Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan. Page: 62 of 368
The stream upon which we are encamped, like the other branches of
Red river, takes its rise in the borders of this plain, and for several miles
from its source there are numerous branches issuing from deep canons,
with perpendicular sides, which continue until they debouch into the
more rolling country below, where the banks become low, and the bed
broad and sandy.
The geological features of the country upon the head of this branch
are characterized by a different formation from that upon the other
branches we have seen, inasmuch as we here find the gypsum extending
to the very sources, and the water having the peculiar taste imparted by
that mineral throughout its entire course.
Our road during the whole day has passed through a continuous dogtown,
(Spermophilus ludovicianus,) and we were often obliged to turn
out of our course to avoid the little mounds around their burrows.
In passing along through these villages the little animals are seen in
countless numbers sitting upright at the mouths of their domicils, presenting
much the appearance of stumps of small trees; and so incessant
is the clatter of their barking, that it requires but little effort of the
imagination to fancy oneself surrounded by the busy hum of a city.
The immense number of animals in some of these towns, or warrens,
may be conjectured from the large space which they sometimes cover.
The one at this place is about twenty-five miles in the direction through
which we have passed it. Supposing its dimensions in other directions
to be the same, it would embrace an area of six hundred and twenty-five
square miles, or eight hundred and ninety-six thousand acres. Estimating
the holes to be at the usual distances of about twenty yards apart, and
each burrow occupied by a family of four or five dogs, I fancy that the
aggregate population would be greater than any other city in the
This interesting and gregarious little specimen of the mammalia of
our country, which is found assembled in such vast communities, is
indigenous to the most of our far western prairies, from Mexico to the
northern limits of the United States, and has often been described by
travellers who have been upon the plains. But as there are some facts
in relation to their habits which I have never seen mentioned in any
published account of them, I trust I shall be pardoned if I add a few remarks
to what has already been said. In the selection of a site or position
for their towns they appear to have a regard to their food, which is
a species of short wiry grass, growing upon the elevated plains, where
there is often no water near. I have sometimes seen their towns upon
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Marcy, Randolph Barnes. Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan., book, 1854; Washington, DC. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6105/m1/62/: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .