| 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 Wild Turkeys are a
wandering people, and stay in one place only long
enough to rear their young. One could hardly say that
they lived in the Forest, but every year when the
acorns and beechnuts were ripe, they came for a visit.
It is always an exciting time when the Turkeys are seen
 gathering on the farther side of the river and
making ready to fly over. Some of the Forest People
have started for the warmer country in the South, and
those who still remain are either talking over their
plans for flight, or working hard, if they are to spend
the winter in the North, to get their stores of food
It was so this year. One morning a Red-headed
Woodpecker brought the news that the Turkeys were
gathering. The Ground Hog heard of it just as he was
going to sleep after a night of feeding and rambling in
the edge of the meadow. One of the young Rabbits told
him, and coaxed him to stay up to see the newcomers.
"I've never seen Turkeys in my life," said the young
Rabbit, "and they say it is great fun to watch them.
Oh, please come with me to the river-bank and see the
Turkeys cross over. Please do!"
"Ah-h-h," yawned the
Ground Hog. "You might better ask somebody who has
 not been up all night. I am too sleepy."
won't be sleepy when you reach the river-bank," said
the Rabbit. "Beside, I think there should be someone
there to meet them."
At this, the Ground Hog raised
his drooping head, opened his blinking eyes, and
answered with great dignity: "There should indeed be
someone. I will go at once."
When they reached the
river-bank there was a sight well worth seeing. On the
farther side of the water were a great many Turkeys.
Old Gobblers were there, and the mother Turkeys with
their broods of children, all looking as fine as you
please, in their shining black coats. When they stood
in the shadow, one might think that they wore no color
but the brilliant red of their heads and necks, where
there were no feathers to cover their wrinkled skin.
When they walked out into the sunshine, however, their
feathers showed gleams of
 beautiful purple and
green, and the Rabbit thought them the most wonderful
great creatures he had ever seen.
"Look at them now!"
he cried. "Why do those largest ones walk up and down
in front of the rest and scold them?"
"They are the
Gobblers," answered the Ground Hog, "and they are doing
that to show that they are not afraid to cross the
river. They strut and gobble, and strut and gobble,
and say: 'Who's-afraid?
Who's-afraid?' until the rest
are ready to fly over."
"Now the others are doing the
same thing," said the Rabbit, as the mothers and young
Turkeys began to strut back and forth.
that they are willing to cross," answered the Ground
Hog. "Now they will fly up to the very tops of the
trees on the hill and visit there for a time. It is
always so. They start from the highest point they can
find. It will be
 some time before they come
over, and I will take a short nap. Be sure to awaken
me when they start. I want to welcome them to the
Forest." And the Ground Hog curled himself up beside a
log and went to sleep.
The Rabbit wandered around and
ate all the good things he could find. Then he fell to
wondering how it would feel to be a bird. He thought
it would be great fun to fly. To pass so swiftly
through the air must be delightful, and then to sweep
grandly down and alight softly on the ground without
having people know that you were coming!
He had a good
mind to try it. There was nobody to watch him, and he
crept up the trunk of a fallen tree which leaned over
against its neighbors. It was a foolish thing to do,
and he knew it, but young Rabbits are too full of
mischief to always be wise.
"I will hold my hind legs
very still," he
 thought, "and flap my forelegs
for wings." With that he jumped off and came crashing
down upon the dry leaves. He felt weak and dizzy, and
as he picked himself up and looked around he hoped that
nobody had seen him. "It may be a great deal of fun to
fly," he said, "but it is no fun alighting from your
flight unless you have real feather wings. It is too
bumpy when you fly with your legs."
At this minute he
heard an old Gobbler call out, and saw the flock of
Turkeys coming toward him. "Wake up! Wake up!" he
cried to the Ground Hog. But the Ground Hog never
Still the Turkeys came nearer. The Rabbit
could see that the fat old ones were getting ahead of
the others, and that here and there a young or weak
Turkey had to drop into the river and swim, because his
wings were tired. They got so near that he could see
the queer little tufts of wiry feathers which the
 hanging from their breast, and
could see the swaying scarlet wattles under their
beaks. He called again to the Ground Hog, and getting
no answer, poked him three times with his head.
Ground Hog turned over, stretched, yawned, moved his
jaws a few times as though he dreamed of eating fresh
spring grass, and then fell asleep once more. After
that the Rabbit left him alone.
The first to alight
were the Gobblers, and they began at once to strut and
chatter. Next came the mother Turkeys and their young,
and last of all came the weak ones who swam across. It
was a fine sight to see them come in. The swimmers
spread their tails, folded their wings tightly,
stretched their necks, and struck out swiftly and
strongly with their feet.
The young Rabbit could hear a
group of mothers talking together. "The Gobblers are
growing quite fond of the children," said one.
 "Yes," said another; "my husband told me yesterday that
he was very proud of our little ones."
"Well, it is
the season for them to begin to walk together," said
the first speaker; "but I never in my life had such a
time as I had this spring. I thought my husband would
break every egg I laid."
"I had a hard time too," said
the other. "None of my eggs were broken, but after my
chicks were hatched I had to hurry them out of their
father's sight a dozen times a day."
"It is very
trying," said a third mother Turkey with a sigh; "but
that is always the way with the Gobblers. I suppose
the dear fellows can't help it;" and she looked
lovingly over at her husband as he strutted around with
his friends. You would not have believed if you had
seen her fond looks, and heard her husband's tender
"Gobble," that they had hardly spoken to each other all
summer. To be
 sure, it was not now as it had
been in the springtime. Then he would have beaten any
other Gobbler who came near her, he loved her so;
still, the Rabbit could see as he watched them that
when he found some very large and fine acorns, this
Gobbler would not eat them all, but called his wife to
come and share with him; and he knew that they were
happy together in their own Turkey way of being happy.
At this minute the Ground Hog opened his eyes and
staggered to his feet. The loud talking had awakened
him. He did not look very dignified just now. His fur
was rumpled, and he blinked often from sleepiness.
There was a dry leaf caught on one of his ears, too,
that made him look very odd. The Rabbit wanted to
laugh, but he did not dare to do so. The Ground Hog
walked toward the Gobblers, and raised himself on his
haunches. "Good-evening, good-evening," said
(it was really morning, you know). "We are very glad
to welcome you to the forest. Make yourselves
perfectly at home. The grass is not so tender as it
was a while ago, yet I think that you will find good
feeding," and he waved his paws politely.
"Thank-you,—thank-you!" answered the Gobblers, while
the mothers and young Turkeys came crowding up to look
at the Ground Hog. "We came for the acorns and nuts.
We shall certainly enjoy ourselves."
"That is right,"
said the Ground Hog heartily. "We have a very fine
forest here. You will pardon me for remarking it. The
Pond People have a saying that is very true:
might poor Frog that won't croak for his own puddle.'
And my grandfather used to say that if a Ground Hog
didn't love his own
home he was a very poor Hog indeed.
Good-night, my friends, good-night." And he
 trotted happily away, followed by the Rabbit.
was gone, the Turkeys said: "How very kind of him!"
and "What fine manners!" And the young Rabbit thought
to himself: "It is queer. He was sleepy and his fur
was rumpled, and that leaf bobbed around his ear when
he talked. He said 'evening' instead of 'morning,' and
spoke as though Turkeys came here to eat grass. And
yet they all liked him, and were pleased by what he
You see the young Rabbit had not yet learned
that the power of fine manners is more than that of
looks; and that people could not think of the Ground
Hog's mistakes in speaking because they knew his
kindness of heart.
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