Showdown at Boulder Pass

But all I could see was a cactus tree
And a prairie dog playing there
I watched the prairie dog feed on the tumbleweed
That’s his home, way out there

– Bob Nolan for Sons Of The Pioneers

Naropa, the Buddhist university in Boulder Colorado founded by Chogyam Trungpa has had a problem with prairie dogs on its campus for some years now. They say they’ve counted at least 250 of them. I am not sure exactly what the problem is but I’m guessing the cute little critters dig a lot of holes. Anyway, Naropa officials claim they have spent close to $100,000 trying to relocate them. The city and county of Boulder has set aside 2,000 acres for prairie dog habitat, but evidently its full up and there are no vacancies.

DPD2bThe school has applied for a lethal control permit to kill the prairie dogs. After the inevitable outrage over that proposed action erupted, school officials stated they actually have no intention of bumping off the animals, they only got the permit to raise awareness about the issue. That seems a weird approach to me. Maybe it is an example of that crazy wisdom Trungpa was known for.

WildLands Defense spokeswoman Deanna Meyer is leading the anti-prairie dog massacre protest. She told a online news outlet, the Daily Caller, “It is a Buddhist university and the fact that a Buddhist university would even apply for a lethal application for prairie dogs is totally against any Buddhist concepts,” she told the newspaper. Good point.

There’s an online petition to sign. I’m not too fond of the title, but I’m even less fond of exterminating prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs are considered a “keystone” species. That’s an animal that plays a crucial role in a ecosystem. Prairie dog colonies provide safe space for habitats that benefit nearly 150 other species. They are an essential part of our prairies, one of our most endangered ecosystems. Prairie dogs also help aerate and fertilize the soil, which allows a greater diversity of plants to flourish.

What’s more, prairie dogs are part of our heritage, part of the lore of the Old West. Take, for example, this song sung around a campfire by the Sons of the Pioneers. Note that one of those guitar pickers and singers is Roy Rogers, future King of the Cowboys. Lyrics after the video.

A lonely spot, I know where no man will go
Where the shadows have all the room
I was ridin’ free on the old SP
Humming a southern tune

When a man came along made me hush my song
Kicked me off, way out there
As she pulled out of sight I turned to the right
A left and everywhere

But all I could see was a cactus tree
And a prairie dog playing there
I watched the prairie dog feed on the tumbleweed
That’s his home, way out there

So I threw down my load in the desert road
Rested my weary legs too
I watched the sinking sun, make the tall shadows run
Out across that barren plain

Then I hummed a tune to the risin’ moon
He gets lonesome way out there
So I closed my eyes to the starlit skies
And lost myself in dreams

I dreamed the desert sand was a milk and honey land
Then I awoke with a start
There the train comin’ back on that one way track
Gonna take me away from here

As she was passin’ by, I caught her on the fly
I climbed in an open door
Then I turned around to that desert ground
Saw the spot I would see no more

As I was ridin’ away
I heard the pale moon say
Farewell pal
It sure gets lonesome here