An old western belief holds that in every prairie dog town there is one hole reaching down to water. This is untrue. Clapp points out that oil wells dug in prairie dog towns have gone down 1,000 feet without striking water. The dogs obtain all the moisture they need from the grass and plants they eat.
Clapp experimented with various types of grasses to grow for the dogs but found the Bermuda grass to be the best. A thick turf of Bermuda is maintained in the dog town with the aid of fertilizer and a sprinkling system. This constitutes the only food of the dogs except the bread and other human comestibles tossed them by visitors.
In the spring, from April 10 to 20, the old dogs come out with the young, and the whole family sits around the mouth of the hole. The young average three or four, but Clapp has seen a family emerge with seven prairie puppies. At this time the town is liveliest, the parents trying to maintain some sort of discipline and the young romping all over the place.
"They play just like kittens," Clapp said. "When tourists see 'em for the first time you could brush their eyeballs off with a whisk broom."
As the fame of Lubbock's Prairie Dog Town spread, other cities became jealous. They wanted some prairie dogs, too. Clapp said California put a bill through the legislature to enable Oakland and Sacramento to import males, and males only, from Lubbock. They were afraid the two sexes might turn sunny California into one big prairie dog town.
Other cities demanded dogs. Clapp sent them some, but now he has a strict set of rules for dispensing the engaging rodents. Dogs are sent only to zoos with adequate prairie dog facilities. None are sent to confinement in floored cages or boxes, and none are sent to individuals.
"These restrictions are due to 20 years' experience, much of it sad—the aspirin variety," Clapp said.
The next morning he drove me out into the surrounding countryside to see where the prairie dog host once lived. The flat land, reaching unbroken to the horizon, was clothed with cotton and grain sorghum. The cotton rows were a mile long as the land is farmed in sections. Lucky Lubbock stands over a vast reservoir of water-bearing sands which provide irrigation. The result is farming so intensive that there is hardly room for a single prairie dog hole. It was easy to see why the dogs had to go.
Back in Lubbock we returned to the park for some more dog watching. The wind which whips in from the plains had died down. The sun was bright, and the dogs were busy. But with calmer weather there were also owls. Small, burrowing owls, called dog owls, poked their heads from abandoned dogholes or stood stiffly erect near the mounds.
"Last spring I counted 24 pairs of those dog owls in there," Clapp said. "There is an old tale to the effect that the prairie dog, the owl and the rattlesnake all live in the same hole in perfect friendship. This is far from the truth. They use the same holes but not at the same time.