English teacher.

    In this past week, I've noticed lively loud birdsong here. It sounds like spring, despite the below-freezing-cold days.

    If I haven't said Happy New Year already, "Happy New Year!"