|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 |
THREE LITTLE REDCOATS AND SOME OTHERS
 WITH Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, Danny Meadow Mouse and Nimbleheels
the Jumping Mouse attending school, the Mouse family was well
represented, but when school opened the morning after Nimbleheels
had made his sudden and startling appearance, there was still
another present. It was Piney the Pine Mouse. Whitefoot, who
knew him, had hunted him up and brought him along.
"I thought you wouldn't mind if Piney came," explained Whitefoot.
"I'm glad he has come," replied Old Mother Nature. "It is much
better to see a thing than merely to be told about it, and now you
have a chance to see for yourselves the differences between two
cousins very closely related, Danny Meadow Mouse and Piney the
Pine Mouse. What difference do you see, Happy Jack Squirrel?"
"Piney is a little smaller than Danny, though
 he is much the same
shape," was the prompt reply.
"True," said Old Mother Nature. "Now, Striped Chipmunk, what
difference do you see?"
"The fur of Piney's coat is shorter, finer and has more of a shine.
Then, too, it is more of a reddish-brown than Danny's," replied
"And what do you say, Peter Rabbit?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Piney has a shorter tail," declared Peter, and everybody laughed.
"Trust you to look at his tail first," said Old Mother Nature.
"These are the chief differences as far as looks are concerned.
Their habits differ in about the same degree. As you all know,
Danny cuts little paths through the grass. Piney doesn't do this,
but makes little tunnels just under the surface of the ground very
much as Miner the Mole does. He isn't fond of the open Green
Meadows or of damp places as Danny is, but likes best the edge of
the Green Forest and brushy places. He is very much at home in a
poorly kept orchard where the weeds are allowed to grow and in young
orchards he does a great deal of damage by cutting off the roots of
young trees and stripping off the bark as high up as he can reach.
Tell us, Piney, how and where you make your home."
 Piney hesitated a little, for he was bashful. "I make my home under
ground," he ventured finally. "I dig a nice little bedroom with
several entrances from my tunnels, and in it I make a fine nest of
soft grass. Close by I dig one or more rooms in which to store my
food, and these usually are bigger than my bedroom. When I get one
filled with food I close it up by filling the entrance with earth."
"What do you put in your storerooms?" asked Peter Rabbit.
"Short pieces of grass and pieces of roots of different kinds,"
replied Piney. "I am very fond of tender roots and the bark of
trees and bushes."
"And he dearly loves to get in a garden where he can tunnel along
a row of potatoes or other root crops," added Old Mother Nature.
"Because of these habits he does a great deal of damage and is much
disliked by man. Striped Chipmunk mentioned his reddish-brown coat.
There is another cousin with a coat so red that he is called the
Red-backed Mouse. He is about the size of Danny Meadow Mouse but
has larger ears and a longer tail.
"This little fellow is a lover of the Green Forest, and he is quite
as active by day as by night. He is pretty, especially when he sits
up to eat, holding his food in his paws as does Happy Jack
He makes his home in a burrow, the entrance to which is under an old
stump, a rock or the root of a tree. His nest is of soft grass or
moss. Sometimes he makes it in a hollow log or stump instead of
digging a bedroom under ground. He is thrifty and lays up a supply
of food in underground rooms, hollow logs and similar places. He
eats seeds, small fruits, roots and various plants. Because of
his preference for the Green Forest and the fact that he lives as
a rule far from the homes of men, he does little real damage.
"There is still another little Redcoat in the family, and he is
especially interesting because while he is related to Danny Meadow
Mouse he lives almost wholly in trees. He is called the Rufous
Tree Mouse. Rufous means reddish-brown, and he gets that name
because of the color of his coat. He lives in the great forests
of the Far West, where the trees are so big and tall that the
biggest tree you have ever seen would look small beside them. And
it is in those great trees that the Rufous Tree Mouse lives.
"Just why he took to living in trees no one knows, for he belongs
to that branch of the family known as Ground Mice. But live in
them he does, and he is quite as much at home in them as
 Chatterer the Red Squirrel was interested right away. "Does he
build a nest in a tree like a Squirrel?" he asked.
"He certainly does," replied Old Mother Nature, "and often it is a
most remarkable nest. In some sections he places it only in big
trees, sometimes a hundred feet from the ground. In other sections
it is placed in small trees and only a few feet above the ground.
The high nests often are old deserted nests of Squirrels enlarged
and built over. Some of them are very large indeed and have been
used year after year. Each year they have been added to.
"One of these big nests will have several bedrooms and little
passages running all through it. It appears that Mrs. Rufous
usually has one of these big nests to herself, Rufous having
a small nest of his own out on one of the branches. The big
nest is close up against the trunk of the tree where several
"Does Rufous travel from one tree to another, or does he live in
just one tree?" asked Happy Jack Squirrel.
"Wherever branches of one tree touch those of another, and you
know in a thick forest this is frequently the case, he travels
about freely if he wants to. But those trees are so big that I
suspect he spends most of his time in the one in which
 his home
is," replied Old Mother Nature. "However, if an enemy appears
in his home tree, he makes his escape by jumping from one tree
to another, just as you would do."
"What I want to know is where he gets his food if he spends all
his time up in the trees," spoke up Danny Meadow Mouse.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "Where should he get it but up where
he lives?" she asked. "Rufous never has to worry about food. It
is all around him. You see, so far as known, he lives wholly on
the thick parts of the needles, which you know are the leaves, of
fir and spruce trees, and on the bark of tender twigs. So you
see he is more of a tree dweller than any of the Squirrel family.
While Rufous has the general shape of Danny and his relatives, he
has quite a long tail. Now I guess this will do for the nearest
relatives of Danny Meadow Mouse."
"He certainly has a lot of them," remarked Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.
Then he added a little wistfully, "Of course, in a way they are all
cousins of mine, but I wish I had some a little more closely related."
"You have," replied Old Mother Nature, and Whitefoot pricked up
his big ears. "One of them is Bigear the Rock Mouse, who lives out
in the mountains of the Far West. He is as fond of the
 rocks as
Rufous is of the trees. Sometimes he lives in brush heaps and in
brushy country, but he prefers rocks, and that is why he is known
as the Rock Mouse.
"He is a pretty little fellow, if anything a trifle bigger than you,
Whitefoot, and he is dressed much like you with a yellowish-brown
coat and white waistcoat. He has just such a long tail covered
with hair its whole length. But you should see his ears. He has
the largest ears of any member of the whole family. That is why
he is called Bigear. He likes best to be out at night, but often
comes out on dull days. He eats seeds and small nuts and is
especially fond of juniper seeds. He always lays up a supply of
food for winter. Often he is found very high up on the mountains.
"Another of your cousins, Whitefoot, lives along the seashore of
the East down in the Sunny South. He is called the Beach Mouse.
In general appearance he is much like you, having the same shape,
long tail and big ears, but he is a little smaller and his coat
varies. When he lives back from the shore, in fields where the
soil is dark, his upper coat is dark grayish-brown, but when he
lives on the white sands of the seashore it is very light. His
home is in short burrows in the ground.
"Now don't you little people think you have learned enough about
the Mouse family?"
 "You haven't told us about Nibbler the House Mouse yet. And you
said you would," protested Peter Rabbit.
"And when we were learning about Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat you said
he was most closely related to the Pocket Mice. What about them?"
said Johnny Chuck.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "I see," said she, "that you want to
know all there is to know. Be on hand to-morrow morning. I guess
we can finish up with the Mouse family then and with them the order
of Rodents to which all of you belong."
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