| 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 HELPFUL TUMBLE-BUGS
N the corner of the barnyard was a pile of manure
which was to be put upon the garden and plowed in.
This would make the ground better for all the good
things growing in it, but now it was waiting behind the
high board fence, and many happy insects lived in it.
There were big Bugs and little Bugs, fat Bugs and slim
Bugs, young Bugs and old Bugs, good Bugs and—well,
one does not like to say that there were bad Bugs, but
there were certainly some not so good as others.
Among all these, however, there were none who worked
harder or thought more of each other than the
Tumble-bugs. One couple, especially, were thrifty and
 devoted. They had been married in June, when
each was just one day old. June weddings were the
fashion among their people.
Mr. Tumble-bug believed in early marriages. "I have
known Tumble-bugs," he said, "who did not marry until
they were two days old, but I think that a great
mistake. Each becomes so used to having his own way
that it is very hard for husband and wife to agree on
anything. Now Mrs. Tumble-bug and I always think
alike." Then he smiled at Mrs. Tumble-bug and Mrs.
Tumble-bug smiled at him. They were nearly always
together and busy. Perhaps it was because they worked
together every day that they cared so much for each
other. You know that makes a great difference, and if
one had worked all the time while the other was
playing, they would soon have come to care for other
things and people.
 One hot summer morning, Mrs. Tumble-bug said to
her husband, who was just finishing his breakfast, "I
have found the loveliest place you ever saw for burying
an egg-ball. Do hurry up! I can hardly wait to begin
Mr. Tumble-bug gulped down his last mouthful and
answered, "I'm ready now."
"Follow me then," she cried, and led the way over all
sorts of little things which littered up the ground of
the barn-yard. No Horse was there just then, and she
felt safe. Mr. Tumble-bug followed close behind her,
and a very neat-looking couple they made. Both were
flat-backed and all of shining black. "We do not dress
so showily as some Bugs," they were in the habit of
saying, "but black always looks well." And that was
true. Although they spent most of their days working
in the earth, they were ever clean and shining, with
smiling, shovel-shaped faces.
 "There!" said Mrs. Tumble-bug, as she stopped for
breath and pointed with her right fore-let to the
ground just ahead of her. "Did you ever see a finer
place?" She could point in this way, you know, without
falling over, because she had five other legs on which
to stand. There are some very pleasant things about
having six legs, and the only tumbling she and her
husband did was part of their work.
"Excellent!" exclaimed Mr. Tumble-bug. "And the ground
is so soft that it will not tire you very much to dig
in it." He did not have to think whether it would tire
him, because he never helped in that part of the work.
His wife always liked to do that alone.
Then both Tumble-bugs scurried back to the manure heap.
"I cannot see why some of our neighbors are so
foolish," said she. "There is a Beetle now, laying her
eggs right in this pile. She will
 leave them
there, too, and as likely as not some hungry fellow
will come along before the sun goes down and eat every
one of them. She might much better take a little
trouble, put her egg in a mass of food, and roll it
away to a safe place for burial. When my children
hatch out into soft little Grubs, I intend they shall
have a chance to grow up safely and comfortably. Such
Beetles do not deserve to have children."
"Well, they won't have many," said her husband.
"Perhaps only a pitiful little family of twenty or
"Now," exclaimed Mrs. Tumble-bug, "We must get to work.
Help me roll this ball of manure. I have laid an egg
in it while we were talking, so that time was not
Together they rolled a ball which was bigger than both
of them when it started and grew larger and larger as
they got it away from the heap and the dust of
 the ground stuck to it and crusted it over.
Mrs. Tumble-bug stood on top of the ball, and, creeping
far out on it, pulled it forward with her hind feet,
while he stood on his head behind it and pushed with
his hind legs. Of course if Mrs. Tumble-bug had not
been climbing backward all the time, the ball would
have rolled right over her. To pull forward with part
of your legs and climb backward with all of them at the
same time, and that when your head is a good deal lower
than your heels, is pretty hard work and takes much
planning. Mrs. Tumble-bug had very little breath for
talking, but she did not lose her temper. And that
shows what an excellent Bug she was. "Harder!" she
would call out to MR. Tumble-bug. "We are coming to a
Then Mr. Tumble-bug, who, you will remember, had to
stand on his head all
 the time, and really did
the hardest part of the work, would brace himself more
firmly and push until it seemed as though his legs
would break. He could never see just where they were
going unless he let go of the ball, and Mrs. Tumble-bug
did not believe in tuning out for anything.
"What if there is a hill?" she often said. "Can't we
go over it?" And over it they always went, although
they might much more easily have gone around it. Mrs.
Tumble-bug did not want anybody to think her afraid of
work, and she knew her husband would have a chance to
rest while she was burying the ball. Once in a while,
when the ball came down suddenly on the farther side of
a twig or chip, it rolled quite on top of her, and Mr.
Tumble-bug would be greatly alarmed. Some people
thought this served her quite right for insisting that
they should go over things instead of around them.
Still, one hardly likes to say a thing like that.
 If it were much of a hill, she would climb down
from the ball and talk with him. Then they would put
their shovel-shaped heads together under the back side
of the ball, and, pushing at the same time, send it
over. "Two heads are better than one," they would say,
"and this needs a great deal of head-work."
At last the ball had reached the spot where they
intended to have it buried. Both were hot and tired.
"Many legs make light work," said Mrs. Tumble-bug, as
she carefully cleaned hers before eating dinner, "and
if there is anything I enjoy, it is finishing a good
job like this!"
Mr. Tumble-bug sighed heavily and said he thought he
would go for a walk with some of his friends that
afternoon. "All work and no play would make me a dull
Bug," said he. Then he called out "Good-by" to his
wife, and told her not to work too hard.
 Mrs. Tumble-bug looked after him lovingly. "Now,
is n't he good?" she said to herself. "There are not
many Bugs who will help their wives at all, and most of
them never look at an egg, much less see to getting it
well placed." And that is true, for the Tumble-bugs
are the model Bug fathers.
Now, indeed, Mrs. Tumble-bug was at her best. She
hurried down her dinner, taking mouthfuls which were
much too large for good manners, and began plowing the
earth around the ball as it lay there. She plowed so
deep that sometimes she was almost buried in the loose
earth. At last she came up, took a good look around,
knocked some grains of dust off her singing back, then
dived in again upside down, and pulled the ball in
after he by holding it tightly with hr middle legs.
All the time she was kicking the earth away with her
two hind legs and her two front ones, which were stout
dig-  gers, so that little by little she sank
deeper into the ground.
She made a much larger hole for the ball than it really
needed. "I might just as well, while I am about it,"
she said "And I should so dislike to have any one think
me afraid of work."
At last she finished and crawled away, covering the
place neatly over, so that nobody could see where she
went in or out. "There!" she said. "Now I am ready to
A stray Chicken came along and she hurried under a chip
to be safe. The Chicken was lost and calling to his
mother. "Mother!" he cried. "Mother Hen, I want to
get home and go to sleep under your wings."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Tumble-bug. "Is it time for
Chickens to go to sleep?" She looked through a crack
in the fence and across the lawn to the big house. The
shadows lay long upon the
 short grass. "It
certainly is," she said. "And here I have spent all
day burying that egg properly. I think it very strange
that I cannot get more time for rest and play." So she
had to eat her supper and go straight to bed to get
rested for the next day's work.
Mrs. Tumble-bug did not understand then, and perhaps
never will learn, that if she would stop doing things
in the hardest way and begin doing them in the easiest
way, she might get a great deal of work done in a day
and still have time to rest. If one were to tell her
so, she might think that meant laziness, but it would
not, you know. It is always worth while to make one's
head save one's feet, and when a single head could save
six feet it would certainly be worth while. Still,
although Mrs. Tumble-bug never dreamed of such a thing,
she probably enjoyed work about as much as her
neighbors enjoyed play.
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