Part 4 out of 5
"I have," replied Jumper. "It is a wonder I am here at all; I came
to near furnishing Yowler the Bob Cat a breakfast that it makes me
shiver just to think of it. I guess if I hadn't been thinking about
him, he would have caught me."
"Tell us all about it," demanded Old Mother Nature.
"Seeing Black Pussy over here yesterday, and knowing that to-day's
lesson was to be about Yowler, I couldn't get cats out of my mind
all day yesterday," began Jumper. "Black Pussy doesn't worry me,
but I must confess that if there is any one I fear, it is Yowler
the Bob Cat. Just thinking about him make me nervous. The more
I tried not to think about him, the more I did think about him,
and the more I thought about him, the more nervous I got. Then
just before dark, on the bank of the Laughing Brook, I found some
tracks in the mud. Those tracks were almost round, and that fact
was enough to tell me who had made them. They were Yowler's
footprints, and they hadn't been made very long.
"Of course, seeing those footprints made me more nervous than ever,
and every time I saw a leaf move I jumped inside. My heart felt
as if it were up in my throat most of the time. I had a feeling
that Yowler wasn't far away. I hate that Cat! I hate the way he
hunts! He goes sneaking about, without making a sound, or else he
lies in wait, ready to spring without warning on the first one who
happens along. A fellow never knows where to watch out for Yowler.
"I spent nearly all night sitting under a little hemlock tree with
branches very close to the ground. I sat there because I didn't
dare do anything else. As long as I stayed there I felt reasonably
safe, because Yowler would have to find me, and to do that he would
have to cross an open place where I could see him. I knew that if
I went roaming about I might walk right into his clutches.
"It was lucky I had sense enough to stay there. You know the moon
was very bright last night. It made that open place in front of
where I was hiding almost as light as day. Once I closed my eyes
for just a minute. When I opened them, there was Yowler sneaking
across that open place. Where he had come from, I don't know. He
hadn't made a sound. Not a leaf rustled under his big feet. Right
in the middle of that open place, where the moonlight was brightest,
he stopped to listen, and I simply held my breath."
"Tell us how he looked," prompted Old Mother Nature.
"He looked just like what he is--a big Cat with a short tail,"
replied Jumper. "Just to look at him any one would know he was
own cousin to Black Pussy. He had a round head, rather long legs,
and was about twice as big as Black Pussy. His feet looked big,
even for him. On the tips of his ears were a few long black hairs.
His coat was yellowish to reddish-brown, with dark spots on it.
His chin and throat were white, and underneath he was white spotted
with black. There were spots all down his legs. He didn't have
enough of a tail to call it a tail. It was whitish on the under
side and had black stripes on the upper side, and all the time he
kept twitching it just the way Black Pussy twitches her tail when
she is out hunting. All of a sudden he opened his mouth and gave
such a yell that it is a wonder I didn't jump out of my skin. It
frightened me so that I couldn't have moved if I had wanted to,
which was a lucky thing for me. The instant he yelled he cocked
his head on one side and listened. That yell must have wakened
somebody and caused them to move, for Yowler turned suddenly and
crept swiftly and without a sound out of sight. A minute later
I heard a jump, and then I heard a fluttering. I think he caught
one of the Grouse family."
"Yelling that way is one of Yowler's tricks," explained Old Mother
Nature. "He does it for the same reason Hooty the Owl hoots. He
hopes that it will startle some sleeper so that they will move.
If they do, his keen ears are sure to hear it. Was that all of
your adventure, Jumper?"
"No," replied Jumper. "I remained right where I was for the rest
of the night. Just as daylight was beginning to steal through the
Green Forest, I decided that it was safe to leave my hiding place
and come over here. Half-way here I stopped for a few minutes in
a thick clump of ferns. I was just about to start on again when I
caught sight of something moving just back of an old stump. It
was that foolish looking tail of Yowler's. Had he kept it still I
wouldn't have seen him at all; but he was twitching it back and
forth. He was crouched down close to the ground with all four
feet drawn close together under him. There he crouched, and there
I sat for the longest time. I didn't move, and he didn't move,
save that foolish looking tail of his. I had begun to think that
I would have to stay in that clump of ferns all day when suddenly
Yowler sprang like a flash. There was a little squeak, and then I
saw Yowler trot away with a Mouse in his mouth. I guess he must
have seen that Mouse go in a hole and knew that if he waited long
enough it would come out again. As soon as Yowler disappeared I
hurried over here. That's all."
"That was a splendid account of Yowler and his way of hunting," said
Old Mother Nature. "He does most of his hunting in just that way,
sneaking about on the chance of surprising a Rabbit, Bird or Mouse,
or else patiently watching and waiting beside a hole in which he
knows some one has taken refuge. He hunts in the Green Forest
exactly as Black Pussy, Farmer Brown's Cat, hunts Mice in the barn
or Birds in the Old Orchard. In the spring Yowler destroys many
eggs and young birds, not only those found in nests on the ground,
but also those in nests in trees, for he is a splendid climber.
"Yowler is found in nearly all of the swampy, brushy and wooded
parts of the whole country, excepting in the great forests of the
Far North, where his cousin Tufty the Lynx lives. Yowler is
himself a Lynx, the Bay Lynx. In some places he is called simply
Wild Cat. In others he is called the Catamount. He is not so
fond of the thick forests as he is of swamps, brush-grown hillsides,
old pastures and places where there are great masses of briars.
Rocky ledges where there are caves in which to hide and plenty of
brush also suit him. He is a coward, but when cornered will fight,
though he will run from a little Dog half his size and take to a
tree. In the South he is quite common and there often steals
Chickens and Turkeys, even young Pigs. He prefers to hunt at
night, but sometimes is seen in broad daylight. Mrs. Yowler's
kittens are born in a cave or in a hollow tree. Despite the fact
that he is an expert climber, Yowler spends most of his time on
the ground and is one of the worst enemies of Rabbits, Mice,
Squirrels and ground Birds.
"In the great forests of the Far North lives Yowler's cousin, Tufty
the Canada Lynx, also called Loup Cervier and Lucivee. He is nearly
a third larger than Yowler. From the tip of each ear long tufts of
black hair stand up. On each side of his face is a ruff of long
hair. His tail is even shorter than Yowler's, and the tip of it is
always wholly black. His general color is gray, mottled with brown.
His face ruff is white with black border. Yowler's feet are large,
but Tufty's are immense for his size. This is because Tufty lives
where the snow lies deep for many months, and these big, broad feet
enable him to travel about on the snow without breaking through. He
can travel with ease where Reddy Fox, not half his size and weight,
would break through at every step. Tufty's ways are much like those
of his cousin, Yowler, save that he is a dweller in the deep woods.
Anything he can catch is food for Tufty, but his principal food is the
Northern Hare. The color of his coat blends with the shadows so that
he seems like a living shadow himself. In summer food is plentiful,
and Tufty lives well, but in winder Tufty has hard work to get enough.
Rarely does he know what a full stomach means then. Like Howler he
can go a surprising length of time without food and still retain his
strength. At that time of year he is a great traveler. He has to
be, in order to live.
"There is no fiercer looking animal in all the Green Forest than
Tufty the Lynx, but despite this he is, like most Cats, cowardly.
Only when cornered will he fight. He is possessed of a lively
curiosity, and often he will stealthily follow a hunter or trapper
for miles. The fur of his coat is very long and handsome, and he
is hunted and trapped for this. As he lives for the most part far
from the homes of men, he does less damage to man than does his
cousin, Yowler the Bob Cat. Tufty must depend wholly for his living
on the little people of the Green Forest. Sometimes he will attack
a Fox. The pretty little spotted babies of Lightfoot the Deer are
victims whenever he can find them.
"The darker and deeper the Green Forest, the better Tufty likes
it. He makes his den under great tangles of fallen trees or
similar places. Mr. And Mrs. Tufty often hunt together, and in
early winter the whole family often join in the hunt.
"Yowler and Tufty are the only members of the Cat family now found
in the eastern part of the country. Formerly, their big cousin,
Puma the Panther, lived in the East, but he has been so hunted by
man that now he is found only in the mountains of the Far West and
in a few of the wildest places in the South. I will tell you about
CHAPTER XXX Some Big and Little Cat Cousins
"Puma the Panther," began Old Mother Nature, "is the largest member
of the Cat family in this country, with the exception of one which is
found only in the extreme Southwest. Puma is also called Mountain
Lion, Cougar and Painter. You all know how Black Pussy looks. If
Black Pussy could grow to be over eight feet long and be given a
yellowish-brown coat, whitish underneath, she would look very much
like Puma the Panther. Unlike Yowler the Bob Cat and Tufty the Lynx,
Puma has a long tail--just such a round tail as Black Pussy has.
Being so large, Puma is of great strength, and he has all the grace
and quickness in movement of a true Cat. As I told you yesterday,
there was a time when Puma lived in the East. In fact, he was once
in nearly all parts of this great country where there were forests.
But as the country became settled by man, Puma was driven out, and
now his home is chiefly in the great mountains of the Far West.
"Being so big, he must have much food. Instead of depending for his
living on small animals and birds, Puma hunts the large animals. He
is so big and so strong that he can kill Lightfoot the Deer without
trouble, and there is no one Lightfoot dreads more than Puma. He is
especially fond of Horse flesh, and in certain sections where herds
of Horses are pastured, he has killed so many young Horses that he
has won the undying hate of man.
"Big as he is, he is a coward and will run from a barking Dog.
When desperate with hunger, he has been known to attack man, but
such occasions have been very, very rare. The fact is, he fears
man and will slink sway at his approach. Like the true Cat that
he is, he is wonderfully soft-footed and, despite his great size,
moves silently. He makes his home among the ledges high up in the
mountains. At night he goes forth to hunt. Once in a while he is
seen hunting in daytime, but not often. Sometimes he may be seen
basking in the sun, high up on the ledges. He is a good climber,
like most Cats. He never shows himself boldly, but slinks about
through the forest and among the rocks, the picture of stealth.
This habit has won for him another name--that of Sneak Cat.
Sometimes he sneaks up on his prey to within jumping distance.
Again he lies in wait beside a path which certain animals are in
the habit of using. He is capable of leaping a long distance, and
when he strikes his prey his great weight, added to the force of
his spring, is almost certain to knock it down, even though it be
much bigger than Puma himself.
"Men hunt him with Dogs, for as I have already told you he will run
from a barking Dog. Usually he doesn't run far before taking to a
tree. The hunters follow and shoot him there. Were it not that he
can be hunted in this way with Dogs, he would have little to fear
from man, for he is so keen of sight and hearing and can move so
swiftly and silently, that it is rarely man can surprise him.
Sometimes he will follow a man just as Tufty the Lynx does, but
usually for the same reason--curiosity. Despite the fact that he
is a sneak and coward, he is so big and fierce-looking that he is
feared by most men. Only those who really know him do not fear him.
"There is one other member of the Cat family in all this great land
larger than Puma, and this is Jaguar, also called El Tigre. He is
found only in a small part of the extreme Southwest, for he really
belongs in the hot country to the south of this. Not only is he
the largest, but he is the handsomest of all the Cat family. His
coat is a beautiful deep yellow, covered with spots and rosettes of
black. Beneath he is white with large black spots. He also has a
fairly long tail. He is thick and heavy, and is not as long as
Puma, but is stouter and heavier. He can kill Horses, Mules and
Cattle with ease, but of course the principal part of his food
consists of the wild animals about him. He is so savage in appearance
that the mere sight of him always awakens fear. His method of hunting
is much the same as that of the other members of the Cat family. Most
of his hunting is done at night. While Puma the panther sometimes
screams, Jaguar roars, and it is a very terrifying sound. All the
little people and most of the big ones within hearing shiver when
they hear it. Jaguar's head is large and he is tremendously strong
in the jaws. Occasionally Jaguar is all black instead of being
yellow and spotted.
"In this same part of the great Southwest lives a smaller cousin
named Ocelot, often called Tiger Cat. Ocelot is only a little
bigger than Black Pussy, whom you all know, and in shape is very
like her. He also has a lovely coat. It is yellow, not a deep,
rich yellow like Jaguar's, but a light yellow, thickly covered with
black spots. On his cheeks and the back of his neck are black lines,
and his tail is ringed with black. He likes best country where the
brush is very thick and thorny, for there he can hunt in safety,
with little fear of being hunted by man. Because of his smaller
size, he lives chiefly on small animals, birds and reptiles. He
sometimes kills and eats big Snakes. When he happens to live near
man, he robs the Hen roosts just as Yowler does. In all his ways
he is like the other members of the Cat family.
"A neighbor of his in that same country is the queerest looking
member of the Cat family. He is called the Jaguarundi Cat or
Eyra. Sometimes he is dressed in dull gray and sometimes in rusty
red. His body is shaped more like that of Little Joe Otter than
of any one else, and he has short legs and a long tail. He is a
little larger than Little Joe, and his head is rather small and
somewhat flattened, not so round as the heads of most of the
other members of the Cat family. He likes to be in the vicinity
of water and is a good swimmer. Not very much is known by man
about his habits, but he is a true Cat, and the habits of all
Cats are much the same."
CHAPTER XXXI Bobby Coon Arrives
Old Mother Nature was just about to open school when a slight noise
up the Lone Little Path drew all eyes in that direction. There,
shuffling down the Lone Little Path, was a queer looking fellow.
No one needed more than one look at that funny, sharp, black and
white face of his to recognize him.
"Bobby Coon!" shouted Peter Rabbit. "Are you coming to join our
Bobby shuffled along a little nearer, then sat up and blinked at
them sleepily. No one needed to be told that Bobby had been out
all night. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Hello, everybody,"
said he. "I wish I felt as bright and lively as all of you look.
I'd like to join your school, but I'm afraid if I did I would go
to sleep right in the middle of the lesson. I ought to have been
home an hour ago. So I guess I'll have to be excused."
Old Mother Nature pointed an accusing finger at Bobby Coon.
"Bobby," said she, "You've been getting in mischief. Now own up
you've been stealing some of that sweet, milky corn from Farmer
Bobby Coon hung his head. "I--I--I don't think it was stealing," he
mumbled. "That corn just grows, and I don't see why I shouldn't have
my share of it. I help myself to other things, so why shouldn't I
help myself to that?"
"I'll tell you why," replied Old Mother Nature. "Farmer Brown
planted that corn and took care of it. If he hadn't planted it,
there wouldn't have been any corn there. That makes it his corn.
If it grew wild, you would have a perfect right to it. As it is,
you haven't any right to it at all. Now take my advice, Bobby, and
keep away from that cornfield. If you don't, you will get in trouble.
One of these fine nights Bowser the Hound will find you there and you
will have to run for your life. Keep away from temptation."
"But that corn is so good," sighed Bobby Coon, smacking his lips.
"There is nothing I like better than sweet, milky corn, and if I
don't get it from Farmer Brown's cornfield, I can't get it at all,
for it doesn't grow wild. He'll never miss the little I take."
Old Mother Nature shook her head and looked very grave. "Bobby,"
said she, "that is no excuse at all. Mark what I say: If you keep
on you certainly will get in trouble. If you would be satisfied
to take just an ear or two, I don't believe Farmer Brown would care,
but you know very well that you spoil many times what you eat. You
sample one ear, then think that probably the next ear will be better
and sweeter and you try that. By the time you get through you have
spoiled a lot, and eaten only a little. I think I'll punish you a
little myself by keeping you here a while. If you think you can't
keep awake, just go over and sit down there by Prickly Porky; he'll
keep you awake."
"I--I think I can keep awake," stammered Bobby and opened his eyes
very wide as if he were trying to stretch his eyelids so as to make
them stay open.
"I'll help you by asking you a few questions," replied Old Mother
Nature. Who is it that people sometimes call you the little
Bobby grinned. "Buster Bear," said he.
"That's right," replied Old Mother Nature.
"Of course, being a Raccoon, you are not a Bear, but you are related
to the Bear family. I want you all to notice Bobby's footprints
over yonder. You will see that the print of his hind foot shows
the whole foot, heels and toes, and is a lot like Buster Bear's
footprint on a small scale. Bobby shuffles along in much the same
way that Buster walks. No one ever mistakes Bobby Coon for any one
else. There is no danger that any one ever will as long as he
carries that big, bushy tail with its broad black and gray rings.
There is only one other in all this great country with a tail so
marked, and that is a relative of Bobby's of whom I will tell you
later. And there is no other face like Bobby's with its black
cheeks. You will notice that Bobby is rather small around the
shoulders, but is big and heavy around the hips. That gives him
a clumsy look, but he is anything but clumsy. Despite the fact
that his legs are not very long Bobby is a very good runner.
However, he doesn't do any running unless he has to. Bobby, where
were you before you went over to Farmer Brown's cornfield?"
Once more Bobby hung his head. It was quite clear that Bobby
didn't want to answer that question. But Old Mother Nature
insisted, and finally Bobby blurted it out. "I was up to Farmer
Brown's hen house," said he.
"What for?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Oh, just to look around," replied Bobby.
"To look around for what?" insisted Old Mother Nature.
"Well," said Bobby, "I thought one of those Hens up there might
have dropped an egg that she didn't really care about."
"Bobby," said Old Mother Nature sternly, "why don't you own up
that you went over there to try to steal eggs? Or did you think
you might catch a tender young Chicken? Where were you night
"Over at the Laughing Brook and the Smiling Pool," replied Bobby
promptly, evidently glad the subject had been changed.
"Well, you didn't find sweet corn or eggs or Chickens over there,
did you?" said Old Mother Nature.
"No, but I caught three of the sweetest tasting little fish in a
little pool in the Laughing Brook, and I got some of the tenderest
Clams I've ever eaten," replied Bobby, smacking his lips. "I raked
them out of the mud and opened them. Down at the Smiling Pool I
had a lot of fun catching young Frogs. I certainly do like Frogs.
It is great sport to catch them, and they are fine eating."
"I suppose you have had an eye on the beech trees and the wild
grape-vines," said Old Mother Nature slyly.
Bobby's face brightened. "Indeed I have," said he. "There will
be splendid crops of beechnuts and grapes this fall. My, but
they will taste good!"
Old Mother Nature laughed. "There is small danger that you will go
hungry," said she. "When you can't find enough to eat times must
be very hard indeed. For the benefit of the others you might add
that in addition to the things mentioned you eat other fruits,
including berries, insects of various kinds, birds when you can
catch them, Mice, Turtles, in fact almost anything that can be
eaten. You are not at all fussy about the kind of food. But
you have one habit in regard to your food which it would be well
if some of these other little folks followed. Do you know what
Bobby shook his head. "No," said he, "not unless you mean the
habit I have of washing my food. If there is any water near,
I always like to take what I am going to eat over to it and wash
it; somehow it tastes better."
"Just so," replied Old Mother Nature. "More than once I've seen
you in the moonlight beside the Laughing Brook washing your food,
and it has always pleased me, for there is nothing like cleanliness
and neatness. Did you raise a family this year, Bobby?"
"Mrs. Coon did. We had four of the finest youngsters you have ever
seen over in a certain big hollow tree. They are getting big and
lively now, and go out with their mother every night. I do hope
the hunters will leave them alone this fall. I hate to think of
anything happening to them. If they can just get through the
hunting season safely, I'll enjoy my winter sleep better, and I
know Mrs. Coon will."
At this Johnny Chuck pricked up his ears. "Do you sleep all
winter, Bobby?" he asked eagerly.
"Not all winter, but a good part of it," replied Bobby. "I don't
turn in until the weather gets pretty cold, and it is hard to find
anything to eat. But after the first snow I'm usually ready to
sleep. Then I curl up in a warm bed of leaves in a certain big
hollow tree, and don't care how cold or stormy the weather is.
Sometimes I wake up once or twice, when the weather is mild, and
take a little walk around for exercise. But I don't go far and
soon return to sleep."
"What do you do when Bowser the Hound gets after you?" asked
"Run till I get out of breath," replied Bobby. "And if by that time
I haven't been able to fool him so that he loses my trail, I take to
a tree. Thank goodness, he can't climb a tree. Sometimes I climb
from the top of one tree into the top of another, and sometimes
into a third and then a fourth, when they are near enough together.
That fools the hunters, if they follow Bowser."
"Have you any relatives, Bobby?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"I didn't know I had until you mentioned that fellow with the ringed
tail you said you would tell us about. I didn't know there was
anybody with a tail like mine, and I would like to know about it,"
"He isn't exactly a Raccoon, but he is more nearly related to you
than any one else," replied Old Mother Nature. "His tail shows
that. Aside from this, he is nothing like you at all. He is
called the Ring-tailed Cat. But he doesn't look any more like a
Cat than he does like you, and he isn't related to the Cat family
at all. He has several names. He is called the Bassaris, the
Civet Cat, Ring-tailed Cat, Coon Cat and Cacomixtle. Instead of
being thick and clumsy-looking, as is Bobby here, he is long and
rather slender, with a yellowish-brown coat, somewhat grayish on
the back and whitish underneath. His head is rather small, long
and beautifully shaped. His ears are of good size and very pretty.
In some ways he looks like Reddy Fox. But the really beautiful
thing about him is his tail. It is nearly as long as his body,
thick and beautifully marked with black and white bands.
"He is quick and graceful in his movements, and, like Bobby, prefers
to be abroad at night. Also, like Bobby, he eats about everything
that he can find--flesh, reptiles, fruit, nuts and insects. He
lives in the Far Southwest, and also in some of the mountains of
the Far West. Why he should be called Civet Cat is more than I can
guess, for he is neither a Civet nor a Cat. He is very clever at
catching Mice, and sometimes he is kept as a pet, just as Farmer
Brown keeps Black Pussy, to catch the Mice about the homes of men.
"Now, Bobby, you can trot along home, and I hope all that green
corn you have eaten will not give you the stomach ache. To-morrow
we will see what we can find out about Buster Bear."
CHAPTER XXXII Buster Bear Nearly Breaks Up School
"Has Buster Bear a tail?" asked Old Mother Nature, and her
"No," declared Whitefoot the Wood Mouse promptly.
"Yes," contradicted Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"What do you say, Prickly Porky?" Old Mother Nature asked.
"I don't think he has any; if he has, I've never seen it," said
"That's because you've got poor eyes," spoke up Jumper the Hare.
"He certainly has a tail. It isn't much of a one, but it is a
tail. I know because I've seen it many times."
"Woof, woof," said a deep, rumbly, grumbly voice. "What's going
on here? Who is it hasn't any tail?"
At the sound of that deep, rumbly, grumbly voice it looked for a
few minutes as if school would be broken up for that day. There
was the same mad scrambling to get away that there had been the
morning Reddy Fox unexpectedly appeared. However, there was this
difference: When Reddy appeared, most of the little people sought
safe hiding places, but now they merely ran to safe distances,
and there turned to stare with awe and great respect at the owner
of that deep, rumbly, grumbly voice. It was great, big Buster
Buster stood up on his hind legs, like a man, and his small eyes,
for they are small for his size, twinkled with fun as he looked
around that awe filled circle. "Don't let me interrupt," said
he. "I heard about this school and I thought I would just pay a
friendly visit. There is nothing for you to fear. I have just
had my breakfast and I couldn't eat another mouthful to save me,
not even such a tender morsel as Whitefoot the Wood Mouse."
Whitefoot hurriedly ran a little farther away, and Buster Bear
chuckled. Then he looked over at Old Mother Nature. "Won't you
tell them that I'm the best-natured and most harmless fellow in
all the Great World?" he asked.
Old Mother Nature smiled. "That depends on the condition of your
stomach," said she. "If it is as full as you say it is, and I know
you wouldn't tell me an untruth, not even timid Whitefoot has
anything to fear from you." Then she told all the little people
to put aside their fears and return.
Buster, seeing that some of the more timid were still fearful,
backed off a short distance and sat down on his haunches. "What
was that about a tail I overheard as I came up?" he asked.
"It was a little discussion as to whether or not you have a tail,"
replied Old Mother Nature. "Some say you have, and some say you
haven't. Whitefoot thinks you haven't."
Once more Buster Bear chuckled way down deep in his throat.
"Whitefoot never in his life looked at me long enough to know
whether I've got a tail or not," said he. "I never yet have
seen him until now, when he wasn't running away as fast as his
legs could take him. So with me always behind him, how could he
tell whether or not I have a tail?"
"Well, have you?" demanded Peter Rabbit bluntly.
"What do you think?" asked Buster.
"I think you have," said Peter. "But if you have you are sitting
down on it and I can't tell. It can't be much of a one, anyhow."
Again Buster chuckled. "Quite right, Peter; quite right," said
he. "I've got a tail, but hardly enough of a one to really call
it a tail."
As Buster sat there, every one had a splendid chance to see just
how he looked. His coat was all black; in fact he was black all
over, with the exception of his nose, which was brown. His fur
was long and rather shaggy. His ears were round. His paws were
big and armed with strong, wicked looking claws.
"You all see what a black coat Buster has," said Old Mother Nature.
"Now I'm going to tell you something which may surprise you. Just
as there are Red Foxes that are black, so there are Black Bears
that are brown."
"What's that?" grunted Buster, with the funniest look of surprise
on his face.
"It's a fact, Buster," said Old Mother Nature. "A great many of
your family live out in the mountains of the Far West, and there
quite often there will be one who is all brown. People used to
think that these brown Bears were a different kind of Bear, and
called them Cinnamon Bears. It was a long, long time before it
was found out that those brown Bears are really black Bears.
Sometimes one of the twin babies will be all black and the other
all brown. Sometimes one of Buster's family will have a white
spot on his breast. Buster's branch of the family is found in
nearly all of the wooded parts of the entire country. In the
Sunny South they live in the swamps and do not grow as big as in
the North. Buster, there is a soft spot on the ground; I want
you to walk across it so that these little folks can see your
Good-naturedly Buster dropped on all fours and walked across the
soft spot. Right away every one understood why Old Mother Nature
had asked Buster to do this. The prints of his hind feet were
very like the prints of Farmer Brown's boy when barefooted, only
of course very much larger. You see, they showed the print of
the heel as well as the rest of the foot.
"You see," said Old Mother Nature, "Buster puts his whole foot on
the ground, while all members of the Dog and Cat families walk
wholly on their toes. Animals that put the whole foot down are
called plantigrade. How big do you think Buster was when he
"Of course I'm only guessing," said Chatterer the Red Squirrel,
"but he is such a big fellow that I think he must have been a
bouncing big baby."
Old Mother Nature smiled. "I don't wonder you think so," said she.
"The fact is, however, Buster was a very tiny and very helpless
little chap. He was just about the size of one of Prickly Porky's
babies. He was no bigger than a Rat. He was born in the middle of
winter and didn't get his eyes open for forty days. It was two
months before he poked his head outside the den in which he was
born, to find out what the Great World was like. At that time he
wasn't much bigger than Peter Rabbit, and he and his twin sister
were as lively a pair of youngsters and as full of mischief as
any Bears the Green Forest has ever seen. You might tell us,
Buster, what you live on."
Buster's eyes snapped. "I live on anything I can eat, and I can
eat most everything. I suppose a lot of people think I live
almost wholly on the little people who are my neighbors, but that
is a mistake. I do catch Mice when I am lucky enough to find them
where I can dig them out, and they certainly are good eating."
At this Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse hastily
scurried farther away, and Buster's eyes twinkled with mischief.
"Of course I don't mind a Rabbit either, if I am lucky enough to
catch one," said he, and Peter Rabbit quickly backed off a few
steps. "In fact I like meat of any kind," continued Buster. "But
the greater part of my food isn't meat at all. In the spring I
dig up roots of different kinds, and eat tender grass shoots and
some bark and twigs from young trees. When the insects appear
they help out wonderfully. I am very fond of Ants. I pull over
all the old logs and tear to pieces all the old stumps I can find,
and lick up the Ants and their eggs that I am almost sure to find
there. Almost any kind of insect tastes good to me if there are
enough of them. I love to find and dig open the nests of Wasps
that make their homes in the ground, and of course I suppose you
all know that there is nothing in the world I like better than
honey. If I can find a Bee nest I am utterly happy. For the sake
of the honey, I am perfectly willing to stand all the stinging the
Bees can give me. I like fish and I love to hunt Frogs. When the
berry season begins, I just feast. In the fall I get fat on
beechnuts and acorns. The fact is, there isn't much I don't like."
"I've been told you sleep all winter," said Johnny Chuck.
"That depends on the winter," replied Buster Bear. "I don't go to
sleep until I have to. I don't have to as long as I can find
enough to eat. If the winter begins early, with bad weather, I
make a comfortable bed of leaves in a cave or under a big pile
of fallen trees or even in a hollow log, if I can find one big
enough. Then I go to sleep for the rest of the winter. But if
the winter is mild and open and there is a chance of finding
anything to eat, I sleep only in the really bad weather."
"Do you try to get fat before going to sleep, the way I do?" asked
Buster grinned. "Yes, Johnny, I try," said he, "and usually I
succeed. You see, I need to be fat in order to keep warm and also
to have something to live on in the spring, just the same as you do.
"I've been told that you can climb, but as I don't live in the Green
Forest I have never seen you climb. I should think it would be slow
work for such a big fellow as you to climb a tree," said Johnny Chuck.
Buster looked up at Happy Jack Squirrel and winked. Then he walked
over to the tree in which Happy Jack was sitting, stood up and
suddenly began to scramble up the tree. There was nothing slow
about the way Buster Bear went up that tree. Happy Jack squealed
with sudden fright and started for the top of that tree as only
Happy Jack can climb. Then he made a flying jump to the next tree.
Halfway up Buster stopped. Then he began to come down. He came
down tail first. When he was within ten feet of the ground he
simply let go and dropped.
"I did that just to show you how I get out of a tree when I am
really in a hurry," explained Buster. "I don't climb trees much
now unless it is for honey, but when I was a little fellow I used
to love to climb trees."
Suddenly Buster sat up very straight and pointed his nose up in
the wind. An anxious look crept into his face. He cocked his ears
as if listening with all his might. That is just what he was doing.
Presently he dropped down to all fours. "Excuse me," said he, "I
think I had better be going. Farmer Brown is coming down the Lone
Buster turned and disappeared at a speed that was simply astonishing
in such a clumsy-looking fellow. Old Mother Nature laughed.
"Buster's eyes are not very good," said she, "but there is nothing
the matter with his nose or with his ears. If Buster says that
Farmer Brown is coming down the Lone Little Path, there is no doubt
that he is, although he may be some distance away yet. Buster has
been smart enough to learn that he has every reason to fear man,
and he promptly takes himself out of the way at the first hint that
man is near. It is a funny thing, but most men are as afraid of
Buster as Buster is of them, and they haven't the least need of
being afraid at all. Where man is concerned there isn't one of
you little people more timid than Buster Bear. The faintest smell
of man will make him run. If he should be wounded or cornered, he
would fight. Mrs. Bear would fight to protect her babies, but these
are the only conditions under which a Black Bear will face a man.
You think Buster is big, and he is, but Buster has relatives very
much bigger than he. He has one beside whom he would look actually
small. I'll tell you a little about these cousins of Buster."
CHAPTER XXXIII Buster Bear's Big Cousins
Buster Bear had been right about the coming of Farmer Brown. It
was only a few minutes after Buster's disappearance that Farmer
Brown's footsteps were heard coming down the Lone Little Path,
and of course that ended school for that morning. But the next
morning all were on hand again at sun-up, for every one wanted to
hear about Buster Bear's big cousins.
"Way out in the mountains of the Far West, where Whistler the
Marmot and Little Chief the Pika live, is a big cousin of Buster
Bear," began Old Mother Nature. "He is Silvertip the Grizzly
Bear, and in the past no animal in all this great country was so
feared by man, as he. But times have changed, and Silvertip has
been so hunted with terrible guns that he has learned to fear man
quite as much as Buster does.
"He is larger than Buster and possessed of tremendous strength.
Instead of a black coat, he has a coat which varies from yellowish-
brown to almost black. The tips of the hairs usually are lighter,
giving him a frosted appearance, and this is what has given him his
name. His claws are longer and more curved than those of Buster;
in fact those claws are so big that they look very terrible.
Because they are so long, Silvertip cannot climb trees. But if
they prevent him climbing trees they are the finest kind of tools
for digging out Marmots and ground Squirrels. Even when Whistler
the Marmot makes his home down in among the rocks, he is not safe.
Silvertip's strength is so great that he can pull over and roll
aside great rocks.
"He is a great traveler and covers a wide range of country in his
search for food. Sometimes he visits the Cattle ranges and kills
Cattle. So great is his strength that he can kill a Cow with ease.
Clumsy looking as he is, he is a very fast runner, and only a fast
Horse can outrun him. Like Buster, he lives on anything he can
find that is eatable. He has been so hunted by man that he has
become very cunning, and in all the great mountains where he lives
there is no one with quicker wits. At certain seasons of the year
great numbers of a fish called Salmon come up the rivers in that
country, and then Silvertip lives high. He watches beside a pool
until a Salmon swims within reach; then, with a swift movement of
one paw, he scoops the fish on to the bank. Or he finds a place
where the water is so shallow that the fish have difficulty in
getting across, and there he seizes them as they struggle up the
river. In winter he sleeps just as Buster does, usually in a
"Mrs. Silvertip is a splendid mother. Usually the cubs, of which
as a rule there are two, remain with her until they are a year old.
Both Buster Bear and Silvertip have a queer habit of standing up
against a tree and biting it as high up as they can reach. The
next Bear who comes along that way sees the mark and makes his
own on the same tree. Silvertip knows every inch of that part of
the country in which he lives and always picks out the best way
of getting from one place to another. He is one of the finest
animals in this country, and it is a matter for sadness that his
splendid race will soon come to an end unless man makes laws to
protect him from the hunters. In very many places where he used
to be found he lives no longer.
"Silvertip is not so good-natured as Buster, but all he asks is
to be left alone. Of course when he turns Cattle killer he is
getting into the worst possible kind of mischief and man cannot
be blamed for hunting him. But it is only now and then that one
of Silvertip's family turns Cattle killer. The others do no harm.
"I told you yesterday that Buster Bear has one cousin beside whom
he would look small. This is Bigfoot the Alaska or Great Brown
Bear, who lives in the extreme northwest part of the continent.
Even Silvertip would look small beside him. He is a giant, the
largest flesh-eating animal in all the great world. His coat is
dark brown. When he stands up on his hind legs, he is almost half
again as tall as a tall man. He stands very high at the shoulders
and his head is very large. Like the other members of the Bear
family, he eats all sorts of things. He hunts for Mice and other
small animals, digs up roots, stuffs himself with berries, and at
times grazes on a kind of wild grass, just as Cattle might do. He
is a great fish eater, for fish are very plentiful in the streams
in the country where he lives. Big as he is, he has learned to
fear man just as Silvertip has. Occasionally when surprised he
has been known to attack man and kill him, but as a rule he will
run at the first hint of man's approach.
"The last of the Bear cousins is Snow King the Polar Bear. Snow
King is king of the Frozen North. He lives in the region of snow
and ice, and his coat is all white. He also is a big Bear, and of
somewhat different shape from his cousins. He is longer, and has
a much longer neck and a long head. His ears are rather small and
close to his head. Snow King lives the year round where it would
seem that no animal could live, and he manages to live well.
Though his home is in the coldest part of the Great World, he does
not mind the cold at all.
"More than any other member of the Bear family, Snow King is a
flesh eater. This is because only in certain places, and then only
for a few weeks in midsummer, is there any plant life. He is a
great fisherman, and fish furnish him a great deal of his food. In
that far northern country are great numbers of animals who live in
the ocean, but come ashore to rest and bask in the sun, and to have
their babies there. They are Seals, Sea Lions and Walruses. I will
tell you about them later. On these Snow King depends for much of
his food. He is himself a wonderful swimmer, and often swims far
out in the icy water.
"Up there there are great fields of floating ice, and Snow King
swims from one to another in search of Seals, for they often
climb out on these ice fields, just as they do on shore.
Sometimes Mrs. Bear takes her cubs for long swims. When they
become tired, one will climb on her back, and the other will
seize her tail, so she will carry one and tow the other.
"Snow King's babies are born in a house of snow. Early in the
winter Mrs. Bear finds a sheltered place where the snow will drift
over her. There she goes to sleep, and the snow drifts and drifts
over her until she is buried deep. You might think she would be
cold, but she isn't, for the snow keeps her warm. Her breath melts
a little hole up through the snow, so that she always has air.
There the babies are born, and there they remain, just as Buster
Bear's remain in their home, until they are big enough to follow
their mother about. Then she breaks her way out in the spring, and
leads her cubs forth to teach them how to take care of themselves.
Snow King, himself, does not sleep through the winter, but roams
about, just as in the summer.
"Snow King is fearless and has not yet learned to dread man, as
have his cousins. He will not hesitate to attack man and is
terrible to meet at close quarters. Because he lives in that far,
cold country, he is not hunted as much as other bears are. Besides
the Seals and fish, he sometimes catches an Arctic Hare. In the
summer great numbers of Ducks and other sea birds nest in that
far northern country, and their eggs and young add to Snow King's
bill of fare. His white coat is so in keeping with his surroundings
that it is of the greatest aid to him in his hunting. It is a
very beautiful coat and makes him the most beautiful of all the
"Now this is all about the Bears, and also it is all about the order
of flesh eaters, or Carnivora. I think that next we will see what
we can find out about a certain little friend of yours, who, though
he eats flesh, is not a member of the flesh-eating order at all, but
belongs to an order of which he is the only member in this country.
I will leave you to guess who it is."
CHAPTER XXXIV Unc' Billy and Old Mrs. Possum
All the way home from school Peter Rabbit did his best to think who
it could be who ate flesh, yet wasn't a member of the order of
flesh eaters. Every few hops he would stop to think, but all his
stopping and all his thinking were in vain, and when he started
for school the next morning he was as puzzled as ever. On his way
through the Green Forest he passed a certain tree. He was just
past and no more when a familiar voice hailed him.
"Morning, Bre'r Rabbit," said the voice. "What's yo' hurry?" Peter
stopped abruptly and looked up in that tree. There, peering down at
him from a hole high up in the trunk, was a sharp, whitish-gray face,
with a pair of twinkling black eyes.
"Hello, Unc' Billy," cried Peter. "How are you and Ol' Mrs. Possum?"
"Po'ly, Peter, Po'ly. We-uns haven't had breakfast yet, so we-uns
are feeling po'ly," replied Unc' Billy with a grin.
A sudden thought popped into Peter's head. "Unc' Billy," cried
Peter excitedly, "are you a Carnivora?"
Unc' poked his head a little farther out and put his hand behind
his ear as if he were a little hard of hearing. "What's that,
Bre'r Rabbit? Am I a what?" he demanded.
"Are you a Carnivora?" repeated Peter.
"Ah reckons Ah might be if Ah knew what it was, but as long as Ah
don't, Ah reckons I ain't," retorted Unc' Billy. "Ah reckons Ah'm
just plain Possum. When Ah wants to be real uppity, Ah puts on an
'o.' Then Ah am Mister Opossum."
But Peter wasn't listening. The fact is, Peter had started
lipperty-lipperty-lip for school, without even being polite enough
to say good-by. He arrived at school quite out of breath. "I
know!" he panted. "I know!"
"What do you know?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"I know who it is who eats flesh, yet doesn't belong to the order
of flesh eaters. It's Unc' Billy Possum!" cried Peter.
"Right you are," replied Old Mother Nature. "However did you find
"I didn't exactly find it out; I guessed it," replied Peter. "On
my way here I saw Unc' Billy, and it popped into my head right
away that he was one we haven't heard about, and must be the one.
But if he eats flesh, I don't see why he isn't a member of the
order of flesh eaters."
"It is because he belongs to a group which has something which
makes them entirely different from all other animals, and for
this reason they have been given an order of their own," explained
Old Mother Nature. "They belong to the order of Marsupials,
which means pouched animals. It is because the mothers have big
pockets in which they carry their babies. Old Mrs. Possum has
just such a pocket."
"Of course," exclaimed Peter. "I've seen those babies poking
their heads out of that pocket. They look too funny for anything."
"The Opossums are the only Marsupials in this country," continued
Old Mother Nature. "Now have I made it quite clear why, although
they eat flesh, Unc' Billy and Ol' Mrs. Possum are not members of
the same big order as Buster Bear and the other flesh eaters?"
Everybody nodded. Just then Chatterer the Red Squirrel shouted,
"Here comes Unc' Billy, Ol' Mrs. Possum and all the little Possums."
Sure enough, down the Lone Little Path came the Possum family, and
a funny looking sight they were. Unc' Billy was whitish-gray, his
face whiter than the rest of him. He looked as if he had just
gotten out of bed and forgotten to brush his hair; it pointed every
which way. His legs were dark, his feet black and his toes white.
His ears were without any hair at all, and were black for the lower
half, the rest being white. He had a long whitish tail without any
hair on it. Altogether, with his sharp face and naked tail, he
looked a great deal as though he might be a giant Rat.
But if Unc' Billy was a funny-looking fellow, Ol' Mrs. Possum was
even more funny-looking. She seemed to have heads and tails all
over her. You see, she had brought along her family, and Ol' Mrs.
Possum is one of those who believe in large families. There were
twelve youngsters, and they were exactly like their parents, only
small. They were clinging all over Ol' Mrs. Possum. Some were on
her back, some were clinging to her sides, and a couple were in
the big pocket, where they had spent their babyhood.
"We--all done thought we'd come to school," explained Unc' Billy
with a grin.
"I'm glad you did," replied Old Mother Nature. "You see, the rest
of your friends here are a little curious about the Possum family."
Meanwhile Ol' Mrs. Possum was climbing a tree, and when she had
reached a comfortable crotch the little Possums left her and began
to play about in the tree. It was then that it appeared what handy
things those naked little tails were. When the little Possums
crawled out where the branches were small, they simply wrapped
their tails around the twigs to keep from falling.
"My!" exclaimed Peter. "Those certainly are handy tails."
"Handiest tails ever was," declared Unc' Billy. "Don't know what
Ah ever would do without mah tail."
"Suppose you climb a tree, Unc' Billy, and show your friends here
how you manage to get the eggs from a nest that you cannot reach
by crawling along the branch on which it is placed," said Old
Unc' Billy grinned, and good-naturedly started up a tree. He crept
out on a branch that overhung another branch. Way out where the
branch was small crept Unc' Billy. Then he wrapped the end of his
tail around the branch and swung himself off, keeping hold of the
branch only with his tail and one hind foot. Then, stretching down
full length, he could just reach the branch below him. "You see,"
he explained, "if there was a nest on this branch down here, Ah
could get those eggs without any trouble. Ah wish there was a
nest. Just speaking of eggs makes mah mouth water." Again Unc'
Billy grinned and then pulled himself back to the other branch.
Old Mother Nature shook her head reprovingly. "Unc' Billy," said
she, "you are a bad old rascal to steal eggs. What's more, it
doesn't matter to you much whether you find eggs or young birds
in a nest. It is a wonder that between you and Chatterer the Red
Squirrel any of the birds succeed in raising families around
here. Have you visited Farmer Brown's hen house lately?"
Unc' Billy shook his head. "Not lately," said he; "Ah done got
a dreadful scare the last time Ah was up there, and Ah reckons
Ah'll stay away from there for a while."
What else do you eat?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"Anything," replied Unc' Billy. "Ah reckons Ah ain't no ways
particular--insects, roots, Frogs, Toads, small Snakes, Lizards,
berries, fruits, nuts, young Rats and Mice, corn, any old meat
that has been left lying around. Ah reckon Ah could find a meal
most any time most anywhere."
"Do you always have as big a family as you have there?" asked
"Not always," replied Unc' Billy. "But sometimes Mrs. Possum
has to tote around a still bigger family. We believe in chillun
and lots of them. We reckon on havin' two or three big families
"Where is your home?" asked Johnny Chuck. "I know," said Peter
Rabbit. "It's up in a big hollow tree."
Unc' Billy looked down at Peter. "'Tisn't at all necessary to
tell anybody where that hollow tree is, Bre'r Rabbit," said he.
"Are Possums found anywhere except around here?" inquired
"Yes, indeed," replied Old Mother Nature. "They are found all down
through the Sunny South, and in the warmer parts of the Middle West.
Unc' Billy and his relatives are not fond of cold weather. They
prefer to be where they can be reasonably warm all the year round.
"Some folks think Unc' Billy isn't smart, but those folks don't
know Unc' Billy. He learned a long time ago that he can't run as
fast as some others, so he has learned to depend on his wits in
time of danger. What do you think he does?"
"I know," cried Peter; "I saw him do it once. Farmer Brown's boy
surprised Unc' Billy, and Unc' Billy just fell right over dead."
"Pooh! That's a story, Peter Rabbit. How could Unc' Billy have
fallen over dead and be alive up in that tree this very minute?"
cried Happy Jack.
"I didn't mean he was really dead, but that he looked as if he
were dead," explained Peter. "And he did, too. He was the deadest
looking thing I ever saw. I thought he was dead myself. I was
watching from a bramble tangle where I was hiding, and I certainly
thought the life had been scared right out of Unc' Billy. I guess
Farmer Brown's boy thought so too. He picked Unc' Billy up by the
tail, and looked him all over, and said, 'You poor little thing. I
didn't mean to hurt you.' Unc' Billy didn't so much as wink an eye.
Farmer Brown's boy went off up the path carrying Unc' Billy by the
tail. By and by he laid Unc' Billy down on an old stump while he
went to look at a nest of Blacky the Crow. When he came back Unc'
Billy wasn't there. I never did see Unc' Billy hurry as he did
the minute Farmer Brown's boy's back was turned. He came to life
as suddenly as he had dropped dead."
"Very good, Peter," said Old Mother Nature. "Some other smart
little people try that trick sometimes, but none of them can do
it as well as Unc' Billy Possum. Pretending to be dead in order
to remain alive is the cleverest thing Unc' Billy does. Now how
about Lightfoot the Deer for the next lesson?"
"Splendid," cried all together and prepared to start for their homes.
CHAPTER XXXV Lightfoot, Blacktail and Forkhorn
Of all the people who live in the Green Forest none is more admired
than Lightfoot the Deer. So perhaps you can guess how delighted
every one was when, just as the morning lesson was to begin,
Lightfoot himself stepped daintily out from a thicket and bowed
to Old Mother Nature.
"I heard," said he, "that my little friends here are to learn
something about my family this morning, and thought you would not
mind if I joined them."
"I should say not!" exclaimed Peter Rabbit forgetting that Lightfoot
had spoken to Old Mother Nature.
All laughed, even Old Mother Nature. You see, Peter was so very
much in earnest, and at the same time so excited, that it really
"Peter has spoken for all of us," said Old Mother Nature. "You
are more than welcome, Lightfoot. I had intended to send for you,
but it slipped my mind. I am delighted to have you here and I know
that the others are. I suspect you will be most comfortable if you
lie down, but before you do this I want everybody to have a good
look at you. Just stand for a few minutes in that little open
space where all can see you."
Lightfoot walked over to the open space where the sun fell full on
him and there he stood, a picture of grace and beauty with just
enough honest pride in his appearance to give him an air of noble
dignity. There was more than one little gasp of admiration among
his little neighbors.
"There," began Old Mother Nature, "is one of the most beautiful
of all my children, and the knowledge that he is beautiful does
not spoil him. Lightfoot belongs to the Deer family, as you all
know, and this in turn is in the order called Ungulata, which
Peter Rabbit abruptly sat up, and his ears stood up like exclamation
points. "Farmer Brown's cows have those funny feet called hoofs;
are they related to Lightfoot?" he asked eagerly.
"They belong to another family, but it is in the same order. So
they are distant cousins of Lightfoot," replied Old Mother Nature.
"And Farmer Brown's Pigs, what about them?" asked Chatterer the
Red Squirrel. "They also belong to that order and so are related,"
explained Old Mother Nature.
"Huh!" exclaimed Chatterer. "If I were in Lightfoot's place I
never, never would acknowledge any such homely, stupid creatures
as those as relatives of mine."
"Don't forget that Prickly Porky the Porcupine and Robber the Rat
are members of the same order to which you belong," retorted Old
Mother Nature softly, and Chatterer hung his head. "Lightfoot,"
she continued, "is the White-tailed or Virginia Deer, and is in
some ways the most beautiful of the Deer family. You have only to
look at him to know that those slim legs of his are meant for speed.
He can go very fast, but not for long distances without stopping.
Like Peter Rabbit he is a jumper rather than a true runner, and
travels with low bounds with occasional high ones when alarmed.
He can make very long and high jumps, and this is one reason he
prefers to live in the Green Forest where there are fallen trees
and tangles of old logs. If frightened he can leap over them,
whereas his enemies must crawl under or climb over or go around
them. Ordinary fences, such as Farmer Brown has built around his
fields, do not bother Lightfoot in the least. He can leap over
them as easily as Peter Rabbit can jump over that little log he
is sitting beside.
"Just now, because it is summer, Lightfoot's coat is decidedly
reddish in color and very handsome. But in winter it is wholly
"I know," spoke up Chatterer the Red Squirrel. "It is gray then.
I've often seen Lightfoot in winter, and there isn't a red hair
on him at that season.
"Quite right," agreed Old Mother Nature. "His red coat is for
summer only. Notice that Lightfoot has a black nose. That is, the
tip of it is black. Beneath his chin is a black spot. A band
across his nose, the inside of each ear and a circle around each
eye is whitish. His throat is white and he is white beneath. Now,
Peter, you are so interested in tails, tell me without looking
what color Lightfoot's tail is."
"White, snowy white," replied Peter promptly. "I suppose that is
why he is called the White-tailed Deer."
"Huh!" grunted Johnny Chuck who happened to be sitting a little
back of Lightfoot, "I don't call it white. It has a white edge,
but mostly it is the color of his coat."
Now while Lightfoot had been standing there his tail had hung down,
and it was as Johnny Chuck had said. But at Johnny's remark up flew
Lightfoot's tail, showing only the under side. It was like a pointed
white flag. With it held aloft that way, no one behind Lightfoot
would suspect that his whole tail was not white.
"Notice how long and fluffy the hair on that tail is," said Old
Mother Nature. "Mrs. Lightfoot's is just like it, and this makes
it very easy for her babies to follow her in the dark. When
Lightfoot is feeding or simply walking about he carries it down,
but when he is frightened and bounds away, up goes that white
flag. Now look at his horns. They are not true horns. The
latter are hollow, while these are not. Farmer Brown's cows have
horns. Lightfoot has antlers. Just remember that. The so-called
horns of all the Deer family are antlers and are not hollow.
Notice how Lightfoot's curve forward with the branches or tines
on the back side."
Of course everybody looked at Lightfoot's crown as he held his head
proudly. "What is the matter with them?" asked Whitefoot the Wood
Mouse. "They look to me as if they are covered with fur. I always
supposed them to be hard like bone."
"So they will be a month from now," explained Old Mother Nature,
smiling down at Whitefoot. "That which you call fur will come off.
He will rub it off against the trees until his antlers are polished,
and there is not a trace of it left. You see Lightfoot has just
grown that set this summer."
"Do you mean those antlers?" asked Danny Meadow Mouse, looking very
much puzzled. "Didn't he have any before? How could things like
those grow, anyway?"
"Don't you know that he loses his horns, I mean antlers, every
year?" demanded Jumper the Hare. "I thought every one knew that.
His old ones fell off late last winter. I know, for I saw him
just afterward, and he looked sort of ashamed. Anyway, he didn't
carry his head as proudly as he does now. He looked a lot like
Mrs. Lightfoot; you know she hasn't any antlers."
"But how could hard, bony things like those grow?" persisted Danny
"I think I will have to explain," said Old Mother Nature. "They
were not hard and bony when they were growing. Just as soon as
Lightfoot's old antlers dropped off, the new ones started. They
sprouted out of his head just as plants sprout out of the ground,
and they were soft and very tender and filled with blood, just
as all parts of your body are. At first they were just two round
knobs. Then these pushed out and grew and grew. Little knobs
sprang out from them and grew to make the branches you see now.
All the time they were protected by a furry skin which looks a
great deal like what men call velvet. When Lightfoot's antlers
are covered with this, they are said to be in the velvet state.
"When they had reached their full size they began to shrink and
harden, so that now they are quite hard, and very soon that velvet
will begin to come off. When they were growing they were so tender
that Lightfoot didn't move about any more than was necessary and
kept quite by himself. He was afraid of injuring those antlers.
By the time cool weather comes, Lightfoot will be quite ready to
use those sharp points on anybody who gets in his way.
"As Jumper has said, Mrs. Lightfoot has no antlers. Otherwise she
looks much like Lightfoot, save that she is not quite as big. Have
any of you ever seen her babies?"
"I have," declared Jumper, who, as you know, lives in the Green
Forest just as Lightfoot does. "They are the dearest little
things and look like their mother, only they have the loveliest
"That is to help them to remain unseen by their enemies," explained
Old Mother Nature. When they lie down where the sun breaks through
the trees and spots the ground with light they seem so much like
their surroundings that unless they move they are not often seen
even by the sharpest eyes that may pass close by. They lie with
their little necks and heads stretched flat on the ground and do
not move so much as a hair. You see, they usually are very
obedient, and the first thing their mother teaches them is to keep
perfectly still when she leaves them.
"When they are a few months old and able to care for themselves a
little, the spots disappear. As a rule Mrs. Lightfoot has two
babies each spring. Once in a while she has three, but two is the
rule. She is a good mother and always on the watch for possible
danger. While they are very small she keeps them hidden in the
deepest thickets. By the way, do you know that Lightfoot and Mrs.
Lightfoot are fine swimmers?"
Happy Jack Squirrel looked the surprise he felt. "I don't see how
under the sun any one with little hoofed feet like Lightfoot's can
swim," said he.
"Nevertheless, Lightfoot is a good swimmer and fond of the water,"
replied Old Mother Nature. "That is one way he has of escaping his
enemies. When he is hard pressed by Wolves or Dogs he makes for
the nearest water and plunges in. He does not hesitate to swim
across a river or even a small lake.
"Lightfoot prefers the Green Forest where there are close thickets
with here and there open places. He likes the edge of the Green
Forest where he can come out in the open fields, yet be within a
short distance of the protecting trees and bushes. He requires
much water and so is usually found not far from a brook, pond or
river. He has a favorite drinking place and goes to drink early
in the morning and just at dusk. During the day he usually sleeps
hidden away in a thicket or under a windfall, coming out late in
the afternoon. He feeds mostly in the early evening. He eats
grass and other plants, beechnuts and acorns, leaves and twigs
of certain trees, lily pads in summer and, I am sorry to say,
delights to get into Farmer Brown's garden, where almost every
green thing tempts him.
"Like so many others he has a hard time in winter, particularly
when the snows are deep. Then he and Mrs. Lightfoot and their
children live in what is called a yard. Of course it isn't really
a yard such as Farmer Brown has. It is simply a place where they
keep the snow trodden down in paths which cross and cross, and is
made where there is shelter and food. The food is chiefly twigs
and leaves of evergreen trees. As the snow gets deeper and deeper
they become prisoners in the yard until spring comes to melt the
snow and set them free.
"Lightfoot depends for safety more on his nose and ears than on his
eyes. His sense of smell is wonderful, and when he is moving about
he usually goes up wind; that is, in the direction from which the
wind is blowing. This is so that it will bring to him the scent
of any enemy that may be ahead of him. He is very clever and
cunning. Often before lying down to rest he goes back a short
distance to a point where he can watch his trail, so that if any
one is following it he will have warning.
"His greatest enemy is the hunter with his terrible gun. How any
one can look into those great soft eyes of Lightfoot and then even
think of trying to kill him is more than I can understand. Dogs
are his next worst enemies when he lives near the homes of men.
When he lives where Wolves, Panthers and Bears are found, he has
to be always on the watch for them. Tufty the Lynx is ever on the
watch for Lightfoot's babies.
"The White-tailed Deer is the most widely distributed of all the
Deer family. He is found from the Sunny South to the great forests
of the North--everywhere but in the vast open plains of the middle
of this great country. That is, he used to be. In many places
he has been so hunted by man that he has disappeared. When he
lives in the Sunny South he never grows to be as big as when he
lives in the North.
"In the great mountains of the Far West lives a cousin, Blacktail,
also called Columbian Blacktailed Deer, and another cousin, Forkhorn
the Mule Deer. Blacktail is nearly the size of Lightfoot. He is not
quite so graceful, his ears are larger, being much like those of
Forkhorn the Mule Deer, to whom he is closely related, and his tail
is wholly black on the upper surface. It is from this he gets his
name. His antlers vary, sometimes being much like those of Lightfoot
and again like those of Forkhorn. He is a lover of dense forests and
is not widely distributed. He is not nearly so smart as Lightfoot in
"Forkhorn the Mule Deer, sometimes called Jumping Deer, is larger
than Lightfoot and much more heavily built. His big ears, much
like those of a Mule, have won for him the name of Mule Deer. His
face is a dull white with a black patch on the forehead and a black
band under the chin. His tail is rather short and is not broad at
the base like Lightfoot's. It is white with a black tip. Because
of this he is often called Blacktailed Deer, but this is wrong
because that name belongs to his cousin, the true Blacktail.
"Forkhorn's antlers are his glory. They are even finer than
Lightfoot's. The prongs, or tines, are in pairs like the letter Y
instead of in a row as are those of Lightfoot, and usually there
are two pairs on each antler. Forkhorn prefers rough country and
there he is very much at home, his powers of jumping enabling him
to travel with ease where his enemies find it difficult to follow.
Like Blacktail he is not nearly so clever as Lightfoot the White-tail
and so is more easily killed by hunters.
"All these members of the Deer family belong to the round-horn
branch, and are very much smaller than the members of the flat-horn
branch. But there is one who in size makes all the others look
small indeed. It is Bugler the Elk, or Wapiti, of whom I shall
tell you to-morrow."
CHAPTER XXXVI Bugler, Flathorns and Wanderhoof
Lightfoot the Deer was the first one on hand the next morning. In
fact, he arrived before sun-up and, lying down in a little thicket
close at hand, made himself very comfortable to wait for the
opening of school. You see, not for anything would he have missed
that lesson about his big cousins. There the others found him
when they arrived.
"The Deer family," began Old Mother Nature, "is divided into two
branches--the round-horned and the flat-horned. I have told you
about the round-horned Deer with the exception of the largest and
noblest, Bugler the Elk. He is commonly called Elk, but his
right name is Wapiti.
"Bugler is found only in the great mountains of the Far West, but
once, before hunters with terrible guns came, Elk were found in
nearly all parts of this country excepting the Far South and the
Far North--even on the great plains. Now Bugler lives only in the
forests of the great mountains."
"How big is he?" asked Lightfoot.
"So big that beside him you would look very small," replied Old
Mother Nature. "Have you ever seen Farmer Brown's Horse?"
Lightfoot nodded. "Well, Bugler stands as high as that Horse,"
replied Old Mother Nature. "He isn't as heavy, for his body is of
different shape, not so big around, but at that he weighs three
times as much as you do. In summer his coat is a light yellowish-
brown, becoming very dark on his neck and underneath. His legs are
dark brown. The hair on his neck is long and coarse. His tail is
very small, and around it is a large patch so light in color as to
be almost whitish. In winter his coat becomes dark gray.
"Bugler's crowning glory are his antlers. They are very large and
wide-spreading, sweeping backward and upward, the long prongs, or
tines, curving upward from the front instead of from the back, as
in the case of Lightfoot's antlers. Above each eye is a long sharp
prong. So big are these antlers that Bugler looks almost as if
he were carrying a small, bare tree on his head.
"Big as these antlers are, they are grown in a few months for
Bugler is like his small cousins in that he loses his antlers at
the end of every winter and must grow a new pair. While they are
growing, he hides in the wildest places he can find, high up on
the mountains. Mrs. Bugler is at that time down in a valley with
her baby or babies. Usually she has one, but sometimes twins.
She has no antlers.
"In the fall, when his antlers have hardened, Bugler moves down
to join his family. The bigger and stronger he is, the bigger his
family is, for he has a number of wives and they all live together
in a herd or band of which Bugler is lord and master. He is ready
and eager to fight for them, and terrible battles take place when
another disputes his leadership. At this season he has a habit of
stretching his neck out and emitting a far-reaching trumpet-like
sound from which he gets the name of Bugler. It is a warning that
he is ready to fight.
"When the snows of winter come, many families get together and form
great bands. Then they move down from the mountains in search of
shelter and food. When a winter is very bad, many starve to death,
for man has fenced in and made into farms much of the land where
the elk once found ample food for winter.
"But big as is Bugler the Elk, there is a cousin who is bigger, the
biggest of all the Deer family. It is Flathorns the Moose. As you
must guess by his name he is a member of the flat-horned branch of
the family. His antlers spread widely and are flattened instead
of being round. From the edges of the flattened part many sharp
points spring out.
"Flathorns, wearing his crown of great spreading antlers, is a
noble appearing animal because of his great size, but when his
antlers have dropped he is a homely fellow. Mrs. Flathorns, who
has no antlers, is very homely. As I have said, Flathorns is the
biggest member of the Deer family. He is quite as big as Farmer
Brown's Horse and stands much higher at the shoulders. Indeed, his
shoulders are so high that he has a decided hump there, for they are
well above the line of his back. His neck is very short, large and
thick, and his head is not at all like the heads of other members
of the Deer family. Instead of the narrow, pointed face of other
members of the Deer family, he has a broad, long face, rather more
like that of a Horse. Towards the nose it humps up, and the great
thick upper lip overhangs the lower one. His nose is very broad,
and for his size his eyes are small. His ears are large.
"From his throat hangs a hairy fold of skin called a bell. He has
a very short tail, so short that it is hardly noticeable. His legs
are very long and rather large. His hoofs are large and rounded,
more like those of Bossy the Cow than like those of Lightfoot the
Deer. Seen at a little distance in the woods, he looks to be almost
black, but really is for the most part dark brown. His legs are gray
on the inside.
"Flathorns lives in the great northern forests clear across the
country, and is especially fond of swampy places. He is fond of
the water and is a good swimmer. In summer he delights to feed
on the pads, stems and roots of water lilies, and his long legs
enable him to wade out to get them. For the most part his food
consists of leaves and tender twigs of young trees, such as
striped maple, aspen, birch, hemlock, alder and willow. His great
height enables him to reach the upper branches of young trees. When
they are too tall for this, he straddles them and bends or breaks
them down to get at the upper branches. His front teeth are big,
broad and sharp-edged. With these he strips the bark from the
larger branches. He also eats grass and moss. Because of his
long legs and short neck he finds it easiest to kneel when feeding
on the ground.
"Big as he is, he can steal through thick growth without making a
sound. He does not jump like other Deer, but travels at an awkward
trot which takes him over the ground very fast. In the winter
when snow is deep, the Moose family lives in a yard such as I told
you Lightfoot makes. The greatest enemy of Flathorns is the hunter,
and from being much hunted Flathorns has learned to make the most of
his ears, eyes and nose. He is very smart and not easily surprised.
When wounded he will sometimes attack man, and occasionally when not
wounded. Then he strikes with his sharp-edged front hoofs, and they
are terrible weapons. Altogether he is a wonderful animal, and it
is a matter for sorrow that man persists in hunting him merely to get
his wonderful head.
"In parts of these same northern forests lives another big member
of the Deer family, Wanderhoof the Woodland Caribou. He is bigger
than Lightfoot the Deer, but smaller than Bugler the Elk, rather
an awkward-looking fellow. His legs are quite long but stout. His
neck is rather short, and instead of carrying his head proudly as
does Lightfoot, he carries it stretched out before him or hanging
low. The hair on the lower part of his neck is long.
"Wanderhoof wears a coat of brown. His neck being much lighter or
almost gray. He has an undercoat which is very thick and woolly.
In winter his whole coat becomes grayish and his neck white. Above
each hoof is a band of white. His tail is very short, and white
on the under side. His antlers are wonderful, being very long and
both round and flat. That is, parts of them are round and parts
flattened. They have more prongs than those of any other Deer.
"His hoofs are very large, deeply slit, and cup-shaped. When he
walks they make a snapping or clicking sound. These big feet were
given him for a purpose. He is very fond of boggy ground, and
because of these big feet and the fact that the hoofs spread when
he steps, he can walk safely where others would sink in. This is
equally true in snow, when they serve as snowshoes. As a result
he is not forced to live in yards as are Lightfoot and Flathorns
when the snow is deep, but goes where he pleases.
"He is very fond of the water and delights to splash about in it,
and is a splendid swimmer. His hair floats him so that when
swimming he is higher out of water than any other member of the
family. In winter he lives in the thickest parts of the forest
among the hemlocks and spruces, and feeds on the mosses and lichens
which grow on the trees. In summer he moves to the open, boggy
ground around shallow lakes where moss covers the ground, and on
this he lives.
"He is a great wanderer, hence his name Wanderhoof. Mrs. Caribou
has antlers, wherein she differs from Mrs. Lightfoot, Mrs. Flathorns
and Mrs. Bugler. Wanderhoof is fond of company and usually is
found with many companions of his own kind. When they are moving
from their summer home to their winter home, or back again, they
often travel in very large bands.
"In the Far North beyond the great forests Wanderhoof has a cousin
who looks very much like him, called the Barren Ground Caribou.
The name comes from the fact that way up there little excepting
moss grows, and on this the Caribou lives. In summer this Caribou
is found almost up to the Arctic Ocean, moving southward in great
herds as the cold weather approaches. No other animals of to-day
get together in such great numbers. In the extreme North is another
Caribou, called Peary's Caribou, whose coat is wholly white. The
Caribou are close cousins of the Reindeer and look much like them.
"All male members of the smaller Deer are called bucks, the female
members are called does, and the young are called fawns. All male
members of the big Deer, such as Bugler the Elk, Flathorns the
Moose and Wanderhoof the Caribou, are called bulls. The females
are called cows and the young are called calves. All members of
the Deer family, with the exception of the Barren Ground Caribou,
are forest-loving animals and are seldom seen far from the
"This, I think, will do for the Deer family. To-morrow I shall
tell you about Thunderfoot the Bison, Fleetfoot the Antelope, and
Longcoat the Musk Ox."
CHAPTER XXXVII Thunderfoot, Fleetfoot and Longcoat
"Who remembers the name of the order to which all members of the
Deer family belong?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"I remember what it means, but not the name," spoke up Happy Jack
Squirrel. "It means hoofed."
"It is Un--Un-Ungu--" began Peter Rabbit and then stopped. For
the life of him he couldn't think of the rest.
"Ungulata," Old Mother Nature finished for him. "And Happy Jack
has the meaning right. It is the order to which all hoofed animals
belong. There are several families in the order, one of which you
already have learned about--the Deer family. Now comes the family
of Cattle and Sheep. It is called the Bovidae family, and the
biggest and most important member is Thunderfoot the Bison,
commonly called Buffalo.
"Thunderfoot is more closely related to Bossy, Farmer Brown's Cow,
than are the members of the Deer family, for he has true horns, not
antlers. These are hollow and are not dropped each year, but are
carried through life. Mrs. Thunderfoot has them also. The horns
grow out from the sides of the forehead and then curve upward and
inward, and are smooth and sharp. They are never branched.
"Thunderfoot is a great, heavy fellow the size of Farmer Brown's
Ox, and has a great hump on his shoulders. He carries his head
low and from his throat hangs a great beard. His head is large
and is so covered with thick, curly hair that it appears much
larger than it really is. His tail is rather short and ends in a
tassel of hair. The hair on his body and hind quarters is short
and light brown, but on his shoulders and neck and his fore legs
to the knees it is long and shaggy, dark brown above and almost
"He must be a queer looking fellow," spoke up Chatterer the
"He is," replied Old Mother Nature. "The front half of him looks
so much bigger than the rear half that it almost seems as if they
didn't belong together."
"What does he eat?" asked Jumper the Hare.
"Grass," replied Old Mother Nature promptly. "He grazes just as
does Bossy. When the weather becomes hot his thick coat, although
much of it has been shed, becomes most uncomfortable. Also he is
tormented by flies. Then he delights in rolling in mud until he
is plastered with it from head to feet.
"Many years ago there were more Bison than any other large animal
in this country, and they were found in nearly all parts of it.
Some lived in the woods and were called Wood Buffaloes, but the
greatest number lived on the great plains and prairies, where the
grass was plentiful. I have told you about the great herd of
Barren Ground Caribou, but this is nothing to the great herds of
Bison that used to move north or south, according to the season,
across the great prairies. In the fall they moved south. In the
spring they moved north, following the new grass as it appeared.
When they galloped, the noise of their feet was like thunder.
"But the hunters with terrible guns came and killed them for their
skins, killed them by hundreds of thousands, and in just a few years
those great herds became only a memory. Thunderfoot, once Lord of
the Prairies, was driven out of all his great kingdom, and the Bison,
from being the most numerous of all large animals, is to-day reduced
to just a few hundreds, and most of these are kept in parks by man.
Barely in time did man make laws to protect Thunderfoot. Without
this protection he would not exist to-day.
"A close neighbor of Thunderfoot's in the days when he was Lord
of the Prairies was Fleetfoot the Antelope. Fleetfoot is about
the size of a small Deer, and in his graceful appearance reminds
one of Lightfoot, for he has the same trim body and long slim legs.
He is built for speed and looks it. From just a glance at him you
would know him for a runner just as surely as a look at Jumper the
Hare would tell you that he must travel in great bounds. The truth
is, Fleetfoot is the fastest runner among all my children in this
country. Not one can keep up with him in a race.
"Fleetfoot's coat is a light yellowish-brown on the back and white
underneath. His forehead is brown and the sides of his face white.
His throat and under side of his neck are white, crossed by two bands
of brown. His hoofs, horns and eyes are black, and there is a black
spot under each ear. Near the end of his nose he is also black, and
down the back of his neck is a black line of stiff longer hairs. A
large white patch surrounds his short tail. Who remembers what I
told you about Antelope Jack, the big Jack Hare of the Southwest?"
"I do!" cried Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare together.
"What was it, Jumper?" asked Old Mother Nature.
"You said that he has a way of making the white of his sides seem
to grow so that he seems almost all white, and can signal his
friends in this way," replied Jumper.
"Quite right," replied Old Mother Nature. "I am glad to find that
you remember so well. Fleetfoot does the same thing with this
white patch around his tail. The hairs are quite long and he can
make them spread out so that that white patch becomes much larger,
and when he is running it can be seen flashing in the sun long after
he is so far away that nothing else of him can be seen. His eyes
are wonderfully keen, so by means of these white patches he and his
friends can signal each other when they are far apart.
"Fleetfoot has true horns, but they are unlike any other horns in
that they are shed every year, just like the antlers of the Deer
family. They grow straight up just over the eyes, are rather short,
and fork. One branch is much shorter than the other, and the longer
one is turned over at the end like a hook. From these horns he gets
the name of Pronghorn.
"When running from danger he carries his head low and makes long
leaps. When not frightened he trots and holds his head high and
proudly. He prefers flat open country, and there is no more
beautiful sight on all the great plains of the West than a band of
Fleetfoot and his friends. He is social and likes the company of
his own kind.
"The time was when these beautiful creatures were almost as numerous
as the Bison, but like the latter they have been killed until now
there is real danger that unless man protects them better than he
is doing there will come a day when the last Antelope will be killed,
and one of the most beautiful and interesting of all my children will
be but a memory."
There was a note of great sadness in Old Mother Nature's voice.
For a few minutes no one spoke. All were thinking of the terrible
thing that had happened at the hands of man to the great hosts of
two of the finest animals in all this great land, the Bison and
Antelope, and there was bitterness in the heart of each one, for
there was not one there who did not himself have cause to fear man.
Old Mother Nature was the first to break the silence. "Now," said
she, "I will tell you of the oddest member of the Cattle and Sheep
family. It is Longcoat the Musk Ox, and he appears to belong
wholly neither to the Cattle nor the Sheep branch of the family,
but to both. He connects the two branches in appearance, reminding
one somewhat of a small Bison and at the same time having things
about him very like a Sheep.
"Longcoat the Musk Ox lives in the Farthest North, the land of snow
and ice. He has been found very near the Arctic Ocean, and how he
finds enough to eat in the long winter is a mystery to those who
know that snow-covered land. He is a heavily built, round-bodied
animal with short, stout legs, shoulders so high that they form a
hump, a low-hung head and sheeplike face, heavy horns which are
flat and broad at the base and meet at the center of the forehead,
sweeping down on each side of the head and then turning up in sharp
points. His tail is so short that it is hidden in the long hair
which covers him.
"This hair is so long that it hangs down on each side so that often
it touches the snow and hides his legs nearly down to his feet. In
color it is very dark-brown, almost black, and on his sides is
straight. But on his shoulders it is curly. In the middle of the
back is a patch of shorter dull-gray hair.
"Underneath this coat of long hair is another coat of woolly, fine
light-brown hair, so close that neither cold nor rain can get through
it. It is this warm coat that makes it possible for him to live in
that terribly cold region. He is about twice as heavy as a big Deer.
At times he gives off a musky odor, and it is from this that he gets
his name of Musk Ox.
"Longcoat is seldom found alone, but usually with a band of his
friends. This is partly for protection from his worst enemies, the
Wolves. When the latter appear, Longcoat and his friends form a
circle with their heads out, and it is only a desperately hungry
Wolf that will try to break through that line of sharp-pointed horns.
"In rough, rocky country he is as sure-footed as a Sheep. In the
short summer of that region he finds plenty to eat, but in winter he
has to paw away the snow to get at the moss and other plants buried
beneath it. Practically all other animals living so far North have
white coats, but Longcoat retains his dark coat the year through.
"My, how time flies! This is all for to-day. To-morrow I will
tell you of two wonderful mountain climbers who go with ease where
even man cannot follow."
CHAPTER XXXVIII Two Wonderful Mountain Climbers
"Peter, you have been up in the Old Pasture many times, so you
must have seen the Sheep there," said Old Mother Nature, turning
to Peter Rabbit.
"Certainly. Of course," replied Peter. "They seem to me rather
stupid creatures. Anyway they look stupid."
"Then you know the leader of the flock, the big ram with curling
horns," continued Old Mother Nature.
Peter nodded, and Old Mother Nature went on. "Just imagine him
with a smooth coat of grayish-brown instead of a white woolly one,
and immense curling horns many times larger than those he now has.
Give him a large whitish or very light-yellowish patch around a very
short tail. Then you will have a very good idea of one of those
mountain climbers I promised to tell you about, one of the greatest
mountain climbers in all the Great World--Bighorn the Mountain Sheep,
also called Rocky Mountain Bighorn and Rocky Mountain Sheep.
"Bighorn is a true Sheep and lives high up among the rocks of the
highest mountains of the Far West. Like all members of the order
to which he belongs his feet are hoofed, but they are hoofs which
never slip, and he delights to bound along the edges of great cliffs
and in making his way up or down them where it looks as if it would
be impossible for even Chatterer the Red Squirrel to find footing,
to say nothing of such a big fellow as Bighorn.
"The mountains where he makes his home are so high that the tops of
many of them are in the clouds and covered with snow even in summer.
Above the line where trees can no longer grow Bighorn spends his
summers, coming down to the lower hills only when the snow becomes
so deep that he cannot paw down through it to get food. His eyesight
is wonderful and from his high lookout he watches for enemies below,
and small chance have they of approaching him from that direction.
"When alarmed he bounds away gracefully as if there were great
springs in his legs, and his great curled horns are carried as
easily as if they were nothing at all. Down rock slopes, so
steep that a single misstep would mean a fall hundreds of feet,
he bounds as swiftly and easily as Lightfoot the Deer bounds
through the woods, leaping from one little jutting point of rock
to another and landing securely as if he were on level ground.
He climbs with equal ease where man would have to crawl and
cling with fingers and toes, or give up altogether.
"Mrs. Bighorn does not have the great curling horns. Instead she
is armed with short, sharp-pointed horns, like spikes. Her young
are born in the highest, most inaccessible place she can find, and
there they have little to fear save one enemy, King Eagle. Only
such an enemy, one with wings, can reach them there. Bighorn and
Mrs. Bighorn, because of their size, nothing to dread from these
great birds, but helpless little lambs are continually in danger
of furnishing King Eagle with the dinner he prizes.
"Only when driven to the lower slopes and hills by storms and snow
does Bighorn have cause to fear four-footed enemies. Then Puma the
Panther must be watched for, and lower down Howler the Wolf. But
Bighorn's greatest enemy, and one he fears most, is the same one
so many others have sad cause to fear--the hunter with his terrible
gun. The terrible gun can kill where man himself cannot climb, and
Bighorn has been persistently hunted for his head and wonderful horns.
"Some people believe that Bighorn leaps from cliffs and alights on
those great horns, but this not true. Whenever he leaps he alights
on those sure feet of his, not on his head.
"Way up in the extreme northwest corner of this country, in a place
called Alaska, is a close cousin whose coat is all white and whose
horns are yellow and more slender and wider spreading. He called
the Dall Mountain Sheep. Farther south, but not as far south as
the home of Bighorn, is another cousin whose coat is so dark that
he is sometimes called the Black Mountain Sheep. His proper name
is Stone's Mountain Sheep. In the mountains between these two is
another cousin with a white head and dark body called Fannin's
sheep. All these cousins are closely related and in their habits
are much alike. Of them all, Bighorn the Rocky Mountain Sheep is
the best known."
"I should think," said Peter Rabbit, "that way up there on those
high mountains Bighorn would be very lonesome."
Old Mother Nature laughed. "Bighorn doesn't care for neighbors as
you do, Peter," said she. "But even up in those high rocky retreats
among the clouds he has a neighbor as sure-footed as himself, one
who stays winter as well as summer on the mountain tops. It is
Billy the Rocky Mountain Goat.
"Billy is as awkward-looking as he moves about as Bighorn is graceful,
but he will go where even Bighorn will hesitate to follow. His hoofs
are small and especially planned for walking in safety on smooth rock
and ice-covered ledges. In weight he is about equal to Lightfoot the
Deer, but he doesn't look in the least like him.
"In the first place he has a hump on his shoulders much like the
humps of Thunderfoot the Bison and Longcoat the Musk Ox. Of course
this means that he carries his head low. His face is very long and
from beneath his chin hangs a white beard. From his forehead two
rather short, slim, black horns stand up with a little curve backward.
His coat is white and the hair is long and straight. Under this long
white coat he wears a thick coat of short, woolly, yellowish-white fur
which keeps him warm in the coldest weather. He seldom leaves his
beloved mountain-tops, even in the worst weather of winter, as Bighorn
sometimes does, but finds shelter among the rocks. The result is that
he has practically no enemies save man to fear.
"Often he spends the summer where the snow remains all the year
through and his white coat is a protection from the keenest eyes.
You see, when not moving, he looks in the distance for all the
world like a patch of snow on the rocks.
"Not having a handsome head or wonderful horns he has not been
hunted by man quite so much as has Bighorn, and therefore is not so
alert and wary. Both he and Bighorn are more easily approached from
above than from below, because they do not expect danger from above
and so do not keep so sharp a watch in that direction. The young
are sometimes taken by King Eagle, but otherwise Billy Goat's family
has little to fear from enemies, always excepting the hunter with
his terrible gun.
"I have now told you of the members of the cattle and Sheep family,
what they look like and where they live and how. There is still
one more member of the order Ungulata and this one is in a way
related to another member of Farmer Brown's barnyard. I will leave
you to guess which one. What is it, Peter?"
"If you please, in just what part of the Far West are the mountains
where Billy Goat lives?" replied Peter.
"Chiefly in the northern part," replied Old Mother Nature. "In the
Northwest these mountains are very close to the ocean and Billy
does not appear to mind in the least the fogs that roll in, and
seems to enjoy the salt air. Sometimes there he comes down almost
to the shore. Are there any more questions?"
There were none, so school was dismissed for the day. Peter didn't
go straight home. Instead he went up to the Old Pasture for another
look at the old ram there and tried to picture to himself just what
Bighorn must look like. Especially he looked at the hoofs of the
"It is queer," muttered Peter, "how feet like those can be so safe
up on those slippery rocks Old Mother Nature told us about. Anyway,
it seems queer to me. But it must be so if she says it is. My, my,
my, what a lot of strange people there are in this world! And what
a lot there is to learn!"
CHAPTER XXXIX Piggy and Hardshell
All the way to school the next morning Peter Rabbit did his best to
guess who it might be that they were to learn about that day. "Old
Mother Nature said that he is related to some one who lives in Farmer
Brown's barnyard," said Peter to himself. "Now who can it be?" But
try as he would, Peter couldn't think of any one. He asked Jumper
the Hare if he had guessed who it could be. Jumper shook his head.
"I haven't the least idea," said he. "You know I seldom leave the
Green Forest and I never have been over to that barnyard in my
life, so of course I don't know who lives there."
Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse were no wiser, nor
was Johnny Chuck. But Chatterer the Red Squirrel, it was plain to
see, was quite sure he knew who it was. Chatterer had been over
to Farmer Brown's so often to steal corn from the corn crib that
he knew all about that barnyard and who lived there. But though
Peter and the others teased him to tell them he wouldn't.
So when Old Mother Nature asked who had guessed to whom she had
referred Chatterer was the only one to reply. "I think you must
have meant the Pig who is always rooting about and grunting in
that barnyard," said he.
"Your guess is right, Chatterer," she replied, smiling at the little
red-coated rascal, "and this morning I will tell you a little about
a relative of his who doesn't live in a barnyard, but lives in the
forest, as free and independent as you are. It is Piggy the Peccary,
known as the Collared Peccary, also called Wild Pig, Muskhog, Texas
Peccary and Javelina.
"He is a true Pig and in shape resembles that lazy, fat fellow in
Farmer Brown's barnyard when he was little. You would know him for
a Pig right away if you should see him. But in every other way
excepting his habit of rooting up the ground with his nose, he is
a wholly different fellow. For one thing his legs, though short,
are more slender and he is a fast runner. There isn't a lazy bone
in him, and he is too active to grow fat.
"His head is large and his nose long, and his tail is almost no
tail at all; it is just a little rounded knob, as if he had at one
time had a tail and it had been cut off. His hair is coarse and
stiff, the kind of hair called bristles. From the back of his head
along his back the bristles are long and stout. They are black at
the tips so that he appears to have a black back. When Piggy is
angry he raises these long bristles so that they stand straight
up and this gives him a very fierce appearance.
"His color is so dark a gray that at a distance he appears black.
Indeed he is black on many parts of him. Just back of the neck a
whitish band crosses the shoulders, and this is why he is called
the Collared Peccary. You see he seems to be wearing a collar.
On each jaw are two great pointed teeth called tusks, the two
upper ones so long that they project beyond the lips. These tusks
are Piggy's weapons, and very good ones they are.
"The home of Piggy the Peccary is in the hot southwestern part of
this country, where live Jaguar and Ocelot, the beautiful spotted
members of the Cat family. They are two of his enemies. He never
likes to be alone, but lives with a band of his friends and they
roam about together. He is found on the plains and among low hills,
in swamps and dense forests, and among the thickets of cactus and
other thorny plants that grow in dry regions. Plenty of food and
shelter from the hot sun seem to be the main things with Piggy."
"What does he eat?" asked Peter Rabbit.
Old Mother Nature laughed. "It would be easier, Peter, to tell you
what he doesn't eat," said she. "He eats everything eatable, nuts,
fruits, seeds, roots and plants of various kinds, insects, Frogs,
Lizards, Snakes and any small animals he can catch. Sometimes he
does great damage to gardens and crops planted by man. He delights
to root in the earth with his nose and often turns over much ground
in this way, searching for roots good to eat.
"On the lower part of his back he carries a little bag of musky
scent, and from this he gets the name of Muskhog. While as a rule
he wisely runs from danger, he is no coward, and will fight fiercely
when cornered. His friends at once rush to help him and surround the
enemy, who is usually glad to climb a tree to escape their gnashing
tusks. However, he is not the fierce animal he has been reported to
be, ready to attack unprovoked. He will run away if he can. Mr. and
Mrs. Peccary have two babies at a time.
"This is the last of the hoofed animals and the last but one of the
land animals of this great country, so you see we are almost to the
end of school. This last one is perhaps the queerest of all. It
is Hardshell the Armadillo, and belongs to the order of Edentata,
which means toothless."
"Do you men to say that there are animals with no teeth at all?"
asked Happy Jack Squirrel, looking as if he couldn't believe such
Old Mother Nature nodded. "That is just what I mean," said she.
"There are animals without any teeth, though not in this country,
and others with so few teeth that they have been put in the same
order with the wholly toothless ones. Hardshell the Armadillo is
one of these. He has no teeth at all in the front of his mouth
and such teeth as he has got do not amount to much."
"But why do you call him Hardshell?" asked Peter impatiently.
"Because instead of a coat of fur he wears a coat of shell," replied
Old Mother Nature, and then laughed right out at the funny expressions
on the faces before her. It was quite clear that Peter and his
friends were having hard work to believe she was in earnest. They
suspected her of joking.
"Do--do you mean that he lives in a sort of house that he carries
with him like Spotty the Turtle?" ventured Peter.
"It is a shell, but not like that of Spotty," explained Old Mother
Nature. "Spotty's shell is all one piece, but the Armadillo's shell
is jointed, so that he can roll up like a ball. Spotty isn't a
mammal, as are all of you and all those we have been learning about,
but is a reptile. Hardshell the Armadillo, on the other hand, is a
"Well, all I can say is that he must be a mighty queer looking
fellow," declared Peter.
"He is," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is about the size of Unc'
Billy Possum, and if you can imagine a pig of about that size with
very short legs, a long tapering tail, feet with toes and long claws
and a shell covering his whole body, the front of his face and even
his tail, you will have something of an idea what he looks like.
"He lives down in the hot Southwest where Piggy the Peccary lives.
His coat of shell is yellowish in color and is divided in the middle
of his body into nine narrow bands or joints. Because of this he
is called the Nine-banded Armadillo. In the countries to the south
of this he has a cousin with three bands and another with six.
Hardshell's head is very long and he carries it pointed straight
down. His small eyes are set far back, and at the top of his head
are rather large upright ears. The shell of his tail is divided