| 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 |
A RAINY DAY ON THE LAWN
HEN the sun rose, that morning late in April, he tried
and tried to look at they big house and see what was
happening. All he could see was a thick gray cloud
veil stretched between him and the earth, and, shine as
hard as he might, not a single sunbeam went through
When the Blackbirds awakened, they found a drizzling
rain falling, and hurried on their waterproofs to get
ready for a wet time. Blackbirds are always handsome,
yet they never look better than when it rains. They
coat their feathers with oil from the pockets under
their tails, as indeed all birds do, and then they fly
to the high branches of some tall and
tree and talk and talk and talk and talk. They do not
get into little groups and face each other, but scatter
themselves around and face the wind. This is most
sensible, for if one of them were to turn his back to
the wind, it would rumple up his feathers and give the
raindrops a chance to get down to his skin. When they
speak, or at least when they have anything really
important to say, they ruffle their own feathers and
stand on tip-toe, but they ruffle them carefully and
face the wind all the time.
When the Robins opened their round eyes, they chirped
cheerfully to each other and put on their waterproofs.
"Good weather for us," they said. "It will make fine
mud for plastering our new nests, and it will bring out
The English Sparrows, Goldfinches, and other
seed-eaters were not made happy by the rain. With them
it was only something to be borne patiently and
without complaining. The Hummingbirds found fewer
fresh blossoms open on cloudy days, and so had to fly
farther and work harder for their food. The Pewees and
other fly-catchers oiled their feathers and kept
steadily at work.
The birds had not awakened so early as usual, because
it was darker. They had hardly got well started on
their breakfast before a sleepy little face appeared at
the window of the big house and a sleepy little voice
called out: "O Mother, it is raining! I did n't want
it to rain."
"O MOTHER, IT IS RAINING!"
"Foolish! Foolish! Foolish!" chirped the Robins on
the lawn. "Boys would know better than to say such
things if they were birds."
"Boys are a bother, anyway," said an English Sparrow,
as he spattered in the edge of a puddle. "I wish they
had never been hatched."
"Ker-eeeee!" said a Blackbird above his head. "I
suppose they may be of
 some use in the world. I
noticed that the Gentleman and the Lady seem to think a
great deal of this one, and they are a very good sort
"I'd like them better if they did n't keep a Cat," said
his brother. "Their Cat is the greatest climber I ever
saw. He came almost to the top of this maple after me
yesterday, and I have seen him go clear to the eaves of
the big house on the woodbine."
"That is because the Sparrows live there," said Mr.
Wren. "He went to see their children. Silvertip says
that he is very fond of children—they are so much
more tender than their parents." Mr. Wren could laugh
about this because his own children were always safely
housed. Besides, you know, he had reason to dislike
"I would not stay here," said a Sparrow who had just
come up, "if the people here were not of the right
 have mountain ash trees and
sweetbrier bushes where birds find good feeding. And
in the winter that Boy throws out bread crumbs and
wheat for us."
"Humph!" said the Oldest Blackbird. "There is no need
of talking so much about it. You can always tell what
sort of people live in a place by seeing if they have a
bird-house. If they have, and it is a sensible one,
where a bird could live comfortably, they are all
After that the birds worked more and talked less, for
the Oldest Blackbird, while he was often grumpy and
sometimes cross, was really a very sensible bird, and
what he had said was true. The Robins went here and
there over the lawn in quick, short runs, pausing once
in a while with their heads bent forward and then
pulling up choice Worms to eat. Some of their
mouthfuls were half as long as they, but that was not
rude in Robins. What they insisted on in bringing up
 children is that mouthfuls should not be
too broad, and that they should not stop swallowing
until all the Worm is out of sight.
The Blackbirds hunted in a more dignified way. They
never ran after food, or indeed after anything else.
"If walking is not fast enough," the Blackbird mothers
say, "then fly, but do not run." They walked in
parties over the lawn and waggled their heads at each
step. When they found Grubs they did not appear
greedy, yet never a Grub escaped.
"There are two ways of hurrying," they often said.
"One is the jerky way and the other is our way, of
being sure and steady. Of course our way is the
better. You will see that we do just as much and make
Silvertip came to the edge of the porch and looked
around. He was licking his lips, and every bird on the
lawn was happy to see that, for it meant that he had
 finished his breakfast. His eyes gleamed
and his tail waved stiffly as he saw the fat Robins so
near. He even crouched down and took four short steps,
quivering his body and trying his muscles. Then he
remembered how wet the grass was and turned back with a
long sigh. After all, his stomach was full and he
could afford to wait until the grass was dry. The
Robins would be there then, and if they kept on eating
Worms at this rate, they would be growing plump and
juicy all the time. He began to lick himself all over,
as every truly tidy Cat does after eating. By the time
he had finished the tip of his tail he was sleepy, so
he went into the kitchen and dozed by the fire.
The front door opened with a bang, and the Little Boy
stood there, shouting and waving a piece of red paper
with a string tied to it. "See my kite!" he cried.
Five birds who had been feeding near
 flew off in
wild alarm. "Now why did he do that?" asked one, after
they had settled down elsewhere. Nobody answered.
None but Little Boys understand these things, and even
they do not always tell.
The Lady came to the door behind him and helped him
start away. He proudly carried a small new umbrella,
and the precious kite fluttered out behind him. When
he was outside the gate, he peeped through it and
called back: "Good-by, Mother! I'm going to school to
learn everyfing. I'll be a good Boy. Good-by!" Then
he ran down the walk with the umbrella held back over
his shoulder and the rain falling squarely in his face.
All that the birds could see of the Little boy then was
his fat legs bobbing along before the umbrella.
"There!" said all the birds together. "There!
Silvertip is asleep and the Little Boy has gone to
school. Now we can take comfort."
 When the morning was nearly past, and the birds
felt so safe that they had grown almost careless,
Silvertip wakened and felt hungry. He walked slowly
out of the kitchen door and looked at the grass. The
sun was now shining and it was no longer sparkling with
tiny drops. He crept down the steps and around to a
place under a big spruce tree, the lower branches of
which lay along the ground. A fat Robin was hunting
Silvertip watched her hungrily, and is you were a Cat
you might have done exactly the same thing. So you
must not blame Silvertip. He was creeping, creeping,
creeping nearer, and never looking away from her, when
the Little Boy came tramping across the grass. He had
come in by the gate of the driveway, and was walking
straight toward Silvertip, who neither saw nor heard
Then the Little Boy saw what was
 happening, and
dropped his bright paper chain on the grass beside him.
"G'way!" he cried, waving his umbrella. "G'way! Don't
you try to eat any birds ‘round here. My father does
n't ‘low it. G'way! G'way! Else I'll tell my mother
that you are a bad Cat."
Silvertip fled under the porch, the Robin flew up onto
the snowball bush, and all around the birds sang the
praises of the good Little Boy with the umbrella. But
the Little Boy didn't know this. He stood by the porch
and dangled his pretty paper chain until Silvertip
forgave him and came out to play. Then they ran
together into the house, and the birds heard him
shouting, "Mother! Mother! Where are you? I want to
give Silvertip some cream. He is so very hungry that
he most had to eat up a Robin, only I would n't let
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