Part 1 out of 3
Prepared by David Reed firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Wild Animals I Have Known
By Ernest Thompson Seton
Books by Ernest Thompson Seton
Biography of a Grizzly
Lives of the Hunted
Wild Animals at Home
Wild Animal Ways
Stories in This Book
Lobo, the King of Currumpaw
Silverspot, the Story of a Crow
Raggylug, the Story of a Cottontail Rabbit
Bingo, the Story of My Dog
The Springfield Fox
The Pacing Mustang
Wully, the Story of a Yaller Dog
Redruff, the Story of the Don Valley Partridge
THESE STORIES are true. Although I have left the strict line of
historical truth in many places, the animals in this book were all
real characters. They lived the lives I have depicted, and showed
the stamp of heroism and personality more strongly by far than it
has been in the power of my pen to tell.
I believe that natural history has lost much by the vague general
treatment that is so common. What satisfaction would be derived
from a ten-page sketch of the habits and customs of Man? How
much more profitable it would be to devote that space to the life
of some one great man. This is the principle I have endeavored to
apply to my animals. The real personality of the individual, and
his view of life are my theme, rather than the ways of the race in
general, as viewed by a casual and hostile human eye.
This may sound inconsistent in view of my having pieced together
some of the characters, but that was made necessary by the
fragmentary nature of the records. There is, however, almost no
deviation from the truth in Lobo, Bingo, and the Mustang.
Lobo lived his wild romantic life from 1889 to 1894 in the
Currumpaw region, as the ranchmen know too well, and died,
precisely as related, on January 31, 1894.
Bingo was my dog from 1882 to 1888, in spite of interruptions,
caused by lengthy visits to New York, as my Manitoban friends
will remember. And my old friend, the owner of Tan, will learn
from these pages how his dog really died.
The Mustang lived not far from Lobo in the early nineties. The
story is given strictly as it occurred, excepting that there is a
dispute as to the manner of his death. According to some
testimony he broke his neck in the corral that he was first taken to.
Old Turkeytrack is where he cannot be consulted to settle it.
Wully is, in a sense, a compound of two dogs; both were mongrels,
of some collie blood, and were raised as sheep-dogs. The first part
of Wully is given as it happened, after that it was known only that
he became a savage, treacherous sheep-killer. The details of the
second part belong really to another, a similar yaller dog, who long
lived the double-life---a faithful sheep-dog by day, and a
bloodthirsty, treacherous monster by night. Such things are less
rare than is supposed, and since writing these stories I have heard
of another double-lived sheep-dog that added to its night
amusements the crowning barbarity of murdering the smaller dogs
of the neighborhood. He had killed twenty, and hidden them in a
sandpit, when discovered by his master. He died just as Wully did.
All told, I now have information of six of these Jekyll-Hyde dogs.
In each case it happened to be a collie.
Redruff really lived in the Don Valley north of Toronto, and many
of my companions will remember him. He was killed in i88g,
between the Sugar Loaf and Castle Frank, by a creature whose
name I have withheld, as it is the species, rather than the
individual, that I wish to expose.
Silverspot, Raggylug, and Vixen are founded on real characters.
Though I have ascribed to them the adventures of more than one of
their kind, every incident in their biographies is from life.
The fact that these stories are true is the reason why all are tragic.
The life of a wild animal always has a tragic end.
Such a collection of histories naturally suggests a common
thought--a moral it would have been called in the last century. No
doubt each different mind will find a moral to its taste, but I hope
some will herein find emphasized a moral as old as Scripture--we
and the beasts are kin. Man has nothing that the animals have not
at least a vestige of, the animals have nothing that man does not in
some degree share.
Since, then, the animals are creatures with wants and feelings
differing in degree only from our own, they surely have their
rights. This fact, now beginning to be recognized by the Caucasian
world, was first proclaimed by Moses and was emphasized by the
Buddhist over 2,000 years ago.
ERNEST THOMPSON SET0N
The King of Currumpaw
CUBRUMPAW is a vast cattle range in northern New Mexico. It
is a land of rich pastures and teeming flocks and herds, a land of
rolling mesas and precious running waters that at length unite in
the Currumpaw River, from which the whole region is named. And
the king whose despotic power was felt over its entire extent was
an old gray wolf.
Old Lobo, or the king, as the Mexicans called him, was the
gigantic leader of a remarkable pack of gray wolves, that had
ravaged the Currumpaw Valley for a number of years. All the
shepherds and ranchmen knew him well, and, wherever he
appeared with his trusty band, terror reigned supreme among the
cattle, and wrath and despair among their owners. Old Lobo was a
giant among wolves, and was cunning and strong in proportion to
his size. His voice at night was well-known and easily
distinguished from that of any of his fellows. An ordinary wolf
might howl half the night about the herdsman's bivouac without
attracting more than a passing notice, but when the deep roar of
the old king came booming down the canon, the watcher bestirred
himself and prepared to learn in the morning that fresh and serious
inroads had been made among the herds.
Old Lobo's band was but a small one. This I never quite
understood, for usually, when a wolf rises to the position and
power that he had, he attracts a numerous following. It may be that
he had as many as he desired, or perhaps his ferocious temper
prevented the increase of his pack. Certain is it that Lobo had only
five followers during the latter part of his reign. Each of these,
however, was a wolf of renown, most of them were above the
ordinary size, one in particular, the second in command, was a
veritable giant, but even he was far below the leader in size and
prowess. Several of the band, besides the two leaders, were
especially noted. One of those was a beautiful white wolf, that the
Mexicans called Blanca; this was supposed to be a female,
possibly Lobo's mate. Another was a yellow wolf of remarkable
swiftness, which, according to current stories had, on several
occasions, captured an antelope for the pack.
It will be seen, then, that these wolves were thoroughly
well-known to the cowboys and shepherds. They were frequently
seen and oftener heard, and their lives were intimately associated
with those of the cattlemen, who would so gladly have destroyed
them. There was not a stockman on the Currumpaw who would
not readily have given the value of many steers for the scalp of any
one of Lobo's band, but they seemed to possess charmed lives, and
defied all manner of devices to kill them. They scorned all hunters,
derided all poisons, and continued, for at least five years, to exact
their tribute from the Currumpaw ranchers to the extent, many
said, of a cow each day. According to this estimate, therefore, the
band had killed more than two thousand of the finest stock, for, as
was only too well-known, they selected the best in every instance.
The old idea that a wolf was constantly in a starving state, and
therefore ready to eat anything, was as far as possible from the
truth in this case, for these freebooters were always sleek and
well-conditioned, and were in fact most fastidious about what they
ate. Any animal that had died from natural causes, or that was
diseased or tainted, they would not touch, and they even rejected
anything that had been killed by the stockmen. Their choice and
daily food was the tenderer part of a freshly killed yearling heifer.
An old bull or cow they disdained, and though they occasionally
took a young calf or colt, it was quite clear that veal or horseflesh
was not their favorite diet. It was also known that they were not
fond of mutton, although they often amused themselves by killing
sheep. One night in November, 1893, Blanca and the yellow wolf
killed two hundred and fifty sheep, apparently for the fun of it, and
did not eat an ounce of their flesh.
These are examples of many stories which I might repeat, to show
the ravages of this destructive band. Many new devices for their
extinction were tried each year, but still they lived and throve in
spite of all the efforts of their foes. A great price was set on Lobo's
head, and in consequence poison in a score of subtle forms was put
out for him, but he never failed to detect and avoid it. One thing
only he feared--that was firearms, and knowing full well that all
men in this region carried them, he never was known to attack or
face a human being. Indeed, the set policy of his band was to take
refuge in flight whenever, in the daytime, a man was descried, no
matter at what distance. Lobo's habit of permitting the pack to eat
only that which they themselves had killed, was in numerous cases
their salvation, and the keenness of his scent to detect the taint of
human hands or the poison itself, completed their immunity.
On one occasion, one of the cowboys heard the too familiar
rallying-cry of Old Lobo, and, stealthily approaching, he found the
Currumpaw pack in a hollow, where they had 'rounded' up a small
herd of cattle. Lobo sat apart on a knoll, while Blanca with the rest
was endeavoring to 'cut out' a young cow, which they had selected;
but the cattle were standing in a compact mass with their heads
outward, and presented to the foe a line of horns, unbroken save
when some cow, frightened by a fresh onset of the wolves, tried to
retreat into the middle of the herd. It was only by taking advantage
of these breaks that the wolves had succeeded at all in wounding
the selected cow, but she was far from being disabled, and it
seemed that Lobo at length lost patience with his followers, for he
left his position on the hill, and, uttering a deep roar, dashed
toward the herd. The terrified rank broke at his charge, and he
sprang in among them. Then the cattle scattered like the pieces of
a bursting bomb. Away went the chosen victim, but ere she had
gone twenty-five yards Lobo was upon her. Seizing her by the
neck, he suddenly held back with all his force and so threw her
heavily to the ground. The shock must have been tremendous, for
the heifer was thrown heels over head. Lobo also turned a
somersault, but immediately recovered himself, and his followers
falling on the poor cow, killed her in a few seconds. Lobo took no
part in the killing--after having thrown the victim, he seemed to
say, "Now, why could not some of you have done that at once
without wasting so much time?"
The man now rode up shouting, the wolves as usual retired, and
he, having a bottle of strychnine, quickly poisoned the carcass in
three places, then went away, knowing they would return to feed,
as they had killed the animal themselves. But next morning, on
going to look for his expected victims, he found that, although the
wolves had eaten the heifer, they had carefully cut out and thrown
aside all those parts that had been poisoned.
The dread of this great wolf spread yearly among the ranchmen,
and each year a larger price was set on his head, until at last it
reached $1,000, an unparalleled wolf-bounty, surely; many a good
man has been hunted down for less, Tempted by the promised
reward, a Texan ranger named Tannerey came one day galloping
up the ca¤on of the Currumpaw. He had a superb outfit for
wolf-hunting--the best of guns and horses, and a pack of enormous
wolf-hounds. Far out on the plains of the Panhandle, he and his
dogs had killed many a wolf, and now he never doubted that,
within a few days, Old Lobo's scalp would dangle at his
Away they went bravely on their hunt in the gray dawn of a
summer morning, and soon the great dogs gave joyous tongue to
say that they were already on the track of their quarry. Within two
miles, the grizzly band of Currumpaw leaped into view, and the
chase grew fast and furious. The part of the wolf-hounds was
merely to hold the wolves at bay till the hunter could ride up and
shoot them, and this usually was easy on the open plains of Texas;
but here a new feature of the country came into play, and showed
how well Lobo had chosen his range; for the rocky cadons of the
Currumpaw and its tributaries intersect the prairies in every
direction. The old wolf at once made for the nearest of these and
by crOssing it got rid of the horseman. His band then scattered and
thereby scattered the dogs, and when they reunited at a distant
point of course all of the dogs did not turn up, and the wolves, no
longer outnumbered, turned on their pursuers and killed or
desperately wounded them all. That night when Tannerey
mustered his dogs, only six of them returned, and of these, two
were terribly lacerated. This hunter made two other attempts to
capture the royal scalp, but neither of them was more successful
than the first, and on the last occasion his best horse met its death
by a fall; so he gave up the chase in disgust and went back to
Texas, leaving Lobo more than ever the despot of the region.
Next year, two other hunters appeared, determined to win the
promised bounty. Each believed he could destroy this noted wolf,
the first by means of a newly devised poison, which was to be laid
out in an entirely new manner; the other a French Canadian, by
poison assisted with certain spells and charms, for he firmly
believed that Lobo was a veritable "loup-garou," and could not be
killed by ordinary means. But cunningly compounded poisons,
charms, and incantations were all of no avail against this grizzly
devastator. He made his weekly rounds and daily banquets as
aforetime, and before many weeks had passed, Calone and Laloche
gave up in despair and went elsewhere to hunt.
In the spring of 1893, after his unsuccessful attempt to capture
Lobo, Joe Calone had a humiliating experience, which seems to
show that the big wolf simply scorned his enemies, and had
absolute confidence in himself. Calone's farm was on a small
tributary of the Currumpaw, in a picturesque ca¤on, and among the
rocks of this very ca¤on, within a thousand yards of the house, Old
Lobo and his mate selected their den and raised their family that
season. There they lived all summer and killed Joe's cattle, sheep,
and dogs, but laughed at all his poisons and traps and rested
securely among the recesses of the cavernous cliffs, while Joe
vainly racked his brain for some method of smoking them out, or
of reaching them with dynamite. But they escaped entirely
unscathed, and continued their ravages as before. "There's where
he lived all last summer," said Joe, pointing to the face of the cliff,
"and I couldn't do a thing with him. I was like a fool to him."
This history, gathered so far from the cowboys, I found hard to
believe until, in the fall of 1893, I made the acquaintance of the
wily marauder, and at length came to know him more thoroughly
than anyone else. Some years before, in the Bingo days, I had been
a wolf-hunter, but my occupations since then had been of another
sort, chaining me to stool and desk. I was much in need of a
change, and when a friend, who was also a ranch-owner on the
Currumpaw, asked me to come to New Mexico and try if I could
do anything with this predatory pack, I accepted the invitation and,
eager to make the acquaintance of its king, was as soon as possible
among the mesas of that region. I spent some time riding about to
learn the country. and at intervals my guide would point to the
skeleton of a cow to which the hide still adhered, and remark,
"That's some of his work."
It became quite clear to me that, in this rough country, it was
useless to think of pursuing Lobo with hounds and horses, so that
poison or traps were the only available expedients. At present we
had no traps large enough, so I set to work with poison.
I need not enter into the details of a hundred devices that I
employed to circumvent this 'loup-garou'; there was no
combination of strychnine, arsenic, cyanide, or prussic acid, that I
did not essay; there was no manner of flesh that I did not try as
bait; but morning after morning, as I rode forth to learn the result, I
found that all my efforts had been useless. The old king was too
cunning for me. A single instance will show his wonderful
sagacity. Acting on the hint of an old trapper, I melted some
cheese together with the kidney fat of a freshly killed heifer,
stewing it in a china dish, and cutting it with a bone knife to avoid
the taint of metal.
When the mixture was cool, I cut it into lumps, and making a hole
in one side of each lump, I inserted a large dose of strychnine and
cyanide, contained, in a capsule that was impermeable by any
odor; finally I sealed the holes up with pieces of the cheese itself.
During the whole process, I wore a pair of gloves steeped in the
hot blood of the heifer, and even avoided breathing on the baits.
When all was ready, I put them in a raw-hide bag rubbed all over
with blood, and rode forth dragging the liver and kidneys of the
beef at the end of a rope. With this I niade a ten-mile circuit,
dropping a bait at each quarter of a mile, and taking the utmost
care, always, not to touch any with my hands.
Lobo, generally, came into this part of the range in the early part of
each week, and passed the latter part, it was supposed. around the
base of Sierra Grande. This was Monday, and that same evening,
as we were about to retire, I heard the deep bass howl of his
majesty. On hearing it one of the boys briefly remarked, "There he
is, we'll see."
The next morning I went forth, eager to know the result. I soon
came on the fresh trail of the robbers, with Lobo in the lead--his
track was always easily distinguished. An ordinary wolf's forefoot
is 4 1/2 inches long, that of a large wolf 4 3/4 inches, but Lobo's,
as measured a number of times, was 5 1/2 inches from claw to
heel; I afterward found that his other proportions were
commensurate, for he stood three feet high at the shoulder, and
weighed 150 pounds. His trail, therefore, though obscured by those
of his followers, was never difficult to trace. The pack had soon
found the track of my drag, and as usual followed it. I could see
that Lobo had come to the first bait, sniffed about it, and finally
had picked it up.
Then I could not conceal my delight. "I've got him at last," I
exclaimed; "I shall find him stark within a mile," and I galloped on
with eager eyes fixed on the great broad track in the dust. It led me
to the second bait and that also was gone. How I exulted--I surely
have him now and perhaps several of his band. But there was the
broad pawmark still on the drag; and though I stood in the stirrup
and scanned the plain I saw nothing that looked like a dead wolf.
Again I followed--to find now that the third bait was gone--and the
king-wolf's track led on to the fourth, there to learn that he had not
really taken a bait at all, but had merely carried them in his mouth,
Then having piled the three on the fourth, he scattered filth over
them to express his utter contempt for my devices. After this he
left my drag and went about his business with the pack he guarded
This is only one of many similar experiences which convinced me
that poison would never avail to destroy this robber, and though I
continued to use it while awaiting the arrival of the traps, it was
only because it was meanwhile a sure means of killing many
prairie wolves and other destructive vermin.
About this time there came under my observation an incident that
will illustrate Lobo's diabolic cunning. These wolves had at least
one pursuit which was merely an amusement; it was stampeding
and killing sheep, though they rarely ate them. The sheep are
usually kept in flocks of from one thousand to three thousand
under one or more shepherds. At night they are gathered in the
most sheltered place available, and a herdsman sleeps on each side
of the flock to give additional protection. Sheep are such senseless
creatures that they are liable to be stampeded by the veriest trifle,
but they have deeply ingrained in their nature one, and perhaps
only one, strong weakness, namely, to follow their leader. And this
the shepherds turn to good account by putting half a dozen goats in
the flock of sheep. The latter recognize the superior intelligence of
their bearded cousins, and when a night alarm occurs they crowd
around them, and usually are thus saved from a stampede and are
easily protected. But it was not always so. One night late in last
November, two Perico shepherds were aroused by an onset of
wolves. Their flocks huddled around the goats, which, being
neither fools nor cowards, stood their ground and were bravely
defiant; but alas for them, no common wolf was heading this
attack. Old Lobo, the werewolf, knew as well as the shepherds that
the goats were the moral force of the flock, so, hastily running
over the backs of the densely packed sheep, he fell on these
leaders, slew them all in a few minutes, and soon had the luckless
sheep stampeding in a thousand different directions. For weeks
afterward I was almost daily accosted by some anxious shepherd,
who asked, "Have you seen any stray OTO sheep lately?" and
usually I was obliged to say I had; one day it was, "Yes, I came on
some five or six carcasses by Diamond Springs"; or another, it was
to the effect that I had seen a small "bunch" running on the Malpai
Mesa; or again, "No, but Juan Meira saw about twenty, freshly
killed, on the Cedra Monte two days ago."
At length the wolf traps arrived, and with two men I worked a
whole week to get them properly set out. We spared no labor or
pains, I adopted every device I could think of that might help to
insure success. The second day after the traps arrived, I rode
around to inspect, and soon came upon Lobo's trail running from
trap to trap. In the dust I could read the whole story of his doings
that night. He had trotted along in the darkness, and although the
traps were so carefully concealed, he had instantly detected the
first one. Stopping the onward march of the pack, he had
cautiously scratched around it until he had disclosed the trap, the
chain, and the log, then left them wholly exposed to view with the
trap still unsprung, and passing on he treated over a dozen traps in
the same fashion. Very soon I noticed that he stopped and turned
aside as soon as he detected suspicious signs on the trail, and a
new plan to outwit him at once suggested itself. I set the traps in
the form of an H; that is, with a row of traps on each side of the
trail, and one on the trail for the cross-bar of the H. Before long, I
had an opportunity to count another failure. Loho came trotting
along the trail, and was fairly between the parallel lines before he
detected the single trap in the trail, but he stopped in time, and
why or how he knew enough I cannot tell, the Angel of the wild
things must have been with him, but without turning an inch to the
right or left, he slowly and cautiously backed on his own tracks,
putting each paw exactly in its old track until he was off the
dangerous ground. Then returning at one side he scratched clods
and stones with his hind feet till he had sprung every trap. This he
did on many other occasions, and although I varied my methods
and redoubled my precautions, he was never deceived, his sagacity
seemed never at fault, and he might have been pursuing his career
of rapine to-day, but for an unfortunate alliance that proved his
ruin and added his name to the long list of heroes who,
unassailable when alone, have fallen through the indiscretionof a
Once or twice, I had found indications that every. thing was not
quite right in the Currumpaw pack. There were signs of
irregularity, I thought; for instance there was clearly the trail of a
smaller wolf running ahead of the leader, at times, and this I could
not understand until a cowboy made a remark which explained the
"I saw them to-day," he said, "and the wild one that breaks away is
Blanca." Then the truth dawned upon me, and I added, "Now, I
know that Blanca is a she-wolf, because were a he-wolf to act thus,
Lobo would kill him at once."
This suggested a new plan. I killed a heifer, and set one or two
rather obvious traps about the carcass. Then cutting off the head,
which is considered useless offal, and quite beneath the notice of a
wolf, I set it a little apart and around it placed six powerful steel
traps properly deodorized and concealed with the utmost care.
During my operations I kept my hands, boots, and implements
smeared with fresh blood, and afterward sprinkled the ground with
the same, as though it had flowed from the head; and when the
traps were buried in the dust I brushed the place over with the skin
of a coyote, and with a foot of the same animal made a number of
tracks over the traps. The head was so placed that there was a
narrow passage between it and some tussocks, and in this passage I
buried two of my best traps, fastening them to the head itself.
Wolves have a habit of approaching every carcass they get the
wind of, in order to examine it, even when they have no
intention of eating it, and I hoped that this habit would bring the
Currumpaw pack within reach of my latest stratagem. I did not
doubt that Lobo would detect my handiwork about the meat, and
prevent the pack approaching it, but I did build some hopes on the
head, for it looked as though it had been thrown aside as useless.
Next morning, I sallied forth to inspect the traps, and there, oh,
joy! were the tracks of the pack, and the place where the beef-head
and its traps had been was empty. A hasty study of the trail showed
that Lobo had kept the pack from approaching the meat, but one, a
small wolf, had evidently gone on to examine the head as it lay
apart and had walked right into one of the traps.
We set out on the trail, and within a mile discovered that the
hapless wolf was Blanca. Away she went, however, at a gallop,
and although encumbered by the beef-head, which weighed over
fifty pounds, she speedily distanced my companion, who was on
foot. But we overtook her when she reached the rocks, for the
horns of the cow's head became caught and held her fast. She was
the handsomest wolf I had ever seen. Her coat was in perfect
condition and nearly white.
She turned to fight, and, raising her voice in the rallying cry of her
race, sent a long howl rolling over the ca¤on. From far away upon
the mesa came a deep response, the cry of Old Lobo. That was her
last call, for now we had closed in on her, and all her energy and
breath were devoted to combat.
Then followed the inevitable tragedy, the idea of which I shrank
from afterward more than at the time. We each threw a lasso over
the neck of the doomed wolf, and strained our horses in opposite
directions until the blood burst from her mouth, her eyes glazed,
her limbs stiffened and then fell limp. Homeward then we rode,
carrying the dead wolf, and exulting over this, the first death-blow
we had been able to inflict on the Currumpaw pack.
At intervals during the tragedy, and afterward as we rode
homeward, we heard the roar of Lobo as he wandered about on the
distant mesas, where he seemed to be searching for Blanca. He had
never really deserted her, but, knowing that he could not save her,
his deep-rooted dread of firearms had been too much for him when
he saw us approaching. All that day we heard him wailing as he
roamed in his quest, and I remarked at length to one of the boys,
"Now, indeed, I truly know that Blanca was his mate."
As evening fell he seemed to be coming toward the home ca¤on,
for his voice sounded continually nearer.
There was an unmistakable note of sorrow in it now. It was no
longer the loud, defiant howl, but a long, plaintive wail; "Blanca!
Blanca!" he seemed to call. And as night came down, I noticed that
he was not far from the place where we had overtaken her. At
length he seemed to find the trail, and when he came to the spot
where we had killed her, his heartbroken wailing was piteous to
hear. It was sadder than I could possibly have believed. Even the
stolid cowboys noticed it, and said they had "never heard a wolf
carry on like that before." He seemed to know exactly what had
taken place, for her blood had stained the place of her death.
Then he took up the trail of the horses and followed it to the
ranch-house. Whether in hopes of finding her there, or in quest of
revenge, I know not, but the latter was what he found, for he
surprised our unfortunate watchdog outside and tore him to little
bits within fifty yards of the door. He evidently came alone this
time, for I found but one trail next morning, and he had galloped
about in a reckless manner that was very unusual with him. I
had half expected this, and had set a number of additional traps
about the pasture. Afterward I found that he had indeed fallen into
one of these, but, such was his strength, he had torn himself loose
and cast it aside.
I believed that he would continue in the neighborhood until he
found her body at least, so I concentrated all my energies on this
one enterprise of catching him before he left the region, and while
yet in this reckless mood. Then I realized what a mistake I had
made in killing Blanca, for by using her as a decoy I might have
secured him the next night.
I gathered in all the traps I could command, one hunred and thirty
strong steel wolf-traps, and set them in fours in every trail that led
into the ca¤on; each trap was separately fastened to a log, and
each log was separately buried. In burying them, I carefully
removed the sod and every particle of earth that was lifted we put
in blankets, so that after the sod was replaced and all was finished
the eye could detect no trace of human handiwork. When the traps
were concealed I trailed the body of poor Blanca over each place,
and made of it a drag that circled all about the ranch, and finally I
took off one of her paws and made with it a line of tracks over
each trap. Every precaution and device known to me I used, and
retired at a late hour to await the result.
Once during the night I thought I heard Old Lobo, but was not sure
of it. Next day I rode around, but darkness came on before I
completed the circuit of the north canon, and I had nothing to
report. At supper one of the cowboys said, "There was a great row
among the cattle in the north ca¤on this morning, maybe there is
something in the traps there." It was afternoon of the next day
before I got to the place referred to, and as I drew near a great
grizzly form arose from the ground, vainly endeavoring to escape,
and there revealed before me stood Lobo, King of the Currumpaw,
firmly held in the traps. Poor old hero, he had never ceased to
search for his darling, and when he found the trail her body had
made he followed it recklessly, and so fell into the snare prepared
for him. There he lay in the iron grasp of all four traps, perfectly
helpless, and all around him were numerous tracks showing how
the cattle had gathered about him to insult the fallen despot,
without daring to approach within his reach. For two days and two
nights he had lain there, and now was worn out with struggling.
Yet, when I went near him, he rose up with bristling mane and
raised his voice, and for the last time made the ca¤on reverberate
with his deep bass roar, a call for help, the muster call of his band.
But there was none to answer him, and, left alone in his extremity,
he whirled about with all his strength and made a desperate effort
to get at me. All in vain, each trap was a dead drag of over three
hundred pounds, and in their relentless fourfold grasp, with great
steel jaws on every foot, and the heavy logs and chains all
entangled together, he was absolutely powerless. How his huge
ivory tusks did grind on those cruel chains, and when I ventured to
touch him with my rifle-barrel he left grooves on it which are there
to this day. His eyes glared green with hate and fury, and his jaws
snapped with a hollow 'chop,' as he vainly endeavored to reach me
and my trembling horse. But he was worn out with hunger and
struggling and loss of blood, and he soon sank exhausted to the
Something like compunction came over me, as I prepared to deal
out to him that which so many had suffered at his hands.
"Grand old outlaw, hero of a thousand lawless raids, in a few
minutes you will be but a great load of carrion. It cannot be
otherwise." Then I swung my lasso and sent it whistling over his
head. But not so fast; he was yet far from being subdued, and
before the supple coils had fallen on his neck he seized the noose
and, with one firce chop, cut through its hard thick strands, and
dropped it in two pieces at his feet.
Of course I had my rifle as a last resource, but I did not wish to
spoil his royal hide, so I galloped back to the camp and returned
wth a cowboy and a fresh lasso. We threw to our victim a stick of
wood which he seized in his teeth, and before he could relinquish
it our lassoes whistled through the air and tightened on his neck.
Yet before the light had died from his fierce eyes, I cried, "Stay,
we will not kill him; let us take him alive to the camp." He was so
completely powerless now that it was easy to put a stout stick
through his mouth, behind his tusks, and then lash his jaws with a
heavy cord which was also fastened to the stick. The stick kept the
cord in, and the cord kept the stick in so he was harmless. As soon
as he felt his jaws were tied he made no further resistance, and
uttered no sound, but looked calmly at us and seemed to say,
"Well, you have got me at last, do as you please with me." And
from that time he took no more notice of us.
We tied his feet securely, but he never groaned, nor growled, nor
turned his head. Then with our united strength we were just able to
put him on my horse. His breath came evenly as though sleeping,
and his eyes were bright and clear again, but did not rest on us.
Afar on the great rolling mesas they were fixed, his passing
kingdom, where his famous band was now scattered. And he gazed
till the pony descended the pathway into the ca¤on, and the rocks
cut off the view,
By travelling slowly we reached the ranch in safety, and after
securing him with a collar and a strong chain, we staked him out in
the pasture and removed the cords.
Then for the first time I could examine him closely, and proved
how unreliable is vulgar report when a living hero or tyrant is
concerned. He had not a collar of gold about his neck, nor was
there on his shoulders an inverted cross to denote that he had
leagued himself with Satan. But I did find on one haunch a great
broad scar, that tradition says was the fang-mark of Juno, the
leader of Tannerey's wolf-hounds--a mark which she gave him the
moment before he stretched her lifeless on the sand of the ca¤on.
I set meat and water beside him, but he paid no heed. He lay
calmly on his breast, and gazed with those steadfast yellow eyes
away past me down through the gateway of the ca¤on, over the
open plains--his plains-- nor moved a muscle when I touched him.
When the sun went down he was still gazing fixedly across the
prairie. I expected he would call up his band when night came,
and prepared for them, but he had called once in his extremity, and
none had come; he would never call again.
A lion shorn of his strength, an eagle robbed of his freedom, or a
dove bereft of his mate, all die, it is said, of a broken heart; and
who will aver that this grim bandit could bear the three-fold brunt,
heart-whole? This only I know, that when the morning dawned, he
was lying there still in his position of calm repose, his body
unwounded, but his spirit was gone--the old kingwolf was dead.
I took the chain from his neck, a cowboy helped me to carry him to
the shed where lay the remains of Blanca, and as we laid him
beside her, the cattle-man exclaimed: "There, you would come to
her, now you are together again."
The Story of a Crow
HOW MANY of us have ever got to know a wild animal? I do not
mean merely to meet with one once or twice, or to have one in a
cage, but to really know it for a long time while it is wild, and to
get an insight into its life and history. The trouble usually is to
know one creature from his fellow. One fox or crow is so much
like another that we cannot be sure that it really is the same next
time we meet. But once in awhile there arises an animal who is
stronger or wiser than his fellow, who becomes a great leader, who
is, as we would say, a genius, and if he is bigger, or has some mark
by which men can know him, he soon becomes famous in his
country, and shows us that the life of a wild animal may be far
more interesting and exciting than that of many human beings.
Of this class were Courtant, the bob-tailed wolf that terrorized the
whole city of Paris for about ten years in the beginning of the
fourteenth century; Clubfoot, the lame grizzly bear that left such a
terrific record in the San Joaquin Valley of California; Lobo, the
king-wolf of New Mexico, that killed a cow every day for five
years, and the Seonee panther that in less than two years killed
nearly three hundred human beings--and such also was Silverspot,
whose history, so far as I could learn it, I shall now briefly tell.
Silverspot was simply a wise old crow; his name was given
because of the silvery white spot that was like a nickel, stuck on
his right side, between the eye and the bill, and it was owing to this
spot that I was able to know him from the other crows, and put
together the parts of his history that came to my knowledge.
Crows are, as you must know, our most intelligent birds.--'Wise as
an old crow' did not become a saying without good reason. Crows
know the value of organization, and are as well drilled as
soldiers--very much better than some soldiers, in fact, for crows
are always on duty, always at war, and always dependent on each
other for life and safety. Their leaders- not only are the oldest and
wisest of the band, but also the strongest and bravest, for they must
be ready at any time with sheer force to put down an upstart or a
rebel. The rank and file are the youngsters and the crows without
Old Silverspot was the leader of a large band of crows that made
their headquarters near Toronto, Canada, in Castle Fra uk, which is
a pine-clad hill on the northeast edge of the city. This band
numbered about two hundred, and for reasons that I never
understood did not increase. In mild winters they stayed along the
Niagara River; in cold winters they went much farther south. But
each year in the last week of February, Old Silverspot would
muster his followers and boldly cross the forty miles of open water
that lies between Toronto and Niagara; not, however, in a straight
line would he go, but always in a curve to the west, whereby he
kept in sight of the familiar landmark of Dundas Mountain, until
the pine-clad hill itself came in view. Each year he came with his
troop, and for about six weeks took up his abode on the hill. Each
morning thereafter the crows set out in three bands to forage. One
band went southeast to Ashbridge's Bay. One went north up the
Don, and one, the largest, went northwestward up the ravine. The
last, Silverspot led in person. Who led the others I never found out.
On calm mornings they flew high and straight away. But when it
was windy the band flew low, and followed the ravine for shelter.
My windows overlooked the ravine, and it was thus that in 1885 I
first noticed this old crow. I was a newcomer in the neighborhood,
but an old resident said to me then "that there old crow has been
a-flying up and down this ravine for more than twenty years." My
chances to watch were in the ravine, and Silverspot doggedly
clinging to the old route, though now it was edged with houses and
spanned by bridges, became a very familiar acquaintance. Twice
each day in March and part of April, then again in the late summer
and the fall, he passed and repassed, and gave me chances to see
his movements, and hear his orders to his bands, and so, little by
little, opened my eyes to the fact that the crows, though a litle
people, are of great wit, a race of birds with a language and a
social system that is wonderfully human in many of its chief
points, and in some is better carried out than our own.
One windy day I stood on the high bridge across the ravine, as the
old crow, heading his long, straggling troop, came flying down
homeward. Half a mile away I could hear the contented 'All's well,
come right along!' as we should say, or as he put it, and as also his
lieutenant echoed it at the rear of the band. They were flying very
low to be out of the wind, and would have to rise a little to clear
the bridge on which I was. Silverspot saw me standing there, and
as I was closely watching him he didn't like it. He checked his
flight and called out, 'Be on your guard,' and rose much higher in
the air. Then seeing that I was not armed he flew over my head
about twenty feet, and his followers in turn did the same, dipping
again to the old level when past the bridge.
Next day I was at the same place, and as the crows came near I
raised my walking stick and pointed it at them. The old fellow at
once cried out 'Danger,' and rose fifty feet higher than before.
Seeing that it was not a gun, he ventured to fly over. But on the
third day I took with me a gun, and at once he cried out, 'Great
danger--a gun.' His lieuteiiant repeated the cry, and every crow in
the troop began to tower and scatter from the rest, till they were far
above gun shot, and so passed safely over, coming down again to
the shelter of the valley when well beyond reach. Another time, as
the long, straggling troop came down the valley, a red-tailed hawk
alighted on a tree close by their intended route. The leader cried
out, 'Hawk, hawk,' and stayed his flight, as did each crow on
nearing him, until all were massed in a solid body. Then, no longer
fearing the hawk, they passed on. But a quarter of a mile farther on
a man with a gun appeared below, and the cry, 'Great danger--a
gun, a--gun; scatter fur your lives,' at once caused them to scatter
widely and tower till far beyond range.
Many others of his words of command I learned in the course of
my long acquaintance, and found that sometimes a very littre
difference in the sound makes a very great difference in meaning.
Thus while No. 5 means hawk, or any large, dangerous bird, this
means 'wheel around,' evidently a combination of No. 5, whose
root idea is danger, and of No. 4, whose root idea is retreat, and
this again is a mere 'good day,' to a far away comrade. This is
usually addressed to the ranks and means 'attention.'
Early in April there began to be great doings among the crows.
Some new cause of excitement seemed to have come on them.
They spent half the day among the pines, instead of foraging from
dawn till dark. Pairs and trios might be seen chasing each other,
and from time to time they showed off in various feats of flight. A
favorite sport was to dart down suddenly from a great height
toward some perching crow, and just before touching it to turn at a
hairbreadth and rebound in the air so fast that the wings of the
swooper whirred with a sound like distant thunder. Sometimes one
crow would lower his head, raise every feather, and coming close
to another would gurgle out a long note like. What did it all mean?
I soon learned. They were making love and pairing off. The males
were showing off their wing powers and their voices to the lady
crows. And they must have been highly appreciated, for by the
middle of April all had mated and had scattered over the country
for their honeymoon, leaving the sombre old pines of Castle Frank
deserted and silent.
The Sugar Loaf hill stands alone in the Don Valley. It is still
covered with woods that join with those of Castle Frank, a quarter
of a mile off. in the woods, between the two hills, is a pine-tree in
whose top is a deserted hawk's nest. Every Toronto school-boy
knows the nest, and, excepting that I had once shot a black squirrel
on its edge, no one had ever seen a sign of life about it. There it
was year after year, ragged and old, and falling to pieces. Yet,
strange to tell, in all that time it never did drop to pieces, like other
One morning in May I was out at gray dawn, and stealing gently
through the woods, whose dead leaves were so wet that no rustle
was made. I chanced to pass under the old nest, and was surprised
to see a black tail sticking over the edge. I struck the tree a smart
blow, off flew a crow, and the secret was out. I had long suspected
that a pair of crows nested each year about the pines, but now I
realized that it was Silverspot and his wife. The old nest was
theirs, and they were too wise to give it an air of spring-cleaning
and housekeeping each year. Here they had nested for long, though
guns in the hands of men and boys hungry to shoot crows were
carried under their home every day. I never surprised the old
fellow again, though I several times saw him through my
One day while watching I saw a crow. crossing the Don Valley
with something white in his beak. He flew to the mouth of the
Rosedale Brook, then took a short flight to the Beaver Elm. There
he dropped the white object, and looking about gave inc a chance
to recognize my old friend Silverspot. After a minute he picked up
the white thing--a shell--and walked over past the spring, and here,
among the docks and the skunk-cabbages, he unearthed a pile of
shells and other white, shiny things. He spread them out in the sun,
turned them over, turned them one by one in his beak, dropped
them, nestled on them as though they were eggs, toyed with them
and gloated over them like a miser. This was his hobby, his
weakness. He could not have explained why he enjoyed them, any
more than a boy can explain why he collects postage-stamps, or a
girl why she prefers pearls to rubies; but his pleasure in them was
very real, and after half an hour he covered them all, including the
new one, with earth and leaves, and flew off. I went at once to the
spot and examined the hoard; there was about a hatful in all,
chiefly white pebbles, clam-shells, and some bits of tin, but there
was also the handle of a china cup, which must have been the gem
of the collection. That was the last time I saw them. Silverspot
knew that I had found his treasures, and he removed them at once;
where, I never knew.
During the space that I watched him so closely he had many little
adventurcs and escapes. He was once severely handled by a
sparrowhawk, and often he was chased and worried by kingbirds.
Not that these did him much harm, but they were such noisy pests
that he avoided their company as quickly as possible, just as a
grown man avoids a conflict with a noisy and impudent small boy.
He had some cruel tricks, too. He had a way of going the round of
the small birds' nests each morning to eat the new laid eggs, as
regularly as a doctor visiting his patients. But we must not judge
him for that, as it is just what we ourselves do to the hens in the
His quickness of wit was often shown. One day I saw him flying
down the ravine with a large piece of bread in his bill. The stream
below him was at this time being bricked over as a sewer. There
was one part of two hundred yards quite finished, and, as he
flew over the open water just . above this, the bread fell from his
bill, and was swept by the current out of sight into the tunnel. He
flew down and peered vainly into the dark cavern, then, acting
upon a happy thought, he flew to the downstream end of the
tunnel, and awaiting the reappearance of the floating bread, as it
was swept onward by the current, he seized and bore it off in
Silverspot was a crow of the world. He was truly a successful
crow. He lived in a region that, though full of dangers, abounded
with food. In the old, unrepaired nest lie raised a brood each year
with his wife, whom, by the way, I never could distinguish, and
when the crows again gathered together he was their
The reassembling takes place about the end of June-- the young
crows with their bob-tails, soft wings, and falsetto voices are
brought by their parents, whom they nearly equal in size, and
introduced to society at the old pine woods, a woods that is at once
their fortress and college. Here they find security in numbers and
in lofty yet sheltered perches, and here they begin their schooling
and are taught all the secrets of success in crow life, and in crow
life the least failure does not simply mean begin again. It means
The first week or two after their arrival is spent by the young ones
in getting acquainted, for each crow must know personally all the
others in the band. Their parents meanwhile have time to rest a
little after the work of raising them, for now the youngsters are
able to feed themselves and roost on a branch in a row, just like
In a week or two the moulting season comes. At this time the old
crows are usually irritable and nervous, but it does not stop them
from beginning to drill the youngsters, who, of course, do not
much enjoy the punishment and nagging they get so soon after they
have been mamma's own darlings. But it is all for their good, as
the old lady said when she skinned the eels, and old Silverspot is
an excellent teacher. Sometimes he seems to make a speech to
them. What he says I cannot guess, but judging by the way they
receive it, it must be extremely witty. Each morning there is a
company drill, for the young ones naturally drop into two or three
squads according to their age and strength. The rest of the day they
forage with their parents.
When at length September comes we find a great change. The
rabble of silly little crows have begun to learn sense. The delicate
blue iris of their eyes, the sign of a fool-crow, has given place to
the dark brown eye of the old stager. They know their drill now
and have learned sentry duty. They have been taught guns and
traps and taken a special course in wireworms and green-corn.
They know that a fat old farmer's wife is much less dangerous,
though so much larger, than her fifteen-year-old son, and they can
tell the boy from his sister. They know that an umbrella is not a
gun, and they can count up to six, which is fair for young crows,
though Silverspot can go up nearly to thirty. They know the smell
of gunpowder and the south side of a hemlock-tree, and begin to
plume themselves upon being crows of the world. They always
fold their wings three times after alighting, to be sure that it is
neatly done. They know how to worry a fox into giving up half his
dinner, and also that when the kingbird or the purple martin assails
them they must dash into a bush, for it is as impossible to fight the
little pests as it is for the fat apple-woman to catch the small boys
who have raided her basket. All these things do the young crows
know; but they have taken no lessons in egg-hunting yet, for it is
not the season. They are unacquainted with clams, and have never
tasted horses' eyes, or seen sprouted corn, and they don't know a
thing about travel, the greatest educator of all. They did not think
of that two months ago, and since then they have thought of it, but
have learned to wait till their betters are ready.
September sees a great change in the old crows, too, Their
moulting is over. They are now in full feather again and proud of
their handsome coats. Their health is again good, and with it their
tempers are improved. Even old Silverspot, the strict teacher,
becomes quite jolly, and the youngsters, who have long ago
learned to respect him, begin really to love him.
He has hammered away at drill, teaching them all the signals and
words of command in use, and now it is a pleasure to see them in
the early morning.
'Company 1!' the old chieftain would cry in crow, and Company I
would answer with a great clamor.
'Fly!' and himself leading them, they would all fly straight forward.
'Mount!' and straight upward they turned in a moment.
'Bunch!' and they all massed into a dense black flock.
'Scatter!' and they spread out like leaves before the wind.
'Form line!' and they strung out into the long line of ordinary flight.
'Descend!' and they all dropped nearly to the ground.
'Forage!' and they alighted and scattered about to feed, while two
of the permanent sentries mounted duty--one on a tree to the right,
the other on a mound to the far left. A minute or two later
Silverspot would cry out, 'A man with a gun!' The sentries repeated
the cry and the company flew at once in open order as quickly as
possible toward the trees. Once behind these, they formed line
again in safety and returned to the home pines.
Sentry duty is not taken in turn by all the crows, but a certain
number whose watchfulness has been often proved are the
perpetual sentries, and are expected to watch and forage at the
same time. Rather hard on them it seems to us, but it works well
and the crow organization is admitted by all birds to be the very
best in existence.
Finally, each November sees the troop sail away southward to
learn new modes of life, new landmarks and new kinds of food,
under the guidance of the everwise Silverspot.
There is only one time when a crow is a fool, and that is at night.
There is only one bird that terrifies the crow, and that is the owl.
When, therefore, these come together it is a woeful thing for the
sable birds. The distant hoot of an owl after dark is enough to
make them withdraw their heads from under their wings, and sit
trembling and miserable till morning. In very cold weather the
exposure of their faces thus has often resulted in a crow having
one or both of his eyes frozen, so that blindness followed and
therefore death. There are no hospitals for sick crows.
But with the morning their courage comes again, and arousing
themselves they ransack the woods for a mile around till they find
that owl, and if they do not kill him they at least worry him half to
death and drive him twenty miles away.
In l893 the crows had come as usual to Castle Frank. I was walking
in these woods a few days afterward when I chanced upon the
track of a rabbit that had been running at full speed over the snow
and dodging about among the trees as though pursued. Strange to
tell, I could see no track of the pursuer. I followed the trail and
presently saw a drop of blood on the snow, and a little farther on
found the partly devoured remains of a little brown bunny. What
had killed him was a mystery until a careful search showed in the
snow a great double-toed track and a beautifully pencilled brown
feather. Then all was clear--a horned owl. Half an hour later, in
passing again by the place, there, in a tree, within ten feet of the
bones of his victim, was the fierce-eyed owl himself. The murderer
still hung about the scene of his crime. For once circumstantial
evidence had not lied. At my approach he gave a guttural 'grrr-oo'
and flew off with low flagging flight to haunt the distant sombre
Two days afterward, at dawn, there was a great uproar among the
crows. I went out early to see, and found some black feathers
drifting over the snow. I followed up the wind in the direction
from which they came and soon saw the bloody remains of a crow
and the great double-toed track which again told me that the
murderer was the owl. All around were signs of the struggle, but
the fell destroyer was too strong. The poor crow had been dragged
from his perch at night, when the darkness bad put him at a
I turned over the remains, and by chance unburied the head--then
started with an exclamation of sorrow. Alas! It was the head of old
Silverspot. His long life of usefulness to his tribe was over--slain at
last by the owl that he had taught so many hundreds of young
crows to beware of.
The old nest on the Sugar Loaf is abandoned now. The crows still
come in spring-time to Castle Frank, but without their famous
leader their numbers are dwindling, and soon they will be seen no
more about the old pine-grove in which they and their forefathers
had lived and learned for ages.
The Story of a Cottontail Rabbit
RAGGYLUG, or Rag, was the name of a young cottontail rabbit. It
was given him from his torn and ragged ear, a life-mark that he got
in his first adventure. He lived with his mother in Olifant's Swamp,
where I made their acquaintance and gathered, in a hundred
different ways, the little bits of proof and scraps of truth that at
length enabled me to write this history.
Those who do not know the animals well may think I have
humanized them, but those who have lived so near them as to
know somewhat of their ways and their minds will riot think so.
Truly rabbits have no speech as we understand it, but they have a
way of conveying ideas by a system of sounds, signs, scents,
whisker-touches, movements, and example that answers the
purpose of speech; and it must be remembered that though in
telling this story I freely translate from rabbit into English, I repeat
nothing that they did not say.
The rank swamp grass bent over and concealed the snug nest
where Raggylug's mother had hidden him. She had partly covered
him with some of the bedding, and, as always, her last warning
was to lie low and say nothing, whatever happens. Though tucked
in bed, he was wide awake and his bright eyes were taking in that
part of his little green world that was straight above. A bluejay and
a red-squirrel, two notorious thieves, were loudly berating each
other for stealing, and at one time Rag's home bush was the centre
of their fight; a yellow warbler caught a blue butterfly but six
inches from his nose, and a scarlet and black ladybug, serenely
waving her knobbed feelers, took a long walk up one grassblade,
down another, and across the nest and over Rag's face-- and yet he
never moved nor even winked.
After a while he heard a strange rustling of the leaves in the near
thicket. It was an odd, continuous sound, and though it went this
way and that way and came ever nearer, there was no patter of feet
with it. Rag had lived his whole life in the Swamp (he was three
weeks old) and yet had never heard anything like this. Of course
his curiosity was greatly aroused. His mother had cautioned him to
lie low, but that was understood to be in case of danger, and this
strange sound without footfalls could not be anything to fear.
The low rasping went past close at hand, then to the right, then
back, and seemed going away. Rag felt he knew what he was
about; he wasn't a baby; it was his duty to learn what it was. He
slowly raised his roly.poly body on his short fluffy legs, lifted his
little round head above the covering of his nest and peeped out into
the woods. The sound had ceased as soon as he moved. He saw
nothing, so took one step forward to a clear view, and instantly
found himself face to face with an enormous Black Serpent.
"Mammy," he screamed in mortal terror as the monster darted at
him. With all the strength of his tiny limbs he tried to run. But in a
flash the Snake had him by one ear and whipped around him with
his coils to gloat over the helpless little baby bunny he had secured
"Mam-my--Mam-my," gasped poor little Raggylug as the cruel
monster began slowly choking him to death. Very soon the little
one's cry would have ceased, but bounding through the woods
straight as an arrow came Mammy. No longer a shy, helpless little
Molly Cottontail, ready to fly from a shadow: the mother's love
was strong in her. The cry of her baby had filled her with the
courage of a hero, and--hop, she went over that horrible reptile.
Whack, she struck down at him with her sharp hind claws as she
passed, giving him such a stinging blow that he squirmed with pain
and hissed with anger.
"M-a.m-my," came feebly from the little one. And Mammy came
leaping again and again and struck harder and fiercer until the
loathsome reptile let go the little one's ear and tried to bite the old
one as she leaped over. But all he got was a mouthful of wool each
time, and Molly's fierce blows began to tell, as long bloody rips
were torn in the Black Snake's scaly armor.
Things were now looking bad for the Snake; and bracing himself
for the next charge, he lost his tight hold on Baby Bunny, who at
once wriggled out of the coils and away into the underbrush,
breathless and- terribly frightened, but unhurt save that his left ear
was much torn by the teeth of that dreadful Serpent.
Molly now had gained all she wanted. She had no notion of
fighting for glory or revenge. Away she went into the woods and
the little one followed the shining beacon of her snow-white tail
until she led him to a safe corner of the Swamp.
Old Olifant's Swamp was a rough, brambly tract of second-growth
woods, with a marshy pond and a stream through the middle. A
few ragged remnants of the old forest still stood in it and a few of
the still older trunks were lying about as dead logs in the
brushwood. The land about the pond was of that willow-grown
sedgy kind that cats and horses avoid, but that cattle do not fear.
The drier zones were overgrown with briars and young trees. The
outermost belt of all, that next the fields, was of thrifty,
gummy-trunked young pines whose living needles in air and dead
ones on earth offer so delicious an odor to the nostrils of the
passer-by, and so deadly a breath to those seedlings that would
compete with them for the worthless waste they grow on.
All around for a long way were smooth fields, and the only wild
tracks that ever crossed these fields were those of a thoroughly bad
and unscrupulous fox that lived only too near.
The chief indwellers of the swamp were Molly and Rag. Their
nearest neighbors were far away, and their nearest kin were dead.
This was their home, and here they lived together, and here Rag
received the training that made his success in life.
Molly was a good little mother and gave him a careful bringing up.
The first thing he learned was to lie low and say nothing. His
adventure with the snake taught him the wisdom of this. Rag never
forgot that lesson; afterward he did as he was told, and it made
the other things come more easily.
The second lesson he learned was 'freeze.' It grows out of the first,
and Rag was taught it as soon as he could run.
'Freezing' is simply doing nothing, turning into a statue. As soon as
he finds a foe near, no matter what he is doing, a well-trained
Cottontail keeps just as he is and stops all movement, for the
creatures of the woods are of the same color as the things in the
woods and catch the eye only while moving. So when enemies
chance together, the one who first sees the other can keep--
himself unseen by 'freezing' and thus have all the advantage of
choosing the time for attack or escape. Only those who live in the
woods know the importance of this; every wild creature and every
hunter must learn it; all learn to do it well, but not one of them can
beat Molly Cottontail in the doing. Rag's mother taught him this
trick by example. When the white cotton cushion that she always
carried to sit on went bobbing away through the woods, of course
Rag ran his hardest to keep up. But when Molly stopped and
'froze,' the natural wish to copy made him do the same.
But the best lesson of all that Rag learned from his mother was the
secret of the Brierbrush. It is a very old secret now, and to make it
plain you must first hear why the Brierbrush quarrelled with the
Long ago the Roses used to grow on bushes that had no thorns. But
the Squirrels and Mice used to climb after them, the Cattle used to
knock them off with their horns, the Possum would twitch them
off with his long tail, and the Deer, with his sharp hoofs, would
break them down. So the Brierbrush armed itself with spikes to
protect its roses and declared eternal war on all creatures that
climbed trees, or had horns, or hoofs, or long tails. This left the
Brierbrush at peace with none but Molly Cottontail, who could not
climb, was horniess, hoofless, and had scarcely any tail at all.
In truth the Cottontail had never harmed a Brierrose, and having
now so many enemies the Rose took the Rabbit into especial
friendship, and when dangers are threatening poor Bunny he flies
to the nearest Brierbrush, certain that it is ready with a million
keen and poisoned daggers to defend him.
So the secret that Rag learned from his mother was, "The
Brierbrush is your best friend."
Much of the time that season was spent in learning the lay of the
land, and the bramble and brier mazes. And Rag learned them so
well that he could go all around the swamp by two different ways
and never leave the friendly briers at any place for more than five
It is not long since the foes of the Cottontails were disgusted to
find that man had brought a new kind of bramble and planted it in
long lines throughout the country. It was so strong that no
creatures could break it down, and so sharp that the toughest skin
was torn by it. Each year there was more of it and each year it
became a more serious matter to the wild creatures. But Molly
Cottontail had no fear of it. She was not brought up in the briers
for nothing. Dogs and foxes, cattle and sheep. and even man
himself might be torn by those fearful spikes: but Molly
understands it and lives and thrives under it. And the further it
spreads the more safe country there is for the Cottontail. And the
name of this new and dreaded bramble is--the barbed-wire fence.
Molly had no other children to look after now, so Rag had all her
care. He was unusually quick and bright as well as strong, and he
had uncommonly good chances; so he got on remarkably well.
All the season she kept him busy learning the tricks of the trail,
and what to eat and drink and what not to touch. Day by day she
worked to train him; little by little she taught him, putting into his
mind hundreds of ideas that her own life or early training had
stored in hers, and so equipped him with the knowledge that makes
life possible to their kind.
Close by her side in the clover-field or the thicket he would sit and
copy her when she wobbled her nose 'to keep her smeller clear,'
and pull the bite from her mouth or taste her lips to make sure he
was getting the same kind of fodder. Still copying her, he learned
to comb his ears with his claws and to dress his coat and to bite the
burrs out of his vest and socks. He learned, too, that nothing but
clear dewdrops from the briers were fit for a rabbit to drink, as
water which has once touched the earth must surely bear some
taint. Thus he began the study of woodcraft, the oldest of all
As soon as Rag was big enough to go out alone, his mother taught
him the signal code. Rabbits telegraph each other by thumping on
the ground with their hind feet. Along the ground sound carries
far; a thump that at six feet from the earth is not heard at twenty
yards will, near the ground, be heard at least one hundred yards.
Rabbits have very keen hearing, and so might hear this same
thump at two hundred yards, and that would reach from end to end
of Olifant's Swamp. A single thump means 'look out' or 'freeze.' A
slow thump thump means 'come.' A fast thump thump means
'danger'; and a very fast thump thump thump means 'run for dear
At another time, when the weather was fine and the bluejays were
quarrelling among themselves, a sure sign that no dangerous foe
was about, Rag began a new study. Molly, by flattening her ears,
gave the sign to squat. Then she ran far away in the thicket and
gave the thumping signal for 'come.' Rag set out at a run to the
place but could not find Molly. He thumped, but got no reply.
Setting carefully about his search he found her foot-scent and,
following this strange guide, that the beasts all know so well and
man does not know at all, he worked out the trail and found her
where she was hidden. Thus he got his first lesson in trailing, and
thus it was that the games of hide and seek they played became
the schooling for the serious chase of which there was so much in
his after life.
Before that first season of schooling was over he had learnt all the
principal tricks by which a rabbit lives and in not a few problems
showed himself a veritable genius.
He was an adept at 'tree,' 'dodge,' and 'squat,' he could play
'log-lump,' with 'wind' and 'baulk' with 'back-track' so well that he
scarcely needed any other tricks. He had not yet tried it, but he
knew just how to play 'barb-wire,' which is a new trick of the
brilliant order; he had made a special study of 'sand,' which burns
up all scent, and was deeply versed in 'change-off,' 'fence,' and
'double' as well as 'hole-up,' which is a trick requiring longer
notice, and yet he never forgot that 'lie-low' is the beginning of all
wisdom and 'brierbrush' the only trick that is always safe.
He was taught the signs by which to know all his foes and then the
way to baffle them. For hawks, owls, foxes, hounds, curs, minks,
weasels, cats, skunks, coons, and -- men, each have a different
plan of pursuit, and for each and all of these evils he was taught a
And for knowledge of the enemy's approach he learnt to depend
first on himself and his mother, and then on the bluejay.
"Never neglect the bluejay's warning," said Molly; "he is a
mischief-maker, a marplot, and a thief all the time, but nothing
escapes him. He wouldn't mind harming us, but he cannot, thanks
to the briers, and his enemies are ours, so it is well to heed him. If
the woodpecker cries a warning you can trust him, he is honest;
but he is a fool beside the bluejay, and though the bluejay often
tells lies for mischief you are safe to believe him when he brings
The barb-wire trick takes a deal of nerve and the best of legs. It
was long before Rag ventured to play it, but as he came to his full
powers it became one of his favorites.
"It's fine play for those who can do it," said Molly. "First you lead
off your dog on a straightaway and warm him up a bit by nearly
letting him catch you. Then keeping just one hop ahead, you lead
him at a long slant full tilt into a breast-high barb-wire. I've seen
many a dog and fox crippled, and one big hound killed outright
this way. But I've also seen more than one rabbit lose his life in
Rag early learnt what some rabbits never learn at all, that 'hole-up'
is not such a fine ruse as it seems; it may be the certain safety of a
wise rabbit, but soon or late is a sure death-trap to a fool. A young
rabbit always thinks of it first, an old rabbit never tries it till all
others fail. It means escape from a man or dog, a fox or a bird of
prey, but it means sudden death if the foe is a ferret, mink, skunk,
There were but two ground-holes in the Swamp. One on the
Sunning Bank, which was a dry sheltered knoll in the South-end. It
was open and sloping to the sun, and here on fine days the
Cottontails took their sun-baths. They stretched out among the
fragrant pine needles and winter-green in odd cat-like positions,
and turned slowly over as though roasting and wishing all sides
well done. And they blinked and panted, and squirmed as if in
dreadful pain; yet this was one of the keenest enjoyments they
Just over the brow of the knoll was a large pine stump. Its
grotesque roots wriggled out above the yellow sand-bank like
dragons, and under their protecting claws a sulky old woodchuck
had digged a den long ago.
He became more sour and ill-tempered as weeks went by, and
one day waited to quarrel with Olifant's dog instead of going in so
that Molly Cottontail was able to take possession of the den an
This, the pine-root hole, was afterward very coolly taken by a
self-sufficient young skunk who with less valor might have
enjoyed greater longevity, for he imagined -- that even man with a
gun would fly from him. Instead of keeping Molly from the den
for good, therefore, his reign, like that of a certain Hebrew king,
was over in seven days.
The other, the fern-hole, was in a fern thicket next the clover field.
It was small and damp, and useless except as a last retreat. It also
was the work of a woodchuck, a well~meaning friendly neighbor,
but a harebrained youngster whose skin in the form of a whiplash
was now developing higher horse-power in the Olifant working
"Simple justice," said the old man, "for that hide was raised on
stolen feed that the team would a' turned into horse-power
The Cottontails were now sole owners of the holes, and did not go
near them when they could help it, lest anything like a path should
be made that might betray these last retreats to an enemy. There
was also the hollow hickory, which, though nearly fallen, was still
green, and had the great advantage of being open at both ends.
This had long been the residence of one Lotor, a solitary old coon
whose ostensible calling was frog-hunting, and who, like the
monks of old, was supposed to abstain from all flesh food. But it
was shrewdly suspected that he needed but a chance to indulge in a
diet of rabbit. When at last one dark night he was killed while
raiding Olifant's henhouse, Molly, so far from feeling a pang of
regret, took possession of his cosy nest with a sense of unbounded
Bright Augnst sunlight was flooding the Swamp in the morning.
Everything seemed soaking in the warm radiance. A little brown
swamp-sparrow was teetering on a long rush in the pond. Beneath
him there were open spaces of dirty water that brought down a few
scraps of the blue sky, and worked it and the yellow duck-weed
into an exquisite mosaic, with a little wrong-side picture of the
bird in the middle. On the bank behind was a great vigorous
growth of golden green skunk-cabbage, that cast dense shadow
over the brown swamp tussocks.
The eyes of the swamp-sparrow were not trained to take in the
color glories, but he saw what we might have missed; that two of
the numberless leafy brown bumps under the broad cabbage-leaves
werc furry living things, with noses that never ceased to move up
and down, whatever else was still.
It was Molly and Rag. They were stretched under the
skunk-cabbage, not because they liked its rank smell, but because
the winged ticks could not stand it at all and so left them in peace.
Rabbits have no set time for lessons, they are always learning; but
what the lesson is depends on the present stress, and that must
arrive before it is known. They went to this place for a quiet rest,
but had not been long there when suddenly a warning note from
the ever-watchful bluejay caused Molly's nose and ears to go up
and her tail to tighten to her back. Away across the Swamp was
Olifant's big black and white dog, coming straight toward them.
"Now," said Molly, "squat while I go and keep that fool out of
mischief." Away she went to meet him and she fearlessly dashed
across the dog's path.
"Bow-ow-ow," he fairly yelled as he bounded after Molly, but she
kept just beyond his reach and led him where the million daggers
struck fast and deep, till his tender ears were scratched raw, and
guided him at last plump into a hidden barbed-wire fence, where
he got such a gashing that he went homeward howling with pain.
After making a short double, a loop and a baulk in case the dog
should come back, Molly returned to find that Rag in his eagerness
was standing bolt upright and craning his neck to see the sport.
This disobedience made her so angry that she struck him with her
hind foot and knocked him over in the mud.
One day as they fed on the near clover field a redtailed hawk came
swooping after them. Molly kicked up her hind legs to make fun of
him and skipped into the briers along one of their old pathways,
where of course the hawk could not follow. It was the main path
from the Creekside Thicket to the Stove-pipe brushpile. Several
creepers had grown across it, and Molly, keeping one eye on the
hawk, set to work and cut the creepers off. Rag watched her, then
ran on ahead, and cut some more that were across the path. "That's
right," said Molly, "always keep the runways clear, you will need
them often enough. Not wide, but clear. Cut everything like a
creeper across them and some day you will find you have cut a
snare." "A what?" asked Rag, as he scratched his right ear with his
left hind foot.
"A snare is something that looks like a creeper, but it doesn't grow
and it's worse than all the hawks in the world," said Molly,
glancing at the now far-away red-tail, "for there it hides night and
day in the runway till the chance to catch you comes."
"I don't believe it could catch me," said Rag, with the pride of
youth as he rose on his heels to rub his chin and whiskers high up
on a smooth sapling. Rag did not know he was doing this, but his
mother saw and knew it was a sign, like the changing of a boy's
voice, that her little one was no longer a baby but would soon be a
There is magic in running water. Who does not know it and feel it?
The railroad builder fearlessly throws his bank across the wide bog
or lake, or the sea itself, but the tiniest nil of running water he
treats with great respect, studies its wish and its way and gives it
all it seems to ask. The thirst-parched traveller in the poisonous
alkali deserts holds back in deadly fear from the sedgy ponds till
he finds one down whose centre is a thin, clear line, and a faint
flow, the sign of running, living water, and joyfully he drinks.
There is magic in running water, no evil spell can cross it. Tam
O'Shanter proved its potency in time of sorest need. The
wild-wood creature with its deadly foe following tireless on the
trail scent, realizes its nearing doom and feels an awful spell. Its
strength is spent, its -- every trick is tried in vain till the good
Angel leads it to the water, the running, living water, and dashing
in it follows the cooling stream, and then with force renewed--
takes to the woods again.
There is magic in running water. The hounds come to the very spot
and halt and cast about; and halt and cast in vain. Their spell is
broken by the merry stream, and the wild thing lives its life.
And this was one of the great secrets that Raggylug learned from
his mother--"after the Brierrose, the Water is your friend."
One hot, muggy night in August, Molly led Rag through the
woods. The cotton-white cushion she wore under her tail twinkled
ahead and was his guiding lantern, though it went out as soon as
she stopped and sat on it. After a few runs and stops to listen, they
came to the edge of the pond. The hylas in the trees above them
were singing 'sleep, sleep,' and away out on a sunken log in the
decp water, up to his chin in the cool-ing bath, a bloated bullfrog
was singing the praises of a 'jug o' rutn.'
"Follow me still," said Molly, in rabbit, and 'flop' she went into the
pond and struck out for the sunken log in the middle. Rag flinched
but plunged with a little 'ouch,' gasping and wobbling his nose very
fast but still copying his mother. The same movements as on land
sent him through the water, and thus he found he could swim, On
he went till he reached the sunken log and scrambled up by his
dripping mother on the high dry end, with a rushy screen around
them and the Water that tells no tales. After this on warm black
nights when that old fox from Springfield came prowling through
the Swamp, Rag would note the place of the bullfrog's voice, for in
case of direst need it might be a guide to safety. And thenceforth
the words of the song that the bullfrog sang were 'Come, come, in
This was the latest study that Rag took up with his mother--it was
really a post-graduate course, for many little rabbits never learn it
No wild animal dies of old age. Its life has soon or late a tragic
end. It is only a question of how long it can hold out against its
foes. But Rag's life was proof that once a rabbit passes out of his
youth he is likely to outlive his prime and be killed only in the last
third of life, the downhill third we call old age.
The Cottontails had enemies on every side. Their daily life was a
series of escapes. For dogs, foxes, cats, skunks, coons, weasels,
minks, snakes, hawks, owls, and men, and even insects were all
plotting to kill them They had hundreds of adventures, and at least
once a day they had to fly for their lives and save themselves by
their legs and wits.
More than once that hateful fox from Springfield '\ drove them to
taking refuge under the wreck of a barbedwire hog-pen by the
spring. But once there they could look calmly at him while he
spiked his legs in vain attempts to reach them.
Once or twice Rag when hunted had played off the hound against a
skunk that had seemed likely to be quite as dangerous as the dog.
Once he was caught alive by a hunter who had a hound and a ferret
to help him. But Rag had the luck to escape next day, with a yet
deeper distrust of ground holes. He was several times run into the
water by the cat, and many times was chased by hawks and owls,
but for each kind of danger there was a safeguard. His mother
taught him the principal dodges, and he improved on them and
made many new ones as he grew older. And the older and wiser he
gew the less he trusted to his legs, and the more to his wits for
Ranger was the name of a young hound in the neighborhood. To
train him his master used to put him on the trail of one of the
Cottontails. It was nearly always Rag that they ran, for the young
buck enjoyed the runs as much as they did, the spice of danger in
them being just enough for zest. He would say:
"Oh, mother! here comes the dog again, I must have a run to-day."
"You are too bold, R.aggy, my son!" she might reply.
"I fear you will run once too often."
"But, mother, it is such glorious fun to tease that fool dog, and it's
all good training. I'll thump if I am too hard pressed, then you can
come and change off while I get my second wind."
On he would come, and Ranger would take the trail and follow till
Rag got tired of it. Then he either sent a thumping telegram for
help, which brought Molly to take charge of the dog, or he got rid
of the dog by souse clever trick. A description of one of these
shows how well Rag had learned the arts of the woods.
He knew that his scent lay best near the ground, and was strongest
when he was warm. So if he could get off the ground, and be left
in peace for half an hour to cool off, and for the trail to stale, he
knew he would be safe. When, therefore, he tired of the chase, he
made for the Creekside brier-patch, where he 'wound'--that is,
zig-zagged--till he left a course so crooked that the dog was sure to
be greatly delayed in working it out. He then went straight to D in
the woods, passing one hop to windward of the high log E.
Stopping at D, he followed his back trail to F; here he leaped aside
and ran toward G. Then, returning on his trail to J, he waited till
the hound passed on his trail at I. Rag then got back on his old trail
at H, anti followed it to E, where, with a scentbaulk or great leap
aside, he reached the high log, an d running to its higher end, he
sat like a bump.
Ranger lost much time in the bramble maze, and the scent was
very poor when he got it straightened out, and came to D. Here he
began to circle to pick it up, and after losing much time, struck the
trail which ended suddenly at G. Again he was at fault, and had to
circle to find the trail. Wider and wider circles, until at last, he
passed right under the log Rag was on. But a cold scent, on a cold
day, does not go downward much. Rag never budged nor winked,
and the hound passed.
Again the dog came round. This time he crossed the low part of
the log, and stopped to smell it. 'Yes, clearly it was rabbity,' but it
was a stale scent now; still he mounted the log.
It was a trying moment for Rag, as the great hound came
sniff-sniffing along the log. But his nerve did not forsake him; the
wind was right; he had his mind made up to bolt as soon as Ranger
came half way up. But he didn't come. A yellow cur would have
seen the rabbit sitting there, but the hound did not, and the scent
seemed stale, so he leaped off the log, and Rag had won.
Rag had never seen any other rabbit than his mother. Indeed he
had scarcely thought about there being any other. He was more and
more away from her now, and yet he never felt lonely, for rabbits
do not hanker for company. But one day in December, while he
was among the red dogwood brush, cutting a new path to the great
Creekside thicket, he saw all at once against the sky over the
Sunning Bank the head and ears of a strange rabbit. The newcomer
had the air of a well-pleased discoverer and soon came hopping
Rag's way along one of his paths into his Swamp. A new feeling
rushed over him, that boiling mixture of anger and hatred called
The stranger stopped at one of Rag's rubbing-trees-- that is, a tree
against which he used to stand on his heels and rub his chin as far
up as he could reach. He thought he did this simply because he
liked it; but all buckrabbits do so, and several ends are served. It
makes the tree rabbity, so that other rabbits know that this swamp
already belongs to a rabbit family and is not open for settlement. It
also lets the next one know by the scent if the last caller was an
acquaintance, and the height from the ground of the rubbing-places
shows how tall the rabbit is.
Now to his disgust Rag noticed that the new-corner was a head
taller than himself, and a big, stout buck at that. This was a wholly
new experience and filled Rag with a wholly new feeling. The
spirit of murder entered his heart; he chewed very hard at nothing
in his mouth, and hopping forward onto a smooth piece of hard
ground he struck slowly:
'Thump--thump--thump,' which is a rabbit telegram for 'Get out of
my swamp, or fight.'
The new-corner made a big V with his ears, sat upright for a few
seconds, then, dropping on his fore-feet, sent along the ground a
louder, stronger, 'Thump--thump--thump.'
And so war was declared.
They came together by short runs side-wise, each one trying to get
the wind of the other and watching for a chance advantage. The
stranger was a big, heavy buck with plenty of muscle, but one or
two trifles such as treading on a turnover and failing to close when
Rag was on low ground showed that he had not much cunning and
counted on winning his battles by his weight. On he came at last
and Rag met him like a little fury. As they came together they
leaped up and struck out with their hind feet. Thud, thud they
came, and down went poor little Rag. In a moment the stranger
was on him with his teeth and Rag was bitten, and lost several tufts
of hair before he could get up. But he was swift of foot and got out
of reach. Again he charged and again he was knocked down and
bitten severely. He was no match for his foe, and it soon became a
question of saving his own life.
Hurt as he was, he sprang away, with the stranger in full chase, and
bound to kill him as well as to oust him from the Swamp where he
was born. Rag's legs were good and so was his wind. The stranger
was big and so heavy that he soon gave up the chase, and it was
well for poor Rag that he did, for he was getting stiff from his
wounds as well as tired. From that day began a reign of terror for
Rag. His training had been against owls, dogs, weasels, men, and
so on, but what to do when chased by another rabbit, he did not
know. All he knew was to lie low till he was found, then run.
Poor little Molly was completely terrorized; she could not help
Rag and sought only to hide. But the big buck soon found her out.
She tried to run from him, but she was not now so swift as Rag.
The stranger made no attempt to kill her, but he made love to her,
and because she hated him and tried to get away, he treated her
shamefully. Day after day he worried her by following her about,
and often, furious at her lasting hatred, he would knock her down
and tear out mouthfuls of her soft fur till his rage cooled
somewhat, when he would let her go for a while. But his fixed
purpose was to kill Rag, whose escape seemed hopeless. There
was no other swamp he could go to, and whenever he took a nap
now he had to be ready at any moment to dash for his life. A dozen
times a day the big stranger came creeping up to where he slept,
but each time the watchful Rag awoke in time to escape. To
escape yet not to escape. He saved his life indeed, but oh! what a
miserable life it had become. How maddening to be thus helpless,
to see his little mother daily beaten and torn, as well as to see all
his favorite feeding-grounds, the cosy nooks, and the pathways he
had made with so much labor, forced from him by this hateful
brute. Unhappy Rag realized that to the victor belong the spoils,
and he hated him more than ever he did fox or ferret.
How was it to end? He was wearing out with running and watching
and bad food, and little Molly's strength and spirit were breaking
down under the long persecution. The stranger was ready to go to
all lengths to destroy poor Rag, and at last stooped to the worst
crime known among rabbits. However much they may hate each
other, all good rabbits forget their feuds when their common
enemy appears. Yet one day when a great goshawk came swooping
over the Swamp, the stranger, keeping well under cover himself,
tried again and again to drive Rag into the open.
Once or twice the hawk nearly had him, but still the briers saved
him, and it was only when the big buck himself came near being
caught that he gave it up. And again Rag escaped, but -was no
better off. He made up his mind to leave, with his mother, if
possible, next night and go into the world in quest of some new
home when he heard old Thunder, the hound, sniffing and
searching about the outskirts of the swamp, and he resolved on
playing a desperate game. He deliberately crossed the hound's
view, and the chase that then began was fast and furious. Thrice
around the Swamp they went till Rag had made sure that his
mother was hidden safely and that his hated foe was in his usual
nest. Then right into that nest and plump over him he jumped,
giving him a rap with one hind foot as he passed over his head.
"You miserable fool, I'll kill you yet," cried the stranger, and up he
jumped only to find himself between Rag and the dog and heir to
all the peril of the chase.
On came the hound baying hotly on the straight-away scent. The
buck's weight and size were great advantages in a rabbit fight, but
now they were fatal. He did not know many tricks. Just the simple
ones like 'double,' 'wind,' and 'hole-up,' that every baby Bunny
knows. But the chase was too close for doubling and winding, and
he didn't know where the holes were.
It was a straight race. The brierrose, kind to all rabbits alike, did its
best, but it was no use. The baying of the hound was fast and
steady. The crashing of the brush and the yelping of the hound
each time the briers tore his tender ears were borne to the two
rabbits where they crouched in hiding. But suddenly these sounds
stopped, there was a scuffle, then loud and terrible screaming. Rag
knew what it meant and it sent a shiver through him, but he soon
forgot that when all was over and rejoiced to be once more the
master of the dear old Swamp.
Old Olifant had doubtless a right to burn all those brush-piles in
the east and south of the Swamp and to clear up the wreck of the
old barbed-wire hog-pen just below the spring. But it was none the
less hard on Rag and his mother. The first were their various
residences and outposts, and the second their grand fastness and
They had so long held the Swamp and felt it to be their very own
in every part and suburb--including Olifant's grounds and
buildings--that they would have resented the appearance of another
rabbit even about the adjoining barnyard.
Their claim, that of long, successful occupancy, was exactly the
same as that by which most nations hold their land, and it would
be hard to find a better right.
During the time of the January thaw the Olifants had cut the rest of
the large wood about the pond and curtailed the Cottontails'
domain on all sides. But they still clung to the dwindling Swamp,
for it was their home and they were loath to move to foreign parts.
Their life of daily perils went on, but they were still fleet of foot,
long of wind, and bright of wit. Of late they had been somewhat
troubled by a mink that had wandered upstream to their quiet
nook. A little judicious guidance had transferred the
uncomfortable visitor to Olifant's hen-house. But they were not yet
quite sure that he had been properly looked after. So for the
present they gave up using the ground-holes, which were, of
course, dangerous blind-alleys, and stuck closer than ever to the
briers and the brush-piles that were left.
That first snow had quite gone and the weather was bright and
warm until now. Molly, feeling a touch of rheumatism, was
somewhere in the lower thicket seeking a teaberry tonic. Rag was
sitting in the weak sunlight on a bank in the east side. The smoke
from the familiar gable chimney of Olifant's house came fitfully
drifting a pale blue haze through the underwoods and showing as a
dull brown against the brightness of the sky. The sun-gilt gable
was cut off midway by the banks of brier brush, that, purple in
shadow, shone like rods of blazing crimson and gold in the light.
Beyond the house the barn with its gable and roof, new gift at the
house, stood up like a Noah's ark.
The sounds that came from it, and yet more the delicious smell
that mingled with the smoke, told Rag that the animals were being
fed cabbage in the yard. Rags mouth watered at the idea of the
feast. He blinked and blinked as he snuffed its odorous promises,
for he loved cabbage dearly. But then he had been to the barnyard
the night before after a few paltry clover-tops, and no wise rabbit
would go two nights running to the same place.
Therefore he did the wise thing. He moved across where he could
not smell the cabbage axed made his supper of a bundle of hay that
had been blown from the stack. Later, when about to settle for the
night, he was joined by Molly, who had taken her teaberry and
then eaten her frugal meal of sweet birch near the Sunning Bank.
Meanwhile the sun had gone about his business elsewhere, taking
all his gold and glory with him. Off in the east a big black shutter
came pushing up and rising higher and higher; it spread over the
whole sky, shut out all light and left the world a very gloomy place
indeed. Then another mischief-maker, the wind, taking advantage
of the sun's absence, came on the scene and set about brewing
trouble. The weather turned colder and colder; it seemed worse
than when the s-round had been covered with snow.
"Isn't this terribly cold? How I wish we had our stove-pipe
brush-pile," said Rag.
"A good night for the pine-root hole," replied Molly, "but we have
not yet seen the pelt of that mink on the end of the barn, and it is
not safe till we do."
The hollow hickory was gone--in fact at this very moment its
trunk, lying in the wood-yard, was harboring the mink they feared.
So the Cottontails hopped to the south side of the pond and,
choosing a brush-pile, they crept under and snuggled down for the
night, facing the wind but with their noses in different directions
so as to go out different ways in case of alarm. The wind blew
harder and colder as the hours went by, and about midnight a
fine icy snow came ticking down on the dead leaves and hissing
through the brush-heap. It might seem a poor night for hunting, but
that old fox from Springfield was out. He came pointing up the
wind in the shelter of the Swamp and chanced in the lee of the
brush-pile, where he scented the sleeping Cotton-tails. He halted
for a moment, then came stealthily sneaking up toward the brush
under which his nose told him the rabbits were crouching. The
noise of the wind and the sleet enabled him to come quite close
before Molly heard the faint crunch of a dry leaf under his paw.
She touched Rag's whiskers, and both were fully awake just as the
fox sprang on them; but they always slept with their legs ready for
a jump. Molly darted out into the blinding stonn. The fox missed
his spring but followed like a racer, while Rag dashed off to one
There was only one road for Molly; that was straight up the wind,
and bounding for her life she gained a little over the unfrozen mud
that would not carry the fox, till she reached the margin of the
pond. No chance to turn now, on she must go.
Splash! splash! through the weeds she went, then plunge into the
And plunge went the fox close behind. But it was too much for
Reynard on such a night. He turned back, and Molly, seeing only
one course, struggled through the reeds into the deep water and
struck out for the other shore. But there was a strong headwind.
The little waves, icy cold, broke over her head as she swam, and
the water was full of snow that blocked her way like soft ice, or
floating mud. The dark line of the other shore seemed far, far
away, with perhaps the fox waiting for her there.
But she laid her ears flat to be out of the gale, and bravely put forth
all her strength with wind and tide against her. After a long, weary
swim in the cold water, she had nearly reached the farther reeds
when a great mass of floating snow barred her road; then the wind
on the bank made strange, fox-like sounds that robbed her of all
force, and she was drifted far backward before she could get free
from the floating bar.
Again the struck Out, but slowly--oh so slowly now. And when at
last she reached the lee of the tall reeds, her limbs were numbed,
her strength spent, her brave little heart was sinking, and she cared
no more whether the fox were there or not. Through the reeds she
did indeed pass, but once in the weeds her course wavered and
slowed, her feeble strokes no longer sent her landward, the ice
forming around her stopped her altogether. In a little while
the cold, weak limbs ceased to move, the furry nose-tip of the little
mother Cottontail wobbled no more, and the soft brown eyes were
closed in death.
But there was no fox waiting to tear her with ravenous jaws. Rag
had escaped the first onset of the foe, and as soon as he regained
his wits he came running back to change-off and so help his
mother. He met the old fox going round the pond to meet Molly
and led him far and away, then dismissed him with a barbed-wire
gash on his head, and came to the bank and sought about and
trailed and thumped, but all his searching was in vain; he could not
find his little mother. He never saw her again, and he never knew
whither she went, for she slept her never-waking sleep in the
ice-arms of her friend the Water that tells no tales.
Poor little Molly Cottontail! She was a true heroine, yet only one
of unnumbered millions that without a thought of heroism have
lived and done their best in their little world, and died. She fought
a good fight in the battle of life. She was good stuff; the stuff that
never dies. For flesh of her flesh and brain of her brain was Rag.
She lives in him, and through him transmits a finer fibre to her
And Rag still lives in the Swamp. Old Olifant died that winter, and
the unthrifty sons ceased to clear the Swamp or mend the wire
fences. Within a single year it was a wilder place than ever; fresh
trees and brambles grew, and falling wires made many Cottontail
castles and last retreats that dogs and foxes dared not storm. And
there to this day lives Rag. He is a big strong buck now and fears
no rivals. He has a large family of his own, and a pretty brown
wife that he got I know not where. There, no doubt, he and his
children's children will flourish for many years to come, and there
you may see them any sunny evening if you have learnt their signal
S code, and, choosing a good spot on the ground, know just how
and when to thump it.
"Ye Franckelyn's dogge leaped over a style,
And yey yclept him lyttel Bingo,
And yey yclept him lyttel Bingo.
Ye Franchelyn's wyfe brewed nutte-brown ayle,
And he yclept ytte rare-goode Stingo,
S - T -I-N - G-O,
And he yclept ytte rare goode Stingo.
Now ys not this a prettye rhyme,
I thynke ytte ys bye Jingo,
1 thynke ytte ys bye Jingo."
The Story of My Dog
IT WAS EARLY in November, 1882, and the Manitoba winter had
just set in. I was tilting back in my chair for a few lazy moments
after breakfast, idly alternating my gaze from the one
window-pane of our shanty, through which was framed a bit of the
prairie and the end of our cowshed, to the old rhyme of the
'Franckelyn's dogge' pinned on the logs near by. But the dreamy
mixture of rhyme and view was quickly dispelled by the sight of a
large gray animal dashing across the prairie into the cowshed, with
a smaller black and white animal in hot pursuit.
"A wolf," I exclaimed, and seizing a rifle dashed out to help the
dog. But before I could get there they had left the stable, and after
a short run over the snow the wolf again turned at bay, and the
dog, our neighbor's collie, circled about watching his chance to
I fired a couple of long shots, which had the effect only of setting
them off again over the prairie. After another run this matchless
dog closed and seized the wolf by the haunch, but again retreated
to avoid the fierce return chop. Then there was another stand at
bay, and again a race over the snow. Every few hundred yards this
scene was repeated, the dog managing so that each fresh rush
should be toward the settlement, while the wolf vainly tried to
break back toward the dark belt of trees in the east. At 1a~t after a
mile of this fighting and running I overtook them, and the dog,
seeing that he now had good backing, closed in for the finish.
After a few seconds the whirl of struggling animals resolved itself
into a wolf, on his back, with a bleeding collie gripping his throat,
and it was now easy for me to step up and end the fight by putting
a ball through the wolf's head.
Then, when this dog of marvellous wind saw that his foe was dead,
he gave him no second glance, but set out at a lope for a farm four
miles across the snow where he had left his master when first the
wolf was started. He was a wonderful dog, and even if I had not
come he undoubtedly would have killed the wolf alone, as I
learned he had already done with others of the kind, in spite of the
fact that the wolf, though of the smaller or prairie race, was much
large than himself. I was filled with admiration for the dog's
prowess and at once sought to buy him at any price. The scornful
reply of his owner was, "Why don't you try to buy one of the
Since Frank was not in the market I was obliged to content myself
with the next best thing, one of his alleged progeny. That is, a son
of his wife. This probable offspring of an illustrious sire was a
roly-poly ball of black fur that looked more like a long-tailed
bearcub than a puppy. But he had some tan markings like those on
Frank's coat, that were, I hoped, guarantees of future greatness, and
also a very characteristic ring of white that he always wore on his
Having got possession of his person, the next thing was to find him
a name. Surely this puzzle was already solved. The rhyme of the
'Franckelyn's dogge' was in-built with the foundation of our
acquaintance, so with adequate pomp we yclept him little Bingo.'
The rest of that winter Bingo spent in our shanty, living the life of
a blubbery, fat, well-meaning, ill-doing puppy; gorging himself
with food and growing bigger and clumsier each day. Even sad
experience failed to teach him that he must keep his nose out of
the rat trap. His most friendly overtures to the cat were wholly
misunderstood and resulted only in an armed neutrality that varied
by occasional reigns of terror, continued to the end; which came
when Bingo, who early showed a mind of his own, got a notion for
sleeping at the barn and avoiding the shanty altogether.
When the spring came I set about his serious education. After
much pains on my behalf and many pains on his, he learned to go
at the word in quest of our old yellow cow, that pastured at will on
the unfenced prairie.
Once he had learned his business, he became very fond of it and
nothing pleased him more than an order to go and fetch the cow.
Away he would dash, barking with pleasure and leaping high in
the air that he might better scan the plain for hi~ victim. In a short
time he would return driving her at full gallop before him, and
gave her no peace until, puffing and blowing, she was safely
driven into the farthest corner of her stable.
Less energy on his part would have been more satisfactory, but we
bore with him until he grew so fond of this semi-daily hunt that he
began to bring 'old Dunne' without being told. And at length not
once or twice but a dozen times a day this energetic cowherd
would sally forth on his own responsibility and drive the cow