Archive for November, 2009

“I wanna shoot the whole day down…”

Monday, November 30th, 2009

“I haven’t written in so long,” I said.  “Should I write about ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ or Saint Jerome?”

“Write about ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’,” Rona said.  “Save Saint Jerome for when I need a pick-me-up.”

Brenda Ann Spencer was 16-years old when her father gave her a semi automatic .22 caliber rifle as a Christmas gift.

About a month later, on Monday, January 29, 1979, Brenda went to her bedroom window, rifle in hand.  She had a perfect view of the busy schoolyard at Cleveland Elementary.  With her gun pointed towards the schoolchildren, Brenda fired 36 rounds.  Her shooting spree left nine injured, eight of which were children.  Two adults were killed.

A six and a half hour standoff followed, ending in her arrest.  When Brenda was asked what compelled her to do such a horrible thing, she simply replied, “I don’t like Mondays.  This livens up the day.”

Brenda was tried as an adult.  She has been denied parole four times, and will not be eligible again until 2019.

Click here to listen to Tori Amos’s cover of the Boomtown Rats song, “I Don’t Like Mondays”.

spencer-tm

Brenda Ann Spencer (above)

“Are there devils with halos in beautiful capes taking them into the flames…”

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The book The Secret Language of Birthdays tells me I “must beware of accidents, particularly sports injuries, car accidents, and climbing, swimming, and flying mishaps.”

Flying mishaps.

I am terrified of air travel. And it’s not just because of my experience with JetBlue. There’s something about being in a huge metal tube thousands of feet in the air going hundreds of miles per hour that doesn’t sit right with me.

Takeoff is the worst part. Although this may be my opinion, statistics show that the highest percentage of fatalities occur right after takeoff, during the climb: a 25% fatality rate with an 8% accident rate. Therefore, it’s not very likely that you’ll crash, but if you do there’s a 1 in 4 chance you won’t survive.

I remember the first time I flew with Tova. The airplane was accelerating down the runway. My palms began to sweat, as they always do in this situation. Tova was talking to me, but I was too distracted by fear. I felt the plane leave the ground. I was trying to avoid looking towards the front of the cabin, so as not to see the angle of the aisle during the plane’s ascend. Also, I was trying to refrain from glancing out of any windows. There’s no where to go. Your life is in someone else’s hands. Turning back is not a choice, you are confined to this area for the duration of your flight.

Tova stopped talking. She looked concerned. “You’re really not okay with this, are you?” she asked. I must have looked as anxious as I felt. All I could hear in my head was: engine failure, an explosion, a slight mistake by the pilot, the plane breaking apart, a midair collision…

This is me during takeoff. Every time.

Then the plane reaches cruising altitude and I can somewhat relax. The aircraft noise lessens, that terrifying angle is no more, and the captain turns off the seat belt sign. At this point, it’s a little easier to pretend that I’m on land.

Unfortunately, sometimes there is turbulence. Even the tiniest bump feels like an anvil dropped on my chest. Usually, I look around and see that everyone else is unaffected. Is this normal? I ask myself. Another jolt of the plane, and the captain turns the seat belt sign back on. He asks the passengers to remain seated. My state of near-tranquility is ruined. I sit back and wonder if every shake of the aircraft will be the last, and if so, will it be because of a smoother altitude, or because the wing of the plane rips off and we are plummeting to our deaths?

Many people have told me that landing bothers them. Landing scares me, but not nearly as much as takeoff and turbulence. To me, landing simply means that we will be back on the ground soon. However, the highest percentage of accidents do occur during final approach and landing: a 51% accident rate with an 18% fatality rate. So, it’s more likely that you’ll crash but less likely that you’ll die.

No one can explain what it’s like to die in a plane crash. There isn’t a soul left from TWA flight 800 to explain what it was like when the center wing fuel tank exploded and the plane broke into pieces over the Atlantic. Some of the seat backs were disconnected when the plane broke apart, causing the still conscious passengers to be jerked out of their seat belts and fall over two and half miles to the ocean. Considering the fact that a body reaches terminal velocity after falling for a little less than a mile (500 feet), the water may as well have been cement. It’s likely the event was so traumatizing that these free-fallers, though awake, were not really aware of what was happening to them. Still, we can never know.

Additionally, there is no one left to tell us about the last few moments of AirFrance flight 447, another tragedy were everyone met their fate in the Atlantic Ocean. The end of TWA flight 800 came as a surprise to those aboard, but AirFrance flight 447 was flying through a severe thunderstorm, likely causing violent turbulence before it went down. Violent turbulence. That’s how they spent their last few moments alive. In violent turbulence.

There is also United flight 811. This disaster allowed for survivors, but it sounds terrifying nonetheless. After flying for only 16 minutes and at an altitude of nearly four miles, a grinding noise was heard followed by a loud thud that shook the aircraft. Then the forward cargo door suddenly blew open. Two rows of seats plus one additional passenger were sucked out of the cabin and killed. Reports found human remains in the fan blades of one of the engines. They say that this is fortunate, because it means some of those ejected may have died almost instantly.

A flight attendant for Delta once told me that if you hear three consecutive dings mid-flight, that means there is an emergency. Most accidents are caused by mechanical failures in the aircraft. The odds of being killed on a flight when flying one of the top 25 airlines is one in 13.57 million. (That number drops significantly if you’re flying one of the bottom 25 airlines, “top” and “bottom” being determined by safety records.)

I leave Wednesday morning for Omaha. For this trip, I am flying by myself. For Christmas I am flying to Virginia, but thankfully Tova will be there to talk me through it.

I do wish myself and everyone the safest holiday travels.

My Worst Nightmare (& other dreams)

Friday, November 20th, 2009

“I had a nightmare that I bludgeoned a woman to death,” Becky was telling us.  “I hit her like three times, with a bat or a piece of wood or something.”

“Awesome!” I said in response.  “I was just about to write about the worst nightmare that I’ve ever had.”

The nightmare came when I was about eight years old.  At the time, I was living in New Orleans.

In the dream, there was a little yellow canary in a classic round-top golden birdcage.  The cage was hanging from the ceiling in the middle of a room unfamiliar to me.  Although I was just a small child, the cage hung at eye level.  There was a dream filter framing the scene like a vignette photograph, the edges blurry and fading out gradually.

I couldn’t see myself in the setting except for my arms outstretched as I approached the caged bird.  It sat on its perch silently.  As I got closer, I felt it was looking at me.  I saw sadness in its tiny black eyes.

Then, right as I was an inch away from the cage, the canary fell from its perch.  When it hit the bottom, the bird was instantly transformed into the insides of a raw egg.  It began to sizzle.  Right there before my eyes, it was frying.

I awoke in panic and ran up to my parents’ room crying.

Still, I do love to have nightmares.

Recently (and unfortunately not much of a nightmare), I dreamt that a dark liquid was slowly leaking out of a small hole in my bedroom floor.  Since our apartment is on a slant, the liquid was pooling at the base of one wall.  I touched it and rubbed my fingertips together.  Oil.  Jayme was in the den and I showed her.  It was oil.

I woke up.

More frightening (and therefore preferable) was a dream of late about zombies.  They were everywhere, and I was holding up in a house.  Like in the canary dream, it wasn’t a familiar place, but there was no confusion in my dream-mind about me being there.  I knew the zombies were outside, and I was terrified to leave.  So I stayed, alone.  One day a man showed up in the house.  I don’t know how he got in, but he seemed kind.  I was happy he came, and although I didn’t say it, he knew.

I woke up.

The latest dream somehow ties them together – the potential profit of the oil along with the luck in finding it (or it finding me), and the fear inside of a house with no escape, but after time finding company (or him finding me), and coincidentally, some sort of salvation.

I had traveled far in this final dream, across beautiful beaches and up dangerous heights.  At times friends journeyed with me, and other times I was alone.  No one was with there when I entered the house.  Inside, everything was hot pink and gold, from the ceilings to the floors and the furniture in between.  It was extraordinarily beautiful and immaculate.  Something about it made me feel young again.  My dream-mind knew that I couldn’t leave the same way I had entered. I would have to walk through the house and find an exit.

The only way out was farther in. This thought scared me greatly.

The rooms seemed to never end.  There weren’t doors between them, just hot pink archways trimmed in gold.  I walked slowly, feeling both admiration and horror.  I looked for an egress.

And then I saw an old, brown wooden door to my left.  I turned the doorknob.  There was a small, dingy standing area and another door made of iron, painted white.  I opened the iron door, and I was outside again.  I saw people in the distance.  It was a beautiful day.

“Caught you in a lie…” (& why social networking sites are bad when you’re dating someone)

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

We had been seeing each other for five months when I caught him in a lie.

He had band practice at 7 p.m.  Our tentative plans were to watch a movie afterward.  He said he would call me when they were done with practice.

Just before midnight he texted me and said that they were finished.  I found it unusual that they played so late.  Their practice space was in an apartment building and usually they finished around 10:30, but I wasn’t too concerned.  He asked me what I was doing, and I told him that I was watching The Colbert Report.

His next reply came 40 minutes later.  He asked if I was sleeping and I said no.  We decided to watch a movie, and he said he’d be at my apartment in 20 minutes.

Forty minutes later, he arrived.  I gave him a gift that I had bought for him that afternoon.  It was a Matchbox van.  I painted it black and told him it was a tour van for his band.  We watched Susperia and went to bed some time after 3 a.m.  I had work the next morning, and although I had given him keys to my apartment, he didn’t bring them.  I wanted to let him stay in bed and sleep, but when exiting our front door, if no one is left to lock it from within, one can only lock it using keys from the outside.  Luckily, Jayme had a friend visiting from out of town who could handle this task.  So I let him remain slumbering, certain the door would get locked by Jayme’s friend.

I got ready with little sound, but my movements woke him slightly.  As I was saying goodbye, I couldn’t help but notice a large stamp from Trash Bar on his hand.

“Been to Trash Bar recently?” I said without worry.

He became more alert.  “What?” he asked.

“That’s just a mighty big stamp,” I replied, pointing at his hand.

“Oh, yeah,” he mumbled.  He closed his eyes.  I kissed him and told him to have a good day.

While rounding the corner on the way to the train, confusion suddenly entered my mind.  He had band practice last night, and he worked the two nights before that… And we were together the night before that… And that stamp looked fresh…

I remembered leaving a comment on his Facebook page the previous week and noticing that he RSVPed to an assortment of events, one at Trash Bar.  It stood out to me because I like Trash Bar.  (They have free tater tots.  Who doesn’t love free tater tots?)  Often people RSVP to Facebook events with no intention of going, but given the circumstances I felt I had to know if the one he RSVPed to was on that particular night.

When I got to work, I checked.  Sure enough, it was.  (Why social networking sites are bad when you’re dating someone: too much information that’s too easily accessible.)  I don’t think there are words to describe how I felt.  Why didn’t he just text me after practice and tell me that he was going to a show?  It obviously wouldn’t have been a problem… Did he even have practice?…

It may sound strange, but I’m more upset with myself.  He misled me, and I offered no protest.  I never even mentioned it to him, and we continued seeing each other for another four months.  My already present trust issues were intensified, and my need to avoid confrontation shamed me.

Not long after we began dating, I knew that it wasn’t going to last.  Maybe my belief in that played a part in my reaction (or lack thereof).  Perhaps this presumption always influenced how I acted towards him.

Still I held on because I felt like something special was lurking between us.  I thought there was amazing potential in the way we felt about each other.  So I became meek and timid, and in the end I lost confidence in myself and in the possibility of love.

I don’t hold this lie, or more accurately, this hidden truth against him.  And as I have said, this blog is never meant to be an outlet for accusations.  The intention of my writing is most often to purge from my mind the thoughts that plague me.  In this case, he either had a reason for not being open with me about his plans, or he just didn’t have enough regard for me to be honest about something so trivial.  I’d be hard pressed to find a person who has not wronged someone that they care for.

My issue is that I let it happen.  I don’t even know who I was back then.

Achilles Tendon & Angola Prison

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

I hate movie scenes in which someone’s Achilles tendon gets sliced. The first time I saw this scene in Kill Bill resulted in red wine all over my sofa. I loved that sofa. I believe it still resides with an ex in Los Angeles.

The most disturbing case of real-life Achilles tendon cutting occurred in 1951 at Angola Prison in Louisiana. At the time, the 18,000 acre penitentiary had been dubbed “The Worst Prison in America”. In an effort to protest the brutal conditions, 31 prisoners sliced their Achilles tendons with razor blades so they couldn’t be sent to work.

The graphic incident was difficult to ignore. A committee was appointed by the governor to investigate the conditions at Angola. What they found was the result of decades of neglect by the Louisiana State Government. Prisoners lived crowded together by the hundreds into wooden, rundown barracks. Four toilets without seats and four showers were shared among 250 men. Beatings were common. Prisoners were loaned as manual laborers to outside businesses. They were offered little medical treatment and no rehabilitation.

Currently, The Angola Prison Museum lies just outside of the penitentiries’ gates. It features “Old Sparky,” a solid oak electric chair, last used at Angola in 1991 (when the state converted to the lethal injection death method). Arranged to look as it did in its final electrocution, the exhibit includes leather straps used to restrain prisoners’ feet and arms, a hood to cover the face, and sponges that, when moistened with a saline solution, help to conduct electricity. Photographs of Old Sparky’s victims surround the display.

Other exhibits include the inmate weapon cabinet, containing weapons, tattoo machines, and drug paraphernalia fashioned by prisoners out of a wide array of unlikely materials. These materials include the carriage return of a typewriter, the metal from the bottom of a boot, and a shotgun made from pipes that were part of a construction project. There is a compressor tank from the back of a truck which two prisoners cut open and hid in to escape. The museum even displays gory photos of prison murders.

In addition to the museum, Angola hosts an inmate rodeo within its gates every Sunday in October. Events include convict poker, where four inmates sit around a card table in the middle of the ring holding cards while an angry bull is released. The last one to get up wins. There’s also Guts & Glory, where a poker chip is placed on the forehead of a bull. Approximately 20 inmates are in the ring, and whichever one retrieves the poker chip wins. Surrounding this event is a huge arts and crafts festival, complete with entertainment and food. Some inmate-made items for sale include jewelry, leather craft, painting, and woodwork. Occasionally inmate bands perform, and starting at 2 p.m. and during the entire rodeo the Angola Prison Rodeo Band plays.

I do hope to go one October.

Burning Bridges

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Last night I saw a good friend.  We didn’t speak to each other at all.

Recently, this friend felt as though I wronged her by means of a joke.  I apologized and assured her that I meant no harm.  Of course, the latter should go without saying between good friends.

A few days passed and I still felt bad about the situation.  Mutual confidants assured me that everything was fine.

And then I got an email from my good friend.  “You’re really fucking hard to be friends with,” she wrote.  “You spend most of your time trying to be an emotional automaton… You’re too busy drowning the hurt, and yourself, in Jameson… You’re selfish and controlling, and you don’t mind hurting people to get what you need… It seems like you think the sun doesn’t shine on anyone but you and the people in a five foot radius of you”.  Assumptions about my opinions of her life were also presented.  She told me that she has made exceptions for me, and usually she would just have walked away.  She ended the email with love.

The inaccurate description of me by my good friend was only half of what bothered me.  No one knows me better than I know myself.  I am not selfish and controlling, and I certainly don’t hurt people to get what I need.  My needs are fairly simple: food, shelter, friends, good times and bad times (equally inspiring), and an occasional new dress.  Never do I recall even being tempted to inflict physical or emotional pain on another to obtain something from the list.  I think the sun shines on everyone when it’s sunny, literally and metaphorically.

Furthermore, I don’t know what I have said or done to make her think that I have judgments about her life.  As long as my friends are happy, I am happy.  If they have a boyfriend/girlfriend that consumes most of their lives, that’s terrific.  I am happy when my friends are in love, and I will always be there to comfort them if their heart breaks.

Finally, yes I have problems with my emotions.  This is not a unique characteristic.  For most, emotions are both hard to show and hard not to show.  In my case, it has nothing to do with Jameson consumption.  I am living my life the very best I can, and I never take for granted the people around me who support me and love me no matter what.  Friendship to me means unconditional love and loyalty.

So, to reiterate, the previous three paragraphs are only a part of what troubled me with this email.  My main problem was that it was cruel and unnecessary.  Even if these are my weaknesses, I find it hurtful that a good friend would throw them in my face.  I am imperfect, and I acknowledge that fact in my head every single day.

But I find it hard to see imperfection in my friends.  I see human moments.  Everyone can be selfish at times, and everyone can be controlling.  Most importantly, everyone can be in need – the person who broke your heart or the friend who made a list of your supposed defects.  To give to these people and to love them is not heroic or commendable, it’s humanity at its best.

I’m not sure what this email was intended to do, if not simply to make me feel terrible.  (She was hurt by my joke, so maybe this was an eye for an eye?)  In any case, I put my self-hatred out there.  Please be aware that I love myself just as much, only I don’t often write about it.

I feel there were expectations of a reaction.  Expectations can be exhausting to live up to, so I choose to just live.  If I unintentionally hurt someone in the process, I will ask for forgiveness.  And when someone hurts me, I will use my strength to forgive them without request, as I have here, with my good friend.

Unfortunately, things are not the same now.  I find it hard to hug someone who has vilified me.  That being said, I still love her and if I ever find her in need, I will not hesitate to help her.

It would pain me to know that anyone else I hold so close to my heart feels this way about me.  I hope my friendship is not a burden from which my loved ones long to be relieved.

However, if this is the case and you like to burn bridges, I’ve got plenty of matches.  But beware – my bridges are made of stone.  My bridges are hard to burn.

Tuffy

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

When I was younger, my family had an orange tabby cat named Tuffy.  My brother brought him to our home in Louisiana when I was seven years old.  We didn’t have to keep a litter box for Tuffy.  If he had to relieve himself, he would paw at the bottom of the kitchen door.  One of us would open it for him, and when he was done he would come back and wait to be let in.  Sometimes Tuffy would sleep outside in the garage, and other times he would sleep inside.  Tuffy knew his own name and he would come when called.  He was the perfect cat, and I loved him very much.

One night, I went to close the garage door before going to bed.  We left a brick in the corner where the door met the ground so that Tuffy could go in and out as he pleased.  I didn’t see Tuffy, so I called for him.

He came into the garage slowly and I scooped him up in my arms.  I felt something wet, so I put him down and looked at my hands.  Blood. I yelled for my mom.

“Tuffy’s bleeding!” I said.

My mom knelt down on the ground and examined him.  On his left side, there was a small section of fur soaked with blood.  “I think he’ll be fine,” she assured me.  “He’ll heal right up, now off to bed.”

Tuffy slept in the garage that night.  The next morning, he seemed worse.  He hardly moved, and he was constantly crying.  It was a Sunday and the veterinarian’s office was closed.  We got hold of an emergency number and called it.

The doctor gave us the costly option of bringing Tuffy in to a pet emergency room, or to administer some home remedies.  We chose the home remedies.  There wasn’t a lot of bleeding, so the vet told us to wrap Tuffy in a blanket and try to give him a small dose of Pepto Bismol.  In retrospect I find this to be an odd treatment, but at the time we did as instructed.

In the laundry room adjacent to the kitchen, my father held Tuffy wrapped in a towel.  I watched as Tuffy seemed to struggle with whatever strength he had left while my father fed him a tiny spoonful of medication.  “Is he going to be okay?  Tuffy, you’re going to be okay,” I was repeating.

Suddenly, I saw Tuffy’s entire body stiffen.  His four legs shot out from the towel, straight and rigid.  I screamed his name.  His body relaxed, and he was dead.  The look on my parents’ faces confirmed the grim truth.  My very best animal friend had died right in front of me, and there was nothing I could do to save him.

“No!” I yelled.  I ran to my room and cried.  My adolescent mind was overwhelmed with guilt and grieving.  Maybe if he would have slept inside… Maybe if we would have brought him to the emergency room… Did a snake bite him?… What if someone shot him?…

We buried Tuffy underneath a tree in the backyard, wrapped in the same towel he had died in.  I put a clear plastic Barbie necklace on a chain of pink and purple string in his grave.

The vet said that we could bring Tuffy’s body in for an autopsy, but we never did.  To this day, I have no idea what killed him.

Photos of Tuffy from my childhood scrapbook (below)

photo

Something From My Fridge

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

comic

A Call to My Mom

Friday, November 6th, 2009

“Who’s this jerk you keep writing about?” my mom asked.  I had called her from the dog park while Gherkin was socializing.  “The one who asked you to go to the beach with his mom and then said he just invited you because he wanted to have fun or something?”

“Well, that post was actually about two different guys. But the guy you’re talking about is someone I was seeing for like eight months.  It’s funny you brought that up because I was going to write about him today.”  (Obviously, that story will have to wait.)  “He’s not a-”

She cut me off.  “He’s a jerk.  He’s not a good person.  You need to meet someone as amazing as your father.  Someone who treats you like an equal.”

“I know Mom.  And I’m pretty much over it.  Now it’s just good ammunition for my writing.  But he doesn’t want to be a jerk. I think he tries not to be a jerk.  He may even be oblivious to-”

She cut me off again.  “Look, there are other fish in the sea.  I dated a lot of jerks before I met your father.”

“I bet,” I remarked.  “At least I’m the one who ended it.  I was tired of being treated that way.”  I wanted to say more.  We really did care about each other, and we got along so well.  It just didn’t work out.  Sometimes things just don’t work out.

“You deserve better,” she assured me.  He had told me that, too.  “I’m sorry, I’m done preaching,” she said.

“No, it’s fine.  You and Dad actually make me believe that things can work out one day.  You remind me that people can really be in love,” I told her.

When Rona met my parents, she asked my father what the “secret” was.  He said luck.  My parents have been married for 30 years, and they still adore each other.  It’s wonderful.

Most holidays I am faced with this conversation:

“You better hope that one day you find a man as great as your father,” my mom will say.

“No, no,” my dad will respond, “I am the lucky one.  I am lucky that someone as beautiful and amazing as your mother agreed to marry me.”

They hug, they kiss, I roll my eyes, and we commence eating and drinking.

My parents are really the greatest people in the world.  I’ve written about my father before.  My mother is equally inspiring.  One of my fondest adult memories was when, in my early college years, I asked her for money to buy bras.

“What do you need bras for?” she asked.  “When I was your age, we didn’t even wear bras.”  (Oh, to be 20-something in the early 70s.)

“But Mom,” I complained, “people will see my nipples.”

“What, you don’t think people know you have nipples?” she argued.

I know my parents must have been incredible when they were my age.  Photographs prove that they were gorgeous, and if their personalities today are any representation of what they were back then, I can’t imagine hanging out with cooler people.

If they are lucky to have each other, than I am twice as lucky to have them both.

wedding

Mom & Dad, 1979 (above), Me & Mom, sometime in the 80s (below)

mommegood

The happy couple, 2008 (below)

parentshug

Prairie Dogs

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

In the mid-1980’s, Dr. Con Slobodchikoff began studying the social behavior and communication of prairie dogs.  Along with a team of researchers, he set up videotapes with sound recording capabilities on the edges of various prairie dog colonies.  These devices were hidden so that the animals could not see them.  Slobodchikoff took the recordings to his lab, slowed them down, and analyzed them.  What he discovered was quite amazing.

A coyote, the main prairie dog predator, caused a clear and identifiable response.  However, a silhouette of a coyote run on a wire through the colony elicited a specific response.  It was the prairie dogs’ word for coyote, but distinctively different.  This proved that the prairie dogs were capable of a language skill called displacement: the ability to talk and think about things that are not directly in front of them.

In another experiment, Slobodchikoff had people with different colored shirts walk through the colonies.  He found a consistent variation in the calls of the prairie dogs.  Even in separate colonies, the animals had the same call for blue shirt, green shirt, red shirt, and so on.

Not only did the prairie dogs have words for colors, they had specific sounds for attributes like size, speed of travel, and threatening or non-threatening behavior.  There were even different words for various breeds of dog.

When a man with a yellow coat and a separate man with a yellow coat carrying a gun were presented to the prairie dogs, the men were identified differently. When the man with the yellow coat and gun came the next day without the gun, he was still given the same bark from the day before when he had a gun. The memory of the name for this one specific person was held onto mentally by the prairie dogs for a period of two months.  As Slobodchikoff translated these sounds into words and word parts, he was even able to discern prairie dog syntax.

An additional experiment was performed in which isolated prairie dogs were shown something they had surely never seen before: a European ferret.  Not only did the prairie dogs create a new word for the animal, but when the new predator was shown to widely separated prairie dogs from completely different colonies, each barked the same word as the initial colony to describe the never-before-seen animal.

The ability of separate colonies to coin the same new word for something they have never seen before was examined again.  New words were continually created, and the same words were used by all prairie dogs tested.  This ability to develop identical new words between separated groups does not occur in human languages.  A new term for an unfamiliar object is not the same from one group of people to the next.  But the prairie dog bark for a specific animal or object along with that animal/object’s characteristics is identical between all prairie dogs, even when isolated from one another in remote colonies.

Following years of controlled experiments, Dr. Slobodchicoff also learned that every prairie dog colony has its own regional dialect.  An Arizona prairie dog would sound a little different compared to a New Mexico prairie dog, and both would sound different compared to a Texas prairie dog.

Prairie dogs are seen as pests and rodents.  They face systematic extermination throughout the American West.  Actually, few people give them much thought at all.