A New Fire Destroyer.
In Central Dakota, on the “Missouri bottoms,” there exists one of nature’s strangest freaks. The settlers term it the “pump snake.” How it came there and where it came from is yet unknown. It first made its appearance in Emmons county in the spring of 1886. A full-grown pump snake measures about sixteen feet in length and about three inches in diameter. They are of gregarious habits, roaming the prairies in large herds, as many as 300 having been counted in a single flock. In dissecting one of these reptiles there is found a tube which extends from the root of the jaw to the extremity of the tail and terminating in an opening. This tube is about two inches in diameter and lined with a tough yielding substance similar to rubber. The pump snake is easily trained to answer the call of man. The inhabitants of this section trap them in large numbers.
A farmer on Cat Tail Creek has a flock of twenty pump snakes trained to a remarkable degree of proficiency. At the blast of a whistle the snakes assemble on the banks of the creek. The leader (there is always a leader to a herd of these snakes, who is elected by a two-thirds majotity) dashes into the water of the creek, leaving only the extremity of its tail on the bank. Another snake immediately grasps the end of the leader’s tail in his jaws, a third snake takes a hold of the second snake’s tail in a similar manner, and so on, extending to the water troughs in the cattle yards, 300 feet away. The leading snake begins to swallow or pump the water of the creek, which passes through the long line of snakes as it would through a hose, and falls in a heavy stream into the trough.
The agriculturist told of an extraordinary circumstance which occurred a short time ago. While working in the field near his home he observed flames issuing from the roof of his bam. Wild with excitement he hurried to the burning building, only to see that it was a hopeless task for himself alone to attempt to extinguish the flames. In despair he gazed on the work of destruction ; suddenly he heard a loud rustling in the tall grass, whence issued his herd of pump snakes on the run. The leader hurled himself into the creek, the rest instantly adjusting themselves heads and tails from the creek to the burning building. The last snake, standing on its bead, waved its long and flexible body, from the tail of which issued a stream of water that was thrown with terrific force on the burning building. Back and forth dashed the tail end of the living hose, squirting the water where it would do the most good, while the loud pumping of the leader could be heard above the roar of the conflagration. Within fifteen minutes the last spark was out. Then, and not until then, did the pump snakes quit work. They were completely exhausted, the leader having fainted dead away. The main part of the building and its contents were saved, thanks to the presence of mind of these wonderful snakes.
The territorial government is becoming awakened to the extreme usefulness of these interesting creatures, and laws are to be enacted to protect the pump snake.