Ants on the Prairie

“[Ant] mounds were like inverted mild pans, six to eight feet across and six inches high, and often hels a fair amount of Indian beads about the size of tiny pebbles ordinarily used in the construction of their underground cities, and much easier to carry.

These anthills were an invaluable asset to the plainsman. I quote an inelegant but informative paragraph from ‘The Overland Stage to California:’ ‘It is a notorious fact that many of the overland stage drivers and stock tenders, between three and four decades ago, were inhabited by a species of vermin known as pediculus vestimenti, but on the plains more vulgarly known as “gray-backs.” During the hot weather of midsummer, when the vermin were rapidly multiplying, it was the custom of the boys at the station to take their underclothing and blankets in the morning, spread them out on an ant-hill, and get them late in the afternoon.’ The ants, it seems, solicitously searched out and killed the last socially unmentionable insect. This polite atention, plus the intense sunning thrown in for good measure, constituted the dry cleaning of the plains.”