| Among the Forest People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
| A charming series of nature stories for young children, including tales of red squirrels, great horned owls, rattlesnakes, and bats. No one can read these realistic conversations of the little creatures of the wood without being most tenderly drawn toward them. Within the context of each story children learn many entertaining facts about the lives and habits of these little people of the forest. Ages 5-7 |
 THE Ruffed Grouse
cocked his crested head on one side and looked up
through the bare branches to the sky. It was a soft
gray, and in the west were banks of bluish clouds. "I
think it will snow very soon," said he. "Mrs.
 Grouse, are the children all ready for cold weather?"
"All ready," answered his cheerful little wife. "They
have had their thickest feathers on for quite a while.
The Rabbits were saying the other day that they had
never seen a plumper or better clothed flock than
ours." And her beautiful golden-brown eyes shone with
pride as she spoke.
Indeed, the young Ruffed Grouse
were a family of whom she might well be proud. Twelve
healthy and obedient children do not fall to the lot of
every Forest mother, and she wished with a sad little
sigh that her other two eggs had hatched. She often
thought of them with longing. How lovely it would have
been to have fourteen children! But at that moment her
brood came crowding around her in fright.
white things," they said, "came tumbling down upon us
and scared us. The white things
didn't say a word,
 but they came so fast that we think they must be
alive. Tell us what to do. Must we hide?"
is snow!" exclaimed their mother. "It drops from the
clouds up yonder quite as the leaves drop from the
trees in the fall. It will not hurt you, but we must
"What did I tell you, Mrs. Grouse?"
asked her husband. "I was certain that it would snow
before night. I felt it in my quills." And Mr. Grouse
strutted with importance. It always makes one feel so
very knowing when he has told his wife exactly what
"How did you feel it in your quills?"
asked one of his children. "Shall I feel it in my
quills when I am as old as you are?"
the answer. "But until you do feel it you can never
understand it, for it is not like any other feeling
that there is."
 Then they all started for a low
clump of bushes to find shelter from the storm. Once
they were frightened by seeing a great creature come
tramping through the woods towards them. "A man!" said
Mr. Grouse. "Hide!" said Mrs. Grouse, and each little
Grouse hid under the leaves so quickly that nobody
could see how it was done. One might almost think that
a strong wind had blown them away. The mother
pretended that she had a broken wing, and hopped away,
making such pitiful sounds that the man followed to
pick her up. When she had led him far from her
children, she, too, made a quick run and hid herself;
and although the man hunted everywhere, he could not
find a single bird.
You know that is always the way in
Grouse families, and even if the man's foot had stirred
the leaves under which a little one was hiding, the
Grouse would not have moved or made a sound. The
 children are brought up to mind without asking any
questions. When their mother says, "Hide!" they do it,
and never once ask "Why?" or answer, "As soon as I have
swallowed this berry." It is no wonder that the older
ones are proud of their children. Any mother would be
made happy by having one child obey like that, and
think of having twelve!
At last, the whole family
reached the bushes where they were to stay, and then
they began to feed near by. "Eat all you can," said
Mr. Grouse, "before the snow gets deep. You may not
have another such good chance for many days." So they
ate until their little stomachs would not hold one more
seed or evergreen bud.
All this time the snowflakes
were falling, but the Grouse children were no longer
afraid of them. Sometimes they even chased and snapped
at them as they would at a fly in summer-time. It
 was then, too, that they learned to use
snow-shoes. The oldest child had made a great fuss
when he found a fringe of hard points growing around
his toes in the fall, and had run peeping to his mother
to ask her what was the matter. She had shown him her
own feet, and had told him how all the Ruffed Grouse
have snow-shoes of that kind grow on their feet every
"We do not have to bother about them at all,"
she said. "They put themselves on when the weather
gets cold in the fall, and they take themselves off
when spring comes. We each have a new pair every year,
and when they are grown we can walk easily over the
soft snow. Without them we should sink through and
When night came they all huddled under the
bushes, lying close together to keep each other warm.
The next day they burrowed into a snow-drift and made a
snug place there which was even better
 than the
one they left; the soft white coverlet kept the wind
out so well. It was hard for the little ones to keep
quiet long, and to amuse them Mr. Grouse told how he
first met their mother in the spring.
"It was a fine,
sunshiny day," he said, "and everybody was happy. I
had for some time been learning to drum, and now I felt
that I was as good a drummer as there was in the
forest. So I found a log
(every Ruffed Grouse has to have his own place, you know)
and I jumped up on it and
strutted back and forth with my head high in the air.
It was a dusky part of the forest and I could not see
far, yet I knew that a beautiful young Grouse was
somewhere near, and I hoped that if I drummed very
well she might come to me."
"I know!" interrupted one
of the little Grouse. "It was our mother."
wasn't your mother then, my chick," said Mr. Grouse,
"for that was long, long before you were hatched."
 "She was our mother afterwards, anyway," cried
the young Grouse. "I just know she was!"
eyes twinkled, but he went gravely on. "At last I
flapped my wings hard and fast, and the soft drumming
sound could be heard far and near.
I waited, but nobody came.
Then I drummed again, and after that I was sure that I
heard a rustling in the leaves. I drummed a third
time, and then, children, there came the beautiful
young Grouse, breaking her way through the thicket and
trying to look as though she
didn't know that I was
"Did she know?" cried the little Grouse.
must ask your mother that," he answered, "for it was
she who came. Ah, what happy days we had together all
spring! We wandered all through this
Forest and even made some journeys into the edge of the
Meadow. Still, there was no place we loved as we did
the dusky hollow by the old log where we first met.
One day your mother told me that she must begin
housekeeping and that I must keep out of the way while
she was busy. So I had to go off with a crowd of other
Ruffed Grouse while she fixed her nest, laid her eggs,
and hatched out you youngsters. It was rather hard to
be driven off in that way, but you know it is the
custom among Grouse. We poor fellows had to amuse
ourselves and each other until our wives called us home
to help take care of the children.
We've been at that
work ever since."
"Oh!" said one of the young Grouse.
"Oh, I am so glad that you drummed, and that she came
when she heard you. Who would we have had to take care
of us if it
hadn't happened just so?"
That made them
all feel very solemn,
 and Mr. Grouse
and Mrs. Grouse couldn't answer, and none of
the little Grouse could answer because, you see, it is
one of the questions that hasn't any answer. Still,
they were all there and happy, so they didn't bother
their crested heads about it very long.
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