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Title: The Adventures of a Grain of Dust
Author: Hawksworth, Hallam
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST



  _STRANGE ADVENTURES IN NATURE'S WONDERLANDS_

  THE ADVENTURES
  OF A GRAIN OF DUST

  BY
  HALLAM HAWKSWORTH

  AUTHOR OF "THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PEBBLE"

  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
  NEW YORK      CHICAGO      BOSTON



  COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

  Printed in the United States of America

  C



[Illustration]



JUST A WORD


I don't want you to think that I'm boasting, but I _do_ believe I'm one
of the greatest travellers that ever was; and if anybody, living or
dead, has ever gone through with more than I have I'd like to hear about
it.

Not that I've personally been in all the places or taken part in all the
things I tell in this book--I don't mean to say that--but I do ask you
to remember how long it is possible for a grain of dust to last, and how
many other far-travelled and much-adventured dust grains it must meet
and mix with in the course of its life.

The heart of the most enduring grains of dust is a little particle of
sand, the very hardest part of the original rock fragment out of which
it was made. That's what makes even the finest mud seem gritty when it
dries on your feet. And the longer these sand grains last the harder
they get, as you may say; for it is the hardest part that remains, of
course, as the grain wears down. Moreover, the smaller it gets the less
it wears. If it happens to be spending its time on the seashore, for
example, the very same kind of waves that buffet it about so, waves
that, farther down the beach hurl huge blocks of stone against the
cliffs and crack them to pieces, not only do not wear away the sand
grains, to speak of, but actually save them from wear. The water between
the grains protects them; like little cushions. And the sand in the
finer dust grains carried by the wind is protected by the material that
gathers on its surface.

Why, if a pebble of the size of a hickory-nut may be ages and ages
old--almost in the very form in which you see it,[1] think what the age
of this long-enduring part of a grain of dust must be.

    [1] "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble."

Then remember what the ever-changing material on the surface of these
immortal grains is made of; the dust particles of plants and animals, of
buried Cæsars and still older ancients, such as those early settlers of
Chapter II.

Finally, if what we call flesh and blood can think and talk, why not a
grain of dust? In fact, what is flesh and blood but dust come back to
life? Says the poet--and the poets know:

    "The very dust that blows along the street
    Once whispered to its love that life is sweet."

You see it's as likely a thing as could happen--this whole story.

THE GRAIN OF DUST.

(Per H. H.)



  CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

     I. _The Little Old Man of the Rock_                     1

    II. _Some Early Settlers and Their Bones_               19

   III. _The Winds and the World's Work_                    37

    IV. _The Bottom-Lands_                                  55

     V. _What the Earth Owes to the Earthworm_              75

    VI. _The Little Farmers with Six Feet_                  92

   VII. _Farmers with Four Feet_                           114

  VIII. _Water Farmers Who Help Make Land_                 137

    IX. _Farmers Who Wear Feathers_                        162

     X. _The Busy Fingers of the Roots_                    186

    XI. _The Autumn Stores and the Long Winter Night_      204

   XII. _The Brotherhood of the Dust_                      225

        _Index_                                            247



THE ILLUSTRATIONS


The author wishes to make special acknowledgment to the following
publishers for their courtesy in supplying illustrations:

The Macmillan Company for the pictures from Tarr and Martin's "College
Physiography" on page 239; Darwin's "Formation of Vegetable Mould" on
page 77.

D. Appleton and Company for the pictures from Gilbert and Brigham's
"Introduction to Physical Geography" on page 94; "Picturesque America"
on page 243.

J. B. Lippincott Company for the pictures from Beard's "American Boy's
Book of Bugs, Butterflies, and Beetles" on page 229; McCook's "Natural
History of the Agricultural Ant of Texas" on pages 206 and 213.

_McClure's Magazine_ for the pictures on pages 149 and 157.

Scientific American Publishing Company for the picture from "Scientific
American Boy at School" on page 227.

Harper and Brothers for the pictures from McCook's "Nature's Craftsmen"
on pages 98, 105, 109, 207, and 208.

_Strand Magazine_ for the pictures on pages 165, 182, and 204.

Charles Scribner's Sons for the pictures from Yard's "Top of the
Continent" on page 5; "Country Life Reader" on pages 9, 64, 85, 114,
186, and 241; Osborn's "Men of the Old Stone Age" on page 33. Hornaday's
"American Natural History" on pages 116, 117, 119, 123, 130, 144, and
225; Seton's "Life Histories of Northern Animals" on pages 123, 129,
147, and 151.

Henry Holt and Company for the pictures from Beebe's "The Bird, Its Form
and Function" on page 167; Salisbury's "Physiography" on pages 55, 71,
and 167.

Carnegie Institution of Washington for the pictures on pages 8 and 69.

University of Nebraska for the picture on page 37.

Columbia University Press for the picture from Wheeler's "Ants and Their
Structure" on page 95.

Houghton Mifflin Company for the pictures from Sharp's "Year Out of
Doors" on page 11; "Riverside Natural History" on page 117; Mill's "In
the Beaver World" on pages 152 and 153.

Ginn and Company for the pictures from Breasted's "Ancient Times" on
page 67; "Agriculture for Beginners" on page 47; Bergen's "Foundation of
Botany" on pages 49, 190, and 197; Bergen's "Elements of Botany" on
pages 193 and 195; Beal's "Seed Dispersal" on page 51.

U. S. Geological Survey for the pictures on pages 21, 22, 23, 30, 31,
and 59.

New York Zoological Society for the pictures on pages 145, 159, and 216.

_School Arts Magazine_ for the picture on page 221.

U. S. Department of Agriculture for the pictures on pages 125 and 189.

American Museum of Natural History for the pictures on pages 20, 24, 26,
139, and 162.

Cassell and Company for the pictures from "Popular History of Animals"
on pages 118, 177, 179, and 217; "Popular Science" on page 242.

Hutchinson for the pictures from "Marvels of the Universe" on pages 92,
101, 103, 141, 169, and 173; "Marvels of Insect Life" on page 211.

The Dunham Company for the picture on page 45.

International Harvester Company for the picture on page 199.

Northern Pacific Railway for the pictures on pages 235 and 237.



THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST



It will be understood, as stated in the preface, that, like "The Strange
Adventures of a Pebble," this is an autobiography. In other words, it is
the grain of dust itself that tells the story of the life of the soil of
which it is a part.



THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST



CHAPTER I

(JANUARY)

    In truth you'll find it hard to say
    How it could ever have been young
    It looks so old and grey.

    --_Wordsworth._

THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK


Some say it was Leif Ericson, some say it was Columbus, but _I_ say it
was The Little Old Man of the Rock.

And I go further. I say he not only discovered America but Europe, Asia,
and Africa, and the islands of the sea. I'll tell you why.


I. HOW LITTLE MR. LICHEN DISCOVERED THE WORLD

As everybody knows, we must all eat to live, and how could either
Columbus or anybody else--except Mr. Lichen--have done much discovering
in a world where there was nothing to eat? When the continents first
rose out of the sea[2] there wasn't anything to eat but rock. Rock, to
be sure, makes very good eating if you have the stomach for it, as Mr.
Lichen has. It contains sulphur, phosphorus, silica, potash, soda, iron,
and other things that plants are fond of, but ordinary plants can't get
these things out of the rock--let alone human beings and other animals;
and that's why Mr. Lichen had the first seat at the table and always
does.

    [2] "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble."

On bare granite boulders in the fields, on the rocky ruins at the foot
of mountains, and even on the mountain tops themselves, on projecting
rocks far above the snow line, you find the lichens. On rock of every
kind they settle down and get to work. They never complain of the
climate--hot or cold, moist or dry. When the land goes dry they simply
knock off, and then when a little moisture is to be had they're busy
again. A little goes a long way with members of the family who live in
regions where water is scarce. Indeed, most of them get along with
hardly any moisture at all. The very hardiest of them are so small that
a whole colony looks like a mere stain upon the rock.

While lichens are generally gray--they seem to have been _born_ old,
these queer little men of the rock--you can find some that are black,
others bright yellow or cream-colored. Others are pure white or of
various rusty and leaden shades. Some are of the color of little mice.
To make out any shapes in these tiny forms, you must look very close;
and if you have a hand lens you will be surprised to find that this
fairy-land of the lichens isn't so drab as it seems to the naked eye.
For there are flower gardens--the tiny spore cups. Some of them are
vivid crimson and, standing out on a background of pure white, they're
very lovely. Some of the science people believe the colors attract the
minute insects that the lens shows wandering around in these fairy
flower gardens. But just what the insects can be there for nobody knows,
since the lichens are scattered, not by insects, but by the wind.

As a rule lichens grow only in open, exposed places, although some are
like the violets--they enjoy the shade. Some varieties grow on trees,
some on the ground, others on the bleached bones of animals in fields
and wastes and on the bones of whales cast up by the sea.

Of course the whole country was awfully wild when the continents first
came out of the sea, but that just suited Mr. Lichen, for there is one
thing he can't stand, and that is city life, with its smoke and bad air.

"Why, one can't get one's breath!" he says.


WHY THE LICHENS DISLIKE CITY LIFE

So, while you will not meet Mr. Lichen in cities--at least, until after
the people are all gone; that is to say, on ruins of cities of the
past--you will find him beautifying the ancient walls of abbeys, old
seats of learning like Oxford, and the tombstones of the cities of the
dead.

Mr. Lichen always travels light. On the surface of the lichens are what
seem to be little grains of dust, and these serve the purpose of seeds.
A puff of wind will carry away thousands of them, and so start new
colonies in lands remote.

You see, the fact that he requires so little baggage must have been a
great advantage to Mr. Lichen in those early days, when he had to
discover not only America but all the rest of the world map, spread out
so wide and far. You can just imagine how the grains of lichen dust,
the seed of the race, must have gone whirling across the world with the
winds.

But if a breath of wind would carry them away so easily, how could they
_stay_ on a rock, these tiny lichen travellers? Especially as they have
no roots? They have curious rootlike fibres which absorb food by
dissolving the rock, and this dissolved rock, hardening, holds them on.
The fibres of lichens that grow on granite actually sink into it by
dissolving the mica and forcing their way between the other kinds of
particles in the rock that they can't eat. Thus they help break it up.

As we all know, little people are great eaters in proportion to their
size, but it is said the lichens are the heartiest eaters in the world.
They eat more mineral matter than any other plant, and all plants are
eaters of minerals.

Yet, you'd wonder what they do with the food they eat--most of them grow
so slowly. A student of lichens watched one of them on the tiled roof of
his house in France--one of the kind of lichens that look like plates of
gold--and in forty years he couldn't see that it had grown a single bit,
although he measured it carefully.


HOW MR. LICHEN EATS UP STONES

But how could such feeble creatures, as they seem to be, ever eat
anything so hard as rock? Well, they couldn't if it wasn't for one
thing--they understand chemistry. At least they carry with them, or know
how to make, an acid, and it's this acid which enables them to dissolve
the rock so that they can absorb it. The acid is in their fibres--what
answer for roots. And the dissolved rock not only gives them their daily
bread, but, as I said a moment ago, holds them on. This use of acid is
their way of eating; chewing their food very fine, and mixing it with
saliva, as all of us young people are taught to do.

The first and smallest of the lichen family spread and decay into a thin
film of soil. This decay makes more acid, just as decaying leaves do
to-day--they learned it, no doubt, from the lichens--and this acid of
decay also eats into the rock and makes more soil. (You see nature, from
the start, has been helping those that help themselves, just as the old
proverb has it.) Then, after the first tiny lichens--mere grains of dust
that have just begun to feel the stir of life--come somewhat larger
lichens which can only live where there is a little soil to begin with.
These in turn die, which means a still deeper layer of soil, still more
acid of decay, and so on up to larger lichens and later more ambitious
plants. Then, on the soil made by these successive generations of
lichens, higher types of plants--plants with true roots--get a foothold.

Besides making soil themselves, the lichens help accumulate soil by
holding grains of rock broken up by their fibres and loosened by the
action of the heat and cold of day and night and change of season. These
little grains become entangled in the larger lichens and are kept, many
of them, from being washed away by the heavy rains. So held, they are in
time crumbled into soil by the action of the acids and by mixture with
the products of plant decay. To this day, go where you will, over the
whole face of the earth, and you'll find the lichens there ahead of you,
dressed in their sober suits, some gray as ashes, others brown, but some
are as yellow as gold; for even these old people like a little color
once in a while. As travellers they beat all.

     "Their geographical range is more extended than that of any other
     class of plants."

That's how the learned lichenologists put it. For these lichens, these
humble little brothers of our dust, that many of us never looked at
twice on the stones of the field, or the gray stumps and dead limbs in
the wood, are so interesting when you've really met them--been properly
introduced--that a whole science has grown up around them called
"lichenology." And exciting! You ought to hear the hot discussions that
lichenologists get into. You read, for instance, that such and such a
theory "was received with a storm of opposition" (as most new theories
are, by the way, particularly if they are sound).

But the tumults and the strifes of science, of politics, or of wars
don't disturb little old Mr. Lichen himself. There on his rock he'll
sit, overlooking the scenery and watching life and the seasons come and
go for 100, 200, 500 years, and more. For while they grow so slowly the
lichens make up for it by living to an extreme age.


THE LICHENS AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Why, do you know that during the lifetime of certain lichens that are
still hale and hearty, not only a long line of Cæsars might rise,
flourish, die, and, with their clay, stop holes to keep the wind away,
as Mr. Shakespere put it, but the vast Roman Empire could and did come
into being, move across the stage with its banners and trumpets and
glittering pomp and go back to the dust again.

Some lichens, growing on the highest mountain ranges of the world, are
known to be more than 2,000 years old!

[Illustration: THE SEQUOIAS; THE SUNLIGHT AND THE SHADE

Wonderful sunlight effect, isn't it? We are here in Sequoia National
Park and those big trees are sequoias, members of the pine-tree family.]


II. THE MARCH OF THE TREES

Of course I don't mean to say it takes any 2,000 years for the average
lichen to die and turn to dust. These long-lived lichens are the
Methuselahs of their race. Most kinds die much younger, as time goes
among the lichens, and in a comparatively few years, a century say,
after their first settlement on the rock, the lichens have become soil.
All this time the heating of the rock by day and the cooling off at
night, the work of frost and the gases of the rain and the air[3] have
also helped to make more soil and by and by there is enough for lichens
of a larger growth; and mosses begin to get a foothold. These, in turn,
die and, in decaying, make acids, as did the little lichens before
them, and this acid joins hands with all the other forces to work up the
rock into soil. Presently there is enough soil to let certain
adventurers of the Weed family drop in. The picking is very thin, to be
sure, but some of these Weed people have learned to put up with almost
anything. Don't suppose, however, that all weeds are alike in this
respect. Oh, dear, no! They come into new plant communities just as the
trees do, not haphazard, but according to a certain more or less settled
order. Some of them, the adventurer type, will, it is true, settle down
and seem contented enough on land so poor that to quote the witty Lady
Townshend "you will only find here and there a single blade of grass and
two rabbits fighting for that"; while other weeds will have nothing to
do with soil that, in their opinion, is not good enough for people of
their family connections.

    [3] All these things put together are called "weathering."

[Illustration: EARLY SETTLERS IN THE DESERT

Besides earning their own living under hard conditions, these sturdy
pioneers of the desert are preparing the way for plants of a higher
kind, as the next two pictures will tell you.]

It has long been known that the character of soil may be told, to a
considerable degree, by the kind of weeds that grow on it. An old
English writer pointed this out in his quaint way some 200 years ago:

     "Ground which, though it bear not any extraordinary abundance of
     grass yet will load itself with strong and lusty weeds, as
     Hemlocks, Docks, Nettles and such like, is undoubtedly a most rich
     and fruitful ground for any grain whatsoever."

But, he goes on to say:

     "When you see the ground covered with Heath, Broom, Bracken, Gorse
     and such like, they be most apparent signs of infinite great
     barrenness. And, of these infertile places, you shall understand,
     that it is the clay ground which for the most part brings forth the
     Moss, the Broom, the Gorse and such like."

Wherever soil is coarse and bouldery the weeds also are of a sturdy
breed. In his long, delightful days among the mountains Muir[4] tells us
what a brave show the thistles made in this new world of soil; how royal
they looked in their purple bloom, standing up head and shoulders above
the other plants, like Saul among the people.

    [4] Muir. "The Mountains of California."

[Illustration: WHAT THE DESERT PIONEERS DO FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

Only the sturdiest kinds of shrubs and weeds, such as you see in the
desert, can earn their keep in sandy soil, always thirsty, like that on
the right. But the desert vegetation, dying and decaying--it is then
called "humus"--not only knits the soil together but absorbs moisture
and ammonia from the air and so helps grow good crops.]


HOW PLANT PEOPLE PAY THEIR TAXES

In all these plant republics each citizen must pay something into the
common treasury for its board and keep. This fund not only meets
"national expenses" during the lifetime of the ones who pay these taxes,
but it helps prepare the land for the great citizens of the future--the
trees. In another hundred years--making two hundred in all, after the
arrival of the very first lichens--low shrubs and bushes often find
spots in these new communities where the soil is thick enough for their
needs.

It is very curious how members of the plant world, growing side by side,
seek their food at different depths, and send out their roots
accordingly. It reminds one of the rigid class distinctions below stairs
in a nobleman's household where the chef has his meals in his own
private apartment, the kitchen maids in their quarters, the chauffeurs,
footman, under butler, and pantry boys in the servants' hall.

[Illustration: THE LEADERS OF THE GRAND MARCH]

But most striking, it has always seemed to me, is the settled order in
which trees march into the land. Why shouldn't the oaks come before the
maples? Or the maples before the beeches? Or the beeches before the
pines? Why is it that, with the exception of a straggler here and there,
the first trees to climb the stony mountainsides are the pines? Then
close behind come such trees as the poplars, and along the streams
below, the willows. Still farther down the valley are the beeches;
farther still the maples, and last of all the oaks.

So it is they advance in a certain regular way, each in its own place in
the ranks. At first it seems as strange as the coming of Birnam wood to
Dunsinane that gave poor Macbeth such a turn that time. But, after all,
the explanation is quite simple and no doubt you have guessed it
already.

The reason such trees as the pines, poplars, and willows come first is
that the seeds are so light they are easily carried by the winds and so
reach new soil ahead of other trees with winged seeds like the beeches
and the maples; for, although these seeds also travel on the wind, they
are much larger than the winged seeds of the pine and they travel much
more slowly and for shorter distances.

Moreover, at the end of their first journey, having once fallen to the
ground, they are apt to stay. Then there is no further advance, so far
as these particular seeds are concerned, until trees have sprung from
them and they, in turn, bear seeds. In the case of very light seeds,
like those of the pines, the wind not only carries them far beyond the
comparatively slow and heavy march of the beech and the maple, but if
they fall on rock with little or no soil the next wind picks them up and
carries them farther, so that they may strike some other spot where
there is soil and perhaps a little network of grass and weeds to secure
them until they can take root and so hold their own. It is not only a
great advantage to the pine seeds to be so small, so far as getting
ahead of other trees is concerned, but it is an advantage in another
way. Because they are so small they require comparatively little soil to
start with, are more easily covered up, and so they soon begin to
sprout. The very winds that carry them up among the mountain rocks are
quite likely to cover them with enough dust to start on, and I myself
have helped raise many a giant of the mountain forests in this way. It
is really wonderful how little soil a pine-tree can get along with; if,
say, its fortunes are cast on some mass of mountain rock. Somehow it
manages to get a living among the cracks and at the same time to hold
its own in the bitter struggle with the winds.

"The pine trees," says Muir, "march up the sun-warmed moraines in long
hopeful files, taking the ground and establishing themselves as soon as
it is ready for them."

[Illustration: _From the painting by Rousseau in the Metropolitan Museum
of Art._

THE EDGE OF THE WOODS

Last of all come tramping along the sturdy old oaks.]

Last of all come tramping along the sturdy old oaks and the nut-bearing
trees. Their seeds are so heavy they get little help from the winds, and
then only in the most violent storms. They must advance very slowly
indeed, with occasional help from absent-minded squirrels who carry away
and bury nuts and acorns and then forget where they put them.

[Illustration: HOW SQUIRRELS HELP OAKS TO MARCH

Sometimes they bury acorns and forget just where. When frightened they
often drop them and run away.]


ROUGH CITIZENS AMONG THE PIONEERS

The beginnings of a forest are stunted because the soil is thin.
Moreover, the company in which the trees find themselves is very
miscellaneous, like the population of all pioneer communities--weeds,
grasses, briers, shrubs. High up on a mountainside you can find all
these types of vegetation. Pines growing clear to the snow line; farther
down the mountain, in crannies, sumach and elder bushes with field
daisies and goldenrod scattered among them; while on the barren rocks
are the lichens and the mosses.

Not only do the citizens of the plant world follow a certain fixed order
in coming into new regions, but also in giving place to one another. All
plants of a higher order can live only on the remains of those of a
lower, and it is most interesting to note the process by which each
lower form comes, does its work, passes on, and is replaced by a
superior type. The shrubs, which can only grow after the weeds and
grasses have made enough soil for them, at length shade out these
smaller pioneers. Haven't you often noticed, when picnicing in deep
woods, that the grasses and flowers are to be found only in the sunny
spaces, where there are no trees?

But these thickets themselves, after a while, disappear, and pines take
their places. I am speaking now of the growth of forests, where the
soil-making has so far advanced that forests are possible. The thickets,
with their good soil and the shade which keeps it damp, are just the
places for the pine seeds brought in by the wind to get a foothold and
sprout up. When they grow into big trees they gather with their high
branches so much of the sunshine for themselves that little of it gets
through to the shrubs below, so these shrubs disappear, surviving only
in the sunny open spaces or along the borders of the wood.

But now notice what happens to the pines. When the trees become larger,
the young pines that spring up beneath their shade can't get enough
sunshine, so, as the big trees grow old and die, there are fewer and
fewer young pines to take their places. Now comes the turn of the
spruces. For spruces require more and better soil than the pines and
they don't mind a reasonable amount of shade. So, as the woods grow
thicker and shadier, the pines gradually disappear and the spruces take
their places.

At first, in the reign of the spruces, some of the old residents begin
to come back. A spruce forest, not being so dense in the beginning as a
pine forest, lets in a good deal of sunlight, and you'll find scattered
through its aisles and byways gentians, bluebells, daisies, goldenrod.

In course of time, however, the leaves and branches of the spruces
become so thick that hardly a sunbeam can get through and you have a
forest where noontime looks like twilight; a forest of deep shade and
silence with its thick carpet of brown needles, and where all the shrubs
and grasses and flowers have disappeared, except in the open spaces. It
was in such a forest and in one of these sunny glades, no doubt, that
the knight the little girl tells of in Tennyson:

    "... while he past the dim lit woods
    Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
    Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower
    That shook beneath them as the thistle shakes
    When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed."


HOW NATURE RESTORES ABANDONED FARMS

So it is that new lands pass from barren rock to forest, and deep rich
soil, and so it is that worn-out soils, the result of reckless farming
are finally restored. Hardly any soil is too poor for some kind of a
weed. These weeds springing up, die and make soil that better kinds of
weeds can use. Later come a few woody plants. In the course of fifteen
or twenty years the soil is deep enough to support trees; and in fifty
years there is a young forest. At the end of a century fine timber can
be cut, the land cleared, and the old place may be as good as new.

But it's a long time to wait! It's a much better plan to take care of
the land in the first place.


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     One of the strangest things about Mr. Lichen, as you will see by
     looking up the subject in any botany or encyclopædia, is that he is
     really _two_ people--two different plants that have grown into
     partnership; and that one of the partners supplies water for the
     firm while the other furnishes the food.

     The part of "him" that supplies the food is green, or blue-green,
     and that is why it is able to do this. This idea that Mr. Lichen is
     really two people was one of those that was "received with a storm
     of opposition," but certain lichenologists actually took two
     different kinds of plants, put them together and _made_ a lichen
     themselves, as you will see when you look the matter up.

     As to just who among these two kinds of plants shall go into
     partnership--that usually depends on chance and the winds; although
     in the case of some lichens, the parents determine upon these
     partnerships, just as they often do in human relations.

     If you want to continue this interesting study and become Learned
     Lichenologists, you will be interested to know that there are a lot
     of things to be learned, including not only no end of delightful
     names, such as _Endocarpon_, _Collema_, _Pertusaria_, not to speak
     of _Xanthoria parietina_, and loads of others, but there are still
     things unknown that _you_ may be able some day to find out. For
     instance, while they know that the two kinds of vegetation that
     together make a lichen, feed and water each other, it's not known
     exactly _how_ they do it; although the "Britannica" article has a
     picture showing the two partners in the very act of going into
     partnership. The article in the "Americana" shows some striking
     forms of lichens, and how nature from these very dawnings of life
     begins to dream of beauty. You will be surprised at the forms shown
     in the "Americana," they are either so graceful, symmetrical, or
     picturesque. One of them looks like a very elaborate helmet
     decoration, or plume of a knight.

     This article also tells what an incredible number of species of
     lichens there are--enough to make quite a good-sized town, if they
     were all real people.

     It also tells why the orange and yellow lichens take to the shady
     side of the rock; and something about how the lichens get those
     remarkable decorations and sculpturings, and what the weather has
     to do with it.

     There you will also get a probable explanation of the fact that the
     manna which the Israelites found on the ground in the morning
     appeared so suddenly.

     In the article in the "International" you will find another picture
     of how the two partners--the fungus and the alga--make the lichen,
     and you will learn that Mr. Lichen's name, like Mr. Lichen himself,
     is centuries old; being the very name given him by the Greeks, and
     afterward by the Romans.

     In the "Country Life Reader" there is an article on the soil that
     has a very close relationship to the subject of the lichens and
     their work. It tells, among other things, about the value of
     humus--decayed leaves, grass, etc.--to the soil. It was the
     lichens, you know, who _started_ the humus-making business.

     The article in the reader on "Planting Time," by L. H. Bailey,
     expresses the wonder we must all feel when we stop to think about
     it, at the magic work of the soil in changing a little speck of a
     seed into a plant.



CHAPTER II

(FEBRUARY)

    Behold a strange monster our wonder engages!
        If dolphin or lizard your wit may defy.
    Some thirty feet long, on the shore of Lyme-Regis
        With a saw for a jaw and a big staring eye.
    A fish or a lizard? An Ichthyosaurus,
        With a big goggle-eye and a very small brain,
    And paddles like mill-wheels in chattering chorus
        Smiting tremendous the dread-sounding main.

    --_Professor Blackie._

SOME EARLY SETTLERS AND THEIR BONES


But a farm where nothing but plants grow isn't much of a farm. Every
good farmer knows that nowadays, and so he stocks his place with horses
and cows and chickens and things. Mother Nature understood this
principle from the beginning, and the plants and animals on her farm
have always got on well together.

For one thing the plant and the animal each help the other to get its
breath. That is to say, plants, when they take in the air, keep most of
the carbon there is in it and give back most of the oxygen, which is
just what the animal world wants; while the animals, when they breathe,
keep most of the oxygen and give back most of the carbon--just the thing
that plants grow on.

But the service of the animals to the plants is very important after
they have stopped breathing altogether; since their flesh and bones,
like the dead bodies of the plants, go back to enrich their common dust.
The bones and bodies and shells of members of the animal kingdom,
however, are far richer food for soils than is dead vegetation. The
shell creatures of the sea to which we owe our wonderfully fertile
limestone soils are--many of them--so small that you can only make them
out with a microscope; while certain other contributors to our
food-supply were so big that one of them, walking down a country road,
would almost fill the road from fence to fence.


I. MR. DINOSAUR AND HIS NEIGHBORS


A STRANGE FACE IN THE MEADOW

Now let's take a look at some of these big fellows. How would you like
to have such a creature as the one at the right of this page come
ambling up to meet you at the meadow gate of an evening when you went
to milk the cows? Yet more than likely either this gentle animal, or
some of his kin, browsed over the very field where now the cattle
pasture, for he, too, was a grass-eater, and with an appetite most
hearty. If you kept him in a barn his stall would have to be eighty feet
long, and it would be necessary to fill his rack with a ton of fodder
every third day. But, assuming there was a market for him in the shape
of steaks and roasts, you would be well repaid; for, in prime condition,
he weighed twenty tons.

[Illustration: IN THE LAND OF HIS FATHERS]

These monsters who ate grass, and other monsters who ate them, and still
other monsters who lived in the sea, appeared comparatively late in the
life of the world.

[Illustration: NO WONDER HE NEVER WORRIED!

Quite aside from the fact that he had so little brain to worry with, it
seems highly improbable that the Stegosaurus ever felt any apprehension
about attacks from the rear, in the frequent military operations which
distinguished the times in which he lived. In addition to the horny
plates down his back he had those horny spines which were swung by a
tail some ten feet long.]


TONS AND TONS OF ANCIENT BONES

It is only about 15,000,000 years ago, for example, that the biggest of
them all, the Dinosaurs, lived, while the earth itself is now supposed
to be some 100,000,000 years old. Their numbers were enormous, and it is
probable there is not an acre of ground from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, and from Alaska to the tip end of South America that has not
been fertilized by their bones. In fact, of certain species I have found
the bones scattered all the way from Oregon to Patagonia; so this must
have been their pasture.

They were not only all over the land, but in the lakes and in the great
sea that once extended right through North America from the Gulf of
Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. And they were along the shores of the sea
and in the swamps. The bones of the ancestors of the whale were found
in such quantities in some of the Southern States that they were used to
build fences until it was found they were much more valuable to enrich
the fields themselves.

[Illustration: THE HEAD OF HESPERORNIS

"Then there was a great toothed, diving creature with wings. They've
named him the Hesperornis, which means 'western bird,' because the
fossils of the best-known species were found in the chalk-beds of
Kansas."]

In the great American inland sea of those days swam one kind of fierce
fish-lizard that took such big bites he had to have a hinge in his jaw.
Because of this hinge he could open his mouth wider without putting
anything out of place, don't you see? He was called the Mesosaur. But he
never bit the Archelon, who was in his crowd, because he couldn't. The
Archelon was the king of turtles, and, like all the turtle family, wore
heavy armor. He was over twelve feet long. And sharks--no end of them! A
shark at his best is bad enough, but the sharks of those days were
almost too terrible to think about. Such jaws! And teeth like railroad
spikes! Then there was a great toothed diving creature with wings.
They've named him the "Hesperornis," which means "western bird." He was
given the name because the fossils of the best-known species were found
in the chalk-beds of Kansas.

[Illustration: GREATEST OF ANCIENT FLYING MACHINES

Mr. Pterodactyl, on his way to dinner, looked like this. He was the
largest of all flying-machines before the days of the Wright brothers.
He would have measured--if there had been anybody to measure him--twenty
feet across the wings! Like the Hesperornis, he always dined on fish.]

Over the waters flew another bird-like, fish-like, bat-like thing called
the Pterodactyl. Look at his picture and you will see how he got his
nickname. It means "finger-toe." He was the largest of all
flying-machines until the days of the Wright brothers. It was over
twenty feet across his wings, from tip to tip; and, like the
Hesperornis, he always had fish for dinner.

[Illustration: A BIG "LITTLE FINGER" AND WHAT IT WAS FOR

Mr. Pterodactyl means "finger toe." What is our little finger was the
longest of his five digits. It helped support and operate that big
bat-like wing extending from his arms to his toes.]


THE EARLIEST RULERS OF THE SEA

The first monsters, like the first of almost everything else, including
the land itself, were in the sea.[5] For a time giant fish, armor-plated
like a man-of-war, and with awful appetites, just about ran everything.
Then came the reign of the sharks. Some of them had jaws that opened to
the height of a door--six feet or over. Next in succession, as rulers of
the sea, were the fish-lizards, of whom that hinge-jawed Mesosaur was
one. Of another of these fish-lizards a famous teacher of Edinburgh
University, Professor Blackie, wrote that funny verse at the head of
this chapter. The bones of this particular specimen were found sticking
out of a cliff at Lyme-Regis, a popular watering-place in the English
Channel, by a pretty English girl who was strolling along the beach.

    [5] "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble."

[Illustration: A FAMILY PARTY

The imagination of the artist enables us to picture this family
party--Mrs. Ichthyosaurus and her children out for a stroll in
prehistoric waters.]

The Ichthyosaurus, as Professor Blackie says in his verse, was some
thirty feet long, with a comparatively large head--like an
alligator's--set close to his body. Another fish-lizard, well and
unfavorably known by his neighbors of the sea, was the Plesiosaurus.
Instead of fins he had big paddles resembling those of the seal. He was
a kind of side-wheeler, like the Mississippi River steamboats, and he
could go like everything! His neck was long and he darted after the
smaller creatures he lived on.


REIGN OF THE LIZARD FAMILY

But these queer fish seem to have just been getting ready to land; for,
by being lizards, they after a while managed it. A lizard, you know,
belongs to the reptile family, and out of these sea reptiles there
grew, in course of time, reptiles which lived, not in the sea but in the
swamps along the sea. These reptiles were the Dinosaurs, and they are
related to the Minosaurs and the Ichthyosaurus, and the rest of the
Saurs, as you can see by the family name; for "saur" means lizard.
Dinosaur means "terrible lizard." Don't you think he looks it?

Although some of these Dinosaurs were no larger than chickens, others
were by far the largest creatures that ever were, on sea or land. Many
of the biggest lived on grass, just like an old cow, while the
flesh-eating Dinosaurs lived on them. Some of these Dinosaurs went on
all fours, while others ran about on their hind legs, and when they
stood still, propped themselves up on their big, thick tails as do
kangaroos. The Camptosaurus, one of whose favorite resorts was the land
that is now Wyoming, was thirty feet long. Another called the
Brontosaurus, was sixty feet long. The Atlantosaurus, one of the
pioneers of Colorado, measured eighty feet from the end of his nose to
the end of his tail, and all of them were built in proportion. The
Stegosaurus, also an early settler in Wyoming, had huge bony plates,
like ploughshares, sticking out all along his back from the nape of his
neck to the end of his tail. He seems to have gone about looking quite
ugly and humpbacked, as our old cat does when she has words with the
dog.

After the swamps dried up and the lizards could no longer make a living,
came the reign of the mammals; including the Mastodons and the Mammoths,
marching in countless herds, trumpeting through the forests.


HOW SOME MONSTERS PLOUGHED THE FIELD

But besides what they did in the way of fertilizing the land with their
flesh and bones some of the mammals did a good deal of ploughing. Among
these early ploughmen were the Mastodons and the Mammoths, and another
elephant-like creature with two tusks, that he wore, not after the
fashion among elephants to-day, but curving down from his chin, somewhat
like Uncle Sam's goatee. He used these tusks, it is supposed, not only
for self-defense, but for grubbing up roots which he ate. If so, they
must have been about as good ploughs as those crooked sticks that were
used by the early farmers among men, and that are still in use among
primitive peoples.


THE ELEPHANT FAMILY AS PLOUGHMEN

What makes it more likely that the creature with the down-curving tusks
stirred the soil with them is that his cousins, the elephants of to-day,
are themselves great ploughmen. Elephants feed, not only on grass and
the tender shoots of trees, but on bulbs buried in the soil, which they
hunt out by their fine sense of smell. In digging these bulbs they turn
up whole acres of ground. Elephants also do a great deal of ploughing by
uprooting trees so as to make it more convenient to get at their tender
tops. Sir Samuel Baker, the explorer, says the work done by a herd of
elephants in a mimosa forest in this way is very great and that trees
over four feet in circumference are uprooted. In the case of the biggest
trees several elephants work together, some pulling the tree with their
trunks, while others dig under the roots with their tusks. To be sure,
the mimosa-trees have no tap roots, but tearing them out of the ground
is no small job, nevertheless. It takes strength and it takes
engineering.

Another early ploughman was a bird, the Moa. The Moa had no wings, but
his muscular legs were simply enormous, and so were his feet. New
Zealand seems to have been the headquarters of the Moas. There used to
be loads of them as shown by the huge deposits of their bones. They are
supposed to have been killed in countless numbers during the Ice Ages in
the Southern Hemisphere; for there were Ice Ages in the Southern as
well as the Northern Hemisphere. In one great morass in New Zealand
abounding in warm springs, bones of the Moas were found in such
countless numbers, layer upon layer, that it is thought the big birds
gathered at these springs to keep warm during those great freezes.


THE MILLSTONES OF THE MOAS

Besides the work they did with feet and bills you may imagine how much
nice fresh stone the Moas must have ground up in their crops during the
millions of years they existed. It was a regular mill--the gizzard of a
Moa--full of pebbles as big as hickory nuts. Scattered about the springs
where their bones are found are little heaps of these pebbles, each the
contents of a gizzard. Like miniature tumuli, they mark the spots where
the bodies of the Moas returned to dust.

Perhaps some of those flesh-eating Dinosaurs did a little ploughing once
in a while, too; for one theory is that those ridiculous little arms
were used for scratching out a nest for the eggs, just as the crocodiles
and the alligators and the turtles dig nests for their eggs to-day. For
all these animals, as did the Dinosaurs, belong to the reptile family,
and show the family trait of digging out nests for their eggs.

[Illustration: A PUZZLE PAGE FROM THE GREAT STONE BOOK

Talk about your cut-out puzzles! Here is a specimen of the kind of
puzzle Nature and the course of things in the darkest ages of world
history have cut out for the paleontologists. It is a find of ancient
bones in the asphalt deposits near Los Angeles.]

Although the Dinosaurs roamed the swamps and lowlands of all the ancient
world, their favorite resort was the territory now occupied by our
Western States--judging from the quantities of bones they left--while
that old Mediterranean Sea of ours was full of their kin, the
sea-lizards. Professor Marsh, of Yale, who was among the first
explorers of the graves of these monarchs of the past, says that one
day, while riding through a valley in the Rocky Mountains, he saw the
bones of no less than seven sea-lizards staring at him from the cliffs.
Yet, only here and there by the wearing through of the rocks by flowing
streams has nature opened up these vast mausoleums, the mountains and
the cliffs. What enormous quantities of bones, then, must still be
buried there, what tons and tons must have given their lime and
phosphate to the soil. So you see this story of old bones, even from a
farming standpoint, is no light matter.

[Illustration: HOW THE WISE MEN ANSWER THE PUZZLES

By their marvellous skill and their knowledge of the mechanics of
monster anatomy the paleontologists fit one bone fragment to another,
supply the missing parts in artificial material, and behold! the
monsters take their places in the long procession of the ages. There has
been nothing equal to it since the vision of the prophet in the Valley
of Dry Bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-10.)]


II. HOW THE MONSTERS DIED AND RETURNED TO DUST

"But you said these monsters lived in the sea and in swamps. Then how,
in the name of common sense, did their bones get up into the mountains?"


WHEN THE INLAND SEA WENT DRY

Well, it's like this: As I said a while back, in the days of the monster
fish and the monster lizards, there was a great sea reaching clear from
the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, and with swamps along the
borders extending far into lands that afterward became the Rocky
Mountains. When the land began to rise, due to the shrinking of the
earth--a thing that has been going on ever since the earth was born--the
sea and the swamps went dry, and far to the west the land wrinkled up
into the Rocky Mountains. In these layers of rock that made the
mountains were the bones of the monsters that had died when the rocks
were still mud, in the swamps and along the borders of the inland sea.

Not only did the land under the western portion of the sea slowly rise
until the waters were completely closed in on the west, and the sea thus
made that much narrower, but the rise of the land on the south cut off
connection with the great salt ocean which surrounds the continents
to-day. So the salt-water fish, for lack of salt water, died, and with
them the monsters like the Ichthyosaurus that lived on the salt-water
fish that lived in this salt sea.

But it wasn't alone that the seas grew narrower and more shallow because
of the elevation of the lands. The mountains rising in the west, cut off
the rain-laden winds which blew from the Pacific in those days just as
they do now. Thus the seas dried up so much the faster. But first,
before the sea went entirely dry, its place was taken by the lakes and
swamps into which it shrivelled up. Low, swampy land is just what
reptiles like, so this was their Golden Age, just as the previous time
of the wide, deep sea was the Golden Age of the big fish and the
fish-lizards.

Then, as the land still rose and the climate grew dryer, the reptiles
passed away, and in came the mammal family, to which the cows and the
horses and the cats and the kittens, and all the rest of us, belong.

[Illustration: THE TIGER WITH THE SABRE TEETH

Tigers like this lived ages ago in both the Old World and the New. They
had canine teeth, curved like a sabre, in the upper jaw.]


TOO MUCH BRAWN, TOO LITTLE BRAIN

Of course, even where they didn't die with their boots on, so to speak,
as so many of them did in those lawless days, there came a time for each
monster, in the order of nature, when he drew his last breath. But what
seems so strange is that all these monsters--the biggest and strongest
of them--entirely disappeared and left no descendants![6] The whole of
the mystery has not been unravelled yet, even by the wise men of
science, but still they have learned a good deal. For one thing, they
know that most of the reptiles and the fish-lizards disappeared because
so much of the land where they lived went dry. They had to get a new
boarding-place, and there wasn't any to get! Another thing was that
these big fellows, although they _were_ so big, and got along finely
while everything was just so, had so little brain they couldn't change
their habits to meet new conditions, as our closer and cleverer cousins,
the mammals, did. Why, do you know that one of these monsters, who was
twenty-five feet long if he was an inch, and twelve feet high, had a
brain no bigger than a man's fist? All the monsters of those days were
like that--tons of bone and muscle, but a very small supply of brains.

    [6] That is to say, no descendants worthy of them. It is now thought
    some of the modern reptiles may be degenerate descendants of the big
    reptiles of old.

So when things went against them, they just had to give up, and, like a
queer dream, they faded away. But their history makes one of the most
interesting chapters in the whole wonderful story of the dust.

Of all the live stock that have fed on the great world-farm and helped
enrich it with their bones, these animals were surely the strangest that
ever were seen!


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     "But since these monsters passed away many millions of years ago,
     and all that is usually found is a piece of them here and there,
     how do the men of science know so much about them--how they looked,
     and how they ate, and how they treated one another?"

     That's a good question. It _does_ seem strange. Why, to hear them
     talk, you'd suppose these men, learned in ancient bones, had
     actually _met_ the monsters! And, speaking of meeting them, I must
     tell you a little story. It's a good story and it will answer your
     question.

     Baron Cuvier, one of the most famous of the paleontologists, awoke
     from a deep sleep to see standing by his bed a strange, hairy
     creature with horns and hoofs. And it said:

    "Cuvier! Cuvier! I have come to eat you!" But the baron, taking in
    the form of the monster at a glance, only laughed.

    "Horns and hoofs? You can't. You're a grain-eater!"

    See the point? The baron argued that because the monster had horns
    and hoofs he must be a grain-eater; for all creatures with both
    horns and hoofs are grain-eaters. This particular creature, to be
    sure, was an eater of both meat and grain--being one of Cuvier's
    students who was trying to play a trick on him. But the principle
    holds good. The scientists, _knowing_ one thing, _infer_ another.
    Because animals with both horns and hoofs eat no meat Cuvier knew
    his visitor couldn't eat _him_, even if he'd been real and not just
    made up.

    For another instance, take our queer old friend that Professor
    Blackie wrote the funny rhyme about--the Ichthyosaurus "with a saw
    for a jaw and a big staring eye." The scientists figure, just from
    looking into the hollow socket where the eye used to be, that he
    could see at night like a cat--and right through muddy water, too;
    that he spent most of his time in shallows near the shore; that it
    didn't make any difference to him whether a fish was near or far,
    provided it wasn't too far, of course, for he could see it and catch
    it, just the same. They also said--these learned men, after peering
    into the dark hollow where that remarkable eye used to be--that Mr.
    Ichthyosaurus spent a great deal of time diving and a great deal of
    time with his homely face just above the surface of the water.

    Why they could reason all this from a hollow eye socket and some
    bony, flexible plates around the outer edge of it, you will see by
    referring to such books as "Animals of the Past," by F. A. Lucas,
    director of the American Museum of Natural History; "Creatures of
    Other Days" and "Extinct Monsters," by Hutchinson; "Extinct
    Animals," by Lankester; "Mighty Animals," by Mix; the chapter "When
    the World was Young," in Lang's "Red Book of Animal Stories," and
    "Restoring Prehistoric Monsters" in "Uncle Sam, Wonder Worker," by
    Du Puy.

    Here are some more conclusions they draw from certain facts. See how
    near you can come to reasoning them out for yourself before looking
    them up in the books that tell.

    Why it is supposed the Dinosaurs swam like Crocodiles. (Look at the
    picture of Mr. I., and pay _particular_ attention to his tail.)

    Why it is they say that the sea-lizards with long necks must have
    had small heads.

    Why it is argued that because the Mesosaurus had a hinge in his jaw
    he must have had a big, loose, baggy throat.

    "Keeping Up the Soil," in "The Country Life Reader," deals with the
    subject of the use of fertilizers on the farm--how easy it is to
    waste them, how easy it is to save them, and how important it is
    that they should be saved; while the article on "Acid Soils" tells
    how the lime in the bones of the monsters has helped keep the soil
    from getting "sour stomach," and also how they unlocked the potash
    and phosphorus in the soil so that the plants could get at them.



[Illustration: FERTILE FIELDS THAT RODE ON THE WIND

The winds that now help grow the corn and wheat on these broad fields by
carrying the pollen from one plant to another, also brought the soil on
which they grew. These are the loess plains of Nebraska. There are
42,000 acres of them.]



CHAPTER III

(MARCH)

              ... the busy winds
    That kept no intervals of rest.

    --_Wordsworth._

    Except wind stands as never it stood
    'Tis an ill wind turns none to good.

    --_Tusser._

THE WINDS AND THE WORLD'S WORK


That saying "idle as the winds" must have started in the days when they
didn't know; for if ever there was a busy people, it's the Winds.

Not only do they help plant the trees of the forest, sow the fields with
grass and flowers, and water them with rain, but they make and carry
soil all over the world. And, like everything else in Nature, they have
a sense of beauty and the picturesque. Rock, for example, weathered away
into dust by the help of the winds, as it is, takes on all sorts of
picturesque shapes. And, of course, the winds love music; everybody
knows that. Before we get through with this chapter we're going to end a
happy day outdoors with a grand musical festival in the forest, with
light refreshments--spice-laden winds from the sea. There'll be nobody
there but the trees and the winds and John Muir and us; all nice people.


I. SUCH CLOUDS OF DUST!

March leads the procession of the dusty months because the warming up of
the land, as the sun advances from the south, brings the colder and
heavier winds down from the north. These winds seem to have a wrestling
match with the southern winds and with each other, and among them they
kick up a tremendous dust, because there's so much of it lying around
loose; for the snows have gone, and the rainy season hasn't begun, and
the fields are bare.


ABOUT THE DUST WE GET IN OUR EYES

Most people think these March winds a great nuisance because some of us
dust grains are apt to get into their eyes; but dust in the eye is only
the right thing in the wrong place. Just think of the amount of dust
going about in March that _doesn't_ get into your eye; and how nice and
fine it is, and how mixed with all the magic stuff of different kinds of
soil, thus brought together from everywhere.

An English writer on farming says he thinks the fact that English farms
have done their work so well for so many centuries is due, in no small
degree, to the March winds that have brought us world-travelled dust
grains from other parts of the globe.

And the wind is a good friend to the good farmer, but no friend to the
poor one; for it carries away dust all nicely ground from the fields of
the farmer who doesn't protect his soil and carries it to farmers who
have wood lots and good pastures and winter wheat, and leaves it there;
for woods and pastures and sown fields hold the soil they have, as well
as the fresh, new soil the winds bring to them.

Most of the fine prairie soils in our Western States owe not a little of
their richness to wind-borne dust. In western Missouri, southwestern
Iowa, and southeastern Nebraska are deep deposits of yellowish-brown
soil, the gift of the winds. And, my, what apples it raises! It is in
this soil that many of the best apple orchards of these States are
located. And now, of course, the apple-growers see to it that this soil
stays at home.

But there's another kind of dust that deserves special mention, and
that's the kind of dust that comes from volcanoes. Volcanoes make a very
valuable kind of soil material, often called "volcanic ash." It isn't
ashes, really. It's the very fine dust made by the explosion of the
steam in the rocks thrown out by the volcano. The pores of the rocks,
deep-buried in the earth, are filled with water, and when these rocks
get into a volcanic explosion, this water turns to steam, and the steam
not only blows out through the crater of the volcano, but the rocks
themselves are blown to dust. This dust the winds catch and distribute
far and wide. Sometimes the dust of a volcanic explosion is carried
around the world. In the eruption of Krakatoa, in 1883, its dust was
carried around the earth, not once but many times. The progress of this
dust was recorded by the brilliant sunsets it caused. It is probable
that every place on the earth has dust brought by the wind from every
other place. So you see if you happen to be a grain of dust yourself,
and keep your eyes and ears open, you can learn a lot, as I did, just
from the other little dust people you meet.


THE WINDS AND VOLCANOES

But that isn't all of this business--this partnership--between the
volcanoes and the winds. Did anybody ever tell you how the volcanoes
help the winds to help the plants to get their breath? It's curious. And
more than that, it's so important--this part of the work--that if it
weren't carried on in just the way it is, we'd all of us--all the living
world, plants and animals--soon mingle our dust with that of the early
settlers we read about in the last chapter. In other words, all the
_plant_ world would die for lack of fresh air and all the _animal_ world
would die for lack of fresh vegetables. So they say!

According to that fine system--the breath exchange between the people of
the plant and animal kingdoms--the plants breathe in the carbon gas that
the animals breathe out; you remember about that. But the amount of
carbon gas in the air is never very large, and if there were no other
supply to draw on except the breath of animals and the release of this
same gas when the plants themselves decay, we'd very soon run out.

Now this needed additional supply comes from the volcanoes. Every time a
volcano goes off--and they're always going off somewhere along the
world's great firing-line--it throws out great quantities of this gas,
and this also the winds distribute widely and mix through the
atmosphere.

And another thing: This carbon in the air helps crumble up the rocks
already made, and it enters into the manufacture of the limestone in the
rock mills of the sea. This limestone will make just as rich soil for
the farmers of the future as the limestones of other ages have made for
the famous Blue-Grass region of Kentucky, for example.

All of which only goes to show how first unpleasant impressions about
people and things are often wrong. A "dusty March day," you see, isn't
just a dusty March day. It's quite an affair!


II. THE DUST MILLS OF THE WIND

But wind is not alone a carrier for other dust-makers; it has dust mills
of its own. The greatest of these mills are away off among the mountains
and in desert lands, but after making it in these distant factories the
winds carry much of this fresh new soil material to lands of orchard and
pasture and growing grain.

Not long ago two of the professors at the University of Wisconsin found
a good illustration of what an immense amount of soil is distributed in
this way, and what long distances it travels. Among the weather freaks
of a March day was a fall of colored snow that, it was found, covered
an area of 100,000 square miles, probably more. The color on the snow
was made by dust blown clear from the dry plains of the Southwestern
States, a thousand miles away. The whole of this dust amounted to at
least a million tons; and may even have amounted to hundreds of millions
of tons, so the professors think.

[Illustration: TYPES OF NATURE'S SCREW PROPELLERS

You can see for yourself (from the picture on the left) that long before
man ever thought of driving his ships through the water with screw
propellers or pulling his flying machines through the air by the
whirligigs on the end of their noses, some flying seeds, such as those
of the ash here, had screw propellers of their own. And do you know that
Nature also employs the propeller principle, not only in the operation
of the wings of birds but in the wing feathers themselves? The two
pictures on the right show the action of the wing and the wing feathers
when a bird is in flight.]


LITTLE MILLSTONES IN BIG BUSINESS

For grinding rocks to get out ore, or for making cement in cement mills,
men use big machines, somewhat on the style of a coffee-mill. These
machines are called "crushers." The winds, in their enormous business of
soil-grinding, however, stick to the idea you see so much in Nature,
that of using _little_ things to do _big_ tasks; as in digging canyons
and river beds, and spreading out vast alluvial plains by using
raindrops made up into rivers; in working the wonders of the Ice Ages
with snowflakes; and building the bones and bodies of those big early
settlers, and of all animal life, and the giant trees of the forest out
of little cells. For, what do you suppose the winds take for millstones
in grinding down the mountains into dust? Little grains of sand!

And with the help of the sun and Jack Frost it makes these fairy
millstones for itself. The outside of a big rock grows bigger under the
warm sun, in the daytime, and then when the sun goes down and the rock
cools off it shrinks, and this spreading and shrinking movement keeps
cracking up and chipping off pieces of rock of various sizes. Up on the
mountain tops, among the peaks, the change of temperature between night
and day is very great, and even in midsummer you can always hear a
rattling of stones at sunrise. The heat of the rising sun warms and
expands the rock, and so loosens the pieces that Jack Frost has pried
off with his ice wedges during the night.

Then also during periods of alternate freezing and thawing in Spring and
Fall, the rock is slivered up. These changes in the weather as between
one day and another are due to the winds. In January and February, for
example, thaws and freezes are common. When the winds blow from the
south, the snow melts, water runs into cracks in the rock and fills
their pores; then a shift of the winds to the north, a freeze, and the
water in the crevices and the pores turns to ice, expands, and breaks
off more rock.

And what muscles Jack has! Freezing water exerts a pressure of 138 tons
to the square foot; so there's no holding out against him once he gets
his ice wedges in a good crack. He sends huge blocks tumbling down the
mountainside. The larger blocks, striking against one another, break off
smaller fragments. The smallest fragments the wind seizes. Others are
washed down by the rains. The largest, carried away by mountain
torrents, bump together as they thunder along, and so break off more
fragments and grind them so small that the wind can pick them up along
the banks when the torrents shrink, or in their beds when these sudden
streams go dry.


RUNNING WATER AND THE WINDS

In changing rock into soil, running water and the winds each have an
advantage over the other. Water weighs a great deal more than air--over
800 times as much--and so grinds faster with its tools of pebbles and
sand. The winds, on the other hand, get over a great deal more
territory, and they, like the lichens, understand chemistry. Two of the
gases they always carry right with them--carbon dioxide and oxygen--help
decay the rocks.

As I said, the winds do most work in dry and desert regions, but when
you remember that over a fifth of the globe is just that--dry as a bone
most of the time--you see this is a great field. It has been so from the
beginning, for it is thought probable that there was always about the
same proportion of desert lands. Night and day the winds have been busy
through all these ages. Dust is carried up by ascending air currents.
Then the same force that keeps the earth in its orbit--gravity--pulls
down on a grain of dust. But its fall is checked by the friction of the
air. You see there's a lot of mechanics involved in moving a grain of
dust; and Nature goes about it as if it were the most serious business
in the world; handles every grain as if the future of the universe
depended on it. In the case of sand or coarse dust, unless the winds are
very strong, gravity soon gets the best of it, and down the dust grain
comes to the ground again; then up with another current, then down
again--carried far by stiff breezes, only a short distance by puffs--a
kind of hop, skip, and jump. But fine dust getting a good lift into the
upper currents at the start may stay in the air for weeks.

[Illustration: _Courtesy of The Dunham Company._

TO KEEP MOISTURE AND SOIL AT HOME

In the broad fields of the West, where "dry-farming" is practised, they
have these huge machines. They are called "Cultipackers." They are
cultivators with big, broad-brimmed wheels that pack the surface of the
soil after the blades of the cultivator have stirred it. This not only
prevents the moisture in the soil from evaporating as fast as it would
otherwise do, but keeps the winds from carrying away the soil itself.]

In very wild wind-storms it has been figured out that there may be as
much as 126,000 tons of dust per cubic mile; several good farms in the
air at once, over every square mile of the earth below!


III. THE STORM PLOUGHS OF THE WIND


TWO KINDS OF WOODEN PLOUGHS

They use wooden ploughs, these winds, just as primitive man did, and as
primitive peoples do now; but not quite in the same way, and the
ploughing they do is much better. For man's wooden plough is a crooked
stick made from the branches of a tree while the winds use the whole
tree--roots and all, and both on mountainsides and on level lands the
amount of ploughing they do is immense.

Almost all forests are liable to occasional hurricanes which lay the
trees over thousands of acres in one immense swath. A large number of
these trees, owing to their strong trunks, do not break off but uproot,
lifting great sheets of earth. Soon, by the action of its own weight and
the elements, this soil falls back. The depth to which this natural
ploughing is done depends, of course, on the character of the tree, but
as it is the older and larger trees that are most likely to be
overturned, since they spread more surface to the wind, the ploughing is
much deeper than men do with ordinary ploughs.

The result is that new unused soil is constantly being brought to the
surface; and not only this, but air is introduced into the soil far
below the point reached by ordinary ploughing. The soil needs air just
as we do; for the air hurries the decay of the soil and its preparation
for the uses of the plant. The immediate purpose of ploughing is to
loosen the soil so that the roots of the plants can get their food and
air more easily. It also helps to keep the fields fertile by exposing
the lower soil to more rapid decay.

But here's the trouble: While the ordinary plough introduces air into
the soil for a few inches from the surface, the subsoil, which is very
important to the prosperity of the plant, is practically left out of it,
so far as getting needed fresh air is concerned. The long roots of the
trees that, among other things opened for it channels to the air, are
gone. The burrowing animals that used to loosen up the earth, man has
driven away. More than that, the foot of the plough which has to press
heavily on the subsoil in order to turn the furrow, smears and compacts
the earth into a hard layer, which shuts out the air, and also--to a
certain extent--the water from the lower levels.

[Illustration: HOW THE SOIL GETS ITS BREATH

Plants must have air to breathe, both above and below the soil, and the
microscope is showing us here how a sandy loam allows the air to reach
the roots.]

In mountain regions these "storm ploughs," as we may call them, not only
help to renew and prepare the soil in the valleys, but are a part of the
machinery of delivery of new soil from mountain to valley. When trees on
the mountainside are overturned, they not only bring up the soil, which
the mountain rains quickly carry to the valleys, but the roots having
penetrated--as they always do--into the crevices of the rocks, bring up
stones already partly decayed by the acids of the roots. These stones,
as the roots die, decay and so release their hold, and also go tumbling
down toward the valley.

Consider how much of this storm-ploughing must be done in the forests of
the world in a single year, and that this has been going on ever since
trees grew big on the face of the earth. In a storm in the woods of
California, Muir heard trees falling at the rate of one every two or
three minutes. And, as I said, it is precisely the trees that can do the
most ploughing--the older and larger trees--that are most apt to go down
before the wind. Younger trees will bend while older and stiffer trees
hold on to the last. Before a mountain gale, pines, six feet in
diameter, will bend like grass. But when the roots, long and strong as
they are, can no longer resist the prying of the mighty lever--the trunk
with its limbs and branches--swaying in the winds, down go the old
giants with crashes that shake the hills. After a violent gale the
ground is covered thick with fallen trunks[7] that lie crossed like
storm-lodged wheat.

    [7] Muir: "Mountains of California."

There are two trees, however, Muir says, that are never blown down so
long as they continue in good health. These are the juniper and dwarf
pine of the summit peaks.

     "Their stout, crooked roots grip the storm-beaten ledges like
     eagle's claws, while their lithe, cord-like branches bend round
     completely, offering but slight holds for winds, however violent."


AT THE STORM FESTIVAL WITH MR. MUIR

Trees were among Muir's best friends, and he spent a large part of his
life chumming with them. What do you think that man did once? He was
always doing such things. He climbed a tree in a terrific gale so that
he could see right into the heart of the storm and watch everything that
was going on. Just hear him tell about it:

     "After cautiously casting about I made choice of the tallest of a
     group of Douglas spruces that were growing close together like a
     tuft of grass, no one of which seemed likely to fall unless the
     rest fell with it. Being accustomed to climb trees in making
     botanical studies, I experienced no difficulty in reaching the top
     of this one, and never before did I enjoy so noble an exhilaration
     of motion."

And such odors! These winds had come all the way from the sea, over beds
of flowers in the mountain meadows of the Sierras; then across the
plains and up the foot-hills and into the piny woods "with all the
varied incense gathered by the way."

[Illustration: THREE KINDS OF SEED THAT THE WIND SHAKES FREE

Here are three kinds of seed adapted for dispersal by the shaking action
of the wind.]

Though comparatively young, these trees--the one Mr. Muir climbed into
and its neighbors--were about 100 feet high, and "their lithe, brushy
tops were rocking and swirling in wild ecstasy." In its greatest sweeps
the top of Muir's tree described an arc of from twenty to thirty
degrees, but he felt sure it wouldn't break, and so he proceeded to take
in the great storm show.

     "Now my eye roved over the piny hills and dales as over fields of
     waving grain, and felt the light running in ripples across the
     valleys from ridge to ridge, as the shining foliage was stirred by
     the waves of air. Oftentimes these waves of reflected light would
     break up suddenly into a kind of beaten foam and finally disappear
     on some hillside, like sea waves on a shelving shore."

This was his impression of the forest as a whole, a dark green sea of
tossing waves. But if we study trees as long and lovingly as Muir did,
we can pick out the different members of the family a mile away--even
several miles away--by their gestures, their style of grave and graceful
dancing in the wind.

[Illustration: TYPES OF FLYING MACHINE

Here is the type of flying machine that carries men. On the opposite
page is the kind that carries the dandelion seeds.]

[Illustration: THE DANDELION-SEED FLYING MACHINE

The dandelion on the left shows how the seeds are kept in the "hangar"
at night and on rainy days, shut up tight to prevent them from getting
wet with rain or dew and so made unfit for flying.]

Muir especially mentions the sugar-pines as interpreting that storm to
him. They seemed to be roused by the wildest bursts of the wind music to
a "passionate exhilaration," as if saying "_Oh_, what a glorious day
this is!"

This was the picture part of it--the glorious moving-picture show. Now
listen to some of the music:

     "The sounds of the storm corresponded gloriously with the wild
     exuberance of light and motion. The profound bass of the naked
     branches and boles booming like waterfalls, the quick, tense
     vibrations of the pine-needles, now rising to a shrill, whistling
     hiss, now falling to a silky murmur. The rustling of laurel groves
     in the dells, and the keen metallic click of leaf on leaf--all this
     was heard in easy analysis when the attention was calmly bent.

     "Even when the grand anthem had swelled to its highest pitch I
     could distinctly hear the varying tones of individual
     trees--spruce, fir, pine, and oak--and even the infinitely gentle
     rustle of the withered grasses at my feet."

When the winds began to fall and the sky to clear, Muir climbed down and
made his way back home.

     "The storm tones died away, and turning toward the east I beheld
     the countless hosts of the forests hushed and tranquil, towering
     above one another on the slopes of the hills like a devout
     audience. The setting sun filled them with amber light, and seemed
     to say while they listened:

     "'My peace I give unto you.'"


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     Did you know that the ash and maple seeds actually have screw
     propellers, like a ship, so that they can ride on the wind?
     Pettigrew's great work, "Design in Nature," makes this very plain,
     both in word and picture.

     In what way does the wind help to _produce_ the seed of grasses as
     well as carry and plant them? (Any encyclopædia or botany will tell
     you how plants are fertilized.)

     How could a tempest that blew down a tree help its seeds to get a
     start? Wallace, in his "World of Life," says that on a full-grown
     oak or beech there may be 100,000 seeds that are thus given a
     better chance of life.

     Speaking of "wind ploughs," what is the object of ploughing anyway?
     The article on preparing the seed bed in "The Country Life Reader"
     tells about what ploughing means to the soil and also:

     Why good soil takes up more room than poor.

     Why it is a good thing to plough deep, but a bad thing, if you
     don't do it just right.

     And farther on there is a most inspiring poem about the history of
     the plough from the days of early Egypt to the present. It begins
     like this:

     "From Egypt behind my oxen,
         With their stately step and slow,
     Northward and east and west I went,
         To the desert and the snow;
     Down through the centuries, one by one,
         Turning the clod to the shower,
     Till there's never a land beneath the sun
         But has blossomed behind my power."

     The deserts have helped to make western China fertile. How did they
     do it? (Look at your geography map and remember that the prevailing
     winds of the world are westerly.)

     You'll find many interesting things about the winds and the soil in
     Keffer's "Nature Studies on the Farm" and Shaler's "Outlines of
     Earth's History." Shaler's "Man and the Earth" says a single gale
     may blow away more soil from an unprotected field than could be
     made in a geological age, and an hour's rain may carry off more
     than would pass away in a thousand years if the land were in its
     natural state. He also tells what to do to prevent the best part of
     ploughed fields from being carried off by the wind.

     Have you any idea how far seed may be carried by a hurricane?
     Wallace, in his "Darwinism" deals with this question, and it's very
     important in the story of the earth. Beal's admirably written and
     illustrated little book on "Seed Dispersal" tells a world of
     interesting things about the wind as a sower. For instance:

     How pigweed seeds are built so that wind can help them toboggan on
     snow or float on water;

     How wind and water work together in the distribution of seeds;

     About seeds that ride in an ice-boat;

     About the monoplane of the basswood;

     About the "flail" of the buttonwood, and how the wind helps it to
     whip out the seeds; and how the seeds then open their parachutes.

     Dandelions go through quite a remarkable process in preparing for
     flight. I wonder if you have ever noticed it. Before the seeds get
     ripe Mother Dandelion blankets them at night and puts a rain-cloak
     on them on rainy days, and just won't let them get out, as shown on
     page 51. And do you know how she opens the flowers for the bees on
     sunshiny days?

     There is no island, no matter how remote, that isn't supplied with
     insects. How do you suppose they get there? You may be sure the
     wind has something to do with it or I wouldn't mention the subject
     at the end of this chapter. (Wallace: "Darwinism.")



[Illustration: THE WEST WINDS AND THE RAINS

On the western slopes of this mountain the trees, with the help of the
winds and the rain, climb to the very summit, while the other side of
the mountain remains only a barren rock. The moisture-laden winds from
the west glide up the slope, the air expands as it rises, the expansion
cools it and down comes the rain! But the eastern slope gets little or
none of it.]



CHAPTER IV

(APRIL)

          The higher Nilus swells
    The more it promises; as it ebbs, the seedsman
    Upon the slime and ooze scatters his grain,
    And shortly comes the harvest.

    --_Shakespere: "Antony and Cleopatra."_

THE BOTTOM-LANDS


All that wind was bound to blow up rain. I said so at the time. And,
sure enough, here it is; right where we want it, at the beginning of
April, a month famous for its rains.

The work of the rains is going to make one of the most interesting
chapters in the long story of the dust. At least I hope so. But don't
think I intend to tell it all. Why, it would make a whole book in
itself. But you can believe every single thing I do tell, no matter how
it makes you open your eyes; for, if I've helped it rain once I've
helped it rain a million times!


I. THE MARCH DUST AND THE APRIL RAINS


HOW RAIN GOES UP BEFORE IT COMES DOWN

It's this way: You remember how you can "see your breath," as we say, on
a cold morning? Well, that's because the moisture in your breath is
condensed by the cold. Now as the waters of the earth--the seas, lakes,
rivers, ponds, and so on--are warmed by the sun, the air above them is
filled with moisture, for the heating of the air causes it to expand and
draw in moisture from the water like a sponge. Expansion makes it
lighter also, and it rises. Rising, it turns cooler, and the moisture
condenses and comes down as rain. Mountains usually have clouds around
them because moist air striking the mountainside is driven up the slope,
cooling as it rises. So rain and snow fall often in mountain regions,
and that's why so many rivers rise in mountains. The moist air is also
condensed when it meets other and cooler air currents. But right here is
where the work of the dust comes in. For to make rain you've got to have
clouds, and clouds are due to this moisture collecting around the little
particles of dust of which the air is full. When these little motes of
matter become cooler than the air that touches them the moisture in the
air condenses into a film of water around them. Fairy worlds with fairy
oceans floating in the sky!

Each of these baby worlds is falling toward the big world below. But
very slowly; only a few feet a day, so that even if nothing happened it
might be months--yes, years--before it would come to the ground, even in
still air. But when air is very thick with moisture the water films on
these dust particles grow rapidly, and thus increasing in weight, they
fall faster and faster, and finally strike the earth as raindrops.

But here's another thing that helps. On the way down two or more
raindrops, falling in with each other, will go into partnership--melt
into one--and then they hurry down so much the faster. That's why the
sky grows darker and darker just before a rain, and why the lower part
of a rain-cloud is the darkest: the little raindrops are forming into
bigger raindrops as they fall.


THE LITTLE ARTISTS THAT SHAPE THE CLOUDS

But the shapes of clouds are supposed to be due to another thing, the
mysterious force we call electricity, and that other mysterious force we
call gravity. Just as the worlds attract each other by gravity so these
raindrops--or dust grains growing into raindrops--are drawn toward one
another. Here's where Electricity steps in. These rain particles are
full of electricity and when two of these electrified particles meet in
the air--unless they strike one another in falling, in which case, as I
said a moment ago, they blend into one--they get very close together and
yet keep dancing around one another without touching! It is this dancing
about that makes all those strange and beautiful and ever-changing
forms in the vast picture-gallery of the sky.

Of course the wind currents help to change these shapes, but I'm talking
about the original designs.


II. THE RAINDROPS AND THE RIVER MILLS

So much for the dust that helps make raindrops; now for the raindrops
that help make dust. This the raindrops do in several ways. Falling on
big rocks or decaying pebbles, for example, they pound loose with their
patter, patter, patter, any little bits of soil and grains of sand that
have been made by the other soil makers--the sun, the wind, the lichens,
the chemists of the air, and so on. This soil and these sand particles,
if there is already any depth of earth there, they carry down into the
ground. Some of this soil, with various stops and mixings with other
soils on the way, finally reaches the sea, where it helps to make the
rich limestone soils for the Kentuckies of millenniums yet to be, by
supplying food for sea creatures and lime for their shells. For these
shells become limestone when the shell-fish are through with them.
Mother Nature, in addition to feeding her big, hungry families of to-day
in the plant and animal world, is always laying by something for the
future. But before it gets back to the sea, by far the greatest part of
the ground-up soil the rivers carry is spread out in the lowlands in
those "alluvial plains" your geography tells about and that make a large
proportion of the fertile farms of the world. If the raindrops fall on
comparatively barren rock--in the mountains, say--they carry some of
this fresh soil to the mountain valleys below, and some of it they may
spread in bottom-lands a thousand miles away, where the new soil helps
feed the plants. The sand grains in it not only help the soil to get its
breath by making little air spaces, but these sand grains themselves
slowly decay and so make more soil.

[Illustration: WHAT IRRIGATION DOES FOR DESERTS

It is such land as this, in the arid regions of the West, that
irrigation converts from a desert to a garden of abundance. The soil is
rich in all the substances that plant life needs.]

But it isn't alone that they carry away the soil already made and bury
the sand grains. Some of the raindrops soak into cracks in stones and
dissolve the material that binds the rock particles together, and so get
them ready to give way under the fairy hammers of the next shower that
comes along.

After Nature finally gets an original waste of barren rock all nicely
set with grass and flowers and trees and things, the raindrops help to
make soil in still another way. Soaking through the decaying leaves,
they pick up acids which are just the thing for eating into rock and
crumbling it into soil. To be sure, the water soaking into the soil and
coming out of springs carries some plant food away with it; but it takes
it to lands farther down the river valleys, and more than makes up for
what it carries away by the new soil made by its acids from the rocks,
as it soaks into their pores and runs among the cracks.


HOW RAINDROPS MANAGE TO GRIND UP THE ROCKS

Moreover, raindrops actually grind up rocks. In order to do this a lot
of raindrops have to get together, to be sure, and become rivers; but
after all it's the raindrops that do it. There'd never be any rivers if
it weren't for the rains and, of course, the snows.

Well, anyhow, the rivers, besides running other people's mills, have
mills of their own; and millstones. Most of these stones originally came
from mountains and were brought into the milling business by mountain
streams, with the help of Jack Frost. For the frost not only pries
stones from the mountains and so sends them tumbling down the slopes,
but it keeps edging them along and edging them along, farther down,
after they have fallen. You'd hardly think that, would you? Yet it's
simple enough. The water in the pores of the rock expands when it
freezes and that makes the whole rock expand, for the time being. Then
when the frozen water in the rock pores thaws out, the rock contracts,
and this spreading out and pulling together, small as it is, causes the
rock to keep hitching along down the incline; oh, say a fraction of an
inch a year. But still, in the course of the ages, these inches foot up,
and after a while this tortoise-like gait lands the stone--lands tens of
thousands of such stones--in the beds of the mountain torrents that run
along at the bottom of these inclines. There they get ground together
and so grind out more soil material, particularly when the floods are
on, with the melting of the snows in spring and the falling of the heavy
and frequent rains.

[Illustration: AN OLD RIVER MILL

It used to do a lot of business--this old river mill. Its grist was
ground-up rock that helped make fine farming land in the bottoms along
the river's course. Such mills, called "pot holes," are found in the
rocky floors of rapid streams, where the eddying current or the water of
a waterfall wears depressions in the bed. Into these depressions stones
are washed, and then by the whirl of the flowing water kept going round
and round, grinding themselves away and grinding out the sides and
bottom of the mill.]

Another curious thing is how the river mills help themselves to new
millstones when they need them. If a river hasn't enough for its work,
it has a way of drawing on its banks for more. Whenever the stones in
its bed get scarce, so that it can make comparatively little new
soil--having so few stones to grind together--it proceeds to dig its own
bed deeper, since this bed is no longer protected by a rock pavement in
the bottom. This, of course, deepens its channel, and so adds to the
steepness of the slope of its banks. Then, owing to this increase in the
incline of the slope, more rocks tumble in, and the "milling business"
picks up again.


THE GOVERNOR IN THE RIVER MILL

But there may be too much of a good thing; the rocks may come in faster
than the river mill can take care of them. Then the river bottom becomes
so completely paved over that the channel stops wearing down at all, to
speak of, and the river remains at the same level until the rains and
the wind and other workers have worn the banks down and lessened the
incline. Then, with fewer and fewer fresh stones tumbling in, the river
gets a chance to catch up with its work.

It is this ground-up rock stuff of the mountain river mills, made by the
grinding of the running streams all the way down, that has helped form
the rich bottom-lands of the Mississippi Valley. For uncounted ages, the
water of the Mississippi and its tributaries have been at work, and by
the time you get down into southern Louisiana you come to the delta
where this rich soil has been piled up for more than 1,000 feet above
the bottom of the old Mediterranean Sea, that used to reach north and
south across the country.

You remember the lines, don't you:

    "Little drops of water, little grains of sand
    Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land."

Well, this is how they do it; all this that I've been telling you.

[Illustration: _Courtesy of the Scientific American._

THOUSANDS OF FARMS POURED INTO THE GULF

The Father of Waters is a good farmer in some respects but needs
training in others. The Mississippi's floods, like those of Father Nile,
enrich the bottom lands, but the river is apt to break all bounds and do
a lot of damage. Moreover, every year it carries away thousands of acres
of good soil and pours it into the Gulf. How to teach the Mississippi to
work in harness, as the Nile has been taught to do in recent years, is
one of the problems which will require all of Uncle Sam's ingenuity and
skill to solve. A good deal of the yearly waste could be prevented,
however, by the various means employed by good farmers.]


III. HOW THE RIVERS ACT AS BANKERS FOR THE FARMERS AND THE SEA

We speak of river banks and the kind of banks that handle those
promissory notes our arithmetics tell about as if they were entirely
different; and so they are, I suppose, if one just looks at the surface
of the thing. But if we dig into the subject a little we shall see that
they are much alike in the fact that one of the principal businesses of
both kinds of banks is to make loans at interest. Men's banks loan
money, to be sure, while the river banks loan pebbles, but if it were
not for these pebble loans there would be a mighty sight less money for
the banks to loan, or the farmer to borrow; and the way both banks do
business ought to be a good lesson to certain farmers I know, who seem
to think they can always be cashing checks on their banks--the farm
lands--by hauling away the crops without ever putting anything back.

[Illustration: WHERE THE RIVERS ACT AS BANKERS

Here is a fine piece of bottom land, one of those "banks" where the
rivers keep "checking accounts" for the farmers and the sea; using
pebbles for currency, as explained in this chapter.]


HOW THE RIVERS PLACE PEBBLES ON DEPOSIT

The rivers make loans to the soil by depositing pebbles in the broad
bottom-lands along their banks, and then draw interest by carrying along
to other lands, from time to time, some of the fine rich soil these
pebbles help make by their decay. And the river does this in regular
banking style, "checking out" the pebbles from time to time, and then
depositing other pebbles in their places. Take the banks and
bottom-lands of the Mississippi River, for example. It has been
estimated that it requires about 40,000 years for a pebble to make the
journey to the Gulf from the mountains of a tributary stream where it
was first broken from the rock as a sharp fragment.

The first part of the journey in the mountains is over steep down
grades, and so is comparatively fast, but as the river gets farther from
the mountains, the slope of its bed becomes less and less, the onward
movement is slower and slower, and more of the pebbles stop to rest. In
times of flood they are carried far away from the regular channel and
spread over the wide flood-plain of the river. Then, as the flood goes
down, they are left buried there under a coating of mud. So buried, they
decay and enrich the soil. Then the next flood that comes along sweeps
the pebbles with it--checks them out of the bank--but at the same time
carries away not only some of the soil richness which these pebbles
helped to make but the soil material made by the decay of the vegetation
these pebbles thus helped to grow, such as the roots and blades of wheat
and corn and stubble and chaff left in the fields. That's the interest
on the loan. Then, when the flood subsides, the pebbles are again
deposited farther along in the river's course, but meanwhile the same
flood has brought fresh deposits of pebbles from up-stream, and these
are left in place of those taken away.


RIVER BANKING AND HUMAN CIVILIZATION

This banking business has been going on for ages and is a very important
part of the history of civilization. Here and there along the sides of
the older and larger river valleys are found the remains of ancient
plains. These plains are now, many of them, quite a distance above the
level of the stream. This means that they were at one time the
bottom-lands of that same stream, but the stream, as it dug deeper and
deeper into its bed, grew narrower, and so abandoned its old
flood-plains. As savage man gradually settled down and took to farming,
he found these bottom-lands, with their rich, mellow soil, just the
thing for his crooked-sticks and stone hoes--the only kinds of ploughs
and hoes there were in those days. With such crude farming tools he
couldn't have managed to scratch a living on any other kind of soil.
When the river floods came along, all these crooked-stick farmers had to
do was to keep out of the way until the floods went down, and there were
their fields all fertilized for them, as good as new, and they could go
on for thousands of years working the same fields without ever bothering
their heads as to whether they needed any lime or potash or nitrogen, or
anything; for they didn't. The river floods attended to all that.

[Illustration: FATHER NILE AND THE MAKING OF EGYPT

"Egypt," said Herodotus, "is the gift of the Nile"; and it is true so
far as her fertile lands are concerned. The ancients attributed the
annual floods to the god of the Nile, as shown in that statue of Father
Nile in the Vatican. Below is a threshing scene in Egypt painted by
Gerome. The last picture, from a carving in the tomb of an Egyptian
noble, shows how they ploughed and sowed in the Pyramid age.]

So, in course of time, civilizations such as those of Egypt and India
and Persia grew up, and in further course of time these civilizations
spread into Europe, and finally to the New World.


HOW RIVER BANKS GO BANKRUPT

Now all this is very well, this leaving it to Nature to fertilize the
fields, where everything is just right for it, as it is along the Nile,
but in most lands it won't do it all. The trouble is that, in raising
the grain foods, the ground must be kept free of grass and weeds, and
well ploughed during the rainy season. But the same rains that water the
fields wash more or less good soil into the streams; much more than
Nature alone can put back. For instance, down in Italy where, if the old
forests were still there, the rains wouldn't wash away more than a foot
of soil in 5,000 years, this soil is being carried into the Po, and by
the Po emptied into the sea so fast--a foot in less than 1,000
years--that if you visit Italy to-day, say, and then go back in ten
years, you'll see bare rocks on many a hillside that is now clothed in
green. On such rocks the soil is already thin, and in ten years more it
is all gone; all washed away! This thing is going on all around the
shores of the Mediterranean. You are constantly coming on sections of
country that used to be covered with great forests and prosperous
farming communities where the soil has vanished, and many stretches of
barren, rocky land where hardly a weed can find a foothold.

[Illustration: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE LAND WHEN THE TREES ARE GONE

Could anything be more desolate? You can see from this example how vital
to our national life is the forest conservation work of our government.
Trees, by the network of their roots, keep the soil from washing away,
retain moisture by their shade, and absorb the water of the rains and
the melting snows so that it reaches the rivers and the creeks
gradually. But when the trees are gone the water, unchecked, rushes down
the slopes in floods, washing away the precious soil and leaving them as
barren as a desert.]

"But, what are you going to do about it?" you say. "You can't change the
slope of the hills, can you? And the farmer has _got_ to plough his
land--you just said so yourself."

Yes, he's got to plough his land, to be sure; but so has he got to have
pasture for his live stock. If he hasn't any live stock, that just shows
what kind of a farmer he is. Every farmer ought to have live stock. Corn
always brings a great deal more when it goes to market "on four feet,"
as the saying is; and, besides, the live stock give back to the fields,
in the shape of manure, a large part of what they eat. Now, if you have
live stock you must have pasture, and all land with a slope of more than
one foot in thirty should be used partly for pasture and partly to grow
wood for the kitchen stove, and hickory-nuts and walnuts for winter
firesides. Although the land slopes, the mat made by the grass roots
will keep it from washing away.

"But suppose you lived where there wasn't any land to speak of that
didn't tip up; in New England, say--what would you do then?"

Leave the upper part of the slopes in the woods. Then the water that
carries off the soil will not run entirely away, as it does in ploughed
fields, but will creep down slowly, and, charged with the decay of the
woods, help fertilize the lower lands and change the rocks beneath them
into soil--the acids from the decaying vegetable matter eating into
them.

"But still," you say, "there are farm lands that must be ploughed even
if they do wash away; they're all the land a man has, sometimes. What
then?"

Plough deep. Then the soil soaks up more of the rain and lets the water
pass away in clear springs. This not only saves soil but, as we have
just said, helps to decompose the subsoil and the bed rock.

Then there's another thing that good farmers do in such cases. They
plough ditches along the hillside leading by a gentle slope to the
natural watercourses; so the water of the rains, instead of going down
the hills with a rush, and going faster the farther it runs--like a boy
on a toboggan--is caught and checked in these sloping ditches, and much
of the soil it contains deposited before it reaches the streams.

[Illustration: HOW THE FRENCH PROTECT THEIR HILLSIDE FARMS

This is how the French peasant keeps the mountain torrents from carrying
off his precious soil.]

The best way of all, of course, is to build terraces, as they do in the
thickly settled parts of Europe. But this is only profitable for the
more valuable crops and not for ordinary grains.


SUCH SPENDTHRIFTS OF GOD'S GOOD SOIL!

My, but it's a shame the way we've wasted soil in this country. What
spendthrifts! To start with--when the country was first settled--there
seemed no end to the fine land, and every one could have a good farm for
the asking. All he had to do was to make his wants known to Uncle Sam
and then go out and help himself. What happened then? Why, what always
happens? Easy come, easy go. These pioneer farmers worked their farms
for all there was in them; didn't bother, many of them, even to haul the
barn manure into the fields. Then when the old farm was exhausted they
moved off to new lands and did the same thing over again.

[Illustration: A HOME IN THE DESERT

Doesn't look much like a home in the desert, does it? But it is--a
lovely home in what the old geographies called "The Great American
Desert." In the Sahara oases are few and far between, but modern
irrigation engineering makes oases to order--thousands and thousands of
acres of them!]

They ploughed on steep hillsides; they allowed gulches to form, as they
will quickly do on sloping ploughed land, if you don't watch out; they
cut away the timber. It's easy in a hill country like the eastern part
of the United States to have all the good top-soil washed away in
twenty years after the forests have been destroyed; the good soil that
it probably took 2,000 years to make.

Doctor Shaler[8] estimated that in the States south of the Ohio and the
James Rivers more than 8,000 square miles of originally fertile land
had, by this shiftless and thoughtless way of doing things, been put
into such a state that it wouldn't grow anything; and over 1,500 square
miles of this, actually worn down to the subsoil, and even to the bed
rock, so that it may never be profitable to farm again--at least not in
our time--no matter what they do!

    [8] "Outlines of Earth's History."

I knew a farmer with a small son to whom he intended to leave the farm
when he grew up, who did things like that for twenty years. By the time
the little boy was old enough to vote, there was no farm to leave; all
the good part of it was gone.

Serious thing for that little boy, wasn't it?


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     What have burrowing animals to do with the drainage system of the
     land? (Keffer's "Nature Studies on the Farm.")

     How do angleworms help drain the soil?

     How do the forests help make good use of the rain that falls, not
     only for themselves but for the rest of us?

     How do the rains help to warm the ground in the spring? The heat
     they carry into the soil is produced in two ways. The book
     mentioned above tells of one of these ways, and Russell's little
     book, "The Story of the Soil," tells of another.

     Beale's "Seed Dispersal" tells how the raindrops (working together,
     of course) help plant maple, elm, sycamore, willow, and other trees
     that grow by the waterside, to scatter their seeds.

     You'd be surprised what a series of adventures the seeds of a
     bladderwort have before they get planted on some new shore, after
     having left the parent shrub. First, they float down-stream, as you
     know, but when autumn comes on, what do you suppose they do? They
     go to bed. Where? Right in the bottom of the stream. Then how do
     they ever get up and get planted on the shore? Well, you just look
     it up in that Beale book and see.

     Do you know how the rains help to get the mineral food up into the
     plant?

     And why swamps are such poor producers?

     And how the sun acts as a pump for the plant world?

     You will find answers to all these questions in Shaler's "Outlines
     of Earth's History" and in your books on botany and agriculture.

     Russell's book on the soil tells how the ancient Gauls and Britons
     used to fertilize their land with marl, and how the tides help to
     fertilize England. It's just the reverse of the way Father Nile
     looks after Egypt, as you will see.

     If you want to read an interesting description of the difficulties
     of farming on wet lands, you will find it in this meaty little
     book.

     If you don't know how serious a thing it is to let gullies form in
     land, look it up in Shaler's "Man and the Earth" and you will see.

     How do you suppose deserts that get so little rain themselves could
     _help make it rain_ in other places? For example, the desert of
     Thibet is the chief cause of the monsoon rains that do so much for
     India. That part of your geography that explains the circulation of
     the air will help you figure this out; particularly with a map
     under your eye that shows the relative location of the desert and
     the Indian Ocean, over which the monsoon winds blow.



[Illustration: AN EXAMPLE OF MAN'S DEBT TO THE EARTHWORM

Much of the earth's Maytime bloom and beauty is due to the labor of our
humble little brother of the dust, the earthworm; a striking fact which
was never recognized until the great Charles Darwin looked into the
matter and wrote a book about him. This picture by Millet is called
"Springtime" and hangs in the Louvre, in Paris.]



CHAPTER V

(MAY)

     It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have
     played so important a part in the history of the world as these
     lowly organized creatures.

     --_Darwin: "The Formation of Vegetable Mould."_

WHAT THE EARTH OWES TO THE EARTHWORM


Suppose father had a hired hand who would plough his fields, fertilize
them at his own expense, build his own house, board himself, and for all
this ask only the privilege of living on the place, studying Botany,
Geology, and Geometry, and enjoying the scenery.

"Where can I get a man like that?" I imagine father saying.

"You've got him now," you might reply. "He's already working for
you--thousands of him, and has been working for you--millions of
him--for thousands and millions of years."

We have all known him well from boyhood by several names--angleworm,
fishworm, earthworm. He also, as you will find in the dictionary, has a
nice long Latin title. And it is particularly fitting that his name
should be so associated with antiquity, since he belongs to one of the
oldest families in the world; a family far older than the Roman Empire
itself, which his people long ago helped grind back into the dust from
which it came.

And, speaking of Romans, every few years Mr. Earthworm does what Julius
Cæsar did, captures the whole of England--all the best parts of it--and
then, unlike Cæsar, gives it back to the English, made over again,
better than it was before, as you will see.


I. THE CITIES OF WORMS

If you happen to be a high school boy you, of course, know about a
certain city of Worms and what great things took place there once upon a
time, but there are many cities of worms on any good farm, and each has
more inhabitants than the famous city of Worms of history--something
like 25,000 to the acre; and, in garden soil, 50,000!

[Illustration: ANOTHER "CATHEDRAL OF WORMS"

In the story of the Reformation in your history you will read of a
certain Cathedral of Worms and what took place there once upon a time.
Here is a "cathedral of worms" as interesting to the student of nature
as that famous edifice is to the historian and the architect. It is the
tower-like casting of a big earthworm and was found in the Botanic
Garden at Calcutta. The picture is "life-size."]

Did you ever notice how big boulders in a field are frequently sunk into
the ground as if dropped from a great height? It is the earthworms that
help sink them in the course of their soil-making. They like the moist
shelter of the stones and burrow under them. Finally the weight of the
stones crushes the burrows, and so the stones sink down.


PIONEER LIFE AMONG THE EARTHWORMS

Poor soil, as every boy knows, is a poor place to look for fishworms.
But you have noticed that the mounds the worm throws up on such soil are
larger than those on rich soil. The reason is that the soil, being less
nutritious, the worm must eat more of it and, in so doing, pulverizes
and fertilizes it. But a menu of earth alone not being to the
earthworm's liking, undesirable regions have fewer of these farmers
working underground; and this, for the same reason that these regions
are sparsely settled on the surface--it is so hard to make a living.

So the earthworms may be said to have a decided taste in landscape. They
don't care for desert scenery like Gerome's picture of the lion's big
front yard,[9] but they are very fond of orchards where the soil is rich
and leaves are plenty. The pathways artists are fond of putting in
landscapes would also probably attract the eyes of earthworms--if they
had any, for the worms prefer soil a little packed, as it is in
pathways, because it makes more substantial burrows. And, singularly
enough, the worms also like most the very thing that the artist
emphasizes to lead the eye into his picture--the border lines that
_define_ the path. It is along the edges of a pathway that you find most
worms.

    [9] "The Two Majesties." This painting, by a great French realist,
    shows a lion getting home rather late, after his night out, stopping
    for a look at the rising sun; a thing with which, owing to his
    habits, he is not very familiar.

[Illustration: _Painted by F. O. Sylvester._

_Painted by Westman._

THE EARTHWORM'S TASTE IN SCENERY

Two features common to both these pictures--the trees and the
pathways--appeal to earthworms as well as artists, for reasons you have
learned in this chapter.]

The earthworm, in addition to working over and fertilizing the soil
already made, actually helps make soil out of rock. He does this in two
ways: (1) With acids--for, like the Little Old Man of the Rock, he is a
chemist; (2) by grinding up rock in a little mill he always carries with
him.


HOW THE EARTHWORM COOKS HIS MEALS

The earthworm's favorite diet is leaves and he has a way of cooking
them. It is not quite like our way of cooking beet or dandelion leaves,
but it answers the same purpose--it partially digests them. In glands,
in his "mouth," he secretes a fluid which, like our saliva, contains an
alkali. But the earthworm's alkaline solution is much stronger, and when
he covers a fresh green leaf with it--as he is usually obliged to do in
Summer when there are so few stale vegetables, the kind he prefers, in
his market--the leaf quickly turns brown and becomes as soft as a boiled
cabbage.

Of course, there are always dead leaves in the woods, and these, which
even the cow with her fine digestive outfit cannot handle, are a delight
to the earthworm; for he also has a much larger supply of pancreatic
juice than the higher animals, and this takes care of the leaves after
he has swallowed them. He swallows bit by bit; just like a nice little
boy who has been taught not to bolt his food.

The acids in the earthworm's "stomach," acting on the leaves, help make
other acids which remain in the soil after it has passed through the
earthworm's body and help dissolve those fine grains of sand which make
your bare feet so gritty when mud dries on them. And, not only that, but
this coating of soil lying upon the bed rock hastens its decay; for the
earthworm's burrow runs down four to six feet, sometimes farther.

Besides the soil he thus grinds up and fertilizes so well with
leaf-mould--what your text-book on agriculture calls "humus"--the
earthworm does a lot of useful grinding in connection with the building
of his house. He begins, as we do, by digging the cellar; but there he
stops, for _his_ house is _all_ cellar! He makes it in two ways: (1) By
pushing aside the earth as he advances; (2) by swallowing earth and
passing it through his body, thus making the little mounds you see on
the surface.


THE EARTHWORM SYSTEM AT PANAMA

A principle similar to his swallowing operations is frequently employed
in engineering; as in making the Panama Canal, where dredging machinery
dug out swamps and pumped the mud through a tube into other swamps to
fill them up and help get rid of the mosquitoes.

In pushing the earth away the worm uses the principle of the wedge,
stretching out his "nose"--as you have often seen him do when
crawling--and poking it into the crevices in the ground; much as the
wheat roots poke _their_ little noses through the fertile soil the
earthworm makes.

And, as in human engineering and the work of the ant, the earthworm
doesn't throw the dirt around carelessly. He casts it out, first on one
side and then on the other; using his tail to spread it about neatly.


THE TILING IN THE EARTHWORM'S HOUSE

The walls of the earthworm's house are plastered, too. At first they are
made a little larger than his body. Then he coats them with earth,
ground very fine, like the clay for making our cups and saucers, and for
making the beautiful white tiling on the walls at the stations of a city
subway. When this earthworm "porcelain" dries it forms a lining, hard
and smooth, which keeps the earthworm's tender body from being scratched
as he moves up and down his long hallway. It also enables him to travel
faster because it is smooth, and it strengthens the walls.

The burrows which run far down into the ground, as all finally do toward
Autumn, end in a little chamber. Into this tiny bedroom the worm retires
during the hot, dry days of August and there he spends the
Winter--usually with several companions, all sound asleep, packed
together for warmth.


AND RUGS ON THE FLOORS!

Sometimes the Summer and Winter residences are quite ambitious, several
burrows opening into one large chamber and each tunnel having two,
sometimes three, chambers of its own--like a fashionable apartment with
its main reception-room, and still more like the central sitting-rooms
in Greek and Roman palaces. And the earthworm seems even to have some
idea of mosaics, for it is the general practice to pave these chambers
with little pebbles about the size of a mustard-seed. This is to help
keep the worm's body from the cold ground. In addition to the mosaic
floors the earthworms have rugs with lovely leaf patterns like the
Oriental rugs that are so highly prized; and, as in the case of genuine
Oriental rugs, no two patterns are alike. These rugs are leaves which
the earthworm drags into his burrow, not for food but for house
furnishing. When used for house furnishing they are placed in the
entrance-hall; that is to say, they are used to coat the mouth of the
burrow to prevent the worm's body from coming in contact with the
ground. The mouth of the burrow, of course, is just where it is coldest
at night in the Summer, the time of year when the earthworm spends a
great deal of his time in the front of his house. The surface of the
earth, you know, cools very rapidly after sunset and the dew on the
grass in the morning is so cold it makes your bare feet ache. The worm
requires damp earth around him because he breathes through his skin and
must keep it moist, but at the same time he is sensitive to cold.

And to drafts. Ugh!


PEBBLE-FORT DEFENSES AGAINST THE FOE

So he is very careful to keep the front door closed. This he does by
stopping it up with leaves, leaf stems, and sticks. He also protects the
door with little heaps of smooth round pebbles; but these pebbles are of
a larger size than those he uses for paving the floor of his chamber.
Besides helping to keep out drafts these pebbles serve another purpose.
As our ancestors, the cave-builders, barred the door with boulders to
keep out bears and other unwelcome callers, so the earthworms are
protected by the pebbles, to a certain extent, from one of their
enemies--the thousand-legged worm. Because of these little forts, the
earthworms can remain with more safety near the doorway and enjoy the
warmth of the morning sun. (So we might have reproduced Corot's
"Morning" as a kind of landscape the earthworm enjoys!)


II. THE MIND OF THE EARTHWORM

From all of which you can see the earthworm, for what small schooling he
gets, is a very bright boy! If we were as bright, according to our
opportunities, we would probably have answered long ago such puzzles as
the question whether there is really anybody at home in Mars, how to
keep stored eggs from tasting of the shell, and other great scientific
problems of our day.


WHERE MR. EARTHWORM KEEPS HIS BRAIN

Just as we have little brains in the tips of our fingers, the earthworms
have brains in the ends of their "noses." They have neither eyes nor
ears, but, like that wonderful girl, Helen Keller, they make up for the
lack of these senses, to a remarkable degree, by the development of the
sense of touch. They acquire quite a little knowledge of Botany, for
example. They not only know that leaves are good to eat, but they know
which is the "petiole" and which is the "base." They always drag leaves
into their burrows by the smallest ends, because this makes it easier to
get them through the door. And it is not by mere instinct that they do
this. Supply worms with leaves of different form from those which grow
in the region where they live, and they will experiment with them until
they find just the best way in which to pull them into the burrows.
After that they will always take hold of them so, without further
experiment. That is the majority of them will do this; for earthworms
are like other little people--all of them are not equally ambitious or
studious.

And the earthworm also knows something about Geometry. Cut paper into
little triangles of various shapes and pretend to the worms that they
are leaves by scattering them near the mouths of the burrows. Then
remove the leaves with which the burrows are stopped. The worms will
pull in the slips to close the door and they will--most of them--take
hold by the apex of the triangle because that is the narrowest point.


THE EARTHWORM'S TASTE IN MUSIC

So you see the earthworm is a very cultivated country gentleman with his
knowledge of Botany and Geometry, and his taste for landscape. But this
is not all. He also has opinions about music. There are certain notes
that apparently get on his nerves. Put worms in good soil in a
flower-pot, and some evening when they are lying outside their burrows
set the pot on the piano and strike the note C in the bass clef.
Instantly they will pull themselves into their burrows. They will do the
same thing at the sound of G above the line in the treble clef. Although
they cannot hear, they are sensitive to vibrations, and these are
carried from the sounding-board of the piano into the pot. They are less
sensitive when the pot itself is tapped. The music seems to go right
through them.


WHY THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE WORM

Except in rainy weather worms ordinarily come out of their burrows only
at night. By early morning they have withdrawn into their holes and lie
with their noses close to the surface to get the warmth of the morning
sun. Then the early bird gets _them_! The reason a robin cocks his head
in such a funny way--like a lord with a monocle--just before he captures
a worm, is not because he is _listening_, as many people think; for the
worm isn't saying a word and he isn't moving, and wouldn't make a bit of
noise if he did move. The robin's eyes are on each side of his head and
not in the middle of his face like ours, so he must turn his head in
order to bring his eye in line with the hole where he sees the tip of
Mr. Earthworm's nose.

[Illustration: THREE EARLY BIRDS. FIND THE THIRD

Don't they look happy--these two tow-heads? They are evidently going
fishing in the early morning. Another early bird--several of him--that
we are saying a good deal about in these pages is to be found in the
can. Still another, the one at the bottom of the page, is taking
advantage of the earthworm's family habit of warming his "nose" in the
early sun rays.]

[Illustration]

And many people also believe that earthworms come down with the rain.
Even park policemen believe it. At least, one said to me, in Central
Park:

"In dhry spells ye won't see wan. But let there come a little shower an'
th' walks and the dhrives will be covered wid them; like the fairy
stones that fall wid the rain in the ould counthry."


DO EARTHWORMS COME DOWN WITH THE RAIN?

The reason you see so many worms after a rain is that earthworms like
moisture, and the rain seems to make them feel particularly good and
breed a spirit of adventure. So out of their holes and away they go! A
rain is their shower-bath; and you know how a shower-bath makes you
feel. The mornings when the earthworms are apt to be thickest are those
following a comparatively light rain in early Spring when the worms have
recently awakened from their long Winter nap. With the beginning of the
rainy season in the Fall, the worms also do a good deal of travelling
into foreign lands, but in both Spring and Fall you will usually find
more worms after a light shower than after a long, heavy downpour. If
the worms were drowned out it would be the other way around, don't you
see?

To be sure, you will often find dead worms in shallow pools by the
roadside; particularly after Autumn rains. These are sick worms and the
chill was too much for them. But it's remarkable how low a temperature a
good husky angleworm can stand. A professor in the University of
Chicago, near which I live, tells me he has often found the ground in
the neighboring park covered with worms after November rains when his
hands, and those of the students who were helping him gather them for
study, were numb with the cold.

And how much work do you suppose these farmers do in grinding up and
fertilizing the soil? In many parts of England the whole of the best
land--the vegetable mould--passes through their bodies every few years,
and they are doing similar work all over the world.

They not only fertilize the earth by mixing it with the leaves they eat
and those that decay in their burrows, but their castings help to bury
fallen leaves and twigs and dead insects, and they also bring up lower
soil to the surface, thus increasing its fertility. And by loosening the
soil they let in more air. Remember that roots, like people, must have
air.


III. THE MILL OF THE EARTHWORM

For the grinding up of the earth and the leaves, the earthworm has, as I
have already said, a little mill that he always carries with him. Do you
know what a gold mill is? Well, a gold mill is a mill that grinds up
rock and so grinds out the gold. The earthworm's mill, in a manner of
speaking, also grinds out gold, for it grinds the little particles of
stone in the soil, and this soil grows fields of golden grain.

The earthworm's mill is his gizzard. This gizzard is made and works very
much like the gizzard of the chicken. And like the chicken the earthworm
swallows little stones to help his digestion. So these stones, too, are
ground into soil.

Like the chicken's gizzard the gizzard of the earthworm is lined with a
thick, tough membrane, and it has muscles--such muscles! There are two
sets of these muscles and they cross each other somewhat like the warp
and woof of the cloth in your clothes. The muscles that run lengthwise
are not so very strong, for all they have to do is to help the earthworm
swallow, but the muscles that run around the gizzard are wonderfully
strong. They are about ten times as thick as the other muscles. One of
Mr. Earthworm's French biographers[10] calls these muscles "veritable
armatures"; that is, freely translated, "veritable hoops of steel."

    [10] When you study French, if you want to read this book--like most
    French works on science it is very interesting--ask for Perrier's
    "Organization des Lumbricus Terrestris."

I said, in the second paragraph above this, that worms swallow grains
of sand and stones to help their digestions, as chickens do. But the
earthworm saves time, for he takes the stones with his meals; just as
some Englishmen, fat old squires, when they get along in years, or for
any other reason are a little weak in their digestive regions--keep
pepsin on the table with the pepper and salt.

And--believe it or not--the earthworm actually makes his _own_
millstones sometimes! The chalk in the chalky fluid of the glands that
help him digest his meals frequently hardens into little grains in
grinding the food. It's almost as if the saliva in our mouths, in
addition to acting directly on the food, also made a new set of teeth
for us!

Suppose we had a stomach like the earthworm, wouldn't it be fun? We
could digest the biggest dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas and
picnics and birthdays. We could even eat apples without waiting for them
to get quite ripe. Haven't you done it to your sorrow? And no
stomachache and no mince-pie nightmares!


WHY THE EARTHWORM NEVER HAS NIGHTMARES

By the way, the earthworm, although he has his troubles like the rest of
us, never _has_ nightmares. For one thing he has that stomach[11] and--a
still better reason, perhaps--he never sleeps at night. Like the moths
and the bats and the burglars and members of Parliament, he makes night
his busy day.

    [11] Just listen to this: "Worms," says Mr. Darwin, in that
    remarkable book of his, "are indifferent to very sharp objects, even
    rose thorns and small splinters of glass."

And, in other ways, while he is so much like the rest of us worms of the
dust, his life differs from that of most people. For instance, he not
only works by night while we work by day, and works underground while we
work on top, but he takes his vacation in the Winter while we take ours
in Summer. In that respect Mr. Earthworm is like the millionaires at
Palm Beach; for in Winter he, too, goes in the direction we call south
on the map--that is to say _down_.

But, as you say, it takes all kinds of people to make a world; including
earthworms and millionaires!


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     Who was that in Mother Goose that went a-fishing "for to catch a
     whale"? Anyhow, there are fishworms so big that one might suppose
     they were made for catching whales. How long do you suppose they
     are, these big fishworms? A foot?

     Pshaw! We have fishworms of our own a foot long. Two feet? More.
     Three feet? More. You look it up in the article on the earthworm in
     the "Britannica."

     And how many kinds of earthworms do you suppose there are? You will
     be surprised to learn.

     Also, you will find that the earthworms have relatives who live in
     the water all the time.

     The article in the "International" tells why these modest neighbors
     of ours don't come to the surface in the daytime. That will be an
     interesting thing to know. Don't you think so?

     And did you ever count an earthworm's rings? Other scientists have.
     (All live boys and girls are scientists; they want to _know_.) Try
     counting the rings of an earthworm and then compare your figures
     with those given in the article in the "International."

     How many hearts do you suppose an earthworm has? You will find in
     the "International's" article they have a good many of what are
     sometimes called "hearts," and how different the earthworm's
     circulation system is from ours.

     Does our saliva do for us anything like what it does for the
     earthworm; and our pancreatic juice?

     Compare the earthworm's method of digging his subway with that of
     the armadillo. How do they differ in the way of using their noses?

     Do you know how men dig subways; like those under New York City and
     Boston, for instance? Books that tell about this phase of human
     engineering and tell it in a very interesting way are "On the
     Battle-front of Engineering" ("New York's Culebra Cut") and
     "Romance of Modern Engineering" ("City Railways"), "Travelers and
     Traveling" ("How Elevated Roads and Subways Are Built").

     Speaking of the earthworm's wedge and how he uses it, do you know
     that all of man's complicated machinery is the result of only a few
     simple mechanical principles combined; and that the wedge is one of
     the most important? Look up "_wedge_," "_machine_," "_simple
     machine_," etc., in the dictionary or encyclopædia.

     How does the earthworm's method of pushing his way in the world
     with the end of his nose compare with the way a root works along in
     the ground? (See Chapter X.)

     The earthworm's neat way of disposing of the dirt he casts out
     reminds me of how the beaver handles dirt when he builds a canal,
     and the way of the ants in digging their underground homes.
     (Chapters VI and VIII.)

     We have little brains in our finger-tips just as the earthworm has
     on the end of his nose. How much do you know about the little
     brains scattered through our bodies (_Ganglia_)?

     You see the simple earthworm is the A, B, C of a lot of things; and
     even Mr. Darwin's famous book doesn't contain all there is to be
     learned about him in books and in personal interviews with Mr.
     Earthworm himself. A farm boy to whom the writer read the story of
     the earthworm, when asked how he thought the worm could turn in his
     burrow when it fits him so closely, said, "Why, he turns around in
     that little room at the end of the hall," thereby solving, as I
     think, a problem that puzzled Mr. Darwin, and which he left
     unsolved.



[Illustration: SINFUL TACTICS OF A SACRED BEETLE

The beetle pushing backward is the owner of the ball and is on his
way--as he thinks--to his burrow. The other is altering the direction
toward his own burrow. Fabre's book on the Sacred Beetle--the tumblebug
of our fields and roadways--tells how the thing came out.]



CHAPTER VI

(JUNE)

    Go to the ant, thou sluggard;
    Consider her ways, and be wise.

    --_Proverbs_ 6:6.

THE LITTLE FARMERS WITH SIX FEET


I don't believe I've ever heard anybody say anything against an
angleworm; although not many people, even to this day, I'll be bound,
realize what a useful citizen the angleworm is.

But now we come to a class of farmers that, as a class, are positively
disliked; farmers that nobody has a good word for, that nobody wants for
neighbors. The charge against them is that, like the man in the Bible,
they are always reaping where they have not sown; always helping
themselves to other people's crops--bushels of wheat, bushels of rye,
tons of cotton, loads of hay and apples and peaches and plums; and nice
garden vegetables; and even the trees in the wood lot. It is estimated,
for instance, that the chinch-bug helps himself every year to
$30,000,000 worth of Uncle Sam's grain; while other insects make away
with 10 per cent of his hay crop, 20 per cent of mother's garden
vegetables, $10,000,000 worth of father's tobacco; and the Hessian fly
sees to it that between 10 and 25 per cent of the farmer's wheat never
gets to mill.

"Yes, and sometimes it's 50-50 between the farmer and the fly," said the
high school boy, who often spends his vacation with a country cousin.

Then there are insects that injure and destroy forest trees because they
like to eat the leaves or the wood itself; and some 300 kinds of insects
that make themselves free with other people's orchards.


I. CONSIDERING THE ANT

But, as I said a few moments ago, it takes all sorts of people to make a
world; and as there are good and bad citizens among men, so there are
good and bad among insects. Indeed there are so many useful insects that
help make or fertilize the soil by grinding up earth and burying things
in it, that even this chapter, which is rather long, as you see, can't
begin to tell about all of them. So suppose we give our space to a few
by way of example, and then look up others in other books in the
library.


AMOUNT OF WORK DONE BY ANTS

First of all let us consider the ways of the ant (as the Bible tells us
to). The ant's work may be said to take up where the earthworm leaves
off. Mr. Earthworm, as we have seen, is a little fastidious about the
kind of land he tills. Among other things, he is inclined to avoid sandy
soil, while the ants will be found piling up their pretty cones of sand
or clay as well as of black earth. And in some soils the ants do more
important work than the worm that helped make Mr. Darwin famous. In the
course of a single year they may bring fresh soil to the surface to the
average depth of a quarter of an inch over many square miles. This not
only helps to keep the farmer's fields fertile by adding fresh, unused
earth, but enriches them by burying the vegetation--such as leaves and
twigs and branches broken from dead trees by storms--so that it decays.
This burying of vegetation is the very thing the good farmer does when
he spreads his fields with manure from the barnyard, or when he ploughs
under the stubble.

[Illustration: A HEAP OF GRIST FROM AN ANT SOIL MILL

Something of an ant-hill, isn't it? It is a foot high and measures
nearly three feet across. You will find such ant hills in the Arkansas
Valley in Colorado, where the photograph of this one was taken.]

Ants are very glad to do this for the farmer because it isn't any extra
trouble for them. Their little heaps of fresh earth are thrown out in
connection with the building of their homes. The mining ants dig
galleries in clay, building pillars to support the work and covering
them with thatches of grass. The red and yellow field ants are the
masons. They first raise pillars and then construct arches between
them, covering these arches with the loose piles of soil which we know
as ant-hills. The carpenter-ants bore their cells in the dead limbs of
trees, and the wood dust they make from them hurries on the process of
returning these dead limbs to the soil. One kind of carpenter-ant covers
its walls with a mixture of sawdust, earth, and spiders' webs. An ant in
Australia builds its home of leaves fastened together with a kind of
saliva. One kind of ant, whose calling card among scientific people is
Formica fusca,[12] adds new stories to old houses as the colony grows;
much as in the growth of cities and hamlets the buildings grow taller
with the growth of the town. Just as men do, such ants first build the
side walls and then the ceilings. As if these ants are working under
contract and must get their job done by a certain time, two groups are
employed on the ceiling at the same time, each group working toward the
other from the opposite wall and meeting in the middle.

    [12] In the world of science, the ant goes by her Latin name,
    _Formica_, and the whole family is known as the _Formicidæ_. To a
    Roman boy _Formica_ simply meant "ant." _Fusca_ is also Latin, and
    means "dark"; so you can see this part of the story is about a
    species of dark ant. As a matter of fact he is dark brown.

[Illustration: THE DESERTED VILLAGE UNDER THE STONE

If Oliver Goldsmith had been as much interested in ants as was the
French "Homer of the insect," Henri Fabre, he might have written of
another kind of "Deserted Village," its "desert walks" and its
"mouldering walls." This is a deserted village of ants. The little
citizens that built it lived under a stone. When the stone was lifted it
took the entire roof off the place.]


THE ANT WHO DIDN'T KNOW HIS TRADE

As you may suppose, this is real architectural engineering and no place
for amateurs. I once saw a foolish worker starting a roof from the top
of one of the side walls without paying any attention to the fact that
the other wall was much higher. The result was he struck the middle of
it, instead of joining it at the top. Another ant passing, possibly the
supervising architect, saw what was going to happen. So what does he do
but stop and tear down the other's work and build the ceiling over
again!

"There! _That's_ the way to put in a ceiling," he seemed to say. "For
goodness sake, where _did_ you learn your trade?"

Huber, the famous student of ants, saw two of these wonderful insects do
the very same thing.

Sometimes the situation is such that it is necessary to build a very
wide ceiling, so wide that it would fall of its own weight unless
supported in some way. Then what would you do; that is, if _you_ were an
ant?

"Why, I'd put up pillars to hold it."

That's exactly what the ants do; they put up pillars; but instead of
using steel beams, as men do in this day of steel, the ant architects
make pillars of clay--build them up with pellets, little clay bricks
which they shape with their mandibles--their jaws.

But the ants seem to have some of the methods of steel construction,
too; the use of girders and things. Ebrard, a French student of ants,
tells how, when a certain roof threatened to fall, some Sir Christopher
Wren of the ant world used a blade of grass as a girder, just as Sir
Christopher in his day put in girders to support the roof of Saint
Paul's Cathedral, and as men use steel girders to-day. The ant fastened
a little mass of earth on the end of a grass stalk growing near to bend
it over; then gnawed it a little at the bottom to make it bend still
more, and finally fixed it with mud pellets into the roof.

But here's something that will make you smile! You have heard about the
lazy man down in Arkansas with the hole in his roof? You remember he
never mended it in dry weather because it didn't need it, and when it
rained he _couldn't_ mend it on account of the rain!


RAINY-DAY WORK IN THE ANT WORLD

Well, these _Formica fusca_ folks are as different from that Arkansas
man as anything you could imagine. First of all, being ants, they are
anything but lazy; secondly, they never put off needed work on their
roofs on account of rain. In fact, they _choose_ the first wet day to do
it. As soon as the rain begins they build up a thick terrace on the roof
of the old dwelling, carrying in their jaws little piles of finely
ground earth which they spread out with their hind legs. Then, by
hollowing out this roof, they turn it into a new story. Last of all they
put on the ceiling. You see the rain helps them in mixing their clay.
There are ants that build up vaulted viaducts or covered ways, and they
use clay for that.[13] They make the clay by mixing earth with saliva.
Some of these viaducts reach out from the house--the ants' house--to
their "cow" pasture.

    [13] The scientific name for this particular kind of ant is _Lasius
    niger_.

[Illustration: AN ANT CARRYING ONE OF HER COWS]

You know about how ants keep cows, little bugs called aphids? The aphids
feed on plants, and the clay viaducts protect the ants from their
enemies and from the sun in going to and from the pasture; for this
particular family of ants doesn't like the sun. They make clay sheds for
their cattle, too. Here and there along the clay viaduct are large roomy
spaces, cow-sheds, so to speak--where the little honey cows gather when
they aren't feeding. Another kind of ant builds earth huts around its
cow pastures. The large red ants (_F. rufa_), sometimes called "horse
ants," build hills as large as small haycocks.


II. THE TERMITES AND THEIR TOWERS OF BABEL

But speaking of big buildings, did you ever hear of a skyscraper a mile
high? Well the home of the six-footed farmer I am going to tell you
about now is as much taller than he is as a mile-high skyscraper would
be taller than a man. The remarkable little creatures that build these
skyscrapers are called "termites." Termites are also known as "white
ants." This seems funny when we know that they are neither "ants" nor
are they white. The young of the workers are white, to be sure, but the
grown-ups are of various colors, and never milky white as they are when
young. The termites were first called "white ants" in books of travel
because the termites the travellers saw were the young people.


HOW TERMITES ARE LIKE THE ANTS

The termites are really closer relatives of dragon-flies, cockroaches,
and crickets than of the ants, but they do look a great deal like an
ant, and they have many of the ways of the ants. As in the case of ants,
all the members of one community are the children of one queen. The king
lives with the queen in a private apartment. Sometimes--as with human
royalties--the king and queen will have separate residences, but the
termite royalties always live in the same house with their people; they
are very democratic.

Some kinds of termites live in rotten trees, which they tunnel into, and
that is their contribution to soil-making; while others build great, big
solid houses of earth and fibres, mixed. These houses are called
"termitariums," and are six, eight, ten, even twenty-five feet high;
fully 1,000 times the length of the worker. Think of a man five feet
high, and then multiply by 1,000, and you see you have got nearly a
mile!

[Illustration: SKYSCRAPERS A MILE HIGH

"Some kinds of termites build great, solid houses of earth and fibres
mixed. These houses are six, eight, ten, even twenty-five feet high,
fully one thousand times the length of the worker. Think of a man five
feet high and then multiply by one thousand, and you see you have got
nearly a mile."]

These termite skyscrapers aren't much to look at on the outside, but
inside they're just fine; they have everything the most particular ant
could want. For instance, the termites are right up-to-date in their
ideas about fresh air, their houses being well ventilated through
windows left in the walls for that purpose. You can see the importance
of this fresh-air system when you know there are thousands of termites
under the same roof. They also have a sewage system for carrying off the
water of the rains. And a fine piece of mechanical engineering the
building of it is, too; for these "water-pipes" are the underground
passages hollowed out in getting the clay to build the homes. The
termites build their homes with one hand and dig the sewer with the
other, so to speak.


THE THERMOSTATS FOR THE NURSERIES

The termitarium has as many rooms in it as a big hotel--oh, I don't know
_how_ many--and they are all built around the chambers of the king and
queen. Next to the royal apartments are the pantries, a lot of them,
and they are all stored with food. In the upper part of the termitarium
are the nurseries--many nurseries--for no one nursery could care for any
such numbers of babies as the queen has. Between the nursery and the
roof is an air-space, and there are also air-spaces on the sides and
beneath. The nursery thus being surrounded by air, the eggs and, when
they come along, the babies are protected from changes of temperature.
It's the same principle that's employed in making refrigerators and
thermos bottles. The rooms in which the eggs are kept are divided by
walls made of fragments of wood and gum glued together. This mixture is
a bad conductor[14] of heat or cold. And so the eggs are kept at an even
temperature.

    [14] A "bad" conductor is often a _good_ thing, as you'll see by
    looking it up in the dictionary.

While we cannot see any of the termite skyscrapers in the United States,
because we have none of the species of termites that build them, we can
see a member of the termite family. This is the common white ant that
digs into joists of houses. On the outside of these same joists, and up
in the attics of old farmhouses, if there happens to be a broken
window-pane, or some other hole through which she can get in, you can
see the nest of another tiller of the soil, the wasp. The mason-wasps or
mud daubers are the most common. You will find their nests on the
rafters of the barn when you go to throw down hay, or when you go into
the corn-crib. They have all sorts of fancies--these wasps--about their
clay homes and where to build them. Some build on the walls and some in
the corners of rafters, others prefer outdoor life. Some want to live
alone, others like society. What are known as "social" wasps sometimes
build their nests in tiny hollows that they dig in the ground; others
fasten their nests to the boughs of trees. The work of these wasps, from
the farming standpoint, is useful not alone in grinding the soil, but
helping to supply it with humus; for their nests are made of wood fibre,
which they tear with their mandibles from gateposts, rail fences, and
the bark of trees.

[Illustration: NESTS OF MASON-WASPS]

The carpenter-wasp is both a wood-worker and a clay-worker. He cuts
tubular nests in wood and divides them by partitions. We think we're
pretty smart, we humans, because we are always picking up ideas, but
here's a creature, no bigger than the end of your finger, who has
picked up an idea from the carpenter-bee, grafted it on his native trade
of clay-worker, and made himself as nice and cosey a country place as
you'd want to see!


ABOUT THE WASP, THE FOX, AND THE BUMBLEBEE

Here's another example of the same thing, this spreading of good ideas
among the neighbors. It's about the fox, the digger-wasps, and the
bumblebee. The fox can dig his own burrow when he has to, but if he
finds somebody else's that he can use, he just helps himself--provided,
of course, the owner isn't Brer Bear, or some other big fellow that Brer
Fox doesn't care to have any words with. In the same way the
digger-wasps make their own little burrows if they are obliged to, but
prefer to help themselves to ones they find already made, although they
don't drive anybody else out. They simply take possession of holes left
by field-mice. The bumblebee does the same thing. The bumblebee digs a
hole a foot or more deep, carpets it with leaves, and lines it with wax.
Leading up to the home is a long, winding tunnel. As Bumblebeeville
grows bigger there may be two or three hundred bees in one nest. As the
bumblebee babies keep coming and coming, the burrow has to be dug bigger
and bigger, to take care of them.


III. THE HOUSE THAT MRS. MASON BUILT

But the greatest of bee workers in the soil is the mason-bee. You can
get an idea of what a useful citizen the mason-bee is when I tell you
that one of the little villages of one species sometimes contains enough
clay to make a good load for a team of oxen. Yet for all that, they
might have gone on with their work for years and years to come--just as
they have for ages in the past--and people wouldn't have thought much
about it, if it hadn't been for some boys.

One time, in a village in southern France, a school-teacher, who was
getting on in years, took his small class of farmer boys outdoors to
study surveying--setting up stakes and things, you know, the way George
Washington used to do. It's a stony, barren land--this part of
France--and the fields are covered with pebbles. The teacher noticed
that often when he sent a boy to plant a stake, he would stoop every
once in a while, pick up a pebble and _stick a straw into it_! That's
what it looked like! Then he would suck the straw.

Well, to make a long story short,[15] these pebbles had on them the
little clay cells of the mason-bee. Mrs. Mason-Bee fills these cells
with honey, lays an egg in the honey, and when the babies come
along--don't you see? In other words, Mother Bee not only puts up their
lunch for them, but puts them right into the lunch! This makes it
convenient all around; for, like almost all insect mothers, Mrs.
Mason-Bee is never there after the babies come.

    [15] The whole story is told in the famous book, "The Mason Bee," by
    Henri Fabre. He was the teacher.

[Illustration: MASON-BEE CELLS AMONG THE ROCKS]

There were so many of these pebbles scattered over the plain, and the
bees that were building new homes or repairing old ones flew so straight
and so fast between the pebbles and a near-by road that "they looked
like trails of smoke," as Fabre expresses it.

Now, you may well wonder why the bees flew clear over to that road to
get dirt to build their nests when there was plenty of loose earth right
at their own door-steps; right around the pebbles themselves. Isn't that
queer?

Well, here's something that sounds stranger still. Mrs. Mason-Bee takes
those extra trips because a roadway is so much harder to dig in! It's
not because she needs the exercise, goodness knows--this busy Mrs.
Mason-Bee--but because the hard earth of the roadway makes the strongest
homes; that is, when she finally gets it dug out and worked up. And
here's another thing that will seem odd at first; although the soil she
thus works over must be dampened before she can plaster it into the
walls of her home, she just won't use damp soil to begin with. Nothing
will do her but dust, and dust that she herself scrapes from the
roadway. The reason of this is that the moisture already in the soil
will not answer at all. She has got to knead the soil carefully and
thoroughly with saliva, which acts as a kind of mortar. This saliva, of
course, she supplies.

And the dust she works with must be as fine as powder and as dry as a
bone. Then it absorbs the saliva, and when it dries it is almost like
stone. In fact it's a kind of cement, like that men use for sidewalks
and for buildings and bridges.

[Illustration: _Copyright by Brown Brothers._

FABRE STUDYING THE MASON-BEE]

But this wonderful old teacher and his boys[16] found that even this
isn't all this little house-builder and house-keeper has to think of.
She must have dust that is really ground-up stone! So she digs in the
roadway where the bits of stone in this stony soil have been ground to
powder and then packed hard by the wheels of the farmer's cart and by
the hoofs of horses and oxen drawing their heavy loads. But what did
Mrs. M. B. do for ground-up stone in the long ages before man came along
with his carts? Mr. Earl Reed, who, beside being the distinguished
etcher of "The Dunes," is a close observer of nature in general, tells
me he has often seen a mason-bee gathering the pulverized stone at the
base of cliffs. Evidently the mills of the wind and rain, that we have
read of in previous chapters, had Mrs. B's wants in mind too.

    [16] The boys were a great help. You ought to see what Fabre himself
    says about them in that famous book of his.


BEING A MASON-BEE FOR A LITTLE WHILE

Now, just to show you one more thing about Mrs. Mason-Bee as a
house-builder--how clever she is--let's try something right here. Let's
suppose ourselves--yourself and myself--Mrs. Mason-Bees. We have got a
home to build for some baby mason-bees that will be along by and by. Say
we already know that we must use this stone dust of the roadway, and
that we must make our mortar not with _water_ but with _saliva_. Here's
the _next_ problem:

Shall the mixing be done where the building is going up over there?
That's the way human masons do it. But Mrs. Mason-Bee evidently thinks
otherwise, for at the very time she is prying up those atoms of dust
with so much energy, you notice she is doing her mixing. She rolls and
kneads her mortar until she has it in the shape of a ball as big as she
can possibly carry. Then "buz-z-z-z!" Away she goes, straight as an
arrow, back home, and the mortar is spread where it is needed.

You see, after all, this is the best way. If she didn't turn the dust
into mortar before she started, so a good-sized lump of it would stick
together, she couldn't carry much of it at a time, and it would be
forever and a day before she could get her house built. As it is, the
pellets she carries are of the size of small shot; a pretty big load,
let me tell you, for a little body no bigger than Mrs. Mason-Bee.

And remember, this goes on all day long from sunrise to sunset. Without
a moment's rest, she adds her pellets to the growing walls and then back
she goes to the precise spot where she has found the building material
that best suits her needs.

In building a nest, the mason-bee, in going to and fro, day after day,
travels, on the average, about 275 miles; half the distance across the
widest part of France. All in about five or six weeks, she does this.
Then her work is over. She retires to some quiet place under the stones,
and dies. As I said, she never sees the babies she has done so much for.

[Illustration: SURFACE MOUNDS OF THE MASON-ANT

There are mason-ants as well as mason-bees. This illustration shows the
works thrown up by some mason-ants that Dr. McCook found in a garden
path one morning in May.]

And although they are so stoutly built, the houses of the mason-bees,
like those "cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces" that Shakespere
speaks of, finally go back to the dust. But while one of these little
mothers is building a new home or repairing an old one left by a mother
of the previous year, you would suppose the fate of the world hung on
it; as indeed the fate of the world of mason-bees does.

Scrape! Scrape! Scrape! With the tips of those little jaws, her
mandibles, she makes the stony dust.

Rake! Rake! Rake! With her front feet she gathers and mixes it with the
saliva from her mouth.

How eager and excited she gets, how wrapped up in her work as she digs
away in the hard-packed mass in the tracks of the roadway! Passing
horses and oxen, and the French peasants with their wooden shoes, are
almost on her before she will budge. And even then she only flits aside
until the danger has passed. Then down she drops and at it again!

But sometimes, the boys and the teacher found, she starts to move too
late--so absorbed is she, it would seem, in the thought of that tiny
little home over there among the pebbles.

Poor little lady!


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     Perhaps nothing in nature is more wonderful than an insect;
     particularly when you consider that he _is_ only an insect! So, of
     course, whole libraries have been written about insects. Here are a
     few of the most interesting books dealing with the subject: Beard's
     "Boy's Book of Bugs, Butterflies and Beetles"; Comstock's "Ways of
     the Six-Footed"; Crading's "Our Insect Friends and Foes";
     Doubleday's "Nature's Garden"; Du Puy's "Trading Bugs with the
     Nations." This about trading bugs is an article in "Uncle Sam:
     Wonder Worker," and tells how Uncle Sam "swaps" with other nations
     to get rid of injurious insects and bring in useful ones.

     Grant Allen's "Sextons and Scavengers" ("Nature's Work Shop") tells
     many curious things about the sexton beetles; how, by tasting bad,
     they keep birds and things from eating them; why you will always
     find an even number--never an _odd_ number--of sextons at work
     together; what they use for spades in their digging; why male
     sextons bury their wives alive, and why there is reason to believe
     that these weird little insects have a sense of beauty and of
     music.

     The same essay tells about the sacred beetle of the Egyptians, the
     insect that we know as the "tumblebug"; why first the Egyptians and
     then the Greeks regarded this bug as sacred; and why men and women
     wear imitation beetles for brooches and watch-charms to-day.

     But the greatest work on this famous beetle has been written by the
     famous French observer Fabre, "The Homer of the Insect." You will
     find this book, "The Sacred Beetle," in any good public library.
     Among other things Fabre gives a very minute description of the
     variety of tools used by the beetle; tells how two beetles roll a
     ball;[17] how they dig their holes; how they "play possum," and
     then (I'm almost ashamed to tell this) rob their partners! How they
     wipe the dust out of their eyes; about a tumblebug's wheelbarrow;
     why their underground burrows sometimes have winding ways; why
     there are fewer beetles in hard times; about their autumn gaieties;
     their value as weather-prophets, and how Fabre's little son Paul
     helped him in writing his great book.

       [17] You've often noticed them, haven't you? Now read Fabre's
       wonderful book and see how much you _didn't_ notice.

     Allen's essay, "The Day of the Canker Worm" in "Nature's Work
     Shop," tells many interesting things about the Cicada, the locust
     that only comes once in seventeen years;[18] about Lady Locust's
     saw (it looks like a cut-out puzzle); about the clay galleries the
     locusts build when they come up out of the ground; how many times
     they have to put on new dresses before they finally look like
     locusts; why, at one stage of the process, they look like ghosts,
     and how they blow up their wings as you do a bicycle tire.

       [18] "And that's once too many," as the old farmer said; and we must
       agree with him when we think only of the damage they do.

     (Fabre's book on the sacred beetle also deals, incidentally, with
     the Cicada.)

     Often one thing is named after another from a merely fanciful
     resemblance, as, for instance, the "sea horse." But the mole
     cricket really seems to have been patterned on the mole; either
     that, or both the four-legged and the six-legged moles were
     patterned after something _else_. Mole crickets are very useful
     little people to know. You should see how they protect their
     nest-eggs from the weather and how and why they move their nests up
     and down with the change of the seasons.

     What good to the soil do the insects do that eat up dead-wood?
     Scott Elliott, in his "Romance of Plant Life," deals with this
     subject.

     The mining bees are very interesting, and some of these days,
     perhaps millions of years hence, they will be still more
     interesting, for they are learning to work together, although not
     to the extent that the bees and ants do. Working together seems to
     develop the brains of insects just as it does human beings.
     Thomson's "Biology of the Seasons" tells how the mining bees are
     learning "team-work."

     The tarantula spider is a relation of the six-footed farmers, you
     should know, although he is not an insect himself. In "Animal Arts
     and Crafts" in the "Romance of Science" series you will find how,
     in his digging, he makes little pellets of earth, wraps them up in
     silk, and then shoots them away, somewhat as a boy shoots a marble.

     The same book tells why the trap-door spider usually builds on a
     slope. It also tells why she puts on the front door soon after
     beginning her house. (This looks funny, but you wouldn't think it
     was so funny if _you_ were a trap-door spider and you had a certain
     party for a neighbor, as you will agree when you look it up.)

     The door, by the way, has a peculiar edge to make it fit tight.
     What kind of an edge would _you_ put on a door to make it fit
     tight? (Look at the stopper in the vinegar-cruet and see if it will
     give you an idea.)

     This book also tells about a certain wasp that makes pottery and
     gets her clay from the very same bank that certain other people
     depend on for _their_ potter's clay. This wasp sings at her work
     and has three different songs for different parts of the work.



[Illustration: THE FIELD MOUSE AND THE FARMER

When we remember how much soil the field mouse worked over, and so made
better, long before man's time on earth--to say nothing of what the mice
have done since--doesn't it give an added and deeper meaning to the
lines of Burns?

    "I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve.
    What then? Poor beastie, thou maun live."
]



CHAPTER VII

(JULY)

    Well said, old mole! Canst work i' the earth so fast?

    --_Shakespere: "Hamlet."_

FARMERS WITH FOUR FEET


Before we start this chapter--it's going to be about the farmers with
four feet, you see--I want to say something, and that's this: _Don't let
anybody tell you moles eat roots._ They don't! They eat the cutworms
that do eat the roots. Haven't I been in mole runs often enough to know!
Of course, the moles do cut a root here and there occasionally when it
happens to be in the way, as they tunnel along, but what does that
amount to?

Why, in France they put Mr. Mole in vineyards--on purpose! He's one of
the regular hands about the place, just like the hired man.


I. MR. MOLE AND HIS RELATIONS

Moles do a lot of good work for the farmer. Not only were they ploughing
and ploughing and ploughing the soil--over and over again--thousands of
centuries before man came along to plant seed in it, but they are all
the time eating, among other things, destructive worms and insects in
the soil. They work all over the world, that is to say, in the upper
half of it--the Northern Hemisphere; and there's where the biggest half
of the land is, if I haven't forgotten my geography.


WONDERFUL LITTLE MACHINES ON FOUR LEGS

Closely related to the moles are the shrews--quaint little mouse-like
creatures with long, pointed heads and noses that they can twist about
almost any way in hunting their meals and finding out other things in
this big world that concern them. On these funny, long noses they have
whiskers like a pussy-cat; and that helps, too, when you want to keep
posted on what's going on around you. Like the moles the shrews are
found all over the Northern Hemisphere. What is known as the
"long-tailed shrew," is the very smallest of our relations among the
mammalia. Why, they're no bigger than the end of a man's little finger;
and the smallest watch _I_ ever heard of was a good deal bigger than
that. Yet, inside these wee bodies is as much machinery as it takes to
run any other mammal--an elephant, say.

[Illustration: THE COMMON AND THE SHORT-TAILED SHREW]

The shrews get around very fast, considering their size; and they're on
the go all the time. I never saw such busy-bodies; nosing about in the
old leaves and dead grass and under logs and boring into loose loam,
punky wood, decayed stumps--anywhere you'd be likely to find a worm, a
grub, a beetle, or a slug. Hard workers, these shrews, but _so_
quarrelsome! When two Mr. Shrews meet there's pretty sure to be trouble.
They're regular little swashbucklers among themselves; and--the queerest
thing, until you know why--they don't seem to be afraid even of cats.
Fancy telling Cousin Mouse that! But it isn't because the shrews
_wouldn't_ be afraid if the cats got after them, but because cats always
let shrews alone. They don't taste good!

[Illustration: THE CILIATED SHREW]

Shrews are so nimble on their tiny feet and so quick of hearing, they
are very hard to catch. And please don't try! You simply _can't_ tame
them, and in spite of the fact they're so fierce and bold at home--among
their own kind--they're easily frightened to death. A shock of fear and
that wonderful little heart engine of theirs stops short--never to go
again.


MR. MOLE'S PAWS AND HOW HE WORKS THEM

But while the shrews can get around so much faster above ground the
moles are the most remarkable travellers _under_ ground. The mole's
paws, you notice, are turned outward, as one's hands are when swimming.
In fact he does almost swim through the soft, loose soil--so fast does
he move along! His two shovels, with the muscles that work them, weigh
as much as all the rest of his body. Why, he has a chest like an
athlete! He pierces the soil with his muzzle and then clears it away
with his paws. His skull is shaped like a wedge. He has a strong, boring
snout and a smooth, round body.

This snout, by the way, has a bone near the tip. You see how handy that
would come in, don't you? At the same time, although it's so hard--this
snout of his--it's very sensitive, like the fingers of the blind; for
Mr. Mole must always be feeling his way along in the dark, you know.

[Illustration: SECTION OF MR. MOLE'S CASTLE

This is a cross-section of a mole-hill, showing the central chamber and
the rooms leading into it.]

The kind of moles you find in Europe live in what seem to be little
earthen fortresses, and the tops, sticking above ground, make hillocks.
In each of these little forts there is a central chamber; then outside
of this, running all the way around, are two galleries, one above the
other. The upper gallery has several openings into the central chamber.
The galleries are connected by two straight up-and-down shafts. From the
lower galleries several passages, usually from eight to ten, lead away
to where the moles go out to feed; and if there is a body of water near
by--a pond or a creek, say--there's a special tunnel leading to that.

Mr. Mole works hard and he sleeps hard. The big middle room in his home
is the bedchamber of Mr. Mole and his family. Usually he sleeps soundly
all night, but occasionally, on fine Summer nights, he comes out and
enjoys the air.

[Illustration: THE COMMON AND THE STAR-NOSED MOLE]

You'd think he'd get awfully dirty, wouldn't you, boring his way along
in the ground all the time? But he doesn't. His hair is always as spick
and span as if he'd just come out of the barber-shop. Do you know why?
It's because he wears his hair pompadoured. It grows straight out from
the skin. So you see he can go backward and forward--as he is obliged to
do constantly in the day's work--without mussing it up at all. If it
lay down, like yours or like pussy-cat's, it would get into an _awful_
mess! In France the children call Mr. Mole "The Little Gentleman in the
Velvet Coat."


II. FOUR-FOOTED FARMERS THAT WEAR ARMOR

But, speaking of coats, I want to introduce you to a still more rapid
worker in the soil, who wears a coat of mail. He is called the
armadillo. There used to be a species of armadillo in western Texas.
Whether there are any there still I don't know,[19] but go on down to
South America and you'll find all you want. The woods are full of them,
and so are those vast prairies--the pampas. The plates in the
armadillo's coat of mail are not made of steel, of course, but of bone.
These bony plates are each separate from the other on most of his body
but made into solid bucklers over the shoulders and the hips. The
armadillos have very short, stout legs and very long, strong claws, and
how they can dig! They can dig fast in any kind of soil, but in the
loose soil of the pampas they dig so fast that if you happen to catch
sight of one when out riding and he sees _you_, you'll have to start
toward him with your horse on the run if you want to see anything more
of him. Before you can get to him and throw yourself from the saddle,
he'll have buried himself in the ground. And you can't catch him; not
even if you have a spade and dig away with all your might. He'll dig
ahead of you, faster--a good deal faster--than you can follow.

    [19] One of my friends in the faculty of the University of Chicago
    tells me there are still a good many armadillos in Texas.


MR. ARMADILLO'S REMARKABLE NOSE DRILL

For all he looks so knightly, so far as his armor is concerned, the
armadillo is timid, peaceful, and never looking for trouble with
anybody, but once aroused fights fiercely and does much damage with his
long hooked claws. His chief diet is ants. These he finds with his nose.
He locates them by scent and then bores in after them. You'd think he'd
twist it off, that long nose of his; he turns it first one way and then
the other, like a gimlet. And so fast!

The armadillo dislikes snakes as much as all true knights disliked
dragons. That is, he doesn't like them socially; although he's quite
fond of them as a variation in diet. He'll leap on a snake, paying not
the slightest attention to his attempts to bite through that coat of
mail, and tear him into bits and eat him.

Another armored knight that eats snakes and that other animals seldom
eat--much as they'd like to--is the hedgehog. If you were a fox, instead
of a boy or girl, I wouldn't have to tell you about how hard it is to
serve hedgehog at the family table. One of the earliest things a little
fox learns in countries where there are hedgehogs is to let the hedgehog
alone.

"Hedgehogs would be very nice--to eat, I mean--if they weren't so ugly
about not wanting to be eaten."

We can imagine Mamma Fox saying that to the children. Then she goes on:

"The whole ten inches of a hedgehog--he's about that long--are covered
with short, stiff, sharp, gray spines. He's easy to catch--just ambles
along, hardly lifting his short legs from the ground. And he goes about
at night--just when we foxes are out marketing. That would be so handy,
don't you see; but the trouble is about those nasty spines of his. Try
to catch him and he rolls up into a ball with all his spines--they're
sharp as needles--sticking out everywhere, and every which way.
And--well, you simply can't get at him, that's all. So just don't have
anything to do with him. It's only a waste of time."

Hedgehogs live in hedges and thickets and in narrow gulches covered with
bushes. They do their share of ploughing when nosing about with their
pig-like snouts for slugs, snails, and insects, and when they dig places
for their home nests. These homes they line with moss, grass, and
leaves, and in them spend the long Winter, indifferent to the tempests
and the cold.

But there's another place to look for hedgehogs, and you never would
guess! In people's kitchens. If you ever go to England you'll find them
in many country homes, helping with the work. They're great on
cockroaches, and they're perfectly safe from the cat and the dog. Both
Puss and Towser know all about those spines, just as well as Mrs. Fox
does.

When they've eaten all the cockroaches, give them some cooked
vegetables, porridge, or bread and milk, and they'll be perfectly
content. They're easy to tame and get very friendly.

In the wild state, besides the insects and things I mentioned, they eat
snakes; and poison snakes, too! The poison never seems to bother them at
all. Their table manners are interesting, also, when it comes to eating
snakes. They always begin at the tail.[20] They'd no more think of
eating a snake any other way than one would of picking up the wrong fork
at a formal dinner.

    [20] Isn't that the way a toad swallows an angleworm? Or how _does_
    he do it?


UNDER THE HEDGEHOG'S WATER-PROOF ROOF

That's one of the things about good manners Mamma Hedgehog teaches the
babies, I suppose. Of these she has from two to four, and she makes a
curious nest especially for them; a nest with a roof on it that sheds
rain like any other roof. Just as it is with puppies and kittens, the
babies are born blind; and not only that, but they can't hear at first,
either. While they are young their spines--I don't mean their
back-bones, but their other spines--are soft, but they become hard as
the babies grow and open their eyes and ears on the world. The muscles
on their backs get very thick and strong, so that when they don't want
to have anything to do with anybody--say a fox, or a dog, or a
weasel--they just pull the proper muscle strings and tie themselves up
into a kind of bag made of their own needle-cushion skins, with the
needles all sticking out, point up!


III. A VISIT TO SOME FARM VILLAGES


TWELVE LITTLE MARMOTS ALL IN ONE BED

Next I'd like you to visit with me certain other farmers who remind us
of the Middle Ages also; not because they wear armor, like the
armadillos and the hedgehogs and the lords of castles, but because they
live in farm villages as the farmer peasants used to do around the
castles of the lords. Moreover, one reason they live together in this
way is for protection--just as it was with the peasants--only among
these little democrats there's no overlord business; each one's home is
his castle. Another reason for this village arrangement is that it's
such a sociable way to live; and they're great society people, these
farm villagers. The marmots, for example, the largest and heaviest of
the squirrel family, just love company. In their mountain
country--they're mountain people, the marmots--they play together, work
together, and during the long, cold night of Winter snuggle together in
their burrows. Their burrows are close by each other among the rocks.
They have both Summer and Winter residences. In Summer they go away up
in the mountains, hollow out their burrows and raise their babies. When
the snows of late Autumn send them down the mountainsides, twelve or
fifteen of them, all working together, pitch in and make a tunnel in the
soil among the rocks, enlarging it at the end into a big room. Next they
put in a good pile of dry hay, carefully close the front door and lock
it up with stones caulked with grass and moss. Then they all cuddle down
together, as snug as you please, and stay there until Spring.

[Illustration: HIGHWAYS OF GROUND-SQUIRREL TOWN

Almost as crooked as the streets of London town, aren't they? And as
hard to find one's way about in--unless, of course, one were a
ground-squirrel. This is the burrow of a Richardson ground-squirrel
sketched by Thompson Seton, near Whitewater, Manitoba.]

Another member of the marmot family who is very fond of good company is
the prairie-dog. There may be thousands in a prairie-dog town. Each
little prairie-dog home has in front of it a mound something like an
Eskimo's hut. The prairie-dogs make these mounds in digging out their
burrows. They pile the dirt right at the front door. This may not look
neat to us, but you'll see it's just the thing--this dirt pile--when you
know what the prairie-dog does with it. He uses it as a watch-tower.

When, from this watch-tower, he spies certain people he doesn't want to
meet, you ought to see how quickly he can make for his front door and
into the house! The times are still lawless where the prairie-dog lives,
and he has to be on the lookout all the while for coyotes, for foxes,
for badgers, for the black-footed ferret and the old gray wolf; to say
nothing of hawks and brown owls.


SUCH NEAT CHAMBERMAIDS!

The prairie-dogs like sandy or gravelly soil for their homes, and in
making them they do a lot of ploughing. And besides they supply this
same soil with a great deal of humus--the grass that they use for
bedding. They're very particular about changing their beds every day;
always clearing out the old bedding and putting in new. They do this
along about sundown. You can see them do it right in New York City, for
there is a flourishing colony of them at the zoo.

[Illustration: THIS MUST BE A PLEASANT DAY

In nice weather the Prairie Dog's front door stands wide open like this,
but before a rain he stuffs it tight with grass because, when it _does_
rain in the arid regions where he lives, it comes down in bucketfuls!]

Mr. Prairie-Dog is about a foot long and as fat as butter. The reason
he's called a dog isn't because he is a dog or even looks like one, but
because he has a sharp little bark like a very much excited puppy. He
thinks he sees something suspicious: "Yap! Yap!"

Or he spies a neighbor down the street: "Yap! Yap! Hello, neighbor!
Looks like another fine day, doesn't it?"

"Yap! Yap!" says neighbor. (This "yap" passes for "yes," no
doubt--although it isn't quite the way Mr. Webster would say it,
perhaps.)

Then maybe a neighbor from away over on the avenue, that he hasn't seen
for some time, comes calling--as they're always doing, these neighborly
little chaps. Then it's:

"Yap! Yap! Yap! Yap! Why, how _are_ you? And what have you been doing?
And how are the little folks?"

And so it goes, all day long.

The prairie-dog's native home is on our Western plains, but he has a
cousin away off in South America--although he may never have heard of
him--called the viscacha.

The viscachas live on the great grassy plains of the La Plata in
colonies of twenty or more, in villages of deep-chambered burrows with
large pit-like entrances grouped close together; so close, in fact, that
the whole village makes one large irregular mound, thirty to forty feet
in diameter and two to three feet high. These villages being on the
level prairie, the viscachas are careful to build them high enough so
that floods will not reach them. They make a clear space all around the
town. In doing this these little people seem to have two purposes: (1)
To make it more difficult for enemies to slip up on them unnoticed, and
(2) to furnish a kind of athletic field for the community; for it is in
these open spaces that they have their foot-races, wrestling matches,
and the like.

If you ever happen down their way, the first thing that will strike you
is the enormous size of the entrances to the central burrows. You'd
think somebody as big as a bear lived in them. The entrance is four to
six feet across and deep enough for a tall man to stand in up to the
waist.

Like our prairie-dogs, the viscachas are very sociable, and little
paths, the result of neighborly calls, lead from one village to another.
They are neighborly indeed; and in the Bible sense. Of course, they like
to get together of an evening and talk things over and gossip and all
that, but that isn't the end of it. To take an instance: These South
American prairie-dogs, like our prairie-dogs up North, are not popular
with the cattlemen; and the cattlemen, to get rid of them, bury whole
villages with earth. Then neighbors from distant burrows come--just as
soon as the cattlemen go away--and dig them out!

[Illustration: MR. P. GOPHER AS THE MASTER PLOUGHMAN

Thompson Seton calls the pocket-gopher "the master ploughman of the
West," and this is how he illustrates the extent of his labors.]

Another ploughman besides the prairie-dog and the viscacha, who isn't
popular with farmers--although Thompson Seton calls him "The Master
Ploughman of the West"--is the pocket-gopher. He has farmed it from
Canada to Texas, all through the fertile Mississippi Valley. The reason
he has that queer expression on his face--you couldn't help noticing
it--is that each cheek has a big outside pocket in it; and, like the big
pockets in a small boy's trousers, they're there for business. On each
forefoot he has a set of long claws; and dig, you should see him! He's a
regular little steam-shovel. He sinks his burrow below the frost-line
and into this, stuffed in his two pockets, he carries food to eat when
he wakes up during the following Spring, before earth's harvests are
ripe.

[Illustration: POCKETS OF THE POCKET-MOUSE]


IV. THE HOME OF THE RED FOX

Another country gentleman, not as popular with his neighbors, I must
say, as he might be, but whose people, in the course of the ages, have
done a good deal of ploughing, is Brer Fox. I mean particularly the red
fox, for the gray fox usually lives in hollow trees or in ready-made
houses among the rocks of the mountainside.


THE THREE ROOMS IN THE FOX HOUSE

The red fox is the cunningest of his tribe. One of the ways he shows his
cunning--and also his lack of conscience, in dealings outside the fox
family--is in his way of getting a home. Whenever he can find a burrow
of a badger, for example, he drives the badger out and then enlarges
the place to suit his own needs. For Mr. Fox's residence is quite an
affair. Usually it has three rooms; the front room where either Mr. or
Mrs. Fox--depending on which is going marketing--stops and looks about
to see if the coast is clear; back of that the storeroom for food, and
behind this the family bedroom and nursery.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox are among the thriftiest folks I know. They not only
provide for to-day, but for to-morrow and the day after. For example,
when Mr. Fox visits a poultry-yard, he doesn't simply carry off enough
for one meal. He keeps catching and carrying off chickens, ducks, or
geese--whatever comes handy--all night; working clear up to daybreak.
And the fresh meat he thus gets for the family table he buries--each
fowl in a separate place--not so very far away from the poultry-yard.
Then later he comes and gets this buried treasure and takes it home to
be shared with mother and the babies.

Of these babies there are from three to five. Young foxes are very
playful and think there's no such sport as chasing each other about in
the sunshine, while mother sits in the doorway keeping an eye out for
possible danger and watching their antics with a complacent smile, as
much as to say: "_Aren't_ they the little dears!"

If just one little fox wants to play while his brothers and sisters want
to sleep--and that sometimes happens--he goes off by himself and chases
his own tail around, just like a kitten.

Little foxes are very nice and polite that way.

[Illustration: THE KANGAROO RAT AND THE POCKET-MOUSE

The kangaroo rat and the pocket-mouse live in the arid regions of the
United States. Both have pockets in their cheeks, but the mouse is named
for his pockets and the rat for his long kangaroo hind legs.]


V. WORK AND PLAY IN CHIPMUNKVILLE

It isn't often one gets a chance to see little foxes at play, except
occasionally in the big city zoos, for foxes are now so scarce; and,
besides, their papas and mammas in the wild state are suspicious of
human spectators, but there are certain nimble four-legged babies to be
found all over the country that play in much the same way.

If, along in July, you should see a certain little body in a lovely
striped suit chasing another little body in a striped suit, exactly like
it, along the old rail fence or over the boulder wall or across the
meadow, ten to one, it will be two baby chipmunks playing tag. When one
bites the other's tail--they're always trying to do that in these tag
games--it means he's "it," I think. In fact, I'm quite sure, for always,
when one little Mr. Chipmunk bites another little Mr. Chipmunk on the
tail, little Mr. Chipmunk No. 2 turns right around and chases little Mr.
Chipmunk No. 1, and tries to bite _his_ tail.

They keep this up on sunshiny days all through July and along into early
August. Then the serious business of life begins. They sober down, these
chipmunk children--they were only born last May--and learn to make homes
for themselves. You never would think the way they love the sunshine
that the homes of all the chipmunks are under the ground, and as dark as
can be. But they are. You notice the chipmunks have rather large feet,
considering what dainty little creatures they are. These feet, like the
feet of the mole, are for digging. The chipmunk digs deep under the
roots of trees and stone walls, if there happens to be either handy by,
but, so far as I've seen, he's quite contented to make his burrows in
the open meadows. The round nest at the end of the burrow is lined with
fine grass. It has two entrances, one right opposite the other, like
front and back doors. Sometimes there are as many as three doors; four,
maybe, in case of a chipmunk of a particularly nervous disposition. All
chipmunks are easily frightened and dive into their holes, quick as a
wink, when there's any danger; and often when there's really nothing to
be scared at at all.


WHEN THOSE EXTRA DOORS COME HANDY

But you can't blame them. There are times when it's no fun being a
chipmunk, I tell you. The hawks get after you, and the minks and the
foxes and the weasels. Those extra doors into the nest are very useful
places to dodge into when you're outside and a savage old hawk swoops
down on you, or a fox makes a jump at you. And they're just as
handy--these extra doors--to run _out_ of when a mink or a weasel
follows you in. They'll do that, if you're a chipmunk; chase you right
into your own house!

When a pair of grown-up chipmunks start housekeeping for
themselves--that is to say when they are about ten weeks old--they first
dig a little tunnel, almost straight down for several feet. Then they
make a hall that runs along horizontally--like anybody's hall--for a few
yards. Then, supposing you're Mr. or Mrs. Chipmunk in your new place,
after it's all done--you go up a slant--a flight of stairs, you might
say, although, of course, there aren't any stairs--and there you are in
the family bedroom, the nest.

Not long after the chipmunks stop their outdoor games in the Fall you
might think it was because they had the mumps; they go around with their
faces all swelled out in such a funny way. The reason is they have their
cheeks full of nuts and seeds that they are storing for the Winter. They
don't put these stores in the nest--for then where would they sleep, the
nest is so small--but in special cellars that they build near the nest,
with connecting passages. These cellars, like the nests, are well below
frost-line, so that Jack can't get the nuts or nip the noses of the
chipmunks while they are asleep.

[Illustration: PICTURESQUE HOME OF A CONNECTICUT WOODCHUCK

This is the truly artistic residence of a Connecticut woodchuck which I
found in a rocky knoll by the wayside during a summer vacation at Kent
and reproduced as well as I could with my fountain-pen. Mr. W. as he
often does in digging his burrows, had availed himself of the protection
of the roots of a tree. Here there were two projecting roots, forming a
curious arch over the doorway, which was tastily decorated by a little
overhanging vine, on its way up the knoll, along the stones, and up the
foot of the tree.]

When Winter finally sets in, the chipmunks get very drowsy and go up to
bed. And there they stay until Spring--one great long nap, except that
they wake up and stir around occasionally on bright days and if it
happens to warm up a little.

"Such sleepyheads!" you say. "And what about all those nuts? I should
think they'd be fine for Winter parties."

They would, I dare say. But you know a body doesn't have much of an
appetite when he doesn't get any outdoor exercise, and that's why the
chipmunks only take a few bites now and then, during the Winter. And,
besides, if they ate up everything in the Winter--you know how folks
eat at parties--what would they do in the Spring, with no good nuts
lying around on the ground, as there are in the Fall; and nothing else
to be had that chipmunks care about? So they keep most of the nuts and
seeds and things for the great Spring breakfast, and all the other
meals, until berries are ripe. The berries they eat until the next nut
harvest comes along.

Until then, you see, they haven't much of anything to do but play around
and sit in the sun and chat. So why shouldn't they?


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     You will find some most readable things about foxes in Burrough's
     "Squirrels and Other Fur Bearers"; Comstock's "Pet Book"; Cram's
     "Little Beasts of Field and Wood"; Wright's "Four-Footed
     Americans"; Jordan's "Five Tales of Birds and Beasts"; Long's "Ways
     of Wood Folk"; and Seton's "Wild Animals I Have Known."

     Comstock's "Pet Book" also tells about the prairie-dog; and Seton,
     in his "Wild Animals I Have Known," tells about "The Prairie Dog
     and His Kin."

     It's a very common superstition among English country folk that
     shrews always drop dead if they attempt to cross a road. How do you
     suppose such a strange idea ever got started? Allen, in his
     "Nature's Work Shop," reasons it out, and his reasons seem very
     plausible. It's a fact that their dead bodies are nearly always
     found in roadways. You'll also find some interesting information
     about shrews in Johonnott's "Curious Flyers, Creepers and Swimmers"
     and Wright's "Four-Footed Americans."

     There's some little dispute about squirrels as tree-planters; that
     is to say as to just how they do it, for there's no question that
     they _do_ plant oaks and other trees. Thoreau, in his "Walden,"
     gives the squirrel credit for doing an immense amount of
     tree-planting, but Ernest Ingersoll, in his article on squirrels in
     "Wild Neighbors," thinks the squirrel leaves comparatively few
     acorns or hickory-nuts, and that he doesn't forget where he puts
     them, as other writers on nature say. "They seem to know precisely
     the spot," says Mr. Ingersoll, "where each nut is buried, and go
     directly to it; and I have seen them hundreds of times when the
     snow was more than a foot deep, wade floundering through it
     straight to a certain point, dive down, perhaps far out of sight,
     and in a moment emerge with a nut in their jaws."

     But _how_ the squirrel knows it's there--that's the mystery! Read
     what Ingersoll says about it. The whole essay is extremely good
     reading, and will tell you a number of things to watch out for in
     squirrels that you perhaps never have noticed.

     In Pliny's "Natural History" you will find, among other quaint
     stories, one to the effect that mountain marmots put away hay in
     the fall by one animal using itself as a hay-rack--lying on his
     back with his load clasped close while he is pulled home by the
     tail. "Animal Arts and Crafts" tells what a simple little thing
     originated this idea. Many of the peasants of the Alps still
     believe it.

     Hornaday, in his "Two Years in the Jungle," gives an interesting
     account of how one of the four-footed knights in armor--the
     pangolin--does himself up in a ball, and how next to impossible it
     is to "unlock" him.

     Ingersoll, in discussing the various uses of tails in "Wild
     Neighbors," tells how a gerboa kangaroo brings home grass for his
     nest, done up in a sheaf of which his own little tail is the
     binder.

     An interesting four-footed burrower, when he can't rob a
     prairie-dog of his hole--or some other body smaller than
     himself--is the coyote. There is a long talk on the coyote and his
     ways in "Wild Neighbors." This little book also gives pictures of
     the different kinds of shrews in the United States, and a lot of
     detail about them and their little paws and their noses and their
     tails.

     It's a queer thing how systematic and prompt shrews and moles are
     in business. You can actually set your watch by them, as you will
     see in the same book.

     In the article on the gopher in the "Americana" you will find how
     the gopher got his name. Can you guess, when I tell you it's from a
     French word meaning "honeycomb"?



CHAPTER VIII

(AUGUST)

    'Till he came unto a streamlet
    In the middle of the forest
    To a streamlet still and tranquil
    That had overflowed its margin,
    To a dam made by the beavers,
    To a pond of quiet water,
    Where knee-deep the trees were standing,
    Where the water-lilies floated,
    Where the rushes waved and whispered.

    --_Longfellow: "Hiawatha."_

WATER FARMERS WHO HELP MAKE LAND


As we all spend more or less time in the water in August I thought it
would be a good idea to take as the subject of this chapter the lives of
the water farmers. Some of these--the crayfish and the turtle, for
example--you know well, and everybody has heard of the beaver family,
but they will all bear closer acquaintance. I know, for I've spent a
good deal of time among them.


I. THE TURTLE PEOPLE

Every boy who has tramped along creeks and ponds knows the mud-turtle.
We ought to call him a tortoise, perhaps, but the name turtle is more
common. I don't know why; perhaps because it's a little easier to say.
Strictly speaking, the name "turtle" is applied to the members of the
family that have flippers, and spend nearly all their time in the
water; while the tortoises are the ones that have feet and put in much
of their time on land. (And then, of course, there are the tortoises of
fables that run races with hares, and so teach us not to be too
confident of ourselves because we think we are cleverer than some other
people.)

[Illustration: A HAWKSBILL TURTLE]

The common box-turtle of the United States you'll meet in the woods in
the evening and early morning, wandering about looking for something to
eat. He spends practically all his time on land in Summer; and in the
Winter, all his time in bed. As soon as cold weather comes on he digs a
hole in the ground, or scoops out a place under some brush, and turns
in.

But the box-turtle--he's really a tortoise--is what some of his
relatives would call a "landlubber," no doubt, for many of the tortoises
who live in the sea rarely leave it; as if they had half a mind to go
back and be only flipper people, as the ancestors of both the turtles
and the tortoises must have been; since all life is supposed to have
begun in the sea.

All the tortoises of temperate regions dig in for the Winter, but one
Southern member of the family makes his home in a dugout throughout the
year. He's called the "gopher" turtle. The gopher turtles are natives of
Florida, and live in pairs in burrows. Other members of the turtle tribe
do not pair, but there's one time in their lives when both land and
water turtles dig into the soil and that's when they are laying their
eggs. The females scoop out hollows with their hind legs, kicking up the
dirt, first with one leg and then with the other. But they're as careful
of the dirt they dig out as a beaver is when he digs a canal. They
scrape it up in a little ridge all around the hole.

What for? Just watch.


HOW MOTHER TURTLE "TAMPS" HER NEST

As soon as she has finished laying her eggs, Mother Turtle carefully
scrapes this dirt back over them and tamps it down, much as a foundryman
tamps the sand in a mould. You can guess what she uses for a tamper--the
under side of her shell, raising and lowering herself on her legs like a
Boy Scout taking his morning setting-up exercises in a Summer camp.
After that she doesn't pay any more attention to her eggs. She leaves
the sun to do her hatching for her. Both land and sea turtles--or, more
properly speaking, the tortoises and the turtles--hatch their young in
this way. The sea-turtles scramble up out of the water on their
flippers, much as a seal does in climbing on a rock, and make their way
back from the shore, great crowds of them, at nesting-time, to some
stretch of sand, and there lay their eggs. This march of the mother
turtles always takes place at night. When the young are hatched they dig
their way up through the sand and make for the sea.


II. THE CRAB FAMILY

Another one of the water people who help make land and one that
everybody knows, is the crayfish. Every small boy is afraid Mr. Crayfish
will catch his little big toe sooner or later, when he goes swimming;
although I never heard of a crayfish that did. But they never worry
about _their_ toes--the crayfish don't. When they lose a whole foot
even--as they often do--it grows right out again. The science people say
this is because they belong to a low order in the animal world, but I
think it would come in right handy for any of us--this way of regrowing
not toe-nails alone, but toes and all--don't you?

The crayfish, as you may know, love to burrow in the mud, for you are
always coming across their little mud towers along the margins of the
brooks. Related to the crayfish are the crabs. Mother Nature seems to
have been very fond of crabs--she has made them after so many different
patterns and scattered them all over the world; in the deep sea, along
the shallows of its shores, and on land. Those you are most apt to meet
must have more or less business on land, for the shape of their legs
shows that they are formed for walking rather than swimming. But go
far out to sea and you'll find crabs with paddles on all four pairs of
legs, like banks of oars; while others, living on the borders of the
sea, have paddles only on the last pair.

[Illustration: SOUTH SEA ISLAND AND COCOANUT COLUMBUS

Here we are on an island of the Southern Seas--the home of a colony of
cocoanut crabs. One of the members of the colony is climbing a tree to
get a nut. "And who has a better right?" says he. "This tree," he might
continue, "is the descendant of a nut that some of my ancestors sailed
upon to this island; for a cocoanut, dropping into the water from a tree
near some far shore, often carries on it the crab who had started to eat
it. Then a current of the sea carries the nut and its passenger to some
other island. Later cocoanut Santa Marias and their Columbuses reach the
island in the same way, and so it becomes populated with both cocoanuts
and crabs--which makes it very nice for the crabs!"]

One of the big families of crabs live on land most of the time and make
burrows in which they live. These have legs specially fitted for
digging. Like most of the crab family, the land-crab earns its living at
night and, except in rainy weather, seldom leaves its burrow by day.
Like small boys, these crabs seem to love to play in the rain. The fact
is they do this to keep their gills wet; for, although they spend most
of their time on land, crabs breathe with their gills, like fish; and
while some of them--as the mountain crab of the West Indies--live quite
a distance back from the sea, they must have some moisture for their
gills, and this they get, in part, in their damp cellars--the burrows.

But it's queer, isn't it, what different ways people have of looking at
things? Take land crabs and turtles, for example. Turtles, when they lay
their eggs, think the only thing is to get clear away from the water and
put their eggs in an incubator, as we saw them do a few pages back. The
land-crabs evidently think just the opposite; for no matter how
far they may live away from the sea--one, two, even three miles
sometimes--nothing will do but they must go to the water to lay their
eggs. In April and May you'll see them swarming down by hundreds and
thousands. And they'll climb right over you if you don't get out of
their way!

"This is my busy day and I can't stop for anything," says Mrs. Crab.

Besides the work they do for the soil in grinding and mixing it, the
crab people, like all the crustaceans, help a lot by adding lime to it,
and that's one of the very best things you can do to soil, you know.
They add this lime when they change their clothes; that is, when they
moult or cast their shells. The shell they take off as if it were indeed
a dress. They "unbutton" it down the back. Sometimes, in trying to get
out of the legs of the suit, they leave not only the leg covering but
the leg itself. That leg is good for the soil, too, of course, and the
loss of a leg doesn't bother a crab so very much. He just grows a new
one, that's all!

These shells--particularly the shells of the largest species of
crabs--not only contain a great deal of lime but carbon and phosphorus,
also, and these are splendid soil stuff, too. In the smaller kinds of
crabs--of crustaceans, generally--these shells are mostly chitin, the
stuff that the coverings of insects is made of.

The crustaceans, by the way, are closely related to the insects. You may
_suspect_ this by comparing their shapes, but then you'll see there
isn't any doubt about it when I tell you that in getting born from the
egg, the crabs and their kin don't come out dressed in their final
shape, but change after they are born, first into one shape and then
into another, just as insects do. Each shape, as it comes along, looks
funnier than the rest; that is, it looks funny to us, but not,
naturally, to the crabs. It must seem just the thing to them, for they
always dress the same way and look as solemn about it as a man does when
he wears a monocle. In fact, they do something almost as funny as
wearing a monocle. For many of them carry their eyes about, not on the
end of a cord, to be sure, but on the end of a stick. These "sticks" are
called foot stalks. And they're not a bad idea either--for a crab. By
moving them around the crabs can keep much better posted on what is
going on about them than they could otherwise; particularly as a crab
always moves sidewise or backward. What good a monocle does, though,
nobody knows.


III. THE STRANGER THAT MADE LONDON LAUGH

But if we can hardly look a crab in the eye and keep a straight face,
what would we do if we met a duck-billed mole? We'd laugh right out! I'm
sure of it, for that's what even the men of science did when they saw
the first one that came to England. This strange foreigner--it came to
London all the way from Australia--had a body like a mole. But you
couldn't call it a mole. For one thing, it had a bill like a duck. Yet
no more could you call it a duck; for, besides having a body like a
mole, it had a tail like a beaver. Still I'm afraid the beavers wouldn't
have owned it--hospitable as they are--even if they could have
overlooked that bill. For--can you believe it?--this duck-billed,
mole-bodied, beaver-tailed creature lays eggs!

[Illustration: THE ANIMAL X FROM THE ANTIPODES

A mole's body, a duck's bill, a beaver's tail, this strange citizen of
that land of strange animals, Australia, lays eggs like a bird and
suckles its young like a pussy-cat! Do you wonder that the wise men of
London laughed at the idea that there is any such creature--even when
they were looking right at one?]

Yet the ducks just couldn't take it into their families either, for what
else do you think it does? It suckles its young, like a pussy-cat! Talk
about your sensations; it made the hit of the season--this Animal X from
the Antipodes. The learned men of London town, they looked him up and
they looked him down, and they came to the same conclusion, at first,
that the old gentleman did when he saw the dromedary. They said: "They
_ain't_ no such animal!" (Only, of course, being learned men, they used
good grammar.)

They really did say that in effect, and you can't blame them; for, as if
to complete the joke, the first member of the duck-billed mole family to
move in scientific society came in like a Christmas turkey; in other
words, he was a stuffed specimen. So the men of science said he wasn't
_real_ at all; that he was just made up of the parts of _other_ animals.
But being true men of science, after all, they finally began looking up
the stranger's record among his neighbors back in Australia, and they
found there actually are living creatures in that land of strange
creatures, just like that specimen, and that they live in burrows which
they dig in the banks of the streams.

[Illustration: COUSIN ECHIDNA

The echidna--you can see one in the New York Zoo--is closely related to
our duck-billed friend and is also a native of Australia. It uses that
long, tapering nose and those claws to burrow for the ants on which it
lives.]

Still the scientists didn't know what to call this paradox of the animal
kingdom; so they named him just that--paradoxicus, _Ornythoryncus
paradoxicus_. A little Greek boy, without having to look it up in a
dictionary, would have told us that "ornythoryncus" means "bird-billed";
for it's like those Greek picture words that always told their own story
to the little Greeks. As for "paradox" if you don't know what that
means, look it up in the dictionary and then look at the _Ornythoryncus
paradoxicus_, and you'll understand.


IV. THE BEAVERS

Of course you wouldn't like to be a duck-billed mole--nobody would, but
I always thought it would be rather nice to be a beaver. The beaver
is, in many ways, the most remarkable of all the water people that help
make the lands that give us bread.

[Illustration: BEAVERS AT WORK AND AT PLAY

Whether he's working because he is more industrious than those beavers
in the water or because it's recess time with them, the young beaver
gnawing the tree seems to be having quite as good a time practising his
profession as the others do in playing about.]

But it is not alone for the amount of work he does that I admire Mr.
Beaver so much; it is for his intelligent, not to say brilliant, way of
doing it. Suppose, for instance, you had to build a house out in the
water, the way our great, great-grandparents, the lake-dwellers, did, to
protect yourself from enemies and for other reasons. And then suppose
you didn't have any _tools_; nothing but a pair of paws and a set of
teeth. Could you do it?

Another thing: The lake-dwellers had plenty of water to build in;
plenty, but not too much. The beavers don't have this advantage. They
usually build in the water of flowing streams, and they have to make
their _own_ lakes. How would you do it; even if you had tools? But
remember, being a beaver, you've got nothing to use but two honest paws
and a set of teeth. It was with these Mr. Beaver did it all--with his
teeth, his paws, and his head; the inside of his head, I mean--his
brain. Take the matter of water arrangements. He gets the water to lie
quietly and at just the right depth by building his dam across the
stream. This dam not only provides him with water of just the right
depth to protect his front door from enemies and to keep rushing
torrents from carrying his house away, but the spreading out of the
original stream bed into a pond helps in gathering the Fall harvest of
trees, since it brings the trees nearer to the water's edge, and water
transportation among beavers, as among men, is always cheapest.

Although dams are usually built of trees which the beavers cut down
themselves, they also use cobblestones where trees are scarce; for Mr.
Beaver is a very thrifty soul; he doesn't waste material nor time nor
effort. Many books about beavers say they cut the trees so they will
fall across the stream, but Mills says, in his book on the beaver,
written after many years of patient observation, that beavers don't seem
to care how the tree falls, just so it doesn't fall on _them_! Not but
what they _could_ cut trees to fall in the water if they thought best;
for just watch them build a dam and see how clever they are; cleverer,
possibly, than some of us.

[Illustration: BEAVERS AT WORK ON A DAM

See how many of the features of the building of a beaver dam, as
described in our story of these wise little people, you can make out in
this picture.]

Let's see. Say you've got your trees up to where the dam is to be; now
how are you going to set them in building the dam?


SEE IF YOU'RE AS CLEVER AS MR. BEAVER

"Right across the dam," you would say, wouldn't you? That is what most
people have said when I have asked them that question; for that is the
way men do it. But remember, if you built the dam as men build dams you
would have to drive stakes or do something to keep the logs from washing
away. Years ago, when writers used to theorize a great deal on how
things were done, instead of getting outdoors and watching patiently to
see how they actually _were_ done, it was said that Mr. Beaver in
building his dam did really drive stakes and that he did it with that
big tail of his. But what Mr. Mills found was that the beaver lays his
trees lengthwise of the stream. You see why that is, don't you? When the
trees are laid lengthwise, the water, instead of striking them
broadside, strikes only the end and so there is less likelihood of their
being carried away.

Another thing, two things, about the trees in the dam--in fact four:

1. It wouldn't do, you see, to lay the trees broadside to the stream,
but what position could we give them that would help still further in
keeping the water from carrying them away?

2. Shall we use trees with the branches still on them or trees trimmed
down like sticks of cord-wood? (What kind do you see in the picture of
the beaver dam?)

3. Or shall we use both trimmed and untrimmed trees? If so, why? And
how?

4. If we use untrimmed trees, which end shall we put up-stream? The butt
or the tip?

[Illustration: SECTION OF A BEAVER DAM

You can see that there was a sufficient flow of water in the stream from
which this sketch of a section of a beaver dam was taken; otherwise the
dam would have been plastered with mud to conserve the supply. The
longest slope, of course, was up-stream--a fundamental principle in
beaver bridge engineering.]

In building his dam the beaver uses, for the most part, slender green
poles trimmed and cut in lengths; but mixed with these are small
untrimmed trees which he places with the butt end up-stream, and propped
with mud and sticks so that the up end will be a foot or so higher than
the down end. In this way, you see, the branches are made to resist the
push of the waters against the butt end; while, if they were placed the
other way, the current would have a pulling purchase on the butt end.
The raising of the ends also lessens the pushing force of the water as
it doesn't strike the butt of the tree "full on," as it would otherwise
do. And the branches not only help to hold the trees in place, but,
together, form a kind of foundation on which to pile and intermix the
trimmed poles.

The timbers, being cut green, become water-soaked. This makes them
heavier and so causes them to sink and helps to hold them in place;
while the branches and twigs of the untrimmed trees form a kind of
basketwork that catches the sediment and drift of the stream, and so the
dam lets less and less water through. The upside stream is plastered by
the beavers with mud in cases where the flow of water in the stream is
meagre. Otherwise it is left unplastered. You see Mr. Beaver's idea is
not to make the dam absolutely water-tight, for then it would be running
over all the time and so be worn away. What he wants is a dam that will
let the water through slowly and at the same time keep a proper level.

[Illustration: BEAVER HOME WITHOUT TIME LOCK

Here is a beaver home as it looks before the time lock is put on in the
Fall.]

Mr. Beaver's chief purpose in building these dams seems to be to keep
his front-door yard full of water. This may look like a funny idea at
first, but in this, as in other things, Mr. Beaver shows he has a very
wise head on his shoulders; for one peculiarity of his life is that he
is obliged to come and go through the cellar door. As he doesn't want
any of his enemies--the wolf, the coyote, and all that class of
people--to use this door, he keeps it under water. And in winter-time,
when he goes out to the wood-pile to get something to eat, the water
must be deep enough so that the pond doesn't freeze solid to the bottom.

[Illustration: A BEAVER HOME WITH TIME LOCK

Here, as it looks after being made secure against hungry wolves and the
Winter winds.]

As for those professional highwaymen, the wolves and coyotes, that are
so much bigger than he is, Mr. Beaver keeps out of their way in Summer,
when they don't bother much about him, anyway, as he sticks so close to
the water and is hard to catch. In the Winter, when they get hungry and
desperate and would break into his house, if they could, he makes it
practically burglar-proof, by putting on a time lock; a lock that just
won't open, even to a wolf's sharp claws, until Spring.

And in the simplest way.

Just before Winter sets in Mr. Beaver plasters the outside of his house
with mud, and the mud freezes as hard as a stone. But sometimes, even
among the beavers, there are shiftless characters, like that Arkansas
man who just _wouldn't_ look after his roof. These careless beavers
don't plaster their roofs. But then, just see what happens! Some hungry
wolf comes along and breaks through and has a nice fat beaver for
supper, maybe. And maybe not; for, even in that case, if Mr. Beaver
wakes up in time, he dives down through the cellar door and into the
tunnel and out under the ice.

"Aha! You got fooled that time, didn't you? You mean old thing!" (Can't
you almost hear him say it?)

In putting the mud coating on their houses or dams the beavers carry it
in their fore paws. Sometimes, in a very steep place, they climb up the
roof with three feet and hold the mud with one. When they have delivered
the mud they use these same little paws to pat it down--not their
trowel-like tails, as one would naturally suppose.


THAT MYSTERY ABOUT THE BEAVER'S TAIL

Then what _do_ they do with those tails? Well, for one thing, they
sometimes use them to carry mud by curling them between their legs and
holding the mud against their bodies. Perhaps they resort to this way of
carrying mud where they have such a steep climb up the roof they need
all four legs to climb with; or it may be just an individual fancy of
some beavers. For, being really _thinkers_ and not mere machines, acting
entirely on what is called instinct, different beavers have different
ways of doing things. The beaver's tail is also very useful in swimming,
and Mr. Beaver is a great swimmer. You should see him. He swims mostly
with his hind feet and tail, holding his fore paws against his breast as
a squirrel does when he's sitting up looking at you. His tail he uses as
one uses an oar in sculling, turning it slightly on edge as he works it
back and forth.

But he has two other important uses for this big tail, as we shall now
see; for the beavers of this colony we are watching, having put up their
dam and built their big house, are now ready for the Fall harvest that
is to provide for the long Winter. The beavers are strict vegetarians.
Their diet consists of the tender bark of young trees and roots dug from
the bottom and along the banks of the ponds in which they live.

"But, for mercy's sake, where are they going to get the tender bark of
trees in the dead of Winter, when all the trees are frozen solid and the
beavers can't get from under the ice anyhow?"

Well, Mr. Beaver has thought out just how to do it and we didn't. That's
the beauty of being a beaver. What he does is to cut down small trees,
trim them, divide them into lengths, and then heap them up in a great
pile at his door, under the water.

By the time they are three years old beavers feel grown-up; as, indeed,
they are in size, although, like certain other young people I could
name, they have a great deal yet to learn. At this age they choose their
mates and either settle down in the home colony or go away somewhere
else.

School takes up with the beavers in September. All through September and
October the harvest is gathered and preparations made for the long
Winter. The baby beavers of the Spring, who by this time are four or
five months old, take part in the harvesting; at least they play at it.
They don't do much, but they learn a great deal. Now let's all be little
beavers for a few minutes and see what we can learn. We are out in the
harvest-field--the woods--with father, and he's going to cut down a tree
for the Winter food-pile. Watch him.

He picks out a young tree something less than six inches thick. Then he
looks up as if he wanted to see what kind of a day it was going to be;
although the fact is he never bothers his head about the weather. What
he is really looking up for is to see if the top of the tree he is going
to chop down is likely to get tangled in the tops of other trees when it
falls. (All beavers, I should add, don't take this precaution; only the
older and wiser ones.) After this inspection he either cuts the tree in
two with his long sharp chisel teeth so that it will fall clear of the
tangling branches of other trees, or, if he sees he can't prevent this,
he moves away to another tree.

Just before the tree is ready to fall he thumps the ground several times
with his tail to warn other beavers working near by. They all scamper
as fast as their fat bodies and short legs will let them. If they are
near water, as they usually are--they "plunk" into it. After the tree
falls the limbs are cut off, the trunk gnawed into sections four to six
feet long, depending on the size of the trunk, the distance from the
water, and the number of beavers that are going to help move it.
Although, as a rule, only one beaver works on a tree in cutting it down,
they all pitch in and help in getting the sections home; dragging them
across the ground and into the pond or into one of their wonderful
canals.


THE BEAVERS AND THEIR PANAMA CANALS

The beavers knew all about digging canals long before the days of
Colonel Goethals. They dug them for much the same reason we dug the
great Panama Canal, to save time and expense in moving freight and for
protection from possible enemies. On land the beaver is easy prey for
wolves and such, but once in the water he can laugh at them. These
canals not only enable him to haul his wood easily and safely, but are
just the things to dive into when somebody is after you. Another purpose
of the canals is to fill ponds where water is getting low; or to make a
pond where there isn't any at all, as in a dry ravine.

Whether you look at them from the standpoint of their intelligence and
good habits, or their usefulness, beavers are the most interesting of
all our little four-legged brothers of field or wood, and it is pleasing
to know that many States have passed laws to protect them.

[Illustration: SUN BATH AFTER THE SWIM

Boys, after an hour or so in the "ole swimmin' hole," like to take a sun
bath. That's what these young beavers are doing on a nice grassy spot by
the pond.]

And besides he is such a good fellow, Mr. Beaver is; peaceable,
industrious, dependable, and with the best heart in the world! Why, do
you know what they do--the beavers--when neighbors get burned out by
forest-fires or their houses broken into by a mean old wolf or coyote or
anything? Take them right in, children and all!

If you were a little beaver you'd have from two to four twin brothers
and sisters to start with, and then two to four more for each of the
remaining two years before you left home to make your own way in the
world. You'd be born with your eyes open and not like a puppy or kitten.
And, what do you think, _in less than two weeks_ you could go swimming.
Mother would be right with you in case anything happened. Then when you
were tired swimming you'd climb up on top of the house and rest and doze
in the sun; take your afternoon nap just like any other baby.

[Illustration: LITTLE BEAVERS IN THEIR HOME]

But maybe it wouldn't be your own mamma that would be with you; for lots
of sad things happen to beaver people, and when one little beaver's
mother dies another mother beaver will take care of him, and all his
brothers and sisters besides! Mr. Mills tells in that most interesting
book of his about how one day a mother beaver was killed by a hunter who
thought he didn't have anything better to do than kill poor little
beavers; and the very next evening a lady beaver, who _already_ had four
babies of her own, travelled a quarter of a mile with them to the house
of her dead neighbor and stayed there and brought all the little orphans
up!


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     The crayfish is a thing you've got to take seriously if you want to
     get the most out of it. Huxley says that a thorough study of a
     crayfish is almost a whole course in zoology. Think of going to
     school to a crayfish! But you'd enjoy it, I'm sure. For just
     look--and these are only a few of the interesting things you will
     find in Huxley's famous book on "The Crayfish":

     How they swim backward (no doubt you know this already), and how
     they walk on the bottom of the water.

     Why they seem to know the points of the compass--for they prefer
     rivers that run north and south.

     Why they are most active toward evening.

     Where they spend the winter.

     Why they eat their old clothes.

     How early in the spring you may expect to find them.

     When they hatch their eggs and how the mother crayfish uses her
     tail for a nursery.

     In what respect they resemble moths.

     How they chew their meals with their feet and work their jaws like
     a camel from side to side--only more so!

     How they grow by fits and starts, and what this has to do with the
     way they change their clothes.

     How you can tell the age of a crayfish. (You don't do it by looking
     at its teeth. You couldn't see its teeth anyway, because they are
     in its stomach.)

     And all this in less than the first fifty pages of a book, which
     has more than 350.

     One of the most famous of the crab family, not only on account of
     his part in agriculture, but because of his funny ways, is the
     robber-crab. You should read about the wild life of adventure some
     of these crabs lead--regular Robinson Crusoes who get wrecked on
     islands far away from home and build houses there and shift for
     themselves in many ingenious ways, just as the human Robinson
     Crusoe did. Kingsley's "Madam How and Lady Why" has some
     interesting pages about them; and so has Darwin's "Voyage Around
     the World."

     Of the many things that have been written about beavers the
     following are among the most interesting: The story of the beaver
     in "Stories of Adventure," edited by Edward Everett Hale; "The
     Forest Engineer," by T. W. Higginson, in Johonnott's "Glimpses of
     the Animal World"; "How the Beaver Builds His House," in "The
     Animal Story Book," edited by Lang; "The Builders," in Lang's "Ways
     of Wood Folks"; and "The House in the Water," by Roberts.

     The most interesting book of all on beavers, however, is "The
     Beaver World," by Mills, referred to in this chapter. I have not
     told you one-half of the remarkable things you will find about them
     in this book.

     One of the most curious is about how a beaver sometimes gets his
     breath in the winter time. He may have to travel quite a distance
     under the ice, and one good breath has to last him to the end of
     the journey.

     "But does he hold his breath all this time? How can he?"

     He can't. He just uses the same breath over again. See how he does
     it. The Mills book tells.

     Look up the muskrat and compare his ways with those of the beaver.

     In the "Country Life Reader" you will find a graphic description of
     one of the perils of life for the beavers and their cousins the
     muskrats; namely in attacks by the great horned owl.



[Illustration: CITY LIFE AMONG THE FLAMINGOES

We don't have to go to Florida to get this bird's-eye view of a flamingo
city. It is one of the habitat groups in the American Museum of Natural
History in New York, and reproduces perfectly the architecture and the
social life of these interesting people.]



CHAPTER IX

(SEPTEMBER)

    On the housetop, one by one
    Flock the synagogue of swallows
    Met to vote that Autumn's gone.

    --_Gautier: "Life."_

FARMERS WHO WEAR FEATHERS


Sh! Go easy! Pretend you're a horse or a cow.[21] We've gone south with
the swallows--it's September you see--and those queer birds over there
are flamingoes. The flamingoes are a shy lot; I don't know why. I can't
think it's on account of their looks; for there's the kiwi, the
hornbill, and sakes alive--the puffins! _They_ all have funny noses,
too, but none of them are particularly shy, and you can walk right up to
a Papa Puffin almost. Whatever the reason is, the flamingoes are very
easily frightened and they're particularly suspicious of human beings.
Yet we've simply got to meet them and have them in this chapter, for
they are among the most interesting of the feathered workers of the
soil. They just live in mud; build those tower-like nests out of it,
walk about in it, and get their meals by scooping up mud and muddy water
from the marshes where they live, on the borders of lakes and seas. They
strain out the little creatures wiggling about in these scooped-up
mouthfuls.

    [21] Observers find that flamingoes can be successfully approached
    by putting on the skin of a cow or a horse.


I. FEATHERED FARMERS WITH QUEER NOSES

"What a funny nose! What happened to it?"

I knew you'd say that. Everybody does. But just watch now and see. That
flamingo over there, stalking about on his stilt-like legs, sticks his
long neck down to the muddy water, turns that funny nose upside down
and----

"Why, of all things, is he going to stand on his head?"


WHY FLAMINGOES HAVE SUCH FUNNY NOSES

No, not that. Don't you see, he's getting his dinner? After that crooked
scoop bill--for that's what it really is, a scoop--is filled, the water
strains out through ridges along the edge of the bill and what's left is
his food.

That picture looks as if it had a tremendous lot of flamingoes in it,
doesn't it? It has. It's quite a town, Flamingoburg is. Although
flamingoes are so wary about meeting two-legged people without
feathers--that is, human beings--they're very sociable among themselves
and there may be a thousand, even two thousand, pair in a single
flamingo city, such as Doctor Chapman studied in the Bahama Islands some
years ago.

Their nests are cupped-out hollows in little towers of dried mud raised
a foot or so to keep high tides from swamping them. They scrape up the
mud with that shovel-like bill. After the conical-tower nest is made,
the mud piled up and patted into shape with her bill and feet, Mother
Flamingo lays one or two eggs--and then she goes to setting. You notice
there's just one little chick in the nest in the lower left-hand corner
of the picture, and just one egg in the nest near by.

With such a low stool to sit on you wonder what the mother bird does
with her long legs. In some pictures in children's nature books of not
so many years ago you'll find her represented as sitting on the nest
with her legs hanging down the sides--but you see that couldn't be; the
nest isn't tall enough. What she really does is to fold her legs under
her body; just once, of course, at the joint. But they're so long that,
even when folded, they reach out beyond her tail. While setting, the
lady birds reach around with their long necks shovelling up things to
eat and gossiping, more or less, with the neighbors; for the nests, you
notice, are very close together. Sometimes two of them will reach across
the narrow alley that separates the residence of Mrs. Flamingo Smith
from Mrs. Flamingo Jones, take each other playfully by the bill and hold
together for a while. Maybe this is their way of saying "Good morning,"
or "How do you do?"

[Illustration: FLAMINGO SOCIETY NOTES FROM THE ZOO

THE TOILETTE

You'd expect a lady wearing so many nice feathers to be particularly
careful about her dress, wouldn't you?

A LITTLE NAP

Queer notion, sleeping on one leg like that, isn't it? But then
flamingoes _are_ queer!

A TOUCH OF RHEUMATISM

Of course flamingoes don't go around like that even in zoos. This is the
artist's joking way of telling that in our northern climate they are
subject to rheumatism. And the keepers actually do oil their legs.]

You'd hardly think it--with those long legs of theirs--but the
flamingoes swim beautifully. With their long necks drawn back--the way
swans do it, you know--they are very graceful, and a flock of them
floating about is one of the loveliest sights in the world. They look
like a big, fleecy, pink cloud resting right on the surface of the
water. You can now find only a few flamingoes in Florida, where there
used to be so many; but go on south into Central and South America and
there are thousands of them. They are still fairly numerous in countries
bordering the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. In Persia they are
called "red geese." And the name isn't so far wrong as you'd think. You
notice that, unlike those stilt-walkers, the herons, the flamingoes have
webbed feet. Like geese and ducks, also, they have those rows of
tooth-like ridges on the edges of their bills. It is these "teeth" that,
coming together, act as strainers.

But a queer thing about their bills, besides the funny-way they have of
crooking down all of a sudden, is that the upper bill is smaller and
fits down into the lower. Stranger still, the birds can raise and lower
this upper bill like the cover of a coffee-pot.

They can move the under bill a little, too, but not to amount to
anything; so you see there was even more to the upside-downness of that
bill than there seemed to be at first. The whole arrangement looks odd
to us, but it works out beautifully for the birds. When they turn their
heads upside down they can stir the ooze to various depths, as required,
by using the upper bill as a ploughshare and setting it at different
angles.

Although they've borrowed some ideas from both the goose and the heron
families, the flamingoes are so different from either they are put into
a family by themselves, the _Phoenicopteridæ_. This family name is from
two Greek words meaning "red-winged." If you want to be formal in
speaking of or to a goose you must refer to her family as the _Anserinæ_
which is Latin for "geese."

[Illustration: WHERE THE FLAMINGO KEEPS ITS TEETH

While teeth, like those of the Hesperornis, went out of fashion ages
ago, the flamingoes have substitutes for teeth which answer their
purposes much better. They have little horny spines on their bills and
on their tongues. These spines serve as fences to prevent the escape of
the minute creatures which the flamingo scoops up with its bill. You
notice the spines on the tongue are pointed backward toward the throat;
and that's a help--to the flamingo, I mean, for once on that tongue
there's no turning back.]


A LATE BIRD, BUT HE GETS THE WORM

Another of the long-nosed earth workers, as curious in his make-up as
the flamingoes, is the kiwi of New Zealand. Like the flamingo, the kiwi
uses his queer bill to get his living out of the soil. You've heard the
saying "it's the early bird that gets the worm"; but while this is true
of most birds it doesn't apply to the kiwis. Although they live on
worms, as does Mr. Early Bird of the proverb, they do their feeding by
night.

And such a funny thing for a bird to do, the kiwis go about with their
noses to the ground like a dog smelling after a rat. The reason they do
this is that their nostrils are situated, not next to their heads, as in
most birds, but at the end of the bill--and on purpose; for they locate
their suppers, the worms in the earth, by the sense of smell, although
most birds have a very poor sense of smell. Just after sunset, you'll
see the kiwis moving about softly (as if they were afraid of scaring
away the worms!), and with the tips of their bills against the ground.

"Sniff! Sniff!" (You actually can hear them sniff.)

There, he's found one! His bill is not only long, but bends rather
easily and that's why, perhaps, he's able to follow up so closely the
hints he gets from his nose as to the location of worms, for he usually
brings the worm out whole, and not all pulled apart as the robins do it
sometimes. He works in soft earth, where most worms are found, and
generally drives his bill in up to his forehead. If all goes well he
pulls it right out with the worm at the end; but if there is any
likelihood of an accident, the kiwi gently moves his head and neck to
and fro until he has the soil loosened up and so clears the way. Once
the worm is fairly out of the ground, he throws up his head with a jerk
and swallows it whole.

Because they roam about so much at night, the kiwis sleep much of the
day. You'll find them in thickets or in among the forested hills, where
they make their homes. Sometimes, however, you'll see one standing,
leaning on his long bill, like a street-idler propping himself up with
his cane. If you disturb him, he yawns, as if to say:

"Oh, these bores! Why can't they let a fellow alone?"

But don't you go too far and annoy him or he'll get real peevish and
strike at you with his foot.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Kiwi drill the earth every day--or rather every
night--in their search for worms, but Lady Kiwi does all the excavating
when it comes to making the nest. This she does by digging a tunnel,
generally under the roots of a tree fern. There she lays two eggs and
then her family cares are practically over for the time being, since it
is the male kiwi who does most of the setting.

[Illustration: MR. HORNBILL LOCKS THE DOOR

In Africa, Southern Asia, and the East Indies live the Hornbills. After
the nest is built and the eggs laid in the hollow of some big tree like
that, Mrs. Hornbill begins to set; and Mr. Hornbill, to protect her from
enemies, walls up the nest with mud--all but that hole through which she
puts her bill and gets food from the devoted father and husband.]

Other long-nosed tunnel diggers you must have seen many a time when
you've been fishing, for they are fishers, too--Mr. and Mrs. Kingfisher.
Their home is at the end of a tunnel in the banks of the stream where
they do their fishing.

While we're visiting them and making a study of their household
arrangements, it's a good thing for us that we're not kingfishers
ourselves; for if there's anything that makes the kingfishers mad it's
to have other kingfishers fooling around their place or even coming into
their front yard. Each pair of kingfishers lays claim to the part of the
creek in the neighborhood of their nest, as their fishing preserve, and
woe betide any other kingfisher that trespasses!

Human fishermen and hunters give it out sometimes that kingfishers eat
big fish that might otherwise be caught with a hook or a seine, but the
fact is these birds catch only minnows and little shallow-water fish.

In digging the tunnels for their nests the two birds work together, and
these tunnels are sometimes fifteen feet long. So you see that with
kingfishers scattered around the world as they are--some 200 species in
all--they must have done an enormous amount of ploughing in the course
of time; to say nothing of what they have done in the way of enriching
the soil with fish-bones, one of the very best of all fertilizers.

The kingfisher's nest wouldn't be at all attractive to some birds--the
swallows, for example, who are so particular about having feather-beds.
It has just a hard-earth floor like the cabins of the American pioneers,
but the little kingfishers are perfectly contented and happy; for their
meals are very plentiful, fairly regular, and the fish are always fresh.


FISHING DAYS AND OTHER DAYS

But some days even the kingfishers don't have fish for dinner. Instead
they serve crayfish and frogs. This is on cloudy days, or when the wind
is stiff and the water rough. On such days even the keen eyes of the
kingfisher can't see a fish or make out exactly where the fish is when
he does see one. But on clear, quiet days, you should see him fish. He
often dives from a perch fifty feet or more above the creek and strikes
the water so hard you'd think it would knock the breath out of him. But
up he comes with his fish, nearly every time!

Of course he misses occasionally, but just think of seeing a fish that
far away--under the water, mind you; and not a big fish, but a little
minnow, only two or three inches long.


II. UNDER THE OVEN-BIRD'S FRIENDLY ROOF

Another great little farmer is the oven-bird. We can't afford to miss
him and his wife for anything; and although we have to go to South
America to meet them, we'll do it. So here we are! The oven-birds build
a nest of clay mixed with some hair or grass or real fine little roots.
This nest, when it's all done--it takes a good while to build it--is so
big you'd hardly believe it was the home of so small a bird. It's a
dome-shaped affair, like a Dutch oven. In the United States we have what
we call an "oven-bird," too--one of the water-thrushes; but as its
dome-shaped nest is made of grass and leaves and has no clay in it, we
will not include this bird among the feathered farmers. The oven-bird of
South America knows how to build its dome of clay without any
scaffolding, which isn't easy.


OVEN-BIRD DOORS AND THE FRIENDLY ROAD

While the big flamingoes are so shy, the little oven-birds don't care
who sees them--provided they can see _him_ first. This is possibly
because they want to keep an eye on any suspicious movements; for they
make it an invariable rule to build so that their front doors will face
the road. But really I think they do this, not because they are
suspicious, but because they want to be neighborly and arrange their
homes so they can sit on their front stoop and watch the crowd go by.
They not only have their doors where they can see what's going on, but
they nearly always build near the country road or the village street,
and in the most conspicuous place they can find, instead of staying off
by themselves in those vast, lonesome woods of Brazil where they lived
before man came.

When a nest is to be built the oven-bird picks up the first
likely-looking root fibre, or a horsehair, or a hair from an old cow's
tail, carries it to some pond or puddle and, with this binding
material, works bits of mud into a little ball about the size of a
filbert. Then he flies with this pellet to the place where the nest is
going up. With clay balls like this laid down and then worked together,
the two birds make the floor of their little house. On the outer edge of
the floor they build up the walls. These walls they gradually incline
inward, just as the Eskimos build their snow-block huts, until they form
a dome with a little hole in it. The last little ball they bring goes to
fill that little hole and then the house is done, so far as the walls
and roof are concerned. Next, a front door is cut through the wall that
faces the road.

[Illustration: THE FRIENDLY DOOR THAT FACES THE ROAD

Oven-birds make it a rule to build their adobe homes so that the front
door will face the road. And they nearly always build near the road or
the village street. Neighborly little creatures!]

From the front door a partition is built reaching nearly to the back of
the house, shutting off the front room from the family bedroom. After
the eggs are laid Papa Oven-bird stays in the front room--or
thereabouts--while mamma sets in the back room. The object of the little
partition seems to be to protect mother and the eggs and, when they
come, the babies from wind and rain. When the four or five baby birds
arrive both papa and mamma put in most of their time, of course, feeding
them.

The nests of the oven-birds weigh eight or nine pounds. The work of
these little feathered farmers and their wives reminds us in more ways
than one of that of Mrs. Mason-Bee,[22] but they evidently have quite
different notions about housekeeping; for, although their residences are
so big, the oven-birds would evidently rather build than clean house,
while with Mrs. Bee it's just the other way. The nests of the oven-birds
are so thick and strong they often stand for two or three years in spite
of the rains; but the birds build a new nest every year, nevertheless.

    [22] Chapter VI.


III. THE MOUND-BUILDERS

Another class of birds that have a fancy for big dome-like nests are the
mound-birds. We find them in Australia, the Philippines, and the islands
of the South Seas. Their scientific nickname is _Megapoddidae_, the
"big-footed." It's with their big feet that they pile immense heaps of
leaves, twigs, and rotten wood over their eggs.

And what for, do you suppose?

To hatch them! This heap of material not only absorbs the heat of the
sun, but, in decaying, makes heat of its own. These mounds, of course,
contribute tons and tons of fertilizer to the soil, but what interests
the birds is that these warm heaps hatch their eggs. It's a kind of an
incubator system, you see. As it is with many tens of thousands of our
own little chickens, these days, the baby megapodes are born orphans.
That heap of dead sticks, leaves, and earth is all the mother they ever
know. As soon as the mother birds have laid their eggs in the mounds and
covered them up, they go off gossiping with other lady megapodes, and
don't bother their heads any more about their babies.


WHY LITTLE BIG FOOT NEVER SAYS "MAMMA"

But it really doesn't seem to matter. It's more of a question of
sentiment than anything else, for the babies get on very well by
themselves. When the time comes they not only make their own way out of
the shell, as all birds do, but they work their way up through the
rubbish-heap and run off at once into the woods to hunt something to
eat.

It's all right, after all, I suppose; but if _I_ were a little
mound-builder's baby, I'd rather have a mamma that would stay around and
go places with me, wouldn't you?

There's one nice thing about these mamma mound-builders, though; they're
so neighborly and sociable. It's like a regular old-fashioned quilting
party to see them build a nest. The birds look like turkeys, and one of
the species is called the "brush turkey," but they are no bigger than an
ordinary chicken--than a rather small chicken, in fact. When I tell you,
then, that these mounds of theirs are often six feet high and twelve
feet across in the widest part, the middle, you can see it takes good
team-work to put them up.

[Illustration: BRUSH TURKEYS BUILDING THEIR INCUBATORS

It's like an old-fashioned quilting party--the co-operative mound
building of the brush turkeys. The text tells you about that back kick
of theirs.]

So a lot of the lady mound-builders get together in woodsy places, where
there's plenty of leaves and twigs lying around and together build a
mound. One will run forward a little way, rake up and grasp a handful of
sticks and leaves--I mean to say a footful--and kick it backward. The
motion is much like that of an old hen scratching. Then another bird
gathers a footful; then another, and soon they are all throwing the
rubbish toward the same pile; all as busy as a sewing-circle,
but--curiously enough--nobody saying a word! Before the mounds are quite
done, they all begin laying their eggs in them; as many as forty or
fifty, before they are through.

Some species frequent scrubby jungles along the sea. These scratch a
slanting hole in the sandy soil about three feet deep and lay their eggs
on the bottom, loosely covering up the mouth of the hole with a
collection of sticks, shells, and seaweed. The natives say these birds,
before they leave, go carefully over the footprints leading to this
treasure-house, scratch them out and make tracks leading in various
directions away from the nest. And all species lay their eggs at night.
You see why, don't you? They're just that cautious.


SUCH AN EGG FROM SUCH A BIRD

But if you should find one of their nests full of brick-red eggs you'd
never guess who laid them, they're so big! Away back in 1673, an English
missionary to China who had stopped off at the Philippines, on his way,
wrote a little book when he got back home about where he had been and
what he had seen, and he just couldn't get over the wonder of the
mound-builders. Among other things he says, in one place in his book:

     "There is a very singular bird called Tabon. What I and very many
     more admired[23] is that being in body no bigger than an ordinary
     chicken, it lays an egg larger than a goose's."

      [23] "Admire," in those days, meant "to wonder at."

"So," he adds, "the egg is bigger than the bird itself!"


IV. THE SWALLOWS

To make the acquaintance of either the mound-builders or those dear
little oven-birds--_aren't_ they dear?--we must be travellers, of
course, for with their short wings neither the mound-builders nor the
oven-birds ever could come all the way up here to see us. But another
feathered farmer--and, like the oven-bird, a clay-worker and most
neighborly--everybody knows; the swallow. Like Kim, the swallow is the
little friend of all the world.

Swallows of one kind and another are found everywhere--almost everywhere
that people can live; usually where people _do_ live. And if all the
soil they've helped pulverize and mix--even since the days when the
swallows built under the eaves and rafters of the ark--was spread out,
it would easily make another Egypt, I do believe!

But, speaking of the way swallows take to human society, do you know
where our barn-swallows came from? They were originally cliff-dwellers
away out West. The early explorers found enormous collections of their
nests plastered all over the perpendicular cliffs and along the bluffs.
Just as soon, however, as the country settled up and men put up barns
these little cliff-dwellers, deserting rocks and bluffs, began building
their bottle-shaped nests under the eaves. The swallows live on
insects--including squash-bugs, stink-bugs, shield-bugs, and jumping
plant-lice; and that's supposed to be one of the reasons for the curious
fact that they left their ancient family seats--they found so many more
insects about the barns and the farmer's fields and the gardens and the
orchards.


TINY SOIL MILLS OF THE BABY SWALLOW

Haven't you often watched them and listened to them, diving and
chattering around the barn in their busy season; that is to say, in the
spring and summer time? Then the air is full of insects and is fairly
woven with their darting wings. Some keep busy picking up the insects
that are always hovering about in a barnyard, while others dash away to
some near-by marsh or to the meadow or to the creek. Over the
grain-fields they go, over the meadows and back again straight to the
nest where downy babies are cheeping for them. The parents feed them,
stop and chatter a moment, and then off they go. Follow that one down to
the marsh. See how she flies high, round and round in circles, and then
swoops for an insect. She missed him! Then she wheels, darts up--darts
down--to right--to left. There, she's got him! Then off like an arrow to
the nest. The soft-bodied insects are chosen and chewed up for the
babies, while the parents eat the tougher ones. And to help digestion
they give the babies little bits of gravel, although they don't use it
themselves. So, in grinding up this gravel the baby birds help make soil
before they are old enough to do any nest-building.

[Illustration: THE SAND MARTIN AND HIS HOME IN THE BANK]

You've noticed, of course, that all the swallows about a barn don't
build under the eaves. Some build under the rafters inside the barn.
That isn't just a matter of taste; it's family tradition. The
eave-builders are descendants of the cliff-swallows, while the birds
known to bird students as "barn" swallows build under the rafters.

But they don't take to the fine, new modern barns--all spick and
span--the barn-swallows don't. If there's an old gray barn with doors
that never shut quite snug, a board off here and there, and several
panes in the cob-webbed windows broken out----

"Oh, just the thing!" say Mr. and Mrs. Swallow, and they turn their
backs on the new barn and proceed to build their cute little nests of
clay among the rafters of that old tumbled-down affair. In their
preference for the old gray barns, the swallows are like the artists,
the painters that Mr. Dooley told about. He was talking about artists to
his friend, Mr. Hennessey:

"I don't mane the kind of painther that paints yer fine new barn," said
Mr. Dooley. "I mane the kind of painther that makes a pitcher of yer
_old_ barn and wants to charge ye more'n the barn itself is worth."


WHY ARTISTS AND SWALLOWS PREFER OLD BARNS

The reason the artists prefer old barns is that they look better in
pictures, but the reason the barn-swallow shows the same taste is that,
with windows that have panes in them and doors that shut tight you'd no
sooner start to build a nest than, coming back with a pellet of clay, or
bringing a feather for the little feather-bed, you'd be liable to find
the door shut and you could no more get in until chore time than you
could open the time-lock in the First National Bank. And suppose there
were babies and you'd just _got_ to get back--you see it wouldn't do at
all!

But both the barn-swallows and the old gray barns will be seen only in
pictures before long, if things keep on; what with these new barns and
the cats always trying to catch the few swallows there are left--when
you're swooping low to catch a squash-bug, say--and those hateful
sparrows that tear your nest to pieces. And for several years swallows
were killed by thousands to make ornaments for women's hats until this
shameful business was stopped by law!

On the Pacific Coast, if you're out there even as early as March, you'll
see a purplish-bronze swallow, with bronze-green markings. These
swallows make a specialty of orchard insects and that's why, perhaps,
they build under the eaves of the farmhouse rather than the barn. But,
like the rest of the swallow family, they think nothing quite so nice as
a bed of feathers to raise babies in, and they know as well as the
cliff-swallows and the barn-swallow that a barnyard is a great place for
feathers.

And besides, there's a man out there, in one place, that keeps a supply
of feathers just to give away when the swallows are nesting. Watch him,
over on the hillside. He takes a little bunch of feathers and throws
them up into the air from his open hand. A swallow skims by and catches
one of these feathers before it touches the ground. But soon the word
passes along:

"Here's that nice man with the feathers!"

And, pretty soon, there are a half-dozen in the game. They flit closer
and closer to that generous hand, seizing the feathers almost the moment
they are in the air. Then one, bolder than the rest, snatches a feather
right from the man's thumb and finger. The little rogue!

By the way, do you know who that man is? It's Mr. W. L. Finley, State
Ornithologist of Oregon. "Our little brothers of the air," as Olive
Thorne Miller calls the birds, are getting to be so much appreciated,
not only as the friends of man, but for their beauty and the usefulness
of their lives, that both our State and national governments have laws
to protect them, and such men as Mr. Finley are employed to look after
their interests.

Of course, he doesn't _have_ to furnish feather-beds for the baby
swallows--he just does!

[Illustration: OFF FOR THE SOUTH]


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     If you want to get better acquainted with ostriches you should read
     Olive Thorne Miller's "African Nine Feet High," in "Little Folks in
     Feathers and Fur." Carpenter deals with the ostrich in his "How the
     World is Clothed" and in his "Geographic Reader on Africa";
     Johonnott's "Neighbors with Wings and Fins" gives a chapter to
     "Giants of Desert and Plain," among which you may be sure he
     includes the ostrich.

     Allen, in writing about "Some Strange Nurseries" ("Nature's Work
     Shop"), tells why it is Papa Ostrich has most to do with the
     hatching of the eggs when the sun is not on the job.

     Lucas, in his "Animals of the Past," speaks of ostriches and
     crocodiles as the nearest living relatives of--guess what--the
     dinosaurs! (Yet look at the dinosaur in "The Strange Adventures of
     a Pebble" and see if you can't make out a good deal of the ostrich
     and the crocodile in him.)

     But, speaking of Papa Ostrich's parental duties, did you know that
     it's _Mr._ Puffin, and not _Mrs._ Puffin, who digs the family
     burrow? Arabella Buckley's "Morals of Science" tells that and many
     other interesting things about devoted husbands among the birds,
     including how Papa Nightingale feeds Mamma Nightingale.

     In the "Children's Hour," Volume 7, page 310, you will find an
     interesting article about the puffins of Iceland.

     "The Romance of Animal Arts and Crafts" tells about one of the
     feathered clay-workers, the nuthatch of Syria, and why he makes his
     nest look like a rock. These nuthatches love to build so well that
     they often make nests that they never use; and they even help put
     up nests for their neighbors!

     This book also gives interesting details about the hornbill, and
     how and why he walls up his mate in her nest in the hollow of a
     tree. Father Hornbill, of course, gets all the meals for Mother
     Hornbill, while she's setting. She simply _can't_ get out, and you
     should see him by the time the babies are old enough to leave the
     nest. He's worn to a shadow!

     Rooks, it seems, do a little digging under certain circumstances.
     Selous tells about it in his "Bird Life Glimpses." In this book you
     will find a delightful description of martins building. It almost
     makes you want to _be_ a martin. It also tells about the work of
     the sand martins. You will hardly believe how fast they work. The
     house-martin's nest is more elaborate than the swallow's. This book
     tells why the house-martins begin work so early in the morning, and
     why they have to delay their nest-building if the weather is either
     too wet or too dry.

     White, in his famous "Natural History of Selbourne," tells how
     worried he was because certain swallows just _would_ build facing
     southeast and southwest.

     Birds, besides being workers of the soil, are great sowers of
     seeds. Darwin tells how he reared eighty seedlings from a single
     little clod on a bird's foot. What do you suppose he did that for?
     You just look it up in the index to his "Origin of Species."

     Doesn't it seem funny that one of the little farmer birds--a
     burrower--should go into partnership with a lizard? There is one in
     New Zealand that does that very thing. He is called the titi. What
     the titi does for the lizard is to provide him with a home in his
     burrow, but what do you suppose the lizard does in return to pay
     for his lodging? Read about it in Ingersoll's "Wit of the Wild," in
     the chapter on "Animal Partnerships."

     Do you know why the phoebe bird so often uses moss in building her
     nest? And how the phoebes that make green nests keep them green?
     And how Mrs. P. puts a stone roof on her house? You will find all
     about it in "Wit of the Wild."

     The same chapter, "The Phoebe at Home," tells why the phoebe bird
     took to building under bridges, and why she builds in a carriage
     shed instead of a barn, as the barn-swallow does.

     "Bird Life," by Chapman, is a guide to the study of our common
     birds. The beauty about this book is that it has seventy-five
     full-page plates in the natural colors, with brief descriptions, so
     that all you have to do is to bring the _mind_ picture of the bird
     you have seen alongside the picture in the book, and there's the
     answer! Nobody has written more delightful books on birds than
     Olive Thorne Miller. "Little Brothers of the Air" is one of them.
     You couldn't keep your hands off a book with a name like that,
     could you? Then there is her "Children's Book of Birds," "True Bird
     Stories," illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and "Little Folks
     in Feathers and Fur," which, as you can see, goes outside the bird
     family. John Burroughs's "Wake Robin" deals not with robins alone,
     but with birds and bird habits in general.

     But the greatest book about birds--the wonder of the bird and his
     relations to the whole animal world--is very properly called "The
     Bird," by C. William Beebe, who is at the head of the bird
     department of the great New York Zoo. Among other things it tells:

     How Nature practised drawing--so to speak--for years before she
     could finally make a proper bird. (If you have ever tried to draw a
     bird from memory and realized what a bad job you made out of it,
     you will sympathize with her.) How they know that the earliest
     birds Nature made, as well as being very homely, weren't at all
     smart; not to be mentioned in the same breath with clever Jim Crow,
     for example. How "a bird's swaddling clothes and his first
     full-dress are cut from the same piece," the very words of the
     book. About certain birds that have one set of wings to play in and
     a new set for flying, like a child wearing jumpers to save his nice
     clothes! About the world of interesting things you can discover
     with the bones of a boiled chicken.

     And so on for nearly five hundred pages, and as many illustrations;
     the most striking collection of pictures explaining birds that I
     ever saw.



[Illustration: THE END OF A BUSY SEASON

"And there's the corn and the pumpkins and the carrots and the turnips
and the potatoes in the root cellar and the jelly in the
jelly-glasses--we helped make them all."]



CHAPTER X

(OCTOBER)

     It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the tip of a root acts
     like the brain of the lower animals.

     --_Darwin._

THE BUSY FINGERS OF THE ROOTS


This has been a very busy season for Mr. Root and his family. It always
is, and you can imagine they're all glad when Fall comes and they can
lay by for the Winter.

"There's your apple crop, I helped make that," Mr. Root might say. "And
there's the corn and the wheat in the granary, and the rye and the oats
and the barley; and the hay in the mow; and the pumpkins and the
carrots, and the turnips, and the potatoes in the root cellar; and the
jelly in the jelly-glasses, and the jam, and the preserves--we helped
make them all.

"And we've been working for you almost since the world began; almost,
but not quite--for the earliest plants, the Lichens, for example--didn't
have true roots.

"Yes, and--well, I don't want to say anything--Mr. Lichen has been a
good neighbor--but he never did amount to much; never could. No plant
can amount to much without roots. But with roots and a good start a
plant can do almost anything--raise flowers and fruit and nuts, and help
grow trees so tall you can hardly see the tops of them. And, it isn't
alone what we do for the plants we belong to, but for the soil, for
other plants and roots that come after we're dead and gone. For them we
even split up rocks, and so start these rocks on their way to becoming
soil."


I. ALL IN THE DAY'S WORK

It's a fact. Roots do split rocks. Hundreds of times I've been in the
cracks of rocks that were split in that way. I mean right when the
splitting was going on. This happened oftenest where trees grew on the
stony flanks of mountains. Seeds of the pines, say, dropped in crevices
by the wind, sprout in the soil they find there, and then, as these
shoots grow up into trees, the enlarged roots, in their search for more
soil, thrust themselves deeper and deeper into the original
lodging-place, and so split even big rocks. The tap-roots do the
heaviest part of this pioneer work. After the older and larger roots
have broken up the rock, the smaller roots and fibres, feeling their
way about among the stones, enter the smaller openings and by their
growth divide the rock again and again.

But it's a lot of hard work for little return, so far as these early
settlers are concerned; just a bare living. All these rock fragments, in
the course of the years, become soil, but the amount of decay is small
in the lifetime of the tree that does the breaking.

A root, as you doubtless know, tapers. This enables it to enter a rock
crevice like a wedge. As it pushes its way in farther and farther it is
growing bigger and bigger, and it is this steady pressure that breaks
the rock. Even the tiny root of a bean grows with a force of several
pounds, and the power exerted by the growth of big roots is something
tremendous. At Amherst Agricultural College, one time, they harnessed up
a squash to see how hard it could push by growing. From a force of sixty
pounds, when it was a mere baby, what do you suppose its push amounted
to when it had reached full squashhood in October? Nearly 5,000 pounds;
over two tons!

[Illustration: HOW A LITTLE ROOT SPLIT A GRANITE BLOCK

The little winged seed from which this pine-tree grew was carried by the
wind one day into a tiny crack in that big granite block. As the treelet
grew the tap root split the rock, penetrated to the earth below and fed
the trunk until it became, as you see, a tree 40 feet high and 18 inches
in diameter!]

But don't think because roots can and do split rocks, if need be, that
they go about looking for such hard work. On the contrary. In travelling
through the soil they always choose the easiest route, the softest
spots. They use their brains as well as their muscles, and what they do
with these brains is almost unbelievable.

Yet the roots are such modest, retiring folks, always hiding, that it
was a long time before the wise men--the science people--found out what
all they do. It took a lot of science people and the wisest--including
the great Darwin--to get the story, and they haven't got it all yet, as
you will see. It was Darwin who first thought of having Mr. Root write
out his autobiography--or part of it--the story of his travels; for he
does travel, not only forward--as everybody knows--but around and
around. A regular globe-trotter!

[Illustration: WHY BABY PLANTS BACK INTO THE WORLD

Most plants back into the world out of the seed like that. Why? To
protect their tender first leaves. Suppose you were taking some very
valuable thing, easily injured--baby brother, say--through a swinging
door and you had to use both hands to carry him. You wouldn't open the
door by pushing that dear, little tender head of his against it, would
you? You'd open it by backing through.]

Mr. Darwin was a wonderful hand at that sort of thing--getting nature
people to tell their stories. He was an inventor, like Mr. Edison; only,
instead of inventing telephones for human beings to talk with, he
invented ways of talking for nature people. You saw how he fixed it so
that the earthworms could tell what they knew about geometry and botany.
Well, in the case of the roots, what did he do one day but take a piece
of glass, smoke it all over with lampblack--you'd have thought he was
going to look at an eclipse--and then set it so that Mr. Root could use
it as a kind of writing-desk. In a hitching, jerky sort of way roots
turn round and round as they grow forward. In the ground, to be sure, a
root can't move as freely nor as fast as it did out in the open and over
this smooth glass, but it does turn, slowly, little by little. The very
first change in a growing seed is the putting out of a tiny root, and
from the first this root feels its way along, like one trying to find
something in a dark room. Thus it searches out the most mellow soil and
also any little cracks down which it can pass.

[Illustration: CHARLES DARWIN

The great naturalist.]

"Here's a fine opening for a live young chap," we can imagine one of
these roots saying when it comes to an empty earthworm's burrow or a
vacancy left by some other little root that has decayed and gone away.
Roots always help themselves, when they can, to ready-made openings, and
it is this round-and-round motion that enables them to find these
openings.

But even this isn't all. A root not only moves forward and bends
down--so that it may always keep under cover and away from the
light--but it has a kind of rocking motion, swinging back and forth,
like a winding river between its banks, and for a somewhat similar
reason.

"It's looking for a soft spot!" says the high school boy, "just as the
river does."


NO HIT-OR-MISS METHODS FOR MR. ROOT

Exactly. But not in the sense that this phrase is used in slang. The
root has certain work to do, and it does it in the quickest and best
way. It can get food more quickly out of mellow soil than out of hard,
and so it constantly hunts it up. I mean just that--_hunts it up_. For
it isn't by aimless rocking back and forth that roots just _happen_ upon
the mellow places. It's the other way around; it's from a careful
feeling along for the mellow places that the rocking motion results.

"But how on earth do the roots do this? What makes them do it?"

That's what any live boy would ask, wouldn't he? So you may be sure
that's what the science people asked, and this is the answer:

The roots, like all parts of the plant--like all parts of boys and girls
and grown people, for the matter of that--are made up of little cells.
Well, these cells, first on one side of the root and then the other,
enlarge, and so pump in an extra flow of sap. Now, as we know, the sap
contains food for the plant, just as blood contains food for our bodies;
and more food means more growth. So the side of the root where the cells
first swell out grows fastest and thus pushes the root over on the
opposite side. Then the cells on this opposite side swell, and the root
is turned in the other direction again. So it goes--right and left, up
and down. And when these two motions--the up and down and right and
left--are put together, don't you see what you get? The round-and-round
motion!

Precisely the same thing happened right now when you turned your finger
round and round to imitate the motion of the root. (I saw you!) The
muscles that did the work swelled up first on one side and then on the
other, just as they do when you bend your elbow, when you walk, when you
breathe, when you laugh.

And more than that: You know how tired you get if you keep using one set
of muscles all the time--in sawing fire-wood, for example. Yet you can
play ball by the hour and never think of being tired until it's all
over; because, for one thing, you are constantly bringing new muscles
into action as you go to bat, as you strike, as you run bases. It's the
same way with the roots, it seems. For the theory is that after the
cells on one side have swelled, they rest; then the cells on the other
side get to work.

"But what starts the movement?" you may say. "The idea of moving my arms
and legs starts in my brain."


WHERE MR. ROOT KEEPS HIS BRAINS

Just so again. The root has a brain, too, or what answers for a brain.
And the root's brain, is in its head; at least in the vicinity of its
nose--that is to say, its tip. It's the tip that first finds out which
side of the road is best, and passes the word back to the part of the
root just behind it to bend this way or that. It's also the tip that
feels the pull of gravity and knows that it's the business of roots to
keep under cover. And Mr. Root just _will_ have it that way! You can't
change his mind. Mr. Darwin tried it and he couldn't; although he
finally changed human people's minds a lot.

[Illustration: WHERE MR. ROOT WEARS HIS CAP

A root wears its cap right where you do--over its brain department; that
is to say, the tip. It is called the "root cap" and protects the tip
from injury.]

This is how he tried it on a root. He took a bean with a little root
that had just started out into the world. He cut off the tip and then
set the bean so that the root stuck straight up. It continued to grow
that way for some little time. Finally, however, a new tip had formed.
Then there was a general waking up, as if the tip said to the rest of
the root:

"Here, here, this will never do! Where are you going? You must bend
_down_!"

Anyhow that's what the root proceeded to do. One side seemed to stop
growing, almost, while the other side grew rapidly and so the bending
was done.

"Did you ever! But how does the tip send back word?"

"Don't ask me!" says the science man; say all the science men, even to
this day. "We don't know yet just _how_ it's done. But we're studying
these things all the time, and we'll know more about it by and by.
Meanwhile, perhaps you'll tell _us_ why you say 'ouch' and pull your
finger away when you touch something hot."

"Oh," you reply, "I say 'ouch' because it hurts; and teacher and the
Physiology say my arm pulls my hand away because my head tells it to."

"Yes, but how does the head make the arm do the pulling? What's the
connection?" says the science man.

Well, I guess we'll have to tell him we don't know, won't we?

But all the root's brains aren't in the tip, any more than all _our_
brains are in our heads. Scattered through our bodies, you know, are
_little_ brains, the ganglia, that control different parts of the body.
So it is with roots. For instance, a root at a short distance from the
tip, is sensitive to the touch of hard objects in such a way that it
bends toward them instead of turning away, as the tip does. The result
is that when a root comes to a pebble, say, under ground, the sides of
the root press close up to the sides of the pebble--turn around corners
sharply, by the shortest route--and so get over the obstruction as soon
as possible and resume their course in the soil.

[Illustration: BUT THEY COULDN'T CHANGE ITS MIND

Some sprouting seedlings were attached to a disk like that, and when the
roots started to grow down, the disk was turned to make them point
upwards. But, no Sir! The roots just _wouldn't_ grow upward. They turned
downward. Every time!]

And different parts of a plant's root system respond in different ways
to the pull of gravity, and some don't respond at all. The tap-root, for
example, which always grows down, has roots growing out from it
horizontally. They just won't grow any other way, and yet this is also
supposed to be due to the influence of gravity. Then, from these
horizontal roots, grow out a third set, and they don't seem to pay any
attention whatever to gravity. They grow out in all directions--every
which way--so that if there is a bit to eat anywhere in the neighborhood
they are reasonably sure to find it. You see it works out all right.

When a plant first begins to peep into the world out of that wonder box
we call the seed, it's the root, as we know, that does the peeping; it
comes first. And its first business is to get a firm hold in the soil.
So a lot of fine hairlike fibres grow right and left and all around and
take a firm grip. There is an acid in the root that dissolves whatever
the root touches that has any food in it--including pebbles and old
bones--and so makes a kind of sticky stuff that hardens. In this way
these fibrous roots not only get good meals for themselves and the rest
of the plant, but they hold the plant firmly in the soil, against the
strain of the winds. They also give the tap-root something to brace its
back against, as it were, while it pushes down for water, for the
moisture in the damper portion of the soil beneath.

As you may have noticed, a seed merely lying loose on the ground is
lifted up by its first little root in its effort to poke its nose into
the soil. But Nature makes provisions for covering seeds up. They are
covered by the castings of the earthworms, the dirt thrown out by
burrowing animals and scratching birds. Some seeds fall into cracks
where the ground is very dry and others are washed into them by the
rains; while these as well as seeds lying on the surface are covered by
the washings of the rain. Then come the roots that grip the soil.

Always growing just back of the tip, are thousands of root-hairs, as
fine as down. These get food from the soil. They soon disappear from the
older parts of the root, so that it stops gathering food itself and puts
in all its time passing along to the stem and leaves the food gathered
by the finer and younger roots. This is why plants are so apt to wilt if
you aren't careful when transplanting them; the root-hairs get broken
off. For the same reason, corn, after it grows tall, is not ploughed
deeply. The fine roots reach out between the rows and the ploughshare
would cut them off.


II. MR. ROOT'S PRESENCE OF MIND

All these things and more the roots do in their daily work--in the
ordinary course of business. And it's wonderful enough. Don't you think
so? But there are even stranger things to tell; things that would almost
make us believe roots have what in human beings we call "presence of
mind." That is to say, the faculty of thinking just what to do when
something happens that one isn't looking for; when the house takes fire,
for example, or the baby upsets the ink.

[Illustration: THREE SCHOOLS OF STRATEGY]


A ROOT'S WAY OF CROSSING A ROAD

Take the case of tree roots crossing a country road for a drink of
water. They do it just as you or I would, I'll be bound. Just suppose
you and I were roots of a big tree that wanted to reach the moist bank
of a stream, and there was a hard road-bed between. We can't go over the
top, and the road-bed is so hard we can't go straight through on our
natural level so we'll just stoop down and go under, won't we? That's
exactly what the roots do. They dip down until they get under the
hard-packed soil, and then up they come again on the other side and into
the moist bank they started for.

The roots of each kind of plant or tree have their natural level; that's
one reason, as we know, why so many different kinds of plants--grass,
trees, bushes, and things--get on so well together in the fields and
woods. The tree roots that we have just seen crossing the road only went
down below their natural level because they had to, as if the tip said:

"This soil is too hard. We can never get through. Bend down! Bend down!"

So the roots bent down until they came to softer soil, then forward, but
always working up toward their natural level, and so it was at their
natural level they came out on the other side.


A ROOT'S STRANGE ADVENTURE WITH A SHOE

But here's an example of "presence of mind," that nobody has accounted
for. A good-sized root, working along through the soil, like Little
Brother Mole, to earn its board and keep, came right up against the sole
of somebody's old shoe that had got buried in the soil. In the sole were
a lot of holes where the stitches used to be. The root divided into many
parts, and many of these smaller roots found their way through the
stitch holes. Then, coming out on the other side, these little roots got
together and travelled on, side by side!

[Illustration: HOW THE RAG BABIES TELL THE FORTUNE OF THE SEED CORN

In what is popularly called "the Rag Baby Test" the seed corn is placed
on squares marked on cloth with numbers corresponding to the numbered
ears. Then they are rolled up in one of those moistened rags until they
sprout.]

Isn't that a story for you? But there's no accounting for it. As we have
seen, the men of science know a little bit about how a root manages to
turn round and round and away from the light and so on, but what kind of
machinery or process is it that could tell the root if it would split
up into little threads it could get through the stitch holes in that old
boot? You can't imagine; at least, nobody so far has thought how it was
done. But it's all true. We'll find the story and a lot of other things
about the ways of roots in one of the books we'll get acquainted with
when we come to the "Hide and Seek."

[Illustration: © _International Harvester Company_

THIS IS THE ANSWER

The seed from Ear No. 12 came out beautifully, didn't it? That from Ear
No. 13 looks as if they were superstitious in Corn Land; but of course
it was the fault of the seed and not of the number.]

Here's another example of the same thing; what we have called "presence
of mind," resourcefulness, invention. This example is even more
striking, if possible, because, for one thing, it is a case where roots
still more completely altered their habits to save a tree struggling for
its life on a stony mountain cliff. Maeterlinck tells about it in his
picturesque and dramatic style. The subject--the hero, as it were--of
this story was a laurel-tree growing on some cliff above a chasm at the
bottom of which ran a mountain torrent.

     "It was easy to see in its twisted and, so to say, writhing trunk,
     the whole drama of its hard and tenacious life. The young stem had
     started from a vertical plane, so that its top, instead of rising
     toward the sky, bent down over the gulf. It was obliged, therefore,
     notwithstanding the weight of its branches, stubbornly to bend its
     disconcerted trunk into the form of an elbow close to the rock, and
     thus, like a swimmer who throws back his head, by means of an
     incessant will, to hold the heavy leaves straight up into the sky."

This bent arm, in course of time, struggling with wind and storm, grew
so that it swelled out in knots and cords, like muscles upholding a
terrific burden. But the strain finally proved too much. The tree began
to crack at the elbow and decay set in.

     "The leafy dome grew heavier, while a hidden canker gnawed deeper
     into the tragic arm that supported it in space. Then, obeying I
     know not what order of instinct, two stout roots, issuing from the
     trunk at some considerable distance above the elbow, grew out and
     moored it to the granite wall."

As if the roots, naturally so afraid of light, had heard a frantic call
for help and, regardless of everything, had come to the rescue.

To be sure, certain roots--the prop-roots of corn-stalks, for instance,
as you have noticed--habitually reach from above ground down into the
soil, and serve to brace the tall stem swaying in the winds, but trees
usually have no such roots and no such habits. Yet, here a tree seems
suddenly to have learned, somehow, that elsewhere in the land of plants
this thing is done. But how did it learn it? Did the brownies or the
gnomes tell it; or was it some of the spirits of the wind that go
everywhere and see everything? It might have been the same wind sprites
that carry the seeds of the laurel and the pine so far up the mountain
flanks. Or it might have been the dryads, those beautiful creatures of
the wood the Greeks knew so much about.

I tell you there are some mighty queer things going on in the plant
world, and perhaps Bud was right!

    "Some peoples thinks they ain't no Fairies _now_,
    No more yet! But they _is_, I bet!"


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     And, what is more, real live fairies have been found right down in
     the world of roots! The science people call them "Bacteria," but
     what of that? The thing about a fairy that makes it a fairy is
     that it is always changing something into something else. Isn't
     that right? Well, that's exactly what is done by the bacteria on
     the roots of certain kinds of plants--clover roots, for one; and
     the roots of beans, peas, peanuts, and alfalfa. These plants belong
     to the legume family, and if you will look up the word _Legumes_
     you will find out all about these fairy factories on the roots.

     Among other things you'll learn how small these fairies are. Why,
     100,000 of the bacteria that live on clover roots, marching single
     file, wouldn't much more than reach across this typed page.[24] And
     in their little "villages" on one system of clover roots there are
     so many that all of them put together would make a city as big as
     London or New York; if the bacteria were as big as people, I mean.

       [24] By the way, the funny thing is that, while the bacteria that
       live on roots of the legumes are plants and not animals, most of
       them _do_ move about.

     Of course you have to take a microscope to see them--a very
     powerful microscope--and even then some kinds of bacteria you can't
     see until you put colored clothes on them. (Every high school boy
     who has worked in the "lab" knows how this is done.)

     And when you finally see them, a strange thing happens. You've
     hardly got your eye on a little Mr. Bacteria before he's two!

     "What's this! What's this!" you say. "Am I seeing double?"

     You look again and he's _four_! But don't be alarmed, you aren't
     seeing double; it's just the little Mr. Bacterias multiplying by
     division. How they multiply by division is one of the interesting
     things you can learn by looking them up.

     But it's a good thing that the bacteria people in the little
     nitrogen factories on the clover roots can get more farm-hands in
     this way, for they have a lot to do, and their work is one of the
     most interesting things that goes on about the place.

     The article in the "Country Life Reader" on "The Smallest Plant on
     the Farm" will tell you how important these nitrogen farmers are.

     You would hardly believe how great their work is, they're so quiet
     about it. Do you know what a human nitrogen factory is like? Well,
     for one thing, it's the _noisiest_ place in the world. Men, as do
     the bacteria, capture the nitrogen out of the air, but they do it
     by keeping up continual thunder and rain storms in big barrels.
     You will find one of these factories described in an article in
     _St. Nicholas_, Volume 45, page 1137.

     But what a fuss these human factories make! Why, in growing-time,
     out in the clover field, where the loudest sound you hear is the
     drone of the bumblebee among the blossoms, the little bacteria
     people down among the roots are making nitrogen so much cheaper
     than the big noisy factories that it only costs the farmer about
     one-fifth as much as the storm-barrel nitrogen. And yet, of course,
     it often pays to buy the artificial nitrogen, too.

     There are many more striking things about the habits of roots than
     I have had room to tell about here, which you will find in such
     books as Elliot's "Romance of Plant Life," Coulter's "Plant
     Studies," Coulter's "First Book of Botany," Allen's "Story of the
     Plants," Chase's "Buds, Stems and Roots," Atkinson's "First Studies
     of Plant Life," Darwin's "Power of Movement in Plants," France's
     "Germs of Mind in Plants," Gray's "How Plants Behave," Carpenter's
     "Vegetable Physiology," Detmer's "Plant Physiology," and Parsons's
     "Plants and Their Children."



[Illustration: THANKSGIVING DINNER OF THE DORMICE

They don't sit at the dinner table like that, to be sure, but along in
the Fall and up to nearly the time of our Thanksgiving dinners, the
dormice eat unusually heavy meals and put fat on their little bones to
help them through the long, cold, and barren months of winter.]



CHAPTER XI

(NOVEMBER)

    All-cheering plenty, with her flowing horn
    Led yellow Autumn, wreathed with nodding corn.

    --_Burns: "Brigs of Ayr."_

      There's silence in the harvest field,
      And blackness in the mountain glen,
    And clouds that will not pass away
    From the hill tops for many a day;
      And stillness round the homes of men.

    --_Mary Howitt: "Winter."_

THE AUTUMN STORES AND THE LONG WINTER NIGHT


When the caveman was still living from hand to mouth; before he had even
got as far as his first crooked stick for a plough, and when Mrs. Cave
couldn't have canned a bean or a berry to save her life, even if she had
had the cans, a certain little farmer already knew how to get root
crops in the Fall and clean them and cut them and put them away in his
little barn under the ground for Winter use.

Several of these forehanded folk we have already met--the beaver and the
chipmunk, among others--but since we are now at the end of the harvest
year I thought we might spend this evening--the last but one, I am sorry
to say, that we shall be together--in a little chat about these thrifty
brothers of the wild, and how some of them are going to spend the long
Winter that begins in the Autumn and lasts until Spring.


I. LITTLE GRANARIES UNDER THE GROUND

I was going to begin by saying that one of the most _fore_-handed of
them all has _six_ feet, but as that would be almost as bad as a pun, I
decided not to. You would have known, of course, that by people with six
feet I meant the insects.


ANTS THAT THRESH AND STORE

Among the six-legged farmers, you may be sure, there have always been
many who took thought for the morrow--the ants, for example. One can
believe almost anything of ants. If that sluggard had gone to the ant,
as wise King Solomon told him to, and learned all their ways, he would
have found, among other things, how one species harvests the seeds of
the plant known as the "shepherd's-purse," by twisting off the pods with
its hind legs. These members of the ant family store grains of oats,
nettle, and other plants. They pick up all the seeds they can find that
the Autumn winds have already threshed for them, but they're not the
least like that lazy man who wouldn't have the corn that was offered by
kind neighbors to keep him from starving, because it wasn't shelled. If
they don't find enough seeds on the ground when it comes time to think
about the Winter stores they climb up and gather in the seeds
themselves. On the shepherd's-purse, for example, the ant climbs up,
selects a well-filled pod which is not sufficiently dried to have had
its seeds threshed out by the winds, takes the pod in its little jaws
and then--watch him--turns round and round on his hind legs until he
twists it off! Then with it he carefully moves down the stem, like a
baggageman carrying a big trunk from the third apartment; only the
baggageman carries the trunk in front of him or on his shoulders, while
the ant backs his way down. Sometimes two ants work together, one
twisting, the other cutting away the fibres with its teeth. Sometimes
they drop the pods to companions waiting below, and these other helpers
never run off with it, but carry it to the common granary; for ants
always play fair.

[Illustration: HOW THE ANTS WORK IN DIGGING OUT THEIR GRANARIES]

And they have granaries, these ant farmers--hundreds of them, made just
for that, each about the size of father's watch.

[Illustration: THE INSIDE OF THE GRANARY

Underneath the dome of the ant house you see in the previous picture,
are flat chambers like these, connected by galleries, in which the grain
is stored. One is prepared not to be surprised at anything about ants,
but listen to this: The Agricultural Ants not only gather and store this
grain, but they actually plant and cultivate it. They sow it before the
wet season in the Fall, keep it weeded, and gather it in June of the
following year. Seems incredible, doesn't it? But I'm only telling you
what McCook, an ant student, recognized everywhere as a reliable
observer, saw these six-footed Texas farmers actually do.]

Now here's a thing; you stow away a lot of seeds in a little hill where,
of course, there's moisture, and what's going to happen? Those seeds are
going to sprout and grow and spoil, and this, of course, destroys their
value as food. Then what are you going to do? Of course, a human farmer
would put his grains in a dry granary where they couldn't sprout, but
you see the ants haven't any granary of that sort; nothing but those
little holes in the moist ground. Just what they do to these seeds has
not been discovered. They do something that keeps them from either
spoiling or sprouting. But, when they get ready for these seeds to grow,
they let them grow; not so that they can raise a crop, but for the same
reason that the Chinaman lets the barley sprout that he uses in making
chop-suey; so that it will be nice and soft to eat. This growing digests
the starch in the seeds into sugar. When the sprouts have grown as far
as the ants want them to, they gnaw the stalk a little, and cut off the
roots with their mandibles. When this sugar-making has gone on long
enough the ants bring all the plants out into the sun and let them lie
there until they are nice and dry. Then they put them in their barns,
and as long as Winter lasts they live on this sweet flour, grinding it
in their mouth mills as they go along.

Why, it's like living on cookies, almost! Only the ants have been used
to this steady diet of sweets for ages, and it doesn't hurt _their_
little stomachs as it would ours.

[Illustration: CLEANING UP AFTER THE DAY'S WORK

While the Agricultural Ants don't take a bath after the day's work they
do the next best thing. They give each other a kind of massage, and they
evidently find it very enjoyable. You know how the cat loves to be
stroked, dogs and horses to be patted, and little pigs to have their
backs scratched. The ants below are giving each other a massage (left,
abdomen; right, legs and sides). The lady above who seems to be braiding
her back hair, is cleaning her antennæ.]

This particular kind of a farming ant is called the Attabara, but
there's another kind more wonderful still. If we want to call on them by
their scientific names--these remarkable little creatures I'm going to
tell about now--we'll have to go to Texas and ask if the _Pogononyrmex
barbatus_ family are at home.

"Oh, to be sure," says the gentleman who first introduced them to
scientific society,[25] "just come with me."

    [25] Rev. H. S. McCook: "The Agricultural Ant of Texas."

So he takes us over into Texas and shows us the ants at work. They
destroy every plant on their little farms except that known as ant-rice.
Compared to the size of the ants themselves, these grain-fields are
giant forests, far bigger than the Sequoia Forests of California. The
ants watch for rain at harvest-time as anxiously as a farmer, and on the
first sunny day, they do their cutting and hurry the grain into the
barn. Then on later sunny days, they bring it out to dry before finally
storing it away.

"Well," you say, "is there anything left that these farmers _don't_ do?"

I can't think of anything except the planting. One observer says that
they do actually plant the seeds, and Doctor McCook says, he wouldn't be
surprised if they did, but he never saw them do it.

[Illustration: THE OLD HOME PLACE

This is the farm of some Agricultural Ants in Texas. See the granary and
the roads leading to it? They collect and store the seeds of a plant
which from this fact is called "ant-rice." It looks like oats and tastes
like rice. All plants growing around the nest--which is also called the
granary--the ants cut away, so clearing a space for 10 or 12 feet. Roads
5 inches broad near the nest, but narrowing as they recede, are made for
hundreds of feet in different directions.]

In tropical America there is a species of ant that raises "mushrooms";
at least a kind of fungus that passes for mushrooms with the ants. They
don't exactly set the mushrooms out, but they save time by planting both
the mushrooms and the leaves that make them as one and the same job.
This is how they do it. They climb the trees, cut circular pieces of
leaf with their scissor-like jaws and carry them back to low, wide
mounds in the neighborhood of which they allow nothing to grow; the
purpose being, as it is supposed, to ventilate the galleries of their
homes by keeping a clear space about the mound.


HOW THE ANTS RAISE MUSHROOMS

The leaves are used as a fertilizer on which grow a small species of
mushrooms. The leaves are first left out to be dampened by the rain, and
are carried into the ants' cellars before they are quite dry. In very
dry weather the ants work only during the cool of the day and at night.
Occasionally inexperienced ants bring in grass or unsuitable leaves, but
these are carried out and thrown away by older members of the family.
But you see how valuable all these leaves are to the soil.

[Illustration: ANTS CARRYING LEAVES FOR THE MUSHROOM CELLAR

You'd never guess what the ants are going to do with those leaves! Read
what it says on this page about these six-legged epicures.]


MR. HAMSTER'S THRESHING HARVESTER

Of course, we always expect the ants to do extraordinary things, but one
of those four-legged farmers I mentioned in the beginning of the
chapter anticipated the principle of the very latest type of
threshing-machine. It's a fact. This remarkable little animal
threshing-machine is called the hamster. He is found in Europe east of
the Rhine and in certain portions of Asia. He does both his cutting and
threshing in his field; something the Gauls did in the days of the
Romans in a crude way, but which men of our day have only got to doing
in recent years. He pulls down the wheat ear, cuts it off between his
teeth, and then threshes it by drawing the heads through his mouth. The
grain falls right into sacks as fast as it is threshed; just as it does
in those huge, combined reapers and threshers that you see on our big
wheat farms. Mr. Hamster's sacks are his cheek-pouches, one on each
side. When these are filled, this little threshing-machine turns itself
into an auto, a commercial truck, and off it goes with its load of
wheat to the little barn hidden in the ground. These cheek-pouches, by
the way, reach from the hamster's cheeks clear back to his shoulders,
and both of these pouches will together hold something like a thousand
grains of wheat. He empties them by holding his paws tight against the
side of his face and then pushing forward. Rather a clever unloading
device, too; don't you think so? Just as good for Mr. Hamster's purposes
as the endless-chain system at the Buffalo grain elevator that Mr.
Kipling admired so much.

And in the mere matter of the amount of grain handled, the work of the
hamster is not to be laughed at. The peasant farmers are very glad to
find a hamster granary, which, of course, they promptly take possession
of by due process of law:

    "The good old rule, the simple plan
    That they shall take who have the power,
    And they shall hold who can."

One of Mr. Hamster's neighbors, the field-rat of Hungary and Asia,
stores his grain right in the house--the place where he lives with his
family. Mr. Hamster, however, has his barns separate from his home.
Sometimes he has one, sometimes two; and the older members of the
community may have four or five.


II. MR. VOLE AND HIS ROOT CELLAR

The farmer I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, who is so
thrifty about his root crops and so neat, belongs to the Vole family. He
lives away over in Siberia and his full name is _Arvicola economus_. In
gathering his crop of roots, he first digs a little trench around them
and lays them bare. Then he cleans them off nicely so as not to fill his
storehouse with dirt; cuts them up in sizes convenient for carrying, and
then hauls them home and piles them up in little cellars made specially
for them.

He only takes one piece at a time, walking along backward and pulling it
after him with his teeth. He travels long distances in this fashion,
going around tufts of grass, stones, and logs that lie in the way. When
he gets home, he backs in the front door and into the living-room, and
then into the barns which are back of the living-room. There are
several of these and they are at the end of a long crooked passage.

Some of the Vole family make a specialty of wheat. One species of these
wheat harvesters used to be common in Greece. He made such a nuisance of
himself--from the Greek farmer's standpoint--that the Greeks had a
special god to get after him; Apollo Myoktonos, "Apollo, Destroyer of
Mice."[26] For the vole is just a kind of field-mouse. The runs of these
wheat-harvesting voles are eight to twelve inches below the ground, and
are connected with the surface by vertical holes. The end of the run is
enlarged into a big room for the nest, and there are special rooms
leading from the main runway that are used for the storing of the grain.
These voles do their harvesting in the evening. Standing on their hind
legs and holding to the stock with their little paws as a beaver clasps
a tree, they cut off the wheat head with their teeth. They work very
fast.

    [26] Strictly speaking, I presume this was the same Apollo who
    carried the sun about in his chariot, and "Destroyer of Mice" was
    one of his many nicknames.


HOW DID THESE FARMERS LEARN TO STORE?

Neither the voles nor any other of these interesting farmers and
warehousemen used to get much credit for what they did. The fact that
they helped themselves to some of the good things of earth annoyed Man,
of course, and then, when it came to the matter of intelligence,
conceited Mr. Man said: "Oh, _that's_ just _instinct_." But nowadays
when scientists have begun to study to find out what "instinct" really
is, it is thought that man's brother animals, although they are born
with more knowledge of how to do things--with more of what we call
"instinct"--have also learned by experience just as man did. It is
argued that the storing habit was forced on animals wherever the climate
cut off the food-supply for a time--either because it was too cold or
too hot. The idea of putting something by for a rainy day appealed
particularly to the burrowers because they are a timid lot. Not being
able to defend themselves very well against their enemies they were
obliged to pack up what they could and hurry to some hidden
eating-place. That is where the cheek-pouches, which many of them have,
come in handy. They are also very industrious, and as the seeds and nuts
on which they lived began to ripen, they just couldn't resist the
impulse to gather and gather and gather more than they could possibly
eat at the time. So, as a result of this habit, food piled up in their
underground homes. Then, as they were kept indoors by cold weather or by
their enemies, they took to eating more and more from the pantry shelf,
and thus the members of the family that were the busiest and, therefore,
had the most to eat would naturally survive and leave children of a
similar disposition, while the less thrifty would die off.


III. THE LONG WINTER SLEEP

Some of these forehanded people, instead of putting their Winter supply
of food in the ground, put it on their bones. That is to say, before
turning in for the Winter, they get as fat as can be and then live on
this fat until Spring. A great advantage of this system of storage is
that it is particularly pleasant work--you eat and eat and enjoy your
meals, that's all. Another advantage is that you can't be robbed of your
store as easily as the hamster, for example, frequently is. You carry it
right with you wherever you go.

There are a lot of curious things about this hibernation. Not only will
warmth arouse the sleepers but also extreme cold, and after the extreme
cold may come another sleep from which the sleepers never awaken; in
other words, too much cold kills them. So the object of burying one's
self as the ground-hog does, or under the snow as rabbits do, or in
hollow caves and trees as Brer Bear does, is to keep from getting too
cold. Sometimes two or more "bunk" together, as little pigs do on cold
March days. The body of each helps to keep his bedfellows warm.


IT'S THE COLD THAT MAKES ONE DROWSY

It is the cold itself that seems to make hibernating animals feel
sleepy; just as it does human beings. At a moderate temperature, say 45
or 50 degrees, dormice and hedgehogs will wake up, eat something, and
then go to sleep again. The dormouse usually wakes in every twenty-four
hours, while the hedgehog's Winter naps are two or three days long.
Hunger seems to be the cause of their waking, just as it is with babies.
The little dormouse, as the air grows colder, gradually dozes off, and
his breathing is very deep and slow. As the temperature rises, he begins
to take shorter and more rapid breaths and gradually wakes up. Then, if
he is in his own little home under the ground, he feeds on the nuts and
other foods that he stored in Autumn and drops off again. He sleeps from
five to seven months, depending on the weather.

Moles and shrews, so far as observation goes, don't hibernate. The moles
simply dig deeper, and there they find worms and insects that are buried
away from the reach of frost. The shrews hunt spiders and hundred-legged
worms and larvæ in holes and crannies of the soil or beneath leaves of
ground plants and old logs.

[Illustration: LITTLE HEDGEHOG IN MAN'S HAND]

A queer thing is that the hedgehog, which belongs to the same family as
the shrew and the mole, is dead to the world all Winter. Like all
complete hibernators he stops breathing entirely. The reason for this
difference between the hedgehog and the mole is that the mole doesn't
need to go to sleep, because he digs below the frost-line. As for the
shrews, they have little bodies and are very active, and so get
themselves food and keep warm, while the hedgehog is so much bigger and
slower that, when there is so little to eat and it is so cold, he would
either freeze or starve to death if he went about looking for food. He
finds it cheaper to turn in and sleep than to work.

[Illustration: A HEDGEHOG AND HER BABIES]

None of the tree-squirrels seem to take any unusually long naps in the
Winter. We often see them around on pleasant days in the parks and in
the woods. They run out, get a few nuts from their stores, and then back
again to their nests, but the chipmunks and the gophers, who are closely
related to the squirrels, stay from late Autumn to Spring in their
burrows, where they have plenty of food stowed away, and they sleep most
of the time. In the home of four chipmunks was found a pint of wheat, a
quart of nuts, a peck of acorns, and two quarts of buckwheat, besides a
lot of corn and grass seed; all to feed four fat chipmunks. So, with
such plentiful supplies, it is not surprising that after their long
Winter sleep the chipmunks are as sleek as can be and as fat as butter,
while Mr. Bear comes out in the Spring lean and with his hair all mussed
up and as hungry as--well, as hungry as a bear!

All the bear family, except the polar bears, retire to caves or some
sheltered spot under a ledge of a rock or the roots of a big tree. Among
the polar bears the rule seems to be that it's Mamma Bear only who goes
to bed for the Winter. She is careful to put on enough fat not only for
herself, but so that the babies that come along in the Spring will have
plenty of milk. She is buried by snow that drifts on her and her breath
melts a funnel up to the fresh air.


IV. MR. GROUND-HOG AND HIS SHADOW

The woodchuck, like the bear, is a "meat-packer." People talk about him
more or less in February. His other name is "ground-hog" and his shadow
is quite as famous as he is. But is there anything in that old weather
saw? Well, yes and no. You see, it's like this: Mr. Ground-Hog goes to
bed very early in the Fall--long before the cold weather sets in--and so
he is up very early the next Spring; long before the snow is all gone
and, as it is with the other all-Winter sleepers, a little extra warmth
may wake him up. Along toward morning, you know, we all begin to stir
around in our beds and get half awake. So in addition to the fact that
it is nearly daybreak for him--that is to say, Springtime--let there
come along a bright, warm day in February--the second is as good as any
other--and Mr. Ground-Hog is likely to come out of his hole. And, if he
does, of course he will see his shadow, after which there is likely to
be quite a lot of cold weather.


HOW WEATHER AVERAGES UP

Not that his shadow makes any difference, but the point is that if you
have much warm weather _early_ in February you are likely to have colder
weather _later_ and running on into March. It's just the law of
averages, that's all. You see it running through the year--this
averaging up of weather; it just sways back and forth like a pendulum.
Take it in any storm of rain or snow; first the clear sky, then the
clouds, then the downfall, and after that the clear sky again. Take any
month as a whole, or a year as a whole, and it's the same way; you get
about so much rain, so much sunshine, so much heat and cold. The United
States Weather Bureau went to work once and, from the records,
classified the storms for the last thirty years, and they found that
about fifteen storms each year start over the region of the West Gulf
States, twelve begin over the mountains of Colorado, forty cross the
country from the North Pacific by way of Washington and Oregon; and so
on, just about so many from each region each year.

[Illustration: _The Last Snow, by Lippincott_]

And records and old diaries, going back a hundred years, show that the
longer the period you examine for weather facts, the closer the average.
The weather for one ten-year period will be almost as much like any
other ten-year period, as the peas in a pea shell are like each other.
Coming back to the subject of February weather, we find in the diary of
an old resident of Philadelphia in 1779: "The Winter was mild, and
particularly the month of February, when trees were in bloom." He
doesn't say anything about the ground-hog, but there is this to be said
of the sharper changes of February and March, that at this season the
earth is getting more and more warmed up and yet the cold winds from the
North don't like to go; so there is a constant wrestling-match, and it
is the wrestling of the winds one way and another that brings the
changes of the weather. So if the South Winds get the best of it early
in February, the North Winds, with their cold weather, are likely to win
later in the month, and vice versa. Moreover, if you believe in the
ground-hog proverb you are apt to _notice_ the warm days (or cold days,
as the case may be) for the next six weeks after February 2, and you
_won't_ notice so much the weather that doesn't fit your proverb! It's a
way we all have; _seeing_ the things that go to prove what we believe
and _overlooking_ the things that don't.

[Illustration: MR. GROUND-HOG AND HIS SHADOW

"But is there anything in the old weather saw? Well, yes and no. Mr.
Ground-Hog goes to bed early in the Fall and is up early next Spring.
Let there come a bright, warm day in February--the second is as good as
any--and Mr. G.-H. is likely to come out and see his shadow. And if you
have warm weather early in February you are likely to have colder
weather later. It's the law of averages, that's all."]


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     I don't care what it says in "Alice in Wonderland," dormice never
     drink tea; although dormice have been at table with people ever
     since the days of the Romans. Dormice are still eaten in some parts
     of Europe, and the Romans used to keep them as part of their live
     stock. The European dormouse is really a little squirrel. Varro's
     "Roman Farm Management" (of which you are apt to find a good
     translation in the public library) tells how the Romans put their
     dormice in clay jars specially made, "with paths contrived on the
     side and a hollow to hold their food."

     Crocodiles and other tropical animals take very long naps during
     the hottest weather. Hartwig's "Harmonies of Nature" tells about an
     officer who was asleep in a tent in the tropics, when his bed moved
     under him, and he found it was because a crocodile, in the earth
     beneath, was just waking up! Imagine what the dried-up ponds and
     streams of the llanos of South America must look like when the
     rainy season comes on, after the dry spell, with crocodiles asleep
     just under the surface everywhere. Doctor Hartwig's book tells.

     But the most remarkable case of drying up that ever I heard of was
     that of the Egyptian snail in the British Museum, that Woodward
     tells about in his "Manual of the Mollusca." This snail was sent to
     England, simply as a shell, in 1846. Never dreaming there was
     anybody at home, they glued him to a piece of cardboard, marked it
     _Helix Desertorum_, and there he stuck until March 7, 1850, when
     somebody discovered a certain thing that indicated that there _was_
     somebody "at home," and that he was alive. They gave him a warm
     bath and he opened his four eyes on the world!

     In his "Animal and Vegetable Hedgehogs" ("Nature's Work Shop")
     Grant Allen tells why the hedgehog works at night and sleeps in the
     daytime.

     How he fastens on his winter overcoat of leaves, using his spines
     for pins, and how funny it makes him look.

     How Mother Nature manages to have breakfast ready for him in the
     Spring just when he is ready for _it_.

     How hedgehogs use their spines when they want to get down from a
     high bank or precipice real quickly.

     How their eyes tell how smart they are; for a hedgehog is smart.

     You will also find interesting things about hibernation in Gould's
     "Mother Nature's Children" and Richard's "Four Feet, Two Feet and
     No Feet."

     In one of his essays on nature topics--"Seven Year Sleepers"--Grant
     Allen tells how the toad goes to bed in an earthenware pot, which
     he makes for himself, and how this habit may have helped start the
     story that live toads are found inside of stones.

     Ingersoll, in that delightful book I have already referred to
     several times, "The Wit of the Wild," calls the pikas "the
     haymakers of the snow peaks." In his article on these interesting
     little creatures, he tells why you may often be looking right at
     one and still not see it; why the pikas gather bouquets and why
     they always lay them out in the hot sun; why their harvest season
     only lasts about two weeks, and why, although they usually go to
     bed at sunset, they work far into the night in harvest time.

     "The Country Life Reader" has a good story of a woodchuck named
     "Tommy." Among other things it tells about the variety of
     residences a woodchuck has; and why animals that work at night, as
     all woodchucks do, have an unusually keen sense of smell. Can you
     guess why? The reason is simple enough.

     Here's a clever bit of verse about the woodchuck by his other name,
     that I came across in some newspaper:

     "The festive ground-hog wakes to-day,
       And with reluctant roll,
     He waddles up his sinuous way
       And pops forth from his hole.
     He rubs his little blinking eyes,
       So heavy from long sleep,
     That he may read the tell-tale skies--
       Which is it--wake or sleep?"

     Ingersoll's "Nature's Calendar" tells why Brer Bear stays up all
     winter when there is plenty of food, but goes to bed if food is
     scarce; how he uses roots of a fallen tree to help when he is
     digging his winter house; how he makes his bed and what he uses for
     the purpose; how the winds help him put on his roof, and how he
     locks himself in so tight that he can't get out until spring, even
     if he wants to.



[Illustration: "IT MUST BE BRER BEAR!"]



CHAPTER XII

(DECEMBER)

    While man exclaims "See all things for my use!"
    "See man for mine!" replies the pampered goose.

    --_Pope: "Essay on Man."_

THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE DUST


But whether they store it in their little barns, like the chipmunk, or
on their bones, like Brer Bear, these farmers deserve more friendly
understanding than they usually get from that two-legged farmer, Mr.
Man.

Just think of the ages upon ages that they have been at work, these
humble brothers of ours, and their ancestors--making the soil that
gives us food--and yet after all this Mr. Man comes along and says:

"Get out of my fields!"


I. THE LORD OF CREATION

"Oh, but--please Mr. Man--we were here _first_!"

Was that the dormouse speaking? Anyhow, whoever it was, I think he was
more than half right, don't you? Mr. Man, when he complains of these
people, is apt not only to forget what he owes to them but in claiming
that what they eat is wasted, to forget what a waster he is
himself--wasting the soil and wasting the trees and everything.


BRER BEAR GIVES MR. MAN A PIECE OF HIS MIND

"Now just don't you overdo this Lord-of-Creation business, Mr. Man,"
says a deep, growly voice. (It must be Brer Bear!) "Other people have
rights as well as you! And if you'd tend to your work half as well as
they've attended to theirs, for ages before you were born, this would be
a better world to live in; a good deal better, and there'd be a lot more
of the good things of life to go around.

"And now that you've waked me up I'm going to tell you something else.
You human beings are not only a hard lot, but a stupid lot. You think
you're mighty smart, don't you, with your bear-traps and your shooting
machines that you shoot each other with, as well as shooting the rest of
us! But do you know what _I_ think? I think if some of us--the bears or
the beavers or the ants, for example--had had half your chance they'd
have been twice as smart; and then we bears might have gone around
shooting at you, the way Mr. Beard showed once in one of those funny
pictures of his."

[Illustration: HUNTING THAT DOESN'T HURT

Hunting with a gun is great sport. But now you know from my story what
good the animals do in the world you may not like so well to kill them.
And there is a new kind of hunting that is just as much fun--with a
camera. This picture shows a boy in ambush, ready to shoot, by pressing
a bulb; for the bird in the tree is exactly in front of the shutter of
the camera.]

You see, Brer Bear has a good tongue in his head as well as a wise old
head on his shoulders, and I must say he's entirely right when he makes
the statement that human beings aren't anywhere near as bright,
according to the chance they've had, as the bears and the beavers and
the ants and the bees, and many others that could be named. Why, do you
know that in the whole history of the human race there have been only a
few really bright people, like Mr. Shakespere and Mr. Kipling, Mr.
Archimedes and Mr. Edison. It was such men as these--not over two
thousand or three thousand out of the millions upon millions of human
beings who have lived on the earth--that raised the rest up from the
Stone Age to where they are to-day.

     "Into the coarse dough of humanity an infrequent genius has put
     some enchanted yeast."

That's the way a recent English writer puts it. And then he goes on to
say that if snakes and beasts of prey had been as clever as the bees and
ants and beavers, men would have been exterminated. They could have
saved themselves only by getting on with their education, climbing up
the grades, a good deal faster than they have done.

He says it--this Englishman--almost in the very words of Brer Bear. And
we can imagine Brer Bear going on, taking up where the Englishman leaves
off.

"In other words," says Brer Bear, "it was because the bees and ants and
beavers went on minding their own business, neither hurting you nor
giving any pointers to the wolves and the lions and the snakes, that
you're still here, Mr. Lord Man! That's part of the story of how you got
to be lord of creation. Now listen to the rest of it:[27]

    [27] Here imagine Brer Bear putting on his specs and reading from
    the book.

     "'The cave-dwellings of men were stolen from cave-lions and
     cave-bears; their pit-dwellings were copied from the holes and
     tunnels burrowed by many animals; and in their lake-dwellings they
     collected hints from five sources: natural bridges, the platforms
     built by apes, the habits of waterfowl, the beaver's dam and lodge,
     and the nests of birds. In the round hut, which was made with
     branches and wattle-and-daub, stick nests were united to the
     plaster work of rock martins. Yes, a good workman in the
     construction of mud walls does no more than rock martins have done
     in all the ages of their nest-building.

     "'Suppose primitive man cut down a tree with his flint axe,
     choosing one that grew aslant over a chasm or across a river; or
     suppose he piled stepping-stones together in the middle of a
     waterway, and then used this pier as a support for two tree trunks,
     whose far ends rested on the bank sides. Neither of these ideas
     has more mother wit than that which has enabled ants to bore
     tunnels under running water, and to make bridges by clinging to
     each other in a suspension chain of their wee, brave bodies.'"


HOW MAN HELPED HIMSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE'S IDEAS

So you see that isn't just Mr. Bear's way of putting it; there are human
beings who think a good deal as he does. Myself, I agree with Brer Bear
and Brer Brangyn.[28] For man certainly, take him by and large, doesn't
always set a good example to his fellow animals, either in making the
best of his _opportunities_ or in giving his humble brothers a square
deal.

    [28] That's the name of the Englishman I've just been quoting. He's
    a famous artist, but, like most cultivated Englishmen, can also
    write a good book when he feels like it.

[Illustration: _From "Bugs, Butterflies and Beetles," by Dan Beard. By
permission of J. B. Lippincott_

IF BEETLES WERE AS BIG AS BOYS

Our six-footed brothers are wonderfully strong in proportion to their
size, and it would go hard with us if beetles, for example, were as big
as boys.]

Do you know what I felt like saying, back there in Chapter IX, when we
were speaking of kingfishers, and how certain parties had given it out
that kingfishers eat big fish that otherwise might be caught with a hook
or a seine? This is what I _felt_ like saying:

"What if they do? Who's got a better right?"

Then they'd say--these men--I suppose:

"Why, _we_ have; _we're_ sportsmen!"

"Oh, yes," I'd say, "you're the kind of sportsman that's so afraid
somebody else will see and kill something before you do; particularly if
that somebody is itself a wild creature that has to earn its living that
way and only takes what it needs for its family!"

And they're so good-natured about it, most of these country cousins of
ours, that we walked right in on and ordered out, Cousin Woodchuck, for
instance.

     "The woodchuck can no more see the propriety of fencing off--though
     he admits that stone walls are fine refuges, in case he has to run
     for it--a space of the very best fodder than the British peasant
     can see the right of shutting him out of a grove where there are
     wild rabbits, or forbidding him to fish in certain streams. So he
     climbs over, or digs under, or creeps through, the fence, and makes
     a path or a playground for himself amid the timothy and the clover,
     and laughs, as he listens from a hole in the wall or under a stump,
     to hear the farmer using language which is good Saxon but bad
     morals, and the dog barking himself into a fit."[29]

       [29] Ingersoll: "Wild Neighbors."


II. THE SCHOOL OF THE WOODS AND FIELDS

I don't mean to say, mind you, that the farmer hasn't any rights in his
own fields, and that he should turn everything over to the woodchuck and
the rest, but I do mean to say that our wild kinsmen have rights and
that there is a lot more to be got out of them than their flesh or their
hides or the pleasure of killing them.

For one thing, the ant and the angleworm, the birds and the woodchucks,
the little lichens and the big trees, the winds and the rains, are all
teachers in the Great School of Out-of-Doors, and in this school you can
learn almost everything there is to be learned. It's really a
university. Nature study, as you call it in the grades, besides all the
facts it teaches you, trains the eye to see, and the ear to listen, and
the brain to reason, and the heart to feel.


STORY OF THE LONDON BANKER AND HIS ANTS

[Illustration: SIR JOHN LUBBOCK

The great London banker who carried ants in his pocket.]

Once there was a London banker who used to go around with--what do you
think--in his pockets? Money? Yes, I suppose so; but what else? You'll
never guess--ants! He was a lot more interested in ants than he was in
money; and so, while the business world knew him as a big banker, all
the scientific world knew him as a great naturalist. He wrote not only
nature books but other books, including one on "The Pleasures of Life,"
and among life's greatest pleasures he placed the "friendship," as he
puts it, of things in Nature. He said he never went into the woods but
he found himself welcomed by a glad company of friends, every one with
something interesting to tell. And, in speaking of the wide-spread
growth of interest in Nature in recent years, he said:

     "The study of natural history indeed, seems destined to replace the
     loss of what is, not very happily, I think, termed 'sport.'"

And isn't it curious, when one comes to think of it, why a man should
take pleasure in seeing a beautiful deer fall dead with a bullet in its
heart? You'd think there would be so much more pleasure in seeing him
run--the very poetry of motion. Or, why should a boy want to kill a
little bird? You'd think it would have been so much greater pleasure to
study its flight or to listen to the happy notes pour out from that
"little breast that will throb with song no more."


WHY MAN KILLS AND CALLS IT "SPORT"

Among other animals that this banker naturalist studied was man himself;
man when he was even more of an animal than he is to-day, and he came to
the conclusion that this curious killing instinct is a survival of the
long ages when man had to earn his living by the chase.

    "Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave
    When the night fell o'er the plain
    And the moon hung red o'er the river bed,
    He mumbled the bones of the slain.

    Loud he howled through the moonlit wastes,
    Loud answered his kith and kin;
    From west and east to the crimson feast
    The clan came trooping in.
    O'er joint and gristle and padded hoof,
    They fought and clawed and tore."[30]

    [30] Adapted from Langdon Smith.

Not a very pretty picture, is it? Yet it's true. But, fortunately, so is
this one of the happiest hours of the caveman's grandchild.

    "Oh, for boyhood's painless play,
    Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
    Health that mocks the doctor's rules,
    Knowledge never learned of schools:
    Of the wild bee's morning chase,
    Of the wild flower's time and place;
    Flight of fowl, and habitude
    Of the tenants of the wood;
    How the tortoise bears his shell,
    How the woodchuck digs his cell
    And the ground-mole sinks his well.

    Of the black wasp's cunning way,
    Mason of his walls of clay
    And the architectural plans
    Of gray hornet artisans.
    For, eschewing books and tasks,
    Nature answers all he asks."[31]

    [31] Whittier's "Barefoot Boy."

Some boy wrote to John Burroughs once, and asked how to become a
naturalist. In his reply, Burroughs said:

     "I have spent seventy-seven years in the world, and they have all
     been contented and happy years. I am certain that my greatest
     source of happiness has been my love of nature; my love of the
     farm, of the birds, the animals, the flowers, and all open-air
     things.

     "You can begin to be a naturalist right where you are, in any
     place, in any season."[32]

       [32] "Pictured Knowledge."

[Illustration: WHOSE AUTOGRAPH IS THIS?

If you're a boy scout you will probably recognize this autograph in the
snow. If not look it up in the Boy Scout Handbook.]

It is the wholesomest, most inspiring reading in all the world, this
Book of Nature. And there is simply no end to it. Just see what all
we've been led into merely in following out the story of a grain of
dust; and even then, I've only dipped into it here and there, as you can
see by the hints of things to be looked up in the library. If we had
gone into all the highways and byways of the subject--for it's all one
continued story, from the making of the planets, circling in the fields
of space, to the making of the little dust grains that are whirled along
in the winds of March--if we followed the story all through we would
have to have learned professors to teach us Astronomy, Geology,
Chemistry, Zoology, with its subdivisions of Paleontology, Ornithology,
Entomology, and so on; a whole college faculty sitting on a grain of
dust!


III. THE WORLD BROTHERHOOD

An obvious thing in Nature is what is called "the struggle for
existence"; animals and plants fighting among themselves and against
enemies of their species in the universal struggle for food. What is not
so obvious, is how the whole world of things works together toward the
common good.


HOW THE LICHENS AND THE VOLCANOES WORK TOGETHER

For example, working with those quiet little people, the lichens, is one
of the biggest and noisiest things in the world--the volcano. The
volcanoes not only pour into the air vast quantities of carbon-gas,
which is the breath of life to plants, but help the lichens and the rest
of the soil-makers with their work in other ways. And as the volcanoes
help the lichens get their breath, the lichens forward the world
service of the volcanoes by turning their lava into soil; in course of
time, hiding the most desolate of these black iron wastes under a rich
garment of green. It is thus the dead lava comes to life, and it is the
very smallest of the lichen family that starts the process.

[Illustration: _Courtesy of the Northern Pacific Railway_

HOW THE DEAD LAVA COMES TO LIFE

Lava, after it has been converted into soil, by the agents of decay,
makes the richest land in the world. This picture shows a vineyard on
the fertile plains overlooked by Mt. Ranier, which is an extinct
volcano. In the days when Mt. Rainer was being built these plains were
covered with molten lava.]

Among the two principal gases of the air there is a working brotherhood;
just as there is between the plants and the animals in their great
breath exchange. The oxygen in the air makes a specialty of crumbling up
rock containing iron. It rusts this iron into dust; while the CO_{2}, as
the High School Boy calls what I have called carbon, for short, goes
after the rocks that contain lime, potash, and soda.

Working with both these gases is the frost that, with its prying
fingers, enlarges the cracks in stones, and so allows the gases of the
water and the air to reach in farther than they could otherwise do.

Every Winter, with its frost and its storing up of moisture in the great
snow-fields of the mountains, is a benefit to the lands and their
people, but the Ice Age, "The Winter that Lasted All Summer,"[33] not
only worked wonders in other ways, but was of far greater benefit to the
soil because it was so much more of a Winter.

    [33] "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble."

Mr. Shakespere, in his day, didn't know anything about an Ice Age, but
Brer Bear might have quoted certain lines of his, just the same:

    "Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
    Thou art not so unkind
    As man's ingratitude.

    Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
    Thou dost not bite so nigh
    As benefits forgot."[34]

    [34] "As You Like It."

[Illustration:

    _Courtesy of the Northern Pacific Railway_

ASTER GROWING IN VOLCANIC ASH ON MT. RANIER]


THE GREAT PLOUGHS OF THE ICE AGES

With all the work the other agencies do in changing the rock into soil,
and fertilizing and refreshing it with additions from the subsoil, there
still remains an important thing to be done, and that is to mix the soil
from different kinds of rock. This is still done constantly by the winds
and flowing waters, but every so often, apparently, there needs to be a
deeper, wider stirring and mixing. This the great ice ploughs and
glacial rivers of the Ice Ages did. And they do it every so often,
probably; for there was more than one Ice Age in the past, and, as
Nature's processes do not change, it is more than likely there will be
more ice ages and more deep ploughing and redistribution of the soil in
the future. As you will see, if you take the trouble to look it up in
"The Strange Adventures of a Pebble," it is thought we may now be in the
springtime of one of those vaster changes which bring Springs lasting
for ages, followed by long Summers and Autumns, and by the age-long
Winters and the big glaciers and all.

[Illustration: HOW THE MOUNTAINS FEED THE PLAINS

"The elevations of the earth's surface provide for it a perpetual
renovation. The higher mountains suffer their summits to be broken into
fragments and to be cast down in sheets of massy rock, full of every
substance necessary for the nourishment of plants, and each filtering
thread of summer rain is bearing its own appointed burden of earth to be
thrown down on the dingles below."]

The glaciers, moving over thousands of miles and often meeting and
dumping their loads together on vast fields, did the very same thing for
everybody that England does for herself to-day in bringing different
kinds of fertilizers from all over the world to enrich her farms. I'm
very glad to speak of this because the author of the story of the pebble
may have left a bad impression of the glaciers--"The Old Men of the
Mountain"--as farmers, by what he said about their carrying off the
original farm lands of New England, and leaving a lot of pebbles and
boulders instead. While these pebbles have not produced what you would
call a brilliant performer among soils, they have made a good, steady
soil that in New England has helped greatly in growing farm boys into
famous men, while the pebbles of Wisconsin have been of immense service
to her famous cows. In the counties in Wisconsin where there are plenty
of pebbles scattered through the soil, the production of cheese and
butter is something like 50 per cent greater than it is in regions where
there are comparatively few pebbles.[35]

    [35] Martin: "Physiography of Wisconsin."

[Illustration: _From Tarr and Martin's "College Physiography." By
permission of the Macmillan Company_

GOOD CROPS FROM NEW ENGLAND'S STONY FIELDS

While the stones, big and little, with which the fields of New England
are so richly supplied have not produced what you would call a brilliant
performer among soils, they have made a good steady soil that can turn
its hand to almost anything, and that has helped greatly in growing farm
boys into famous men. In building those stone fences, for example, the
boys learned that it always pays to do your work well. A hundred years
is merely the tick of a watch in the life of a fence like that!]

The soils of New England are like the New Englander himself, they can
turn their hands to almost anything; raise any kind of crop suited to
the climate, while richer soils are often not so versatile. The reason
is that these pebbles were originally gathered by the glaciers from
widely separated river-beds, and so contain all varieties of rock with
every kind of plant food in them. It takes a long, long time to make
soil out of bed-rock, but in the case of soils in which there are a
great many pebbles it is different; and you can see why. On a great mass
of rock there is comparatively little surface for the air and other
pioneer soil-makers to get at, and so decay is slow; while the same
amount of rock broken up into pebbles presents a great deal of surface
for decay.

If you will examine with a glass--an ordinary hand-glass will do--one of
these decaying pebbles lying embedded in the grass you can trace on it a
number of wrinkly lines--sometimes even a network. These are the marks,
the "finger-prints," of little roots. Little roots, as we have seen, are
very wise. They always know what they are about, and the fact that they
cling to the pebbles in this way means that they are getting food out of
them.

And that's right where the cows of Wisconsin come in. The rootlets of
the grasses get a steady supply of food from the decaying surfaces of
these pebbles scattered through the pastures, and then pass it on to the
cows.

[Illustration: HOW PEBBLES HELP FEED THE COWS

You'll think I'm joking at first, but it's the truth: _Pebbles are good
for cows._ Otherwise how are you going to account for the fact that in
the counties in Wisconsin where there are plenty of pebbles the
production of cheese and butter is something like 50 per cent greater
than it is in regions where there are comparatively few pebbles?
Examine, with a hand-glass, the "finger prints" of the little roots on a
decaying pebble, and see if you can't guess why. Then read the
explanation in this chapter.]


TEAMWORK BETWEEN MOUNTAINS AND PEBBLES

But now, going from little things to big things again, notice how the
mountains and the pebbles are linked together in this chain of service.
The mountains, too, continually feed the plains. Ruskin, in speaking of
this great service, says:

     "The elevations of the earth's surface provide for it a perpetual
     renovation. The higher mountains suffer their summits to be broken
     into fragments, and to be cast down in sheets of massy rock, full
     of every substance necessary for the nourishment of plants. These
     fallen fragments are again broken by frost and ground by torrents
     into various conditions of sand and clay--materials which are
     distributed perpetually by the streams farther and farther from the
     mountain's base. Every shower which swells the rivulets enables
     their waters to carry certain portions of earth into new positions,
     and exposes new banks of ground to be mined in their turn. The
     turbid foaming of the angry water--the tearing down of bank and
     rock along the flanks of its fury--these are no disturbances of the
     kind course of nature; they are beneficent operations of laws
     necessary to the existence of man, and to the beauty of the earth;
     ... and each filtering thread of summer rain which trickles through
     the short turf of the uplands is bearing its own appointed burden
     of earth to be thrown down on some new natural garden in the
     dingles below."

[Illustration: THE MILL OF THE EARTHWORM AND THE EARTH MILLS OF THE SEA

"From the gizzard mills of the earthworm to the great earth mills of the
sea, all are--most evidently--parts of one great system." (In the
picture on the left an earthworm has been laid open to show its grinding
apparatus.)]

So we find a wonderful variety of things working together in making and
feeding the soil that feeds the world: mountains and pebbles, volcanoes
and lichens, the breath of the living and the bones of the dead; the
sun, the winds, the sea, the rains; the farmers with four feet, the
farmers with six feet; the swallow building her nest under the eaves,
the earthworms burrowing under our feet, each bent on its own affairs,
to be sure, but at the same time each helping to carry on the great
business of the universe. From the little gizzard mills of the earthworm
to the great earth mills of the sea, that renew the soil for the ages
yet to come, all are--most evidently--parts of one great system; are
together helping to work out great purposes in the advance of men and
things; purposes which require that

     "While the earth remaineth, summer and winter, seed-time and
     harvest, shall not cease."


HIDE AND SEEK IN THE LIBRARY

     As I said, most people not only think that they're smarter than
     their fellow animals, but when you point out to them how clever
     some of these other animals are, they say: "Oh, _that's_ just
     instinct!" As if animals don't think and learn by experience, and
     all, just as we do! You look up "instinct" in the encyclopædia, and
     you'll see. Then read Long's "Wood Folk at School."

     There's really a lot more fun in shooting animals with a camera
     than with a shotgun or a rifle. Did you ever try it? "Hunting with
     a Camera" in "The Scientific American Boy at School," by Bond, will
     tell you how to get the best results. Other good pointers on animal
     photography will be found in Verrill's "Boy Collector's Hand Book"
     ("Photographing Wild Things") and in "On the Trail," by A. B. and
     Lina Beard.

     And if you ever feel like killing a bird "just for fun," read in
     the diary of "Opal" about the farmer boy who shot the little girl's
     pet crow; it was "only a crow," he said, and he wanted to see if he
     could hit it. That will cure you, I think. The diary of "Opal"
     reads like a fairy-tale, but it's all true, and although it was
     written--every word of it--by a little girl of seven, it is one of
     the most remarkable books that anybody ever wrote. The crow's name,
     by the way, was "Lars Porsina of Clusium." The little girl used to
     give her pets names like that.

     Don't forget what the great naturalist, Agassiz, said about the
     pencil being "the best eye"; that is to say, you can get a more
     accurate knowledge of things and come nearer to seeing them as they
     really are, by drawing them. Drawing, in the best schools, is a
     part of Nature Study, and when you get so that you can draw fairly
     well--as everybody can with practice--you will find there is even
     more of a thrill in thus _creating_ forms--out of nothing, as you
     might say--than there is in taking photographs. The pencil is a
     magician's wand! As an example and inspiration for taking your
     pencil and sketch-book into the fields, get "Eye Spy," by Gibson,
     and, of course, Seton's animal books. I do believe Seton drew his
     pictures with those simple, expressive outlines so that young folks
     could redraw them. The difference between redrawing a drawing and
     simply looking at it, is a lot like the difference between
     _reading_ a book and merely glancing at the print.

     You are sure to be interested in Sir John Lubbock's book on "Ants,
     Bees and Wasps," and you will find a world of interesting things
     about the earlier animal days of man in his "Origin of
     Civilization" and "Pre-Historic Times."

     And who do you suppose had most to do with teaching men they were
     really brothers, and so bringing them up to the civilized life we
     know to-day? Mother! (See Drummond's "Ascent of Man," or Chapter
     XII of "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble," where the whole
     marvellous story of evolution is told in simple form.)

     If Nature Study proves half as delightful and profitable to you as
     I am sure it will, the following list of books will be very useful
     in building up your library on the subject, and in selecting books
     from the public library:

     "Among the Farmyard People," by Clara D. Pierson, deals with
     various things you probably never noticed about chickens and pigs,
     and other domestic animals. "Among the Meadow People," by the same
     author, tells about birds and insects. You can see what her "Among
     the Pond People" tells about--tadpoles, frogs, and so on. Really,
     it's a perfect fairy-land, an old pond is! "Among the Moths and
     Butterflies," by Julia P. Ballard, is about fairies, too, as the
     title shows.

     For children of the seventh to eighth grades, and up, Hornaday's
     "American Natural History" will be a delight, and it has loads of
     pictures which, as in all well-illustrated scientific books, are as
     valuable as the text. You know who Hornaday is, don't you? He is
     the man at the head of the great Zoo in New York City.

     Margaret W. Morley's "The Bee People" is worthy of its subject, and
     that's about the highest praise you could give to a book about
     bees, I think. Then don't forget, when you are in the library, to
     look up her "Grasshopper Land." The grasshopper book also treats of
     the grasshopper's cousins, which include the crickets and the
     katydids; yes, and the "walking sticks"; and the "praying mantis."
     (Did you know that whether you spell this weird little creature's
     first name, "praying," with an "e" or an "a" you'd be correct?)

     Every boy and girl, of course, is supposed to know about Ernest
     Thompson Seton's books, but for fear some of them don't, I'll
     mention a few that it simply wouldn't do to miss. "Animal Heroes"
     gives the history of a cat, a dog, a pigeon, a lynx, two wolves and
     a reindeer; "Krag and Johnny Bear" is made up from his larger book,
     "Lives of the Hunted"; "Lobo, Rag and Vixen" is from his "Wild
     Animals I Have Known," and "The Trail of the Sandhill Stag."

     John Burroughs is very different from Seton and Long, but the older
     you get the better you will like him. His is one of the great names
     in the study of Nature's pages at first hand and, as literature,
     ranks with the work of Thoreau. Get his "Birds, Bees and Other
     Papers," "Squirrels and Other Fur-bearers."

     Darwin, one of the greatest men in the whole history of
     science--the man whose name is most prominently identified with the
     greatest discovery in science, the principle of evolution--how do
     you suppose he started out? Just by looking around! Read about it
     in "What Mr. Darwin Saw in His Voyage around the World."



INDEX


(For numerous practical suggestions as to the use of an index the reader
is referred to the preface to the index in the author's "Strange
Adventures of a Pebble.")

  Africa, one country where the Hornbills live, 169

  Ants, their interesting habits in relation to the history of the soil, 94;
    ants that thresh and store, 205, 213;
    how they clean up after the day's work, 208

  Aphids, how they supply the ants with honey, 99

  Armadillo, a four-footed farmer who wears armor;
    how fast he can dig, 120;
    the funny gimlet nose that helps him travel so fast under the ground, 121

  Asia, one of the countries where the Hornbills live, 169;
    home of a farmer who stores grain for the winter, 212

  Australia, home of that animal paradox, the Duck-billed Mole, 144;
    and of birds that hatch their babies with an incubator, 174


  Bears, how they go into winter quarters, 216, 219

  Beavers, their work and their wisdom, 148

  Bees. (See Mason Bee and Bumblebee.)

  Beetle, Sacred (Tumble Bug), sinful tactics of, 92

  Birds, their ancestors among the ancient monsters, 24;
    service of the Moas in ploughing and in grinding up rock, 28;
    other farmers who wear feathers, 162

  Bumblebees, their homes under the ground, 104


  Caveman, what he learned from his fellow animals, 228

  Central America, a good place to look for Flamingoes, 166

  Chipmunks, work and play in Chipmunkville, 131;
    why they have large feet for such little people, 132;
    inside the Chipmunk's home, 132;
    why they have several front doors, 133;
    how they spend the winter, 218

  Clouds, how dust helps make them, 56;
    and shape them, 57

  Colorado, once the home of prehistoric monsters, 27

  Corn, how the "rag babies" tell the fortune of the seed, 199

  Crabs, water farmers who help make land, 140

  Crayfish, their habits and their service in helping get land ready for
    the farmer, 140

  Crustaceans, their relation to insects, 143

  Cuvier, Baron, the famous paleontologist, and his adventure with a
    "monster," 34


  Dandelions, flying machines of, 51

  Darwin, Charles, on the importance of earthworms in the history of human
      civilization, 75;
    what he said about the intelligence of roots and why he said it (the
      whole chapter is about that), 186;
    how he taught roots to write their autobiographies, 190

  Deserts, plant pioneers in, 8;
    rich in plant food, 59;
    how irrigation transforms them, 72

  Dormice, their Thanksgiving dinners and their long winter naps, 204, 217

  Duck-billed Mole, the Animal X that lays eggs like a bird and yet suckles
    its young like a pussy-cat, 144

  Dust, how it helps the rain come down, 56


  Earthworms, great importance of their work in pulverizing and fertilizing
      the soil, 75;
    their habits and remarkable intelligence, 75;
    how the great sea and the little earthworms work together, 242

  East Indies, home of some of the Hornbills, 169

  Electricity, how it helps in the shaping of the clouds, 57

  Elephants, their ancestors among the prehistoric monsters, 27;
    elephants as ploughmen, 28


  Fabre, Henri, his study of the Mason Bee and how his schoolboys helped
     him, 108

  Farms, abandoned, how Nature restores them, 16

  Fish, monster fish of other days, 23

  Flamingoes, habits of some feathered farmers with queer noses, 162

  Florida, one place where you may find flamingoes, 166

  Fox, home life and habits, 128

  Frost, Jack, how he helps convert rock into soil, 43;
    how he makes stones "walk" and in other ways co-operates with the river
      mills in making soil, 60


  Geese, their relation to the flamingoes, 166

  Groundhog. (See Woodchuck.)


  Hamster, a four-footed farmer who uses a threshing-machine, 210

  Hedgehogs, why they are so unpopular as food, 121;
    their homes and how they do their ploughing, 122;
    pictures of baby hedgehogs, 216, 217;
    why they go into winter quarters, 216, 218

  Hibernation, "The Autumn Stores and the Long Winter Night," 204

  Hornbills, why Mr. Hornbill shuts his wife up in their home in a hollow
    tree, 169

  Hungary, home of the field rat, a farmer who stores grain for the
    winter, 212


  Ice Ages, how the glaciers ploughed and mixed the soil, 237

  Insects, their service in pulverizing and fertilizing the soil, 92;
    damage done by injurious insects, 93;
    relation of insects to crustaceans, 143


  Kangaroo rat, 131

  Kingfishers, their tunnel homes in the bank and how their fishing habits
    help enrich the soil, 171

  Kiwi, a late bird that nevertheless gets the worm, 167


  Lichens, first of the soil makers--how they helped Columbus discover the
      world by discovering it first, 1;
    how the volcanoes and the lichens work together, 235

  Lizards, reign of the lizard family in the days of the prehistoric
    monsters, 25

  Lubbock, Sir John, the great London banker who carried ants in his
    pocket--what he had to say about the pleasures of Nature Study, 231


  Maeterlinck, on the presence of mind of a tree and its heroic struggle
    against adverse circumstances, 200

  Marmots, their farm villages, 124

  Mason-Bees. The house that Mrs. Mason-Bee built and its relation to the
    story of the soil, 104

  Moles, their work as ploughmen, 115;
    how they do their tunnelling, 117;
    Mr. Mole's castle under the ground, 118;
    how he keeps his hair so sleek, 119;
    where he spends the winter, 218

  Monsters, prehistoric, what they looked like, their habits and how they
    help the farmers of to-day with their farming, 20

  Mosses, as soil makers, 8

  Mound-Birds, how they build their incubators;
    other interesting habits, 174

  Mountains, how the trees climb them, 13;
    why you always hear a rattle of stones in the mountains at sunrise, 43;
    how the winds help trees to climb the western slopes, 55;
    how the mountains help the rain to come down and why so many rivers
      rise in mountains, 56;
    why the bones of the monsters are found in the mountains, 31;
    how the mountains helped kill off the monsters, 32;
    farm villages of the marmots in the mountains, 124;
    team-work between mountains and pebbles, 240


  Nature Study, its great value, 231;
    how it is taking the place of cruel sport, 232

  New England, why its soil is so versatile and dependable, and how it helps
    grow farm boys into famous men, 239

  New Zealand, home of a bird that is a very late riser but nevertheless
    gets the worm, 167


  Oven-Birds, of South America, how they differ from the American
      oven-birds, 172;
    their remarkable adobe homes and their friendliness toward man, 172


  Pebbles, how they help feed the Wisconsin cows, 239, 240;
    team-work between mountains and pebbles, 240

  Philippines, one of the regions where mound-birds live, 174, 176

  Ploughing, Nature's system: work of the squirrels, 14;
    of the elephants and their ancestors among prehistoric monsters, 27;
    of the Moas, 28;
    of the Dinosaurs, 29;
    storm ploughs of the winds, 46;
    use of the plough to prevent soil waste, 70;
    the great ploughs of the Ice Ages, 237

  Pocket Gopher, Thompson-Seton's "master ploughman," 128;
    why he has that queer expression on his face, 128;
    how he spends the winter, 218

  Pocket-Mouse, 130, 131

  Pot Holes, soil-grinding mills of the rivers, 61

  Prairie-Dog, his watch tower and how it protects him from his enemies, 126;
    his great sociability, 127


  Rains, their work in making and transporting soil, 44, 55

  Rivers, work of the river mills in soil making, 60

  Roots, how lichens get along without them, 4;
    how and why they work at different levels, 11;
    how they make their way about (you won't wonder that Darwin said their
      actions suggested intelligence!), 186


  Sand, how it helps the soil to breathe, 59

  Seeds, how they determine the order of march of the trees, 12;
    use of screw-propellers and other devices, 42, 49, 51;
    how and why baby plants back into the world, 190;
    how they tried to change a sprouting seedling's mind but couldn't, 195;
    how "rag babies" tell the fortune of corn, 199

  Shrews, their work as ploughmen, 115;
    where they spend the winter, 218

  Siberia, there you will find the voles and their root cellars, 212

  South America, home of the four-footed farmers that wear armor, 120;
    and of the viscacha, 127;
    a good place to look for flamingoes, 166;
    and for oven-birds, 171

  South Sea Islands, one of the regions in which you find birds that hatch
    their babies with an incubator, 174

  Squirrels, how they help the trees to march, 14;
    the winding streets of Ground-Squirrel Town, 123;
    marmots, the largest of the squirrel family, 124;
    how the tree-squirrels spend the winter, 218

  Swallows, their habits and their service as soil makers, 177


  Termites, insects improperly called "white ants";
    their habits in relation to the history of the soil, 100

  Terracing, how employed to prevent waste of soil, 71

  Texas, you can still find armadillos there, 120

  Trees, their settled order of march into new lands, 8;
    how the winds and the rains help trees to climb the western slopes of
      mountains, 55;
    how waste of trees causes waste of soil, 69

  Turtles, how turtles differ from tortoises;
    habits of both these water farmers, 137;
    how turtles differ from crabs in their notions about laying eggs, 142


  Viscachas, South American relatives of the prairie-dogs;
    their villages and their athletic fields, 127;
    how they rescue their buried comrades, 128

  Volcanoes, their contribution to soil making, 39;
    how they help the plant world to get its breath, 40;
    team-work between volcanoes and lichens, 235

  Voles, four-footed farmers who fill root cellars for the winter, 212


  Wasps, their habits in relation to the history of the soil, 102

  Weather and the groundhog's shadow, 219

  Weeds, as soil makers, 9

  Winds, how they helped Mr. Lichen to discover the world, 1;
    how they help the trees to march, 12;
    their work in making, mixing, and transporting soil, 37

  Winter in the animal world, under the ground, 204

  Woodchuck (Groundhog), picturesque home of a Connecticut woodchuck, 134;
    Mr. Woodchuck's winter quarters and his shadow, 219

  Wyoming, one of the homes of the prehistoric monsters, 27


Transcriber's note:

In the scanned version of this book, there is apparently a printer error
in the acknowledgments for sources of illustrations (page x) where the
author refers to an illustration on page 125. There is no illustration
on page 125 in the original text. However the closest illustration
(caption: This Must Be a Pleasant Day) is located on page 126 in the
original text.

Another possible printer error occurred on page 52, where the phrase
"branches and holes" appears in the original text. In an effort to
relate the context of the phrase, this has been changed to "branches and
boles" in this text.

In some cases illustrations have been moved from the original location
in order to avoid breaks in paragraphs, and to place them more closely
to the related paragraph.





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