| Among the Meadow People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Delightful stories of field life for young children, relating incidents in the lives of birds, insects, and other small creatures who make the meadow their home. Each chapter features the story of one animal in its daily activities and interactions with the other animals inhabiting the meadow. Ages 5-7 |
THE CHEERFUL HARVESTMEN
 SOME of the meadow people are gay and careless, and some are
always worrying. Some work hard every day, and some are
exceedingly lazy. There, as everywhere else, each has his
own way of thinking about things. It is too bad that they
cannot all learn to think brave and cheerful thoughts, for
these make life happy. One may have a comfortable home, kind
neighbors, and plenty to eat, yet if he is in the habit of
thinking disagreeable thoughts, not even all these good
things can make him happy. Now there was the young Frog who
thought herself sick—but that is another story.
Perhaps the Harvestmen were the most cheerful of all the
meadow people. The
 old Tree Frog used to say that it made
him feel better just to see their knees coming toward him.
Of course, when he saw their knees, he knew that the whole
insect was also coming. He spoke in that way because the
Harvestmen always walked or ran with their knees so much
above the rest of their bodies that one could see those
The Harvestmen were not particularly fine-looking, not
nearly so handsome as some of their Spider cousins. One
never thought of that, however. They had such an easy way of
moving around on their eight legs, each of which had a great
many joints. It is the joints, or bending-places, you know,
which make legs useful. Besides being graceful, they had
very pleasant manners. When a Harvestman said "Good-morning"
to you on a rainy day, you always had a feeling that the sun
was shining. It might be that the drops were even then
 falling into your face, but for a moment you were sure to
feel that everything was bright and warm and comfortable.
Sometimes the careless young Grasshoppers and Crickets
called the Harvestmen by their nicknames, "Daddy Long-Legs"
or "Grandfather Graybeard." Even then the Harvestmen were
good-natured, and only said with a smile that the young
people had not yet learned the names of their neighbors. The
Grasshoppers never seemed to think how queer it was to call
a young Harvestman daughter "Grandfather Graybeard." When
they saw how good-natured they were, the Grasshoppers soon
stopped trying to tease the Harvestmen. People who are
really good-natured are never teased very long, you know.
The Walking-Sticks were exceedingly polite to the
Harvestmen. They thought them very slender and
genteel-looking. Once the Five-Legged Walking-Stick
 said to
the largest Harvestmen, "Why do you talk so much with the
common people in the meadow?"
The Harvestman knew exactly what the Walking-Stick meant,
but he was not going to let anybody make fun of his kind and
friendly neighbors, so he said: "I think we Harvestmen are
rather common ourselves. There are a great, great many of us
here. It must be very lonely to be uncommon."
After that the Walking-Stick had nothing more to say. He
never felt quite sure whether the Harvestman was too stupid
to understand or too wise to gossip. Once he thought he saw
the Harvestman's eyes twinkle. The
Harvestman didn't care if
people thought him stupid. He knew that he was not stupid,
and he would rather seem dull than to listen while unkind
things were said about his neighbors.
Some people would have thought it
 very hard luck to be
Harvestmen. The Garter Snake said that if he were one, he
should be worried all the time about his legs.
I haven't any," he said, "for if I had I should be
forever thinking I should lose some of them. A Harvestman
without legs would be badly off. He could never in the world
crawl around on his belly as I do."
How the Harvestmen did laugh when they heard this! The
biggest one said, "Well, if that isn't just like some
people! Never want to have anything for fear they'll lose
it. I wonder if he worries about his head? He might lose
that, you know, and then what would he do?"
It was only the next day that the largest Harvestman came
home on seven legs. His friends all cried out, "Oh, how did
it ever happen?"
"Cows," said he.
"Did they step on you?" asked the Five-Legged Walking-Stick.
He had not
 lived long enough in the meadow to understand all
that the Harvestman meant. He was sorry for him, though, for
he knew what it was to lose a leg.
"Huh!" said a Grasshopper, interrupting in a very rude way,
"aren't any Cows in this meadow now!"
Then the other Harvestmen told the Walking-Stick all about
it, how sometimes a boy would come to the meadow, catch a
Harvestman, hold him up by one leg, and say to him,
"Grandfather Graybeard, tell me where the Cows are,
or I'll kill you."
Then the only thing a Harvestman could do was to
struggle and wriggle himself free, and he often broke off a
leg in doing so.
"How terrible!" said the three Walking-Sticks all together.
"But why don't you tell them?"
"We do," answered the Harvestmen. "We point with our seven
other legs, and we point every way there is.
Some-  times we
don't know where they are, so we point everywhere, to be
sure. But it doesn't make any difference. Our legs drop off
just the same."
"Isn't a boy clever enough to find Cows alone?" asked the
"Oh, it isn't that," cried all the meadow people together.
"Even after you tell, and sometimes when the Cows are right
there, they walk off home without them."
"I'd sting them," said a Wasp, waving his feelers fiercely
and raising and lowering his wings. "I'd sting them as hard
as I could."
"You wouldn't if you had no sting," said the Tree Frog.
"N-no," stammered the Wasp, "I suppose
"You poor creature!" said the biggest Katydid to the biggest
Harvestman. "What will you do? Only seven legs!"
"Do?" answered the biggest Harvestman, and it was then one
could see how
 truly brave and cheerful he was. "Do?
on those seven. If I lose one of them I'll walk on six,
and if I lose one of them
I'll walk on five.
Haven't I my
mouth and my stomach and my eyes and my two feelers, and my
two food-pincers? I may not be so good-looking, but I am a
Harvestman, and I shall enjoy the grass and the sunshine and
my kind neighbors as long as I live. I must leave you now.
He walked off rather awkwardly, for he had not yet learned
to manage himself since his accident. The meadow people
looked after him very thoughtfully. They were not noticing
his awkwardness, or thinking of his high knees or of his
little low body. Perhaps they thought what the Cicada said,
"Ah, that is the way to live!"
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