Hunting Prairie Dawgs

One quiet morning, when we had no guests and were enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee on the balcony ourselves,  the phone rang.  A husky voice with a deep southern drawl asked if we had any rooms available for that night.  I told them yes, we did, and he said he would like to book three rooms.  When asked where he was calling from and what time they would be arriving he replied, ”We’re in Raleigh, North Carolina right now, and we will be there about 3:00.

“You’re in Raleigh, and you’ll be here at 3:00? Today?”

“Well, yes Mam,” was the reply,” we’ll fly the corporate jet in.”

Minds racing to fill  in all of the questions about the night’s visitors, we had conjured up all kinds of scenarios.  Were our guests government diplomats coming to the Barn for a top secret meeting?  Were they movie producers scoping out the valley for a movie set?  Perhaps business tycoons investing billions into land development? The FBI harboring a high stakes terrorist in a witness protection program?

By the end of the morning we had exhausted our imaginations with all of the possibilities.  We were anxiously watching the dirt road, anticipating that with their arrival the mystery would be solved.  Why would three men from Raleigh be flying a corporate jet in, to stay at the Barn?  Even Molly, our Australian Blue Shepherd, seemed to be caught up in the anticipation, as she too was keeping a close watch on the road.

Looking out the kitchen window, at 2:30, I saw a dark brown Dodge truck turn off the highway and barrel down the dirt road,  creating a contrail of dust.  I was sure these weren’t our guests, as most guests drive slowly down the dirt road taking in their new surroundings and getting their bearings.  But this truck drove like it knew where it was going, and like it was late getting there.  Turn into the yard it did, with engine roaring and gravel flying.  The silence of a quiet, country afternoon was shattered. My already active imagination was alert to every detail that would lead me to the answer of  who are guests were and what was their reason for being here.

Instantaneously all four doors of the crew cab flew open, and I saw three sets of  army combat boots hit the ground. My!  We’re being invaded! I thought to myself. We hadn’t heard any news for several days.  Were aliens invading?  Terrorists attacking?  Even Mollie was silent, no friendly barking greeted these guests!  I was afraid to ask them what their mission was, afraid to hear the earth shattering news.

Three men hurtled friendly hellos at us and speedily began unloading their gear.  Their gear consisted of camouflage duffle bags, rifle bags, and green metal ammo boxes.  Carrying all of this gear up to the Barn were three men all dressed in matching camouflage shirts, tucked into camouflage field pants, tucked into camouflage boots.  Their camouflage vest pockets were bulging with shells and compasses and knives and flashlights.  Each had a set of camouflage field glasses hanging around his neck and camouflage canteens strung on  camouflage belts.  The tallest, who had a stubbly two day’s growth of beard,  and a short stubby cigar smoldering at the corner of his mouth, appeared to be the leader, even though few words were exchanged.

This battalion was well armed and well suited for any battle.  Not having heard of any newly declared wars or front lines  drawn in Western Nebraska, the next possible explanation had to be hunting, but hunting season was over.  Perhaps they had a special permit for elk or Big Horn sheep, or maybe even mountain lion or coyote? When my curiosity was bursting, and I could hold it no longer I asked, “What are you hunting?”  The driver of the truck, who was also the pilot, pulled his aviator sun glasses off.   Steadfast, serious, intense eyes met mine, and he answered in a heavy, slow, Southern drawl, “We’re after prairie dawgs!”

Prairie dog hunt!  Our guests had flown in their corporate jet all the way from North Carolina, totally outfitted themselves for “hunting”, to spend a day hunting prairie dogs in Western Nebraska!

That answer took us quite a bit of time to absorb.  Prairie dog hunt!  After I recovered and I felt my strength return and my knees quit shaking, I welcomed them in. Well at least we weren’t being attacked by aliens!

The guests politely entered the Barn,  after arranging rifles and duffels in a neat row on the front porch. The man with the cigar smothered it, and left it outside in the dirt.  All four even took precious minutes unlacing their heavy boots and removing them before they entered ( although they looked brand new clean).  Unfolding their maps, which were already marked with their planned route, they smoothed them out on the dining room table to study one last time before they began the hunting expedition.

It appeared that our comfortable bed and breakfast had been turned into headquarters for an army field expedition.  I guess, in fact it was!

I’m not sure that as Western Nebraskans we will want to promote prairie dawg hunting as one of the top tourist attractions in the state.