|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 |
MICE WITH POCKETS, AND OTHERS
 "POCKETS are very handy things for little people who are thrifty
and who live largely on small seeds. Without pockets in which to
carry the seeds, I am afraid some of them would never be able to
store up enough food for winter," began Old Mother Nature, as soon
as everybody was on hand the next morning.
"I wouldn't be without my pockets for any thing," spoke up
Old Mother Nature smiled. "You certainly do make good use of yours,"
said she. "But there are others who have even greater need of
pockets, and among them are the Pocket Mice. Of course, it is
because of their pockets that they are called Pocket Mice. All of
these pretty little fellows live in the dry parts of the Far West
and Southwest in the same region where Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat
lives. They are close neighbors and relatives of his.
 "Midget the Silky Pocket Mouse is one of the smallest animals in
all the Great World, so small that Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is a
giant compared with him. He weighs less than an ounce and is a
dear little fellow. His back and sides are yellow, and beneath
he is white. He has quite long hind legs and a long tail, and
these show at once that he is a jumper. In each cheek is a pocket
opening from the outside, and these pockets are lined with hair.
He is called Silky Pocket Mouse because of the fineness and
softness of his coat. He has some larger cousins, one of them
being a little bigger than Nibbler the House Mouse. Neighbors
and close relatives are the Spiny Pocket Mice."
"Do they have spines like Prickly Porky?" demanded Peter Rabbit.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "I don't wonder you ask," said she.
"I think it is a foolish name myself, for they haven't any spines at
all. Their fur isn't as fine as that of Midget, and it has all
through it long coarse hairs almost like bristles, and from these
they get their name. The smallest of the Spiny Pocket Mice is
about the size of Nibbler the House Mouse and the largest is twice
as big. They are more slender than their Silky cousins, and their
tails are longer in proportion to their size and have little tufts
of hair at the
 ends. Of course, they have pockets in their cheeks.
"In habits all the Pocket Mice are much alike. They make burrows
in the ground, often throwing up a little mound with several
entrances which lead to a central passageway connecting with the
bedroom and storerooms. By day the entrances are closed with
earth from inside, for the Mice are active only at night.
Sometimes the burrows are hidden under bushes, and sometimes
they are right out in the open. Living as they do in a hot, dry
country, the Pocket Mice have learned to get along without
drinking water. Their food consists mainly of a variety of
"Another Mouse of the West looks almost enough like Whitefoot to
be a member of his branch of the family. He has a beautiful
yellowish-brown coat and white waistcoat, and his feet are white.
But his tail is short in comparison with Whitefoot's and instead
of being slim is quite thick. His fur is like velvet. He is
called the Grasshopper Mouse."
"Is that because he eats Grasshoppers?" asked Peter Rabbit at once.
"You've guessed it," laughed Old Mother Nature. "He is very, very
fond of Grasshoppers and Crickets. He eats many kinds of insects,
Moths, Flies, Cutworms, Beetles, Lizards, Frogs
 and Scorpions.
Because of his fondness for the latter he is called the Scorpion
Mouse in some sections. He is fond of meat when he can get it.
He also eats seeds of many kinds. He is found all over the West
from well up in the North to the hot dry regions of the Southwest.
When he cannot find a convenient deserted burrow of some other
animal, he digs a home for himself and there raises several families
each year. In the early evening he often utters a fine, shrill,
whistling call note.
"Another little member of the Mouse family found clear across the
country is the Harvest Mouse. He is never bigger than Nibbler the
House Mouse and often is much smaller. In fact, he is one of the
smallest of the entire family. In appearance he is much like
Nibbler, but his coat is browner and there are fine hairs on his
tail. He loves grassy, weedy or brushy places.
"As a rule he does little harm to man, for his food is chiefly
seeds of weeds, small wild fruits and parts of wild plants of no
value to man. Once in a while his family becomes so large that
they do some damage in grain fields. But this does not happen
often. The most interesting thing about this little Mouse is the
way he builds his home. Sometimes he uses a hole in a tree or
post and sometimes a deserted birds' nest, but more frequently
he builds a nest for himself—
 a little round ball of grass and
other vegetable matter. This is placed in thick grass or weeds
close to the ground or in bushes or low trees several feet from
"They are well-built little houses and have one or more little
doorways on the under side when they are in bushes or trees. Inside
is a warm, soft bed made of milkweed or cattail down, the very
nicest kind of a bed for the babies. No one has a neater home than
the Harvest Mouse. He is quite as much at home in bushes and low
trees as Happy Jack Squirrel is in bigger trees. His long tail
comes in very handy then, for he often wraps it around a twig to
make his footing more secure.
"Now this is all about the native Mice and—what is it, Peter?"
"You've forgotten Nibbler the House Mouse," replied Peter.
"How impatient some little folks are and how fearful that their
curiosity will not be satisfied," remarked Old Mother Nature. "As
I was saying, this is all about our native Mice; that is, the Mice
who belong to this country. And now we come to Nibbler the House
Mouse, who, like Robber the Brown Rat, has no business here at all,
but who has followed man all over the world and like Robber has
become a pest to man."
 Peter Rabbit looked rather sheepish when he discovered that Old
Mother Nature hadn't forgotten, and resolved that in the future
he would hold his tongue.
"Have any of you seen Nibbler?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"I have," replied Danny Meadow Mouse. "Once I was carried to
Farmer Brown's barn in a shock of corn and I found Nibbler living
in the barn."
"It is a wonder he wasn't living in Farmer Brown's house," said
Old Mother Nature. "Probably other members of his family were.
He is perfectly at home in any building put up by man, just as
is Robber the Rat. Because of his small size he can go where
Robber cannot. He delights to scamper about between the walls.
Being a true Rodent he is forever gnawing holes in the corners
of rooms and opening on to pantry shelves so that he may steal
food. He eats all sorts of food, but spoils more for man, by
running about over it, than he eats. In barns and henhouses he
gets into the grain bins and steals a great deal of grain.
Here are two of the worst
pests in the world. Neither is native to America.
"It is largely because of Robber the Rat and Nibbler that men keep
the Cats you all hate so. A Cat is Nibbler's worst enemy. Nibbler
is slender and graceful, with a long, hairless tail and
 ears of
good size. He is very timid, ready to dart into his hole at the
least sound. He raises from four to nine babies at a time and
several sets of them in a year.
"If Mr. and Mrs. Nibbler are living in a house, their nest is made
of scraps of paper, cloth, wool and other soft things stolen from
the people who live in the house. In getting this material they
often do great damage. If they are living in a barn, they make
their nest of hay and any soft material they can find.
"While Nibbler prefers to live in or close to the homes of men,
he sometimes is driven out and then takes to the fields, especially
in summer. There he lives in all sorts of hiding places, and isn't
at all particular what the place is, if it promises safety and food
can be obtained close by. I'm sorry Nibbler ever came to this
country. Man brought him here and now he is here to stay and quite
as much at home as if he belonged here the way the rest of you do.
"This finishes the lessons on the order of Rodents, the animals
related by reason of having teeth for the purpose of gnawing. I
suspect these are the only ones in whom you take any interest, and
so you will not care to come to school any more. Am I right?"
"No, marm," answered Happy Jack the Gray
 Squirrel, who, you remember,
had laughed at Peter Rabbit for wanting to go to school. "No, marm.
There are ever so many other people of the Green Forest and the
Green Meadows we want to know more about than we now know. Isn't
that so?" Happy Jack turned to the others and every one nodded,
even Prickly Porky.
"There is one little fellow living right near here who looks to me
as if he must be a member of the Mouse family, but he isn't like any
of the Mice you have told us about," continued Happy Jack. "He is
so small he can hide under a leaf. I'm sure he must be a Mouse."
"You mean Teeny Weeny the Shrew," replied Old Mother Nature, smiling
at Happy Jack. "He isn't a Mouse. He isn't even a Rodent. I'll
try to have him here to-morrow morning and we will see what we can
find out about him and his relatives."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics