|The Burgess Animal Book for Children|
|by Thornton Burgess|
|To answer Peter Rabbit’s questions about his relatives, Old Mother Nature holds a school for the animals every day at sun-up for a month. Encouraging the animals to notice the differences between them and to offer their observa-tions of animal behavior, Old Mother Nature helps them all gain a greater understanding of the mammals of North America. Starting with the animals close to home, the school moves in ever-widening circles to encompass the animals of the far west and the extreme north, as well. A fine introduction to mammals for students in the primary grades. Ages 6-9 |
TWO QUEER LITTLE HAYMAKERS
 THERE is nothing like a little knowledge to make one want more.
Johnny Chuck, who had gone to school only because Old Mother Nature
had sent for him, had become as full of curiosity as Peter Rabbit.
The discovery that he had a big, handsome cousin, Whistler the
Marmot, living in the mountains of the Far West, had given Johnny
something to think about. It seemed to Johnny such a queer place
for a member of his family to live that he wanted to know more
about it. So Johnny had a question all ready when Old Mother
Nature called school to order the next morning.
"If you please, Mother Nature," said he, "does my cousin, Whistler,
have any neighbors up among those rocks where he lives?"
"He certainly does," replied Old Mother Nature, nodding her head.
"He has for a near neighbor one of the quaintest and most interesting
little members of the big order to which you all belong. And that
order is what?" she asked abruptly.
 "The order of Rodents," replied Peter Rabbit promptly.
"Right, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature, smiling at Peter. "I
asked that just to see if you really are learning. I wanted to
make sure that I am not wasting my time with you little folks.
Now this little neighbor of Whistler is Little Chief Hare."
Instantly Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare pricked up their long
ears and became more interested than ever, if that were possible.
"I thought you had told us all about our family," cried Jumper,
"but you didn't mention Little Chief."
"No," said Old Mother Nature, "I didn't, and the reason I didn't
was because Little Chief isn't a member of your family. He is
called Little Chief Hare, but he isn't a Hare at all, although he
looks much like a small Rabbit with short hind legs and rounded
ears. He has a family all to himself and should be called a Pika.
Some folks do call him that, but more call him a Cony, and some
call him the Crying Hare. This is because he uses his voice a
great deal, which is something no member of the Hare family does.
In size he is just about as big as one of your half-grown babies,
Peter, so, you see, he really is a very little fellow. His coat
is grayish-brown. His ears are of good size, but instead of
long, are round. He has small bright eyes. His legs are short,
his hind legs being very little longer than his front ones. He
has hair on the soles of his feet just like the members of the
Also called Cony and Little Chief Hare.
"What about his tail?" piped up Peter Rabbit. You know Peter is
very much interested in tails.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "He is worse off than you, Peter," said
she, "for he hasn't any at all. That is, he hasn't any that can be
seen. He lives way up among the rocks of the great mountains above
where the trees grow and often is a very near neighbor to Whistler."
"I suppose that means that he makes his home down in under rocks,
the same as Whistler does," spoke up Johnny Chuck.
"Right," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is such a little fellow
that he can get through very narrow places, and he has his home
and barns way down in among the rocks."
"Barns!" exclaimed Happy Jack Squirrel. "Barns! What do you mean
Old Mother Nature laughed. "I just call them barns," said she,
"because they are the places where he stores away his hay, just as
Farmer Brown stores away his hay in his barn. I suppose you would
call them storehouses."
At the mention of hay, Peter Rabbit sat bolt
 upright and his eyes
were wide open with astonishment. "Did you say hay?" he exclaimed.
"Where under the sun does he get hay way up there, and what does
he want of it?"
There was a twinkle in Old Mother Nature's eyes as she replied,
"He makes that hay just as you see Farmer Brown make hay every
summer. It is what he lives on in the winter and in bad weather.
Little Chief knows just as much about the proper way of making hay
as Farmer Brown does. Even way up among the rocks there are places
where grass and peas-vines and other green things grow. Little
Chief lives on these in summer. But he is as wise and thrifty as
any Squirrel, another way in which he differs from the Hare family.
He cuts them when they are ready for cutting and spreads them out
on the rocks to dry in the sun. He knows that if he should take
them down into his barns while they are fresh and green they would
sour and spoil; so he never stores them away until they are
thoroughly dry. Then, of course, they are hay, for hay is nothing
but sun-dried grass cut before it has begun to die. When his hay
is just as dry as it should be, he takes it down and stores it away
in his barns, which are nothing but little caves down in among the
rocks. There he has it for use in winter when there is no green food.
 "Little Chief is so nearly the color of the rocks that it takes
sharp eyes to see him when he is sitting still. He has a funny
little squeaking voice, and he uses it a great deal. It is a funny
voice because it is hard to tell just where it comes from. It seems
to come from nowhere in particular. Sometimes he can be heard
squeaking way down in his home under the rocks. Like Johnny Chuck,
he prefers to sleep at night and be abroad during the day. Because
he is so small he must always be on the lookout for enemies. At the
first hint of danger he scampers to safety in among the rocks, and
there he scolds whoever has frightened him. There is no more
loveable little person in all my great family than this little
haymaker of the mountains of the Great West."
"That haymaking is a pretty good idea of Little Chief's," remarked
Peter Rabbit, scratching a long ear with a long hind foot. "I've
a great mind to try it myself."
Everybody laughed right out, for everybody knew just how easy-going
and thriftless Peter was. Peter himself grinned. He couldn't
"That would be a very good idea, Peter," said Old Mother Nature.
"By the way, there is another haymaker out in those same great
mountains of the Far West."
 "Who?" demanded Peter and Johnny Chuck and Happy Jack Squirrel,
all in the same breath.
"Stubtail the Mountain Beaver," declared Peter promptly. "I
suppose Stubtail is his cousin."
Old Mother Nature shook her head. "No," said she. "No. Stubtail
and Paddy are no more closely related than the rest of you. Stubtail
isn't a Beaver at all. His proper name is Sewellel. Sometimes he
is called Showt'l and sometimes the Boomer, and sometimes the
Chehalis, but most folks call him the Mountain Beaver."
He is not a Beaver at all but a Sewellel.
"Is it because he looks like Paddy the Beaver?" Striped Chipmunk asked.
"No," replied Old Mother Nature. "He looks more like Jerry Muskrat
than he does like Paddy. He is about Jerry's size and looks very
much as Jerry would if he had no tail."
"Hasn't he any tail at all?" asked Peter.
"Yes, he has a little tail, a little stub of a tail, but it is so
small that to look at him you would think he hadn't any," replied
Old Mother Nature. "He is found out in the same mountains of the
Far West where Whistler and Little Chief live, but instead of
living way up high among the rocks he is at home down in the valleys
where the ground is soft and the trees grow thickly.
Stub-  tail has
no use for rocks. He wants soft, wet ground where he can tunnel
and tunnel to his heart's content. In one thing Stubtail is very
like Yap Yap the Prairie Dog."
"What is that?" asked Johnny Chuck quickly, for, you know, Yap Yap
is Johnny's cousin.
"In his social habits," replied Old Mother Nature. "Stubtail isn't
fond of living alone. He wants company of his own kind. So wherever
you find Stubtail you are likely to find many of his family. They
like to go visiting back and forth. They make little paths between
their homes and all about through the thick ferns, and they keep
these little paths free and clear, so that they may run along them
easily. Some of these little paths lead into long tunnels. These
are made for safety. Usually the ground is so wet that there will
be water running in the bottoms of these little tunnels."
"What kind of a house does Stubtail have?" inquired Johnny
"A hole in the ground, of course," replied Old Mother Nature. "It
is dug where the ground is drier than where the runways are made.
Mrs. Stubtail makes a nest of dried ferns and close by they build
two or three storehouses, for Stubtail and Mrs. Stubtail are
"I suppose he fills them with hay, for you said
 he is a haymaker,"
remarked Happy Jack Squirrel, who is always interested in storehouses.
"Yes," replied Old Mother Nature, "he puts hay in them. He cuts
grasses, ferns, pea-vines and other green plants and carries them
in little bundles to the entrance to his tunnel. There he piles
them on sticks so as to keep them off the damp ground and so that
the air can help dry them out. When they are dry, he takes them
inside and stores them away. He also stores other things. He likes
the roots of ferns. He cuts tender, young twigs from bushes and
stores away some of these. He is fond of bark. In winter he is
quite as active as in summer and tunnels about under the snow.
Then he sometimes has Peter Rabbit's bad habit of killing trees
by gnawing bark all around as high up as he can reach."
"Can he climb trees?" asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"Just about as much as Johnny Chuck can," replied Old Mother Nature.
"Sometimes he climbs up in low bushes or in small, low-branching
trees to cut off tender shoots, but he doesn't do much of this sort
of thing. His home is the ground. He is most active at night, but
where undisturbed, is out more or less during the day. When he wants
to cut off a twig he sits up like a
 Squirrel and holds the twig in
his hands while he bites it off with his sharp teeth."
"You didn't tell us what color his coat is," said Peter Rabbit.
"I told you he looked very much like Jerry Muskrat," replied Old
Mother Nature. "His coat is brown, much the color of Jerry's, but
his fur is not nearly so soft and fine."
"I suppose he has enemies just as the rest of us little people have,"
"Of course," replied Old Mother Nature. "All little people have
enemies, and most big ones too, for that matter. King Eagle is one
and Yowler the Bob Cat is another. They are always watching for
Stubtail. That is why he digs so many tunnels. He can travel under
the ground then. My goodness, how time flies! Scamper home, all of
you, for I have too much to do to talk any more to-day."
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