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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Western States: Prairies, The

A Prairie Dog Village

By Edward B. Nealley (1837–1905)

ONE night a band of Indians attacked us,

Crossing the Rocky Mountains once by stage,

And left us horseless in a waste of cactus

And parched wild sage,—

A desert region,—dreary desolation,

Where never flower bloomed or grass grew green,

As if accursed of God from the creation

The land had been.

Yet here, remote from man, unused to tillage,

Afar from human joy and human strife,

We walked the roadsides of a thrifty village

Of busy life,

And saw the people resting from their labors;

Snug houses theirs, well filled with winter stores,

And matrons, chattering gossip with their neighbors,

Stood at the doors.

“The little prairie-dog here builds his burrow,”

Our driver said, “and here the rattlesnake

And solemn owl, helpmates in joy and sorrow,

Their dwelling make,

And in these burrows, snug in every weather,

Secure each one in all his rights, the three,

A happy family, consort together

In unity.

“The snake, strong-armed and fierce, keeps out the stranger;

The owl, Minerva’s bird, sage counsel gives;

And so the prairie-dog in haunts of danger

In safety lives;

And all unfettered by your laws of iron,

Each lending cheerful help, their homes they build;

Together thus lie down the lamb and lion,

God’s word fulfilled.”