Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author Marty Essen

A shocking prairie dog photoshoot

Marty’s photo of the day #3716: As mentioned yesterday, Deb, Nellie, and I enjoyed an amazing six days in Montana’s American Prairie Reserve. I might even write a magazine article about our experiences or work them into a future book. Our initial adventure occurred as we entered the reserve, and it caused a freaky injury that still hasn’t gone away.

I had no idea that we’d come across prairie dog towns all over the place, so when we spotted the first one, just on the other side of a rancher’s fence, I got down on my haunches and started shooting pictures.

Unfortunately the second wire from the top was in my way. I turned to Deb and asked, “See this wire? Do you think it’s hot?”

She scanned the fence and pointed. “Oh, yeah. It’s insulated at each post, and I see what looks like a transformer or something over there. Don’t touch it.”

I touched it. “Ow!”

Deb laughed (something she’d continue to do when recalling the event for the rest of our trip). “I knew you’d touch it!”

“Well, I needed to know for sure. I was more worried about what the electricity would do to my camera if it touched the wire than what the shock would do to me.”

She laughed again.

But the shock to my hand wasn’t the worst of it. The electricity had made my leg muscles seize, and because I was on my haunches when it happened, I pulled my right hamstring. Then, hiking abnormally on that right hamstring for six days caused my left knee to swell and ache.

None of my injuries are serious, and I’m sure after a few days at home I’ll be as good as new. Luckily I have a high pain threshold, because during our time in the refuge Deb and I walked for many miles, and I wasn’t about to hinder our explorations.

This prairie dog isn’t from that first shocking photoshoot. Rather he is from a hike later in our visit, when the trail we were following took us straight through a huge prairie dog town. I found one particularly brave prairie dog that let me slowly approach his hole, until I was within fifteen or so feet. During that ten minutes, as I worked my way closer, I completely forgot about my painful knee and hamstring.

I love watching prairie dogs. They crack me up!

Our dog, Nellie, on the other hand, thought prairie dogs were every bit as evil as squirrels. We kept her on a leash in prairie dog towns, but there were a few times during our hikes when she snuck in off-leash opportunities. No worries. Nellie is incredibly fast, but the prairie dogs were even faster at diving into their holes. She never got to within twenty feet of any of them.

Then, as we’d put Nellie back on her leash, the prairie dogs would pop back out of their holes and scream, “Nana, nana, nanner!”

“Evil! Just evil,” Nellie thought.

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