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Prairie Dogs, Pronghorns & Penis Sheaths

by Biff Spork

Chapter 14

A Prairie Island

The climate crisis is the defining challenge of our generation. Scientists are clear about the reality of climate change and we should be too. And with devastating storms, dangerous floods, melting glaciers, and rising seas becoming increasingly regular facts of life, it's more critical than ever that we face reality and get working on solutions together.


Our days' activities settled into a pattern. After breakfast we did campsite chores like washing dishes, charging what needed to be charged on the solar charger and fetching firewood. Then we gathered what we needed for our individual studies and trekked to our hill. Marcus had decided that he wanted first to map the entire town, and then to take a census by recording how many prairie dogs lived in each burrow. He liked to fly the drone, so he worked from the top of the hill to fill in the blank spaces on his map with the approximate location of burrow entrances. His next step was to hover above each burrow and count the residents as they came and went.

I was more interested in getting to know how the prairie dogs lived, what they ate and how they behaved with each other. I hoped that they would become used to me and unafraid, so I could sit down right in their town and they would go about their business while I watched. I guessed this would take some time, so on the first day I sat with my notebook and binoculars twenty feet down from the top of the hill. The town was spread out lower, a hundred feet away from where I sat. I planned to move closer every day, twenty or thirty feet, so that in three or four days I would be sitting close to the edge of the town. Though I was eager to get among them, I knew that if I rushed it and got too close too fast, they would probably not accept me. When I made abrupt movements, they noticed and stopped what they were doing, so I tried always to move slowly and as little as possible after I sat down.

Usually we arrived at Dogtown in mid-morning. We stayed for about two hours, then took a break for lunch back at the campsite. Every day seemed to be hotter, and the prairie dogs mostly stayed in their burrows during the heat of the afternoon. The increasing afternoon temperatures drove us to move our tent into the shade of a large tree so it didn't get so hot. Around four o'clock, the Dogtown residents got active again. So, like them, we started to have a nap after lunch, and go back for another couple of hours of observation in the late afternoon. Each time we returned, I edged nearer to the town before sitting down.

In the evening while supper cooked, we compared notes about what we had discovered during the day. After we had eaten, we called the parental people to assure them that we were still alive. Every third day, Anna and Jason visited and brought provisions. We donned kotekas for their visit but stayed nude the rest of the time. I found after four or five days like this, that I didn't even notice that I was naked. At first, when I went nude I was always a little shy, and felt like, 'Oh, God, I'm naked! Someone could see me!' It was exciting to be naked but hard not to be self-conscious about it. Then I got used to it and it was comfortable—it was natural to be naked in the hot, sunny weather. My body relaxed into it, as if a lot of some kind of fear just fell away. I also suspected that it would be easier for the prairie dogs to get used to me, if I was naked with them like they were naked with me, like all the animals and birds and insects and plants out there were naked.

Constantly out in the sun, after a few days, Marcus and I were deeply tanned all over. Marcus' brown hair bleached blonder every day. My black hair stayed the same and aside from my tan the only color change on me was that the end of my nose was pink and peeled from sunburn. Marcus worried about that and insisted on applying sunscreen to it every morning before we set out for our observation posts. Anna had made sure we had plenty of sunscreen, and sometimes we even remembered to apply it to each other. The soles of our feet were well-calloused from not wearing shoes, so we both felt comfortable walking around barefoot in the woods or out on the prairie.

Marcus had discovered that there were two types of burrow entrances, one that was built up like a miniature volcano, and another that was protected by a low encircling rim. The built-up entrances were often used by the look-out dogs as observation posts, since they were higher than ground level. But we guessed that both kinds of entrances would prevent the entry of groundwater during rainstorms, so the burrows would stay dry except for water that seeped down through the earth slowly. Marcus had done a rough count and calculated that the town was home to about one hundred eighty-five dogs. By now we could recognize the differences between males and females, and he wanted to do a second more detailed census that distinguished between males, females and pups.

Initially, I had concentrated on observing The Boss and his friends, Limpy and Ear-bit. But I added Big Mama to my roster pretty quickly when I saw her with her pack of babies, four in all, living in a burrow near the edge of the town that I was slowly approaching. Her pups were still nursing, sometimes all of them at the same time. She had at least four nipples on her chest and belly. When the pups weren't nursing they were a lot of fun to watch, and I ached to get close to them and see if I could play with them. I was also trying to learn what the prairie dogs were eating, but even with binoculars, it was hard to tell. It seemed a lot of their food was seeds from different kids of plants. But they also ate grass and other green stuff.

Limpy and The Boss both lived alone in their burrows. I was happy to discover that Ear-bit had two wives and one of them had three pups, much smaller than Big Mama's. Big Mama shared her burrow only with her pups.

All our discoveries were interesting and we both felt good about what we were doing. But after four days of steady observation, on the morning of the fifth day when we awoke, Marcus said, "Let's take a day off. Even real scientists don't work all the time."

"That's a brilliant idea, Marcus. I don't think I ever worked so hard at anything before and a day doing nothing is gonna be great. We don't wanna get burnt out."

"So," he said. "You got any ideas?"

"You know, what I'd like to do is just lie in bed here for a while and cuddle. We haven't done that for about a week."

"And then we can get up and have a swim and a nice slow breakfast. Maybe some pancakes for a change."

So we cuddled up again and dozed for a while. Then I took an hour and kissed him all over and explored all his parts. I got a little drunk on his smell and discovered that if I tongued his arm-pit in a particular spot, I could make him laugh like water gurgling down a drain. It was such a happy, funny sound it made me laugh too, and for a half-hour I pushed that button and we both jiggled helplessly. Every time our laughter subsided, I stuck my tongue into his armpit and that lazy, joyous laugh would well up out of his belly.

We wrestled in slow motion and growled bloodthirsty threats at each other, until hunger drove us out into the morning. Our division of labor had also formed a pattern. Marcus took care of the fire and the rubbish and I did the cooking and washing up. We weren't strict about it and often helped each other, simply because we liked doing things together.

We ended up eating brunch, pancakes and veggie sausages and fried bread with blueberry jam, all topped off with bananas and oranges.

"Now, my dear Bumper, how about if we spend the afternoon exploring along the river a little further, just to see what's there?" said Marcus as we finished washing the dishes.

Shortly afterward, we set off along the river bank. "If it gets too bushy we can go out onto the prairie," said Marcus. But the river bank was open and grassy, though shaded here and there by large deciduous trees, oaks and willows, and occasional thickets of prairie berry bushes. The berries were ripening and we feasted on them as we walked. After an hour we came to a place where the river seemed to split into two.

"It's an oxbow lake!" exclaimed Marcus. "I didn't know we had an oxbow lake on the property."

"Okay, Dr. Livingstone, explain what's an oxbow lake."

Marcus told me how a meandering river can form a tight loop where it nearly turns back on itself, as it winds its way over the flat prairie. Then sometimes when the distance across the neck of the loop is small, at high water the river bursts across the narrow neck instead of flowing all the way around. The result is a doughnut-shaped lake attached to the river. Marcus gestured a hundred yards downstream, where we could see the other end of the lake joining the river like a tributary.

I pointed across the arm of the lake in front of us and said, "So that's like an island over there? It's all surrounded by water?"


The oxbow lake was glassy clear and calm so we decided to swim across. It was about fifty feet to the island. It was magical when we climbed out on the shore. An island feels different from anything else, like a separate little world. I could see through the trees that the island was no more than a hundred yards from side to side. Treed around its edges, in its center was a grassy clearing warmed by the sun. We sat down cross-legged there, then lay down side by side. I reached out and grasped Marcus' hand.

"Let's have a little snooze here," he said. Lulled by the drowsy buzz of summer insects and the clacking of grasshoppers, I drifted into a delicious state where I was enveloped in a cloud of light and humming sounds, and everything was simply perfect.

I don't know if I floated like that for ten minutes or an hour but I came a little awake to feel Marcus' kiss on my shoulder. "You kissed me all over this morning," he said softly. "Now I claim my turn."

So I lay still with my eyes shut and felt his lips touch me first on my nipples then my navel. Then he kissed all over my belly and down my erect penis. More kisses traveled down my legs to my ankles and toes. I lay happily content. This was an act of love. Marcus was loving me.

He came up and kissed my ears and all over my face. I turned on my side and pulled him to me and we kissed.

Marcus," I said. "Do you think we can actually live like this? I'm so happy I feel like bursting, like I'm just going to disappear in a cloud of happiness. I don't know if I can ever be normal again."

"I am sure we can live like this," he said. "So long as we're together. You make me so happy, I don't know how I lived before I met you."

We looked down between us. Both swollen penises were oozing.

"It looks like we're getting too happy. Our little friends down there are getting all choked up," said Marcus. "Let's stroll back and have an early evening. What say you?"

As we walked back along the riverbank Marcus stopped and called me to come and look.

On an earthy stretch of shore were many hoof prints, sharp indentations like ancient cuneiform texts.

"These are pronghorn antelope prints," said Marcus. "Made recently. They weren't here when we passed by earlier. Let's walk out to the prairie. They may still be hanging around."

Careful not to make any noise, we slipped through the woods till we came to the open grassland. We saw fresh pronghorn dung in the woods but the prairie was empty to the horizon.

"We haven't had a good run for a long time," said Marcus. "Let's run back to our campsite."

Marcus and I both liked to run, and to run naked and free across the open prairie gave us a special kind of joy that lent wings to our legs. We set a steady pace and loped across the short grass like antelope. When we neared our campsite, I still had running in me and looked over at Marcus. He just pointed ahead and increased his speed. We ran past the campsite for another few miles before we stopped. We caught our breath, then turned and trotted until we reached the trail through the woods that led to our camp.

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