Prairie Dogs, Pronghorns & Penis Sheaths

by Biff Spork

Chapter 12

Sunrise Surprise

The American Bison (Bison bison) is the largest surviving terrestrial animal in North America. They are typical artiodactyl (cloven hooved) ungulates, and are similar in appearance to other bovines such as cattle and true buffalo. They are broad and muscular with shaggy coats of long hair. Adults grow up to 6 feet 7 inches in height and 11 ft 6 in in length. American bison can weigh from 880 to 2,800 pounds. Bison are nomadic grazers and travel in herds. The bulls leave the herds of females at two or three years of age, and join a herd of males, which are generally smaller than female herds. Towards the end of the summer, for the reproductive season, the sexes necessarily commingle.

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We slept until early afternoon, lunched on instant ramen noodles and were back on our hill by mid-afternoon. The Boss gave an alert bark when we topped the hill and everybody paused until we settled down in our place. Then he gave what we now recognized as the 'all clear' signal and the town came alive again.

We wanted to get to know the prairie dogs as individuals, so we decided to give each one a name related to a distinguishing feature. One of the most frequent visitors to The Boss had a nick in his left ear. We called him 'Ear-bit'. Another regular caller had a distinct limp and became, 'Limpy'.

"You know," said Marcus after an hour or two. "We need another pair of binoculars and a couple of notebooks, so we can start to keep track of what's happening. I'm already starting to get a little lost when I try to figure out the families."

I had just realized that some of the burrows were not separate homes, but were actually second or maybe even third entrances for the same family's burrow.

"Yeah," I agreed. "We need to be able to map out the town while we figure out who lives where."

"Another thing," said Marcus. "These prairie dogs share this area with other animals, like birds, and some books about the plants and animals out here would be really useful."

I agreed and Marcus continued, "If you and me can live together then we could do home-study together. Jason and Anna could bring in a bunch of tutors for different subjects for us. It would be great to do it together, especially now when covid is screwing up the schools and a lot of kids are doing school at home. You'd like home-study—it's like this. When you find something interesting, then you just start digging into it until you understand it."

As evening approached, we trudged back to our campsite. I put a pot of rice on to cook and another of black-eyed peas with some dried tomatoes and spices mixed in. While these cooked, we sat and made plans for an expedition to the house for more supplies, and books and things we needed for our study of the prairie dogs.

Supper was ready to eat when we heard the distinctive 'beep, beep' of an ATV, and a minute later Jason came smiling through the trees. He had insisted on putting a GPS tracker in Marcus' pack so he would always know where to find us. He had brought a few more provisions and a phone. He said my parents wanted to hear from me and he and Anna were also a little anxious about us, that everything was okay.

We were happy to see him. I served him a plate of rice and beans, gave another to Marcus and ate my share out of the pots I had used to cook. While we ate, we told him what we had been doing and he seemed impressed. He pulled out his phone and made a list of all the things we needed for our study of the prairie dogs.

The phone he brought for us had a satellite link, so I was able to call my parents with no problem. I described how Marcus and I were studying the prairie dogs and might even write a book about them when we finished. I told my dad how all the outdoor stuff he taught me when we went camping was useful now that Marcus and I were camping. Then Marcus talked to them. Next, he called Anna and talked with her. Jason said rain was expected sometime during the next few weeks, so he would bring us some rain gear when he came back the next day. We walked with him out to where he had left the ATV and waved him goodbye.

The sun gave everything an orange glow from low on the horizon as we returned to our campsite. By the time we got everything cleaned up and put away, we were both yawning. I zipped up the door flap of the tent, folded myself into Marcus' arms, and was instantly asleep.

I could tell from the faint light coming through the walls of the tent that it was early dawn when I awoke. A strange sound had awakened me, a deep rumble somewhere between a cough and fart. I lay awake pondering the sound when I saw a silhouette move across the tent wall, the shadow of something big. Marcus was still asleep so I put my hand on his mouth and shook him a little. His eyes blinked open and I whispered into his ear, "Marcus, there's something big outside. I don't know what it is. Don't make any noise. I'll take a look."

I disentangled myself from Marcus, crept to the door flap and slowly unzipped a bit at the top so I could look through. I heard another of those deep rumbling coughs. Outside, not ten feet distant, was a buffalo, a real bison, an enormous bull, peacefully munching mouthfuls of the grass near the tent. As I stared at him he turned his head and brought an eye to bear on the tent and then, on me. I knew he saw me. He regarded me for a half minute then resumed his grazing. He wasn't alone. At the river's edge, another dozen big and small buffalo were drinking, and scattered around the campsite were more, fifteen or twenty. Just beyond the bull was a cow with a calf nursing on her. A couple of other calves were bouncing around chasing each other and butting heads. Most of the buffalo were grazing but a few were lying down chewing their cuds. It was a peaceful scene and I could feel my heart slowing to its normal pace as I watched.

Marcus grabbed my foot. I looked around at him. "What?" he whispered wide-eyed.

"Marcus," I said softly. "It's buffalo. A whole herd of buffalo! Come and see!"

Marcus crawled over and knelt beside me while I unzipped a bit more of the door flap, so we could both watch the buffalo. They seemed to be traveling through the campsite, but slowly. A half-hour later, some had moved into the woods but others still lingered, including the gigantic bull I had first seen. I was fascinated to watch them, to see them so close and smell them and hear them, but I had a pressing problem. I needed terribly to pee. Finally, I unzipped the door flap completely, but got Marcus to hold it shut while I stuck my penis through the flap and peed, a tremendous relief. Then I held it for Marcus.

The buffalo took no notice of the penises poking out the tent door, except perhaps the big bull. After we finished, he let his penis out, like about three feet long, and peed a big puddle. He was the last to leave, shouldering the bushes aside impatiently as if he owned the place.

We crept out of the tent and carefully looked around to make sure they all were gone. They were. It was quiet but for a low murmur from the river and the buzzing of flies mulling over the mounds of buffalo chips our visitors had left. Dewdrops glistened on the grass and the world seemed utterly at peace.

I used some dry tree bark as a tray and carried the buffalo turds to our poop place. Marcus built a fire and I put some oatmeal on to cook. Then we jumped into the river. After a few minutes I grabbed Marcus and said, "Come!" and pulled him out of the water.

We stood on the grass and I took his hands and started to dance around and whoop. We swung each other around and around in circles and laughed and cheered and sang nonsense things. Finally, panting, I stopped and pulled him to me, tightly. "Oh Marcus, I'm so happy. The buffalo! The prairie dogs! The sun! The moon! The river! It's all so wonderful and you, you're the absolute center of it. I love you. I love being with you. I love everything."

I could tell by the look on Marcus' face that he was feeling the same joy. But he just repeated my name a half dozen times between kissing my neck and ears and nose and hugging me tightly. Then we lay down on the grass and hugged and exchanged little kisses, hungry little kisses. But we lay very still since the swollen pistols down below were cocked and ready to fire.

I remembered the oatmeal and jumped up to pull it off the fire. It was ready.

While we ate Marcus chuckled and said, "Okay, now I've got a question for you."


"If you can't answer, you have to kiss my feet. Okay?"

"Okay, but that's not a penalty for me."

"Okay, and kiss my bumhole too."

"Okay, okay, okay! The suspense is killing me!"

"Okay, here's the question and I want an exact answer, no equivocation. Tell me, Mr. Exact Kelly, how many buffalo came to see us this morning?"

I kissed each toe individually and, as I said, it was no punishment. Even his bumhole was a treat and I spent a little more time there than was strictly necessary. We had just been swimming, so it was clean and such a pretty thing.

"You see," said Marcus when I sat down beside him. "Now you should apologize for sneering at me when I said I didn't know how many buffalo were out here. When they're all around you, they're so awesome you don't think about counting them."

"Did I sneer?" I felt a little bit guilty. He was right.

"Yep. It was a mild sneer, a friendly sneer, but definitely a sneer."

"I'm sorry," I said. "It's just sometimes it seems you've got everything…."

"But dear Bumper," said Marcus, "you've got me so…."

"So if I wanted you to get down and kiss my feet and my bumhole…."

"Hey," I said a few minutes later. "You don't have to put your tongue up there."

"You did!"

"Yeah, I did. It was nice. I couldn't help myself. Does that count as sex?"

"No," said Marcus. "That's just 'discovery'. I mean, we do have a responsibility to examine the goods before taking delivery."


"And yours is in perfect condition," he said. "Surprisingly appealing."

"Yours, too. It's very pretty. If I was a photographer, I'd specialize in photos of boys' bumholes. I've never seen a photo of one and that's a shame."

We were sitting side by side with our arms around each other. I looked down into our laps where those eager ancient songs were being sung. "See," I said, "now my mind is saying, 'let's just go to bed in the tent and kiss and hug and cuddle and suck and squirt all day'."

"Do you want to do the dishes?" said Marcus primly. "Or shall I?"

Jason had left a phone with us and as I was about to answer Marcus, it rang. Marcus got up to answer it. I gathered our dirty dishes and took them to the river. Marcus came to help a few minutes later.

"That was Jason," he said. "He said he and Anna are putting together a care package for us, plus all the stuff we need for our prairie dog project. He said they'll be down just after lunch."

"So let's spend the morning in Dogtown, then come back here, have lunch and put our kotekas on for Anna," I said.

As soon as we topped our hill overlooking Dogtown, we could tell something was wrong. There were lots of dogs visible, but nobody was moving around, and we didn't hear the alert yip that The Boss had previously sounded when we arrived. He was creeping up to one of the burrow entrances. Nearby dogs were watching him intently. The Boss peered over the edge of the burrow entrance and gave a cry then jumped away.

"There's something in that burrow," said Marcus and handed me the binoculars.

I saw The Boss approach the burrow again and look down into it. Then he yelped and jumped back. The Boss repeated this action several times over the next few minutes. I handed the binoculars back to Marcus.

"It's a snake!" he said as The Boss leaped back from the burrow entrance. "A rattler!"

Then I could see the rattlesnake too, as it slithered from the burrow. The Boss waited until it was completely out of the burrow then stalked it, staying carefully behind it so he was near the tail and as far from the head as possible. Marcus handed the binoculars back to me. I was riveted to the drama below. Every time the snake's head pointed away from Dogtown, The Boss would pounce on its tail. That would make it turn ever more in the direction The Boss wanted it to go. Slowly and methodically he was worrying the snake away from the town. But every time he jumped on the tail, the snake whipped around to strike him before he leaped away. While we and the prairie dogs watched, he repeatedly risked the rattler's fangs.

Suddenly Marcus stood up and shouted, "Hawk!" and pointed overhead. The Boss and all the other prairie dogs glanced up at Marcus as a hawk came over the hill and swooped down towards them. But thanks to Marcus' warning, every dog gained the safety of a burrow. The only movement visible above ground was the snake. The sharp-eyed hawk saw it and made a swift dive. Seconds later, the hawk was winging into the distance with the snake wriggling in its talons.

The Boss came out of his burrow, watched while the hawk grew smaller, looked up at Marcus and gave the all-clear signal.

"Marcus," I said. "The Boss looked right at you. He knows you warned them about the hawk. He knows you probably saved his life. Wow!"

Marcus said, "Nah," and sat down, blushing. I leaned over and kissed him. We had noticed that prairie dogs kissed. They kissed often. The females seemed to kiss more than the males, but everybody kissed from time to time. The pups kissed everybody and each other too. They all hugged a lot too.

"If you were down there, some of them would be kissing you right now," I said.

"You think?" he said. "It was just a reflex. I didn't even think about it. I was just looking around when I saw the hawk. I knew they were all watching The Boss fight that snake, and he was too busy with that to pay attention to the sky. I bet they mostly just picked up on the tone of my voice, that something bad was coming."

"I never thought watching prairie dogs would be so exciting," I said. "When The Boss was chasing that snake my heart was going pitipat pitipat. Wow!"

"Hey," I said and handed the binoculars to Marcus. "Take a look at Ear-bit coming over to meet with The Boss."

The Boss and Ear-bit both stood up on their hind legs and hugged and kissed. They chatted a bit then both of them turned and looked up at Marcus for a few seconds. We're not supposed to imagine that animals think or talk like we do, but there was no doubt in my mind that those two prairie dogs were talking about Marcus and admiring him.

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