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Shannon Bardwell: There once was a Prairie ...


Shannon Bardwell



"You couldn''t pay me to live in the Prairie!" he said.  


Sam came home and recounted the conversation. "We live in the center of God''s country, and he wouldn''t live in the Prairie for anything. Can you believe that?" 


No, I couldn''t believe that, but it was just as well. The Prairie wouldn''t be the same if Prairie folks were packed in like city dwellers. I''ve lived in the big city where birds meant pigeons and grass meant ... well, grass and it''s not the same. 


Only in the Prairie could you discover a momma coyote and her three pups making a home under the boat shed in a hole created by an armadillo that also wanted to live here but apparently found new digs elsewhere. 


A fox tipped under the pear tree. He was dainty with his dark spindly legs and elegant face. He snitched a pear and slipped into the woods. He looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 


We keep a mental count of all the Prairie animals we see. We count the family of foxes that lived near the "T" of Old West Point Road and the "new road." Sam says that''s what we call the road, even though the new road is about 20 years old.  


We first saw the foxes with three kits on the roadside. We stopped, rolled windows down and cooed to them. They continued to hang around and could be seen approaching cars, as if someone had fed them, which is a big no-no.  


Many a day, cars and trucks stopped at the intersection; neighbors smiled and pointed, as everyone enjoyed watching the foxes. Somebody took a lot of time and trouble to make a "Fox crossing" sign, complete with the silhouette of a fox. It was yellow trimmed in black. A couple of days later some nut tore it down. 


The foxes are gone now. One day big trucks with loads of red dirt came. Then flatbeds loaded with steel; then lots of strong men with loud machines and they put in a new guardrail, which I know that we need, but ... the foxes are gone and neighbors no longer stop and smile and point at the foxes. 


I was reminded of Denise Fleming''s story, "Where Once There Was a Wood."  


Denise took her daily walk through the woods until she heard big trucks with red dirt, and flatbeds of steel and lots of strong men with loud machines and they put in some condos. She wrote ... 


"Where once the heron fished and speared his glittering food, sit houses side by side, twenty houses deep." 


May there always be a Prairie teeming with deer, doves, turkeys, raccoons, possums, armadillos, coyotes and foxes; where sage and grain bow in the wind and neighbors quarter-mile away smile and wave.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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