Shakespeare; Longfellow. What goes up the chimney?

Bone sore, mess o’ me.  No, I’m not trying to speak French–I’ll leave that to Dr. Dubois. I spent the day riding fence with a friend on his ranch out west of town. He wanted to make sure none of his new herd of Limousin heifers found a way of escape. It had been a long time since I sat astride a horse, and now I’ve got blisters on my blisters. I’m bone sore, and it made a mess of me.

You may be asking yourself why I’m posting in Science Corner. Well, while I was up there on ol’ Smokey, I noticed the wind was a bit more harsh, more forceful than it was nearer to the ground and it reminded me of something I had heard awhile back about prairie dogs.  I asked Dr. Dubois if he wanted to take this one, but he said no, I would do fine, and he was planning on spending a few days fishing and smoking cigars with our friend Matthew. Just be sure to post it in Science Corner, he said.

Before I get to that, however, it occurs to me that some of y’all out there might not be familiar with the term, riding fence. That’s where you ride your horse along the entire length of the fence enclosing your pasture, looking for breaks. One break is all it takes to lose all your livestock. Now, these days, we don’t carry all the tools with us on the horses. No, we just ride the perimeter, marking waypoints in our GPS devices where we see damage.  Then we go get the four-wheeler and make a beeline for those spots.  The horses make the rough terrain easier, so we don’t have to risk rolling the four-wheeler when it’s not necessary.  It’s quieter, uses less fuel, and generates less air pollution, too. And it saves weight on the horses. A reel of barbed wire, staples, fence pliers, a fence stretcher, and maybe even a spare fence post are quite a load when your horse is already carrying a rider. And you can bet we took a spool of electric fence wire, too, just in case.

But I digress. I was intending to talk about prairie dog burrows, but here I am telling you about ranching. Now, kids, did you ever stop to think about how stuffy it might get down in one of those prairie dog tunnels? How do they get fresh air? They breathe just like you and I. There has been a lot of speculation about that, but here’s what they found: There are normally two entrances to a prairie dog burrow. One is about at ground level, and one is mounded up higher, and that’s why riding the horse made me think about that. There’s something called laminar flow, but we won’t mess with that because it’s too complicated.  What happens is that the wind blows faster across the higher entrance, and that creates a lower pressure, sucking out some of the air. Since there’s now lower pressure in the tunnel, air gets drawn in from the other entrance, and pretty doggone soon it cycles out all the old, stale air.  And there you have it.  What goes up the chimney? Smoke.

This entry was posted in Professor Dubois' Science Corner. Bookmark the permalink.