People are naturally curious and take delight in things they've only seen on television. By contrast, prairie dogs are competitive, cut throat, selfish, and couldn't give a rat's ass if hand that feeds them became infected with the Hanta Virus.
It's interesting that what took up much of people's time at Devil's Tower National Monument was not the tower itself, but these burrowing little varmints that seemingly run roughshod over the area. Cars and RVs clamored for parking space along the side of the road so that they could photograph them. Others slowed down to see what commotion was about.
According to an article published in the Casper Star Tribune, the prairie dog count at Devil's Tower had been 62 in 1989, but went up to 496 in 2011.
In the end, the $10.00 per car park admission boiled down to just this, photo hungry tourists, cheesy Doritos, and chemically induced prairie dogs.
Otherwise, the land surrounding Devil's Tower is a lot of agriculture, both hay and cattle. Locals in the nearby town of Hulett sit at their tables inside Ponderosa Cafe minding their business as bikers and RVers step inside fascinated with the country kitsch that decorates the walls.
"Oh look honey! It's one of those old rusted cowbells! I want one for our Harley room!"
Sash felt a connection to Ponderosa Cafe because her maiden name is Cartwright, and she often keeps an eye out for anything Bonanza.
"Do you get a lot of people asking about Bonanza?" she asked the waitress.
She shook her head, indicating that she hadn't.
"We were kinda joking if you've got Hop Sing back there in the kitchen." Sash added.
The waitress looked puzzled.
"You know, Bonanza? Little Joe? My maiden name is Cartwright, that's why I asked."
The waitress apparently had never heard of the television show. It just made us feel really old.
"It ought to be required study if you're going to work at a place named, "Ponderosa Cafe", Sash whispered to me.
"Like I need a welcome bikers sign to make me feel safe about going inside", I said to Sash. "There's something disingenuous about it."
I'm sure next week will be going up another Budweiser sign that says, "Welcome Bicyclists", "Welcome WordPress Developers", or "Welcome Mary Kay Sales Associates".
And while on the subject of being disingenuous, just the name "Devil's Tower" is a sad commentary. The original locals, the Plains Indians, called it, "Bear Lodge". According to their folklore, a massive bear, with long sharp claws, tried to climb the tower and instead left scratch marks up and down its sides.
But it was an 1875 expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge who misinterpreted the name to mean "Bad God's Tower", which then became Devil's Tower. In 2005, a group of American Indians led an effort to restore the name to "Bear Lodge National Monument", but was denied when locals worried the change would ruin their economic base.
As for the prairie dogs, Sash and I couldn't resist trying to photograph them too. But we had the good fortune of better camera equipment, and didn't need to lure them with artery-clogging snack chips. I imagine since the last census count of 2011, their population is getting close to 1,000. I'm sure Prairie Dog Armageddon drawing nigh.