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“ Yes, till pine mast falls."
“No 'taint. Them infernal camp hunters with their long-legged dogs, and horns, and shot guns, have drove all the deer out of these parts."
"Well, then, I hope you have plenty of fish in this stream I crossed just back ?"
“What, in that stinking black swamp ? No, sir, none but mud fish and alligators, and a man must be sort o’ short of provisions 'fore he eats such meat.”
“Well, now, my friend, I see your land is miserably poor; you can raise nothing; you have no water to drink, and I don't see any sign of cows to give you milk; you have no range for cattle or hogs; you have neither game nor fish; and this stinking swamp, as you call it, must make the location unhealthy; now, will you tell me what in the world there is about to induce you to locate here, or to remain in such a place ?”.
The gentleman's dignity was offended to think any one should be so stupid as to ask such a question. He lifted his long legs from the fence, looked over his field, so as to take in the whole view of dead pines; and waving
his majestic right hand in the same direction, so as to attract the traveller's attention, replied, in the most unanswerable manner“Sir! don't you see that light-wood is tolerably handy?"
THE PRAIRIE DOGS.
The most amusing and interesting sights of all we saw on the route, were the towns of the prairie-dog, which are to be found at different intervals along the whole course of the sandy Platte, and through several of which we passed. The first one we came to so astonished and interested us, that Huntly, Teddy, and myself, dismounted to take a closer view, while the trappers, being of course familiar with such things, steadily pursued their way.
The prairie-dog is above the size of a large grey squirrel, somewhat longer than a Guinea pig, of a brownish or sandy hue, with a heap somewhat resembling a bull-dog. Being of a social disposition, they collect together in large bodies, and build their towns on a gravelly plain, some of them being miles in
extent, and with a population equalling the largest cities of America, or even Europe. Their earthen houses, which are from two to three feet in height, are made in the form of a cone. They are entered by a hole in the top or apex, which descends vertically some three feet or more, and then takes an oblique course and connects with others in every direction. Their streets are laid out with something approaching regularity, and they evidently have a sort of police, and laws to govern them, not unlike those of superior and more enlightened beings. In some of the towns, a house larger than ordinary occupies a central position, which is tenanted by a sleek, fat dog, supposed to be the presiding functionary of the place, whose sole employment appears to be in sunning himself outside his domicile, and noting with patriarchal gravity the doings of his inferiors.
The town which myself and companions halted to examine, was one of the larger class, and covered an area, to the best of my judgment, of at least five hundred acres. On our approach, a certain portion of the little fellows ran to the mouth of their holes, and squatting down commenced a shrill barking, not unlike that made by a toy-dog-whereupon the pups and smaller-sized animals betook themselves with the utmost despatch to their burrows. A nearer approach drove the more daring under cover, whence they took the liberty of peeping out to examine us and occasionally of uttering a shrill bark, as a gentle hint that our company was anything but agreeable.
The food of these interesting little fellows consists, for the most part, of prairie grass and roots. They live a life of constant alarm—being watched and pounced upon continually by the wolf, the hawk, the eagle, &c. They are very hospitable to such animals as choose to come and live peaceably among them and the screech owl and rattlesnake are their constant guests; and it is not unusual, I was told, to find all three burrowed together in one hole. They are sometimes eaten by the Indian and mountaineer. Spending an hour or more in examining the town, we remounted our horses and soon overtook the trappers, Teddy observing as we quitted the village :
“Faith, your honours, but thim is queer bir-r-ds now, isn't they? Och! be me mother's hair! it's like they've bin down to St. Louey and got the notion in their heads, and think they can baat the city, the spalpeens! I'd like 'em to go an sae Dublin,