| Dooryard Stories|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Around the dooryard nest all sorts of birds, including flickers, robins, sparrows, wrens, swifts, and blackbirds. These stories convey some of the drama that arises in the garden as birds go about the business of building nests and raising young. The author's cat Silvertip figures in a number of the narratives as do a number of other mammals and insects. Invites children to 'see how many tiny neighbors you have around you, and how much you can learn about them.' Ages 5-7 |
THE FIGHT FOR THE BIRD-HOUSE
NDER the cornice of the tool-house was an old
cigar-box with a tiny doorway cut in one end and a
small board nailed in front of it for a porch. This
had been put up for a bird-house, and year after year a
pair of Wrens had nested there, until they began to
think it really their own. When they left it in the
fall to fly south, they always looked back lovingly at
it, and talked over their plans for the next summer.
"I think we might better leave this nest inside all
winter," Mrs. Wren always said. "It will seem so much
more home-like when we return, and it will not be much
trouble to clear it out afterward."
 "An excellent plan, my dear," her cheerful little
husband would reply. "You remember we did so last
season. Besides," he always added, "that will show
other birds that Wrens have lived here, and they will
know that we are expecting to return, since that is the
custom in our family."
"And then do you think they will leave it for us?" Mrs.
Wren would ask. "You know they might want it for
"What if they did want it?" Mr. Wren had said. "They
could go somewhere else, could n't they? Do you
suppose I would ever steal another bird's nesting-place
if I knew it?"
"N-no," said Mrs. Wren, "but not everybody is as
unselfish as you." And she looked at him tenderly.
The Wrens were a most devoted couple,?all in all, about
the nicest birds on the place. And that was saying a
great deal, for there were many nesting
 there and
others who came to find food on the broad lawn. They
were small birds, wearing dark brown feathers on the
upper parts of their bodies and lighter grayish ones
underneath. Even their bills were marked in the same
way, with the upper half dark and the lower half light.
Their wings were short and blunt, and they had a habit
of holding their tails well up in the air.
People said that Mrs. Wren was very fussy, and perhaps
it was true, but even then she was not a cross person.
Besides, if she wished to do a thing over five times in
order to make it suit her, she certainly had a perfect
right to do so. It was she who always chose the
nesting-place and settled all the plans for the family.
Mr. Wren was quite content to have it so, since that
was the custom among Wrens, and it saved him much work.
Mr. Wren was not lazy. He simply wanted to save time
 which he considered his own
particular business. Besides, he never forgot what had
happened to a cousin of his, a young fellow who found
fault with his wife and insisted on changing to another
nesting-place. It had ended in his going, and her
staying there and marrying another Wren. So he had
lost both his home and his wife by finding fault.
Now the April days had come, with their warm showers
and green growing grass. A pair of English Sparrow,
who had nested in the woodbine the summer before and
raised several large broods of bad-mannered children,
decided that they would like to try living in the
bird-house. Heaving been on the place all winter, they
began work early. The Blackbirds were already back,
and one reminded them that it belonged to the Wrens.
"Guess not now," said Mr. Sparrow, with a bad look in
his eyes. "Nothing belongs to anybody else if I want
 you see?" Then he picked up and swallowed
a fat Grub which the Blackbird had uncovered for
himself and left lying there until he should finish
talking. One could hardly blame the blackbird for
being vexed about this, for everybody knows that
English Sparrows really prefer seeds, and that this one
ate the Grub only to be mean. It did not make the
Blackbird any happier to hear his relatives laugh at
him in the evergreens above, and he made up his mind to
get even with that Sparrow.
The Sparrows pitched all the old nest out of doors and
began quarrelling with each other about building their
own. They always quarreled. Indeed, that was the way
in which they had courted each other. Mrs. Sparrow had
two lovers, and she married the one who would stand the
worst pecking from her. "For," she said, "what is the
use of having a husband unless you can beat him when
you fight with him?"
 Now they stuffed the dainty little birdhouse full
of straws, sticks, feathers, and anything they could
find, until there was hardly room left in which to turn
around. They were just beginning to wonder if they
must throw some out when they heard the happy song of
"Get inside!" cried Mr. Sparrow to his wife. "I will
stand on the porch and fight them."
Down flew Mr. And Mrs. Wren. "Oh, is n't it pleasant
to get home again?" she exclaimed. "But what is that
Sparrow doing on our porch?"
"This is our home now," said Mrs. Sparrow, "and we are
very busy. Get out of my way."
"Your home?" cried the Wrens. "How is that? You lived
in the woodbine last season and knew that this was
ours. You are surely not in earnest."
THE FIGHT FOR THE BIRD HOUSE.
Mr. Wren looked at his wife and she nodded. Then he
flew at Mr. Sparrow
 and they fought back and forth
on the grape trellis near by them, in the air, then on
the ground. Mrs. Sparrow peeped out of the open door
to see if her husband needed help. He was the larger
of the two, but not so quick in darting and turning.
Now they passed out of sight behind the tool-house and
she forgot Mrs. Wren and flew down to see better. She
was hardly off the tiny porch when Mrs. Wren darted in.
Mrs. Sparrow saw when it was too late what a mistake
she had made, and tried to get back. She reached the
porch again just in time to have a lot of straws,
twigs, and feathers poked into her face by the angry
"I am cleaning house," said Mrs. Wren. "My house, too!
Get out of my way!" Then she pushed out more of the
same sort of stuff. Mrs. Sparrow tried to get in, and
every time she put her head through the doorway she was
pecked by Mrs. Wren. And she deserved it. She
 called Mr. Sparrow, but he could not help her, and Mr.
Wren was so pleased that he sat on top of the
tool-house and sang and sang and sang. To look at him
you would have thought he was trying to kill himself.
He puffed up his throat and swelled up his body and
sang so fast that he seemed to be saying about four
words at a time.
"Good for you! Good for you! Good for you!" he sang.
"Stick to it! Stick to it! Stick to it! I'm here!
I'm here! I'm here, here, here!"
Mrs. Wren was too busy to say much, but she did a
great deal. Every scrap of the nest was thrown out,
and as she worked she decided to keep that house if she
This was the middle of the morning and she could not
get out to feed until late in the afternoon. Mr. Wren
found some delicious insects on the grapevines, and
tried to carry a few billfuls to his
 wife, but the
Sparrows prevented him. He would have enjoyed his own
dinner better if she could have eaten with him. When
he asked how she was, she chirped back that she was
hungry but would not give up. Mr. Wren spend most of
his time walking around the roof of the tool-house in
circles, dragging his wings on the shingles, and
saying, "Tr-r-r-r-r-r!" He was so angry that sometimes
he could not say anything else. The Sparrows sat on
the grape trellis and said mean things.
They were still doing this late in the afternoon, while
the tree shadows grew longer and longer on the lawn
with the lowering of the sun. suddenly a Blackbird
alighted on the trellis. It was the same one shoes fat
Grub Mr. Sparrow had stolen.
"This has gone far enough," said he. "This house
belongs to the Wrens and they are going to have it.
I say so. If I catch either of you Sparrows
 here again, I will drive you off the place.
I can do it, too. You may think it over until the next
time that grapevine is blown against the tool-house.
If you do not go then, there will be trouble."
He ruffled up his feathers and glared with his yellow
eyes. That was all he had to do. Before the grapevine
swayed again, the Sparros were far away.
The Wrens thanked him, even before Mrs. Wren ate her
late dinner. "You are welcome," he said. "It was just
fun for me. I cannot bear those Sparrows, and I hoped
they would stay and give me a chance to fight them.
How I wish they had stayed!" He looked sad and
"I'll never have another such good chance," said he.
And he never did. Perhaps it was just as well,
although there are times when it is not wrong to fight,
and the Wrens think this would have been one.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics