|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 |
TEENY WEENY AND HIS COUSIN
 "OF course Old Mother Nature knows, but just the same it is hard
for me not to believe that Teeny Weeny is a member of the Mouse
family," said Happy Jack Squirrel to Peter Rabbit, as they
scampered along to school. "I never have had a real good look
at him, but I've had glimpses of him lots of times and always
supposed him a little Mouse with a short tail. It is hard to
believe that he isn't."
"I hope Old Mother Nature will put him where we can get a good
look at him," replied Peter. "Perhaps when you really see him he
won't look so much like a Mouse."
When all had arrived Old Mother Nature began the morning lesson at
once. "You have learned about all the families in the order of
Rodents," said she, "so now we will take up another and much smaller
order called Insectivora. I wonder if any of you can guess what
 "It sounds," said Peter Rabbit, "as if it must have
something to do with insects."
"That is a very good guess, Peter," replied Old Mother Nature,
smiling at him. "It does have to do with insects. The members
of this order live very largely on insects and worms, and the name
Insectivora means insect-eating. There are two families in this
order, the Shrew family and the Mole family."
"Then Teeny Weeny and Miner the Mole must be related," spoke
"Right again, Peter," was the prompt reply. "The Shrews and the
Moles are related in the same way that you and Happy Jack Squirrel
"And isn't Teeny Weeny the Shrew related to the Mice at all?"
asked Happy Jack.
"Not at all," said Old Mother Nature. "Many people think he is
and often he is called Shrew Mouse. But this is a great mistake.
It is the result of ignorance. It seems strange to me that people
so often know so little about their near neighbors." She looked
at Happy Jack Squirrel as she said this, and Happy Jack looked
sheepish. He felt just as he looked. All this time the eyes of
every one had been searching this way, that way, every way, for
Teeny Weeny, for Old Mother Nature had promised to try to have
him there that morning. But Teeny Weeny was not to be
 seen. Now
and then a leaf on the ground close by Old Mother Nature's feet
moved, but the Merry Little Breezes were always stirring up
fallen leaves, and no one paid any attention to these.
Old Mother Nature understood the disappointment in the faces before
her and her eyes began to twinkle. "Yesterday I told you that I
would try to have Teeny Weeny here," said she. A leaf moved.
Stooping quickly she picked it up. "And here he is," she finished.
Sure enough where a second before the dead brown leaf had been was
a tiny little fellow, so tiny that that leaf had covered him
completely, and it wasn't a very big leaf. It was Teeny Weeny the
Shrew, also called the Common Shrew, the Long-tailed Shrew and the
Shrew Mouse, one of the smallest animals in all the Great World.
He started to dart under another leaf, but Old Mother Nature stopped
him. "Sit still," she commanded sharply. "You have nothing to fear.
I want everybody to have a good look at you, for it is high time
these neighbors of yours should know you. I know just how nervous
and uncomfortable you are and I'll keep you only a few minutes.
Now everybody take a good look at Teeny Weeny."
This command was quite needless, for all were staring with all
their might. What they saw was
 a mite of a fellow less than four
inches long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail, and
of this total length the tail was almost half. He was slender,
had short legs and mouselike feet. His coat was brownish above
and grayish beneath, and the fur was very fine and soft.
This is the common or long-tailed
Shrew, one of the smallest animals in all the Great World.
But the oddest thing about Teeny Weeny was his long, pointed head
ending in a long nose. No Mouse has a head like it. The edges of
the ears could be seen above the fur, but the eyes were so tiny
that Peter Rabbit thought he hadn't any and said so.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "Yes, he has eyes, Peter," said she.
"Look closely and you will see them. But they don't amount to
much—little more than to tell daylight from darkness. Teeny
Weeny depends on his nose chiefly. He has a very wonderful little
nose, flexible and very sensitive. Of course, with such poor eyes
he prefers the dark when there are fewer enemies abroad."
All this time Teeny Weeny had been growing more and more uneasy.
Old Mother Nature saw and understood. Now she told him that he
might go. Hardly were the words out of her mouth when he vanished,
darting under some dead leaves. Hidden by them he made his way
to an old log and was seen no more.
 "Doesn't he eat anything but insects and worms?" asked
"Yes," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is very fond of flesh, and
if he finds the body of a bird or animal that has been killed he
will tear it to pieces. He is very hot-tempered, as are all his
family, and will not hesitate to attack a Mouse much bigger than
himself. He is so little and so active that he has to have a
great deal of food and probably eats his own weight in food every
day. Of course, that means he must do a great deal of hunting,
and he does.
"He makes tiny little paths under the fallen leaves and in swampy
places—little tunnels through the moss. He is especially fond of
old rotted stumps and logs and brush piles, for in such places he
can find grubs and insects. At the same time he is well hidden.
He is active by day and night, but in the daytime takes pains to
keep out of the light. He prefers damp to dry places. In winter
he tunnels about under the snow. In summer he uses the tunnels
and runways of Meadow Mice and others when he can. He eats seeds
and other vegetable food when he cannot find insects or flesh."
"How about his enemies?" asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"He has plenty," replied Old Mother Nature,
 "but is not so much
hunted as the members of the Mouse family. This is because he has
a strong, unpleasant scent which makes him a poor meal for those
at all particular about their food. Some of the Hawks and Owls
appear not to mind this, and these are his worst enemies."
"Has he any near relatives?" asked Jumper the Hare.
"Several," was the prompt response. "Blarina the Short-tailed
Shrew, also called Mole Shrew, is the best known. He is found
everywhere, in forests, old pastures and along grassy banks, but
seldom far from water. He prefers moist ground. He is much
larger and thicker than Teeny Weeny and has a shorter tail.
People often mistake him for Miner the Mole, because of the thick,
fine fur which is much like Miner's and his habit of tunneling
about just beneath the surface, but if they would look at his
fore feet they would never make that mistake. They are small
and like the feet of the Mouse family, not at all like Miner's
big shovels. Moreover, he is smaller than Miner, and his tunnels
are seldom in the earth but just under the leaves and grass.
He is sometimes called the
Mole Shrew and the Blarina.
"His food is much the same as that of Teeny Weeny—worms, insects,
flesh when he can get it, and seeds. He is fond of beechnuts. He
is quite equal to killing a Mouse of his own size or
 bigger and
does not hesitate to do so when he gets the chance. He makes a
soft, comfortable nest under a log or in a stump or in the ground
and has from four to six babies at a time. Teeny Weeny sometimes
has as many as ten. The senses of smell and hearing are very keen
and make up for the lack of sight. His eyes, like those of other
Shrews, are probably of use only in distinguishing light from
darkness. His coat is dark brownish-gray.
"Another of the Shrew family is the Marsh Shrew, also called Water
Shrew and Black-and-white Shrew. He is longer than either of the
others and, as you have guessed, is a lover of water. He is a good
swimmer and gets much of his food in the water—water Beetles and
grubs and perhaps Tadpoles and Minnows. Now who among you knows
Miner the Mole?"
"I do. That is, I have seen him," replied Peter Rabbit.
"Very well, Peter, to-morrow morning we will see how much you know
about Miner," replied Old Mother Nature.
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