Prairie-Dog Town eBook: Page1

L. Frank Baum (2014)

  Produced by David Edwards, Monicas wicked stepmother andthe Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from imagesgenerously made available by The Internet Archive)



  Six Volumes





  With illustrations by Maginel Wright Enright

  CHICAGO The Reilly & Britton Co. Publishers.

  List of Chapters PAGE

  I The Picnic 5

  II Prairie-Dog Town 13

  III Mr. Bowko, the Mayor 18

  IV Presto Digi, the Magician 26

  V The Home of the Puff-Pudgys 34

  VI Teenty and Weenty 42

  VII The Mayor Gives a Luncheon 49

  VIII On Top of the Earth Again 57

  Copyright, 1906, by The Reilly & Britton Co.

  Chapter I

  The Picnic

  On the great western prairies of Dakota is a little town calledEdgeley, because it is on the edge of civilization--a very big wordwhich means some folks have found a better way to live than otherfolks. The Edgeley people have a good way to live, for there are almostseventeen wooden houses there, and among them is a school-house, achurch, a store and a blacksmith-shop. If people walked out their frontdoors they were upon the little street; if they walked out the backdoors they were on the broad prairies. That was why Twinkle, who was afarmer's little girl, lived so near the town that she could easily walkto school.

  She was a pretty, rosy-cheeked little thing, with long, fluffy hair,and big round eyes that everybody smiled into when they saw them. Itwas hard to keep that fluffy hair from getting tangled; so mamma usedto tie it in the back with a big, broad ribbon. And Twinkle wore calicoslips for school days and gingham dresses when she wanted to "dressup" or look especially nice. And to keep the sun from spotting herface with freckles, she wore sunbonnets made of the same goods as herdresses.

  Twinkle's best chum was a little boy called Chubbins, who was theonly child of the tired-faced school-teacher. Chubbins was about as oldas Twinkle; but he wasn't so tall and slender for his age as she was,being short and rather fat. The hair on his little round head was cutclose, and he usually wore a shirt-waist and "knickers," with a widestraw hat on the back of his head. Chubbins's face was very solemn. Henever said many words when grown folks were around, but he could talkfast enough when he and Twinkle were playing together alone.


  Well, one Saturday the school had a picnic, and Twinkle and Chubbinsboth went. On the Dakota prairies there are no shade-trees at all,and very little water except what they get by boring deep holes inthe ground; so you may wonder where the people could possibly have apicnic. But about three miles from the town a little stream of water(which they called a "river," but we would call only a brook) ran slowand muddy across the prairie; and where the road crossed it a flatbridge had been built. If you climbed down the banks of the river youwould find a nice shady place under the wooden bridge; and so here itwas that the picnics were held.

  All the village went to the picnic, and they started bright and earlyin the morning, with horses and farm-wagons, and baskets full of goodthings to eat, and soon arrived at the bridge.

  There was room enough in its shade for all to be comfortable; so theyunhitched the horses and carried the baskets to the river bank, andbegan to laugh and be as merry as they could.

  Twinkle and Chubbins, however, didn't care much for the shade of thebridge. This was a strange place to them, so they decided to exploreit and see if it was any different from any other part of the prairie.Without telling anybody where they were going, they took hold of handsand trotted across the bridge and away into the plains on the otherside.

  The ground here wasn't flat, but had long rolls to it, like big waveson the ocean, so that as soon as the little girl and boy had climbedover the top of the first wave, or hill, those by the river lost sightof them.


  They saw nothing but grass in the first hollow, but there was anotherhill just beyond, so they kept going, and climbed over that too. Andnow they found, lying in the second hollow, one of the most curioussights that the western prairies afford.

  "What is it?" asked Chubbins, wonderingly.

  "Why, it's a Prairie-Dog Town," said Twinkle.

  Chapter II

  Prairie-Dog Town

  Lying in every direction, and quite filling the little hollow, wereround mounds of earth, each one having a hole in the center. The moundswere about two feet high and as big around as a wash-tub, and the edgesof the holes were pounded hard and smooth by the pattering feet of thelittle creatures that lived within.

  "Isn't it funny!" said Chubbins, staring at the mounds.

  "Awful," replied Twinkle, staring too. "Do you know, Chub, there arean'mals living in every single one of those holes?"

  "What kind?" asked Chubbins.

  "Well, they're something like squirrels, only they _aren't_ squirrels,"she explained. "They're prairie-dogs."

  "Don't like dogs," said the boy, looking a bit uneasy.

  "Oh, they're not dogs at all," said Twinkle; "they're soft and fluffy,and gentle."

  "Do they bark?" he asked.

  "Yes; but they don't bite."

  "How d' you know, Twink?"

  "Papa has told me about them, lots of times. He says they're so shythat they run into their holes when anybody's around; but if you keepquiet and watch, they'll stick their heads out in a few minutes."


  "Let's watch," said Chubbins.

  "All right," she agreed.

  Very near to some of the mounds was a raised bank, covered with softgrass; so the children stole softly up to this bank and lay down uponit in such a way that their heads just stuck over the top of it,while their bodies were hidden from the eyes of any of the folks ofPrairie-Dog Town.

  "Are you comferble, Chub?" asked the little girl.


  "Then lie still and don't talk, and keep your eyes open, and perhapsthe an'mals will stick their heads up."

  "All right," says Chubbins.

  So they kept quiet and waited, and it seemed a long time to both theboy and the girl before a soft, furry head popped out of a near-byhole, and two big, gentle brown eyes looked at them curiously.

  Chapter III

  Mr. Bowko, the Mayor

  "Dear me!" said the prairie-dog, speaking almost in a whisper; "hereare some of those queer humans from the village."

  "Let me see! Let me see!" cried two shrill little voices, and the weeheads of two small creatures popped out of the hole and fixed theirbright eyes upon the heads of Twinkle and Chubbins.

  "Go down at once!" said the mother prairie-dog. "Do you want to gethurt, you naughty little things?"


  "Oh, they won't get hurt," said another deeper voice, and the childrenturned their eyes toward a second mound, on top of which sat a plumpprairie-dog whose reddish fur was tipped with white on the end of eachhair. He seemed to be quite old, or at least well along in years, andhe had a wise and thoughtful look on his face.

  "They're humans," said the mother.

  "True enough; but they're only human children, and wouldn't hurt yourlittle ones for the world," the old one said.

  "That's so!" called Twinkle. "All we want, is to get acquainted."

  "Why, in that case," replied the old prairie-dog, "you are very
welcomein our town, and we're glad to see you."

  "Thank you," said Twinkle, gratefully. It didn't occur to her just thenthat it was wonderful to be talking to the little prairie-dogs just asif they were people. It seemed very natural they should speak with eachother and be friendly.

  As if attracted by the sound of voices, little heads began to pop outof the other mounds--one here and one there--until the town was alivewith the pretty creatures, all squatting near the edges of their holesand eyeing Chubbins and Twinkle with grave and curious looks.

  "Let me introduce myself," said the old one that had first provedfriendly. "My name is Bowko, and I'm the Mayor and High Chief ofPrairie-Dog Town."

  "Don't you have a king?" asked Twinkle.

  "Not in this town," he answered. "There seems to be no place for kingsin this free United States. And a Mayor and High Chief is just as goodas a king, any day."

  "I think so, too," answered the girl.

  "Better!" declared Chubbins.

  The Mayor smiled, as if pleased.

  "I see you've been properly brought up," he continued; "and now letme introduce to you some of my fellow-citizens. This," pointing withone little paw to the hole where the mother and her two children weresitting, "is Mrs. Puff-Pudgy and her family--Teenty and Weenty. Mr.Puff-Pudgy, I regret to say, was recently chased out of town for sayinghis prayers backwards."


  "How could he?" asked Chubbins, much surprised.

  "He was always contrary," answered the Mayor, with a sigh, "andwouldn't do things the same way that others did. His good wife, Mrs.Puff-Pudgy, had to scold him all day long; so we finally made him leavethe town, and I don't know where he's gone to."

  "Won't he be sorry not to have his little children any more?" askedTwinkle, regretfully.

  "I suppose so; but if people are contrary, and won't behave, they musttake the consequences. This is Mr. Chuckledorf," continued the Mayor,and a very fat prairie-dog bowed to them most politely; "and here isMrs. Fuzcum; and Mrs. Chatterby; and Mr. Sneezeley, and Doctor Dosem."

  All these folks bowed gravely and politely, and Chubbins and Twinklebobbed their heads in return until their necks ached, for it seemedas if the Mayor would never get through introducing the hundreds ofprairie-dogs that were squatting around.

  "I'll never be able to tell one from the other," whispered the girl;"'cause they all look exactly alike."

  "Some of 'em 's fatter," observed Chubbins; "but I don't know which."

  Chapter IV

  Presto Digi, the Magician

  "And now, if you like, we will be pleased to have you visit some of ourhouses," said Mr. Bowko, the Mayor, in a friendly tone.

  "But we can't!" exclaimed Twinkle. "We're too big," and she got upand sat down upon the bank, to show him how big she really was whencompared with the prairie-dogs.

  "Oh, that doesn't matter in the least," the Mayor replied. "I'll havePresto Digi, our magician, reduce you to our size."


  "Can he?" asked Twinkle, doubtfully.

  "Our magician can do anything," declared the Mayor. Then he sat up andput both his front paws to his mouth and made a curious sound that wassomething like a bark and something like a whistle, but not exactlylike either one.

  Then everybody waited in silence until a queer old prairie-dog slowlyput his head out of a big mound near the center of the village.

  "Good morning, Mr. Presto Digi," said the Mayor.

  "Morning!" answered the magician, blinking his eyes as if he had justawakened from sleep.

  Twinkle nearly laughed at this scrawny, skinny personage; but by goodfortune, for she didn't wish to offend him, she kept her face straightand did not even smile.

  "We have two guests here, this morning," continued the Mayor,addressing the magician, "who are a little too large to get into ourhouses. So, as they are invited to stay to luncheon, it would please usall if you would kindly reduce them to fit our underground rooms."

  "Is _that_ all you want?" asked Mr. Presto Digi, bobbing his head atthe children.

  "It seems to me a great deal," answered Twinkle. "I'm afraid you nevercould do it."

  "Wow!" said the magician, in a scornful voice that was almost a bark."I can do that with one paw. Come here to me, and don't step on any ofour mounds while you're so big and clumsy."

  So Twinkle and Chubbins got up and walked slowly toward the magician,taking great care where they stepped. Teenty and Weenty werefrightened, and ducked their heads with little squeals as the bigchildren passed their mound; but they bobbed up again the next moment,being curious to see what would happen.

  When the boy and girl stopped before Mr. Presto Digi's mound, he beganwaving one of his thin, scraggy paws and at the same time made agurgling noise that was deep down in his throat. And his eyes rolledand twisted around in a very odd way.


  Neither Twinkle nor Chubbins felt any effect from the magic, nor anydifferent from ordinary; but they knew they were growing smaller,because their eyes were getting closer to the magician.

  "Is that enough?" asked Mr. Presto, after a while.

  "Just a little more, please," replied the Mayor; "I don't want them tobump their heads against the doorways."

  So the magician again waved his paw and chuckled and gurgled andblinked, until Twinkle suddenly found she had to look up at him as hesquatted on his mound.

  "Stop!" she screamed; "if you keep on, we won't be anything at all!"

  "You're just about the right size," said the Mayor, looking them overwith much pleasure, and when the girl turned around she found Mr. Bowkoand Mrs. Puff-Pudgy standing beside her, and she could easily see thatChubbins was no bigger than they, and she was no bigger than Chubbins.

  "Kindly follow me," said Mrs. Puff-Pudgy, "for my little darlings areanxious to make your acquaintance, and as I was the first to discoveryou, you are to be my guests first of all, and afterward go to theMayor's to luncheon."

  Chapter V

  The Home of the Puff-Pudgys

  So Twinkle and Chubbins, still holding hands, trotted along to thePuff-Pudgy mound, and it was strange how rough the ground now seemedto their tiny feet. They climbed up the slope of the mound ratherclumsily, and when they came to the hole it seemed to them as big as awell. Then they saw that it wasn't a deep hole, but a sort of tunnelleading down hill into the mound, and Twinkle knew if they were carefulthey were not likely to slip or tumble down.


  Mrs. Puff-Pudgy popped into the hole like a flash, for she was usedto it, and waited just below the opening to guide them. So, Twinkleslipped down to the floor of the tunnel and Chubbins followed closeafter her, and then they began to go downward.

  "It's a little dark right here," said Mrs. Puff-Pudgy; "but I've orderedthe maid to light the candles for you, so you'll see well enough whenyou're in the rooms."

  "Thank you," said Twinkle, walking along the hall and feeling her wayby keeping her hand upon the smooth sides of the passage. "I hope youwon't go to any trouble, or put on airs, just because we've come tovisit you."

  "If I do," replied Mrs. Puffy-Pudgy, "it's because I know the rightway to treat company. We've always belonged to the 'four hundred,'you know. Some folks never know what to do, or how to do it, but thatisn't the way with the Puff-Pudgys. Hi! you, Teenty and Weenty--getout of here and behave yourselves! You'll soon have a good look at ourvisitors."

  And now they came into a room so comfortable and even splendid thatTwinkle's eyes opened wide with amazement.

  It was big, and of a round shape, and on the walls were paintedvery handsome portraits of different prairie-dogs of the Puff-Pudgyfamily. The furniture was made of white clay, baked hard in the sunand decorated with paints made from blue clay and red clay and yellowclay. This gave it a gorgeous appearance. There was a round table inthe middle of the room, and several comfortable chairs and sofas.Around the walls were li
ttle brackets with candles in them, lightingthe place very pleasantly.

  "Sit down, please," said Mrs. Puff-Pudgy. "You'll want to rest a minutebefore I show you around."

  So Twinkle and Chubbins sat upon the pretty clay chairs, and Teenty andWeenty sat opposite them and stared with their mischievous round eyesas hard as they could.

  "What nice furniture," exclaimed the girl.

  "Yes," replied Mrs. Puff-Pudgy, looking up at the picture of asad-faced prairie-dog; "Mr. Puff-Pudgy made it all himself. He was veryhandy at such things. It's a shame he turned out so obstinate."


  "Did he build the house too?"

  "Why, he dug it out, if that's what you mean. But I advised him how todo it, so I deserve some credit for it myself. Next to the Mayor's,it's the best house in town, which accounts for our high socialstanding. Weenty! take your paw out of your mouth. You're biting yourclaws again."

  "I'm not!" said Weenty.

  "And now," continued Mrs. Puff-Pudgy, "if you are rested, I'll show youthrough the rest of our house."

  So, they got up and followed her, and she led the children throughan archway into the dining-room. Here was a cupboard full of thecunningest little dishes Twinkle had ever seen. They were all made ofclay, baked hard in the sun, and were of graceful shapes, and nearly assmooth and perfect as our own dishes.