| 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 SAD STORY OF THE HOG CATERPILLAR
HE grape-vines on the trellis were carefully pruned
and tended, but that did not prevent a few Hog
Caterpillars of the Vine from making their home upon
them. There were a number of other Hog Caterpillars on
the place, and all expected to be Hawk Moths when they
grew up. Sometimes they thought and talked too much
about this, and planned too far ahead. They might
better have thought more about being the best kind of
Caterpillars. For sometimes, when they would do
by-and-by, they forgot to do exactly as they should
 None of them knew when they got their name.
Somebody who noticed their small heads and very smooth,
fat, and puffy-looking bodies must have begun it.
Perhaps, too, this person thought that the queer little
things sticking upward and backward from the end of
their bodies looked like the tail of a Hog. Those who
lived on grape-vines were called Hog Caterpillars of
the Vine. Then, when their friends spoke of them,
people knew at once to what family they belonged.
If you were to look closely at a Hog Caterpillar on the
Vine, you would think him handsome. He has seven
reddish spots along the middle of his back, every one
set in a patch of pale yellow. On each side you would
see a long green stripe with white edge, and below this
you would find seven slanting white ones.
When these Hog Caterpillars of the Vine were hatched,
they were very, very
 tiny, and had to feed and
rest and change their skins over and over, just as all
Caterpillars must. Of course when they changed their
skins, they had nobody to help them, because their
parents were Hawk Moths and never bothered with the
care of children. They believed that Caterpillars
should help themselves. "They will have plenty of time
to play when they are grown up," the Hawk Moths said,
"and it is much better for children to have to change
their own skins. If they do that, they will be more
careful of their new ones, when they get them."
There is a great deal in the way a child is brought up,
and no Caterpillar ever says, "I can't do this;" or,
"Somebody must help me get off my old skin, so there!"
No indeed! Caterpillars help themselves and make no
fuss at all.
This is not saying that they have no faults. It just
means that this fault was not one of theirs. Perhaps
 fault was bragging about what they
were going to do. It was either that or carelessness,
and every now and then some one of them would be
dreadfully punished. With so many hungry birds around,
Caterpillars should be very careful. One of those on
the grape-vines laughed at a Robin for being afraid of
Silvertip. Of course he did not expect to be heard by
any except his relatives. He was, though, and as soon
as Silvertip had walked off, the Robin came back and
hunted for him and ate him. He was very, very sorry
for his rudeness, and tried to wriggle out of it, when
the Robin spoke about it, but he should have remembered
sooner. "I laughed before I thought," he said. "I'll
never do it again. Never! Never!"
"Say nothing more about it," answered the Robin, who
was noted for his polite ways; "I am very sure you
won't." Then he swallowed him while he was talking.
 The Catbird said that the Robin took in all that
the Caterpillar was saying, but the other birds did n't
quite understand what he meant by that.
The oldest Hog Caterpillar was saying, but the other
birds did n't quite understand what he meant by that.
The oldest Hog Caterpillar of the vine was always
reckless. He would feed in plain sight in the sunshine
if he wanted to, and he was forever telling what a fine
Hawk Moth he expected to be. "If a bird comes after
me," he would say, "I will just let go of the leaf and
fall to the ground in a little round bunch. I can lie
so quietly in the grass that he will never see me." He
looked so haughty when saying this that none of his
relatives dared to say a word, although a pretty young
one wept quietly under her grape-leaf. He had been
very attentive to her, and she wanted to marry him
after they had changed into Moths. Such plans, you
know, might be sadly upset by a hungry and
Yet birds were not the only people to
 fear. The
Ichneumon Wasps and their cousins the Braconids were
always flying around and looking for fat and juicy
Caterpillars, and many a promising young fellow had
been pounced upon by them. They were so much smaller
and more quiet than the birds that they were really
much more to be feared. His friends and relatives used
to tell the oldest Hog Caterpillar to keep hidden from
them, but he paid no attention. "Do you suppose," said
he, "that a fine fellow like me is going to sneak under
leaves for a slender Ichneumon or a little Braconid?
So it is not surprising that when a mother Braconid
came along one day, looking for a good place to lay
eggs, she saw him busily eating in the sunshine. He
had just taken the sixth mouthful from an especially
fine leaf when she alighted on him. "Don't move!" she
said. "Your position is exactly right. Keep perfectly
still and I shall soon be through."
 The Hog Caterpillar of the Vine understood every
word she said, but he moved as fast as he could.
Unfortunately, you know, his legs were all on the under
side of his body, and were so stubby that he could not
reach up to push her away. He did rub up against a
leaf and brush her off for a minute, but she was right
back and talking to him again.
"You are very foolish to make such a fuss," she said.
"You might better keep still and get it over. I have
decided on you, and you can't help yourself. Now hold
There was only one other thing left for the poor Hog
Caterpillar of the Vine to do. He let go of the grape
leaf and fell to the ground. He had hardly struck it,
however, when the Braconid was on his back. "No more
nonsense," said she sternly. "No more nonsense," said
she sternly. "You really make me quite out of
patience, and I shall not wait any
 longer. I
want to get my eggs laid and have some time for play."
Then she ran her ovipositor, which is the tube through
which insects lay their eggs, into his fat back and
slipped an egg down through it. How it did hurt! The
poor Hog Caterpillar of the Vine squirmed with pain,
and all the Braconid said was: "It would be much easier
for me if you would lie quietly. Still, I am used to
working under difficulties. . . . You won't mind it so
after a while." Then she drew out her ovipositor,
stuck it into another place, and laid another egg.
Before she left him, the Braconid had laid thirty-five
eggs in his body, and the Hog Caterpillar of the Vine
was so tired with pain and anger that he could hardly
move. Of the two, perhaps the anger tired him the
more. He had time to do a great deal of thinking
before he climbed onto the vine again. "I will be more
careful after this," he said, "but I guess
is n't any need of telling the other fellows what has
happened. None of them were around when that dreadful
When he was up on the vine again, one of his relatives
said: "You look sick. What is the matter?" And he
answered: "Oh, I am rather tired. Guess this skin is
getting too tight."
The next day he felt quite well, but as time went on he
grew worse and worse. He ate a great deal, yet he grew
worse and worse. He ate a great deal, yet he did not
grow as he should, and the other Hog Caterpillars of
the Vine began to talk about it. The truth was, you
know, that the Braconid's thirty-five eggs had all
hatched, and her children were eating up the poor Hog
Caterpillar of the Vine. They were fat little Worms
then, and when they were old enough to spin cocoons,
they cut thirty-five tiny doors in his skin and spun
their cocoons on the outside.
Then all his relatives and friends knew
 what was
the matter with him, for wherever he went he had to
carry on his back and sides thirty-five beautiful
little shining white cocoons. He did not think then
beautiful, yet they were, and the Braconid mother
looked at them with great pride as she flew past.
"I should like to see them cut off the tiny round lids
of their cocoons," she said, "and fly away, but I
suppose I shall not be around then. It is very hard
not to have the pleasure of bringing up one's own
children. Yet I suppose it is better for them, and one
must not be selfish." She flew away with a very good,
almost too good, look on her face.
The Hog Caterpillar of the Vine was so tired that he
died—what there was left of him. Really the
Braconid babies had eaten most of him before spinning
their cocoons. The only truly happy people around were
the Braconid children, who came out strong and active
the next day.
 This is all a very, very sad story. It is true,
though, and it had to be written, because there may
still be some Hog Caterpillars of the Vine, or perhaps
some other people, who will not take advice about what
they should do, and so they come to trouble.
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