Every one was on hand for the learning session the next morning, despite the fear that the mere mention of Shadow the Weasel had brought about in all except Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porcupine. You see, everyone felt they must be there so that they might learn all they possibly could about one they so feared. It might help them to escape should they discover Shadow hunting them sometime.
“Striped Chipmunk,” said Mother Nature, “Would you be willing to share something about Shadow the Weasel?”
“He is the one predator I fear more than any other,” declared Striped Chipmunk, “because he is the one who can go wherever I can. Any hole I can get into he can. I’ve seen him just twice in my life, and I hope I may never see him again.”
“What did he look like?” asked Mother Nature.
“Like a snake on legs,” said Striped Chipmunk. “Anyway, that is what he made me think of, because his body was so long and slim and he twisted and turned so easily. He was about as long as Chatterer the Red Squirrel and looked longer because of his slim body and long neck. He was brown above and white below. His front feet were white, and his hind feet rather whitish. His short, round tail was black at the end. Somehow his small head and sharp face made me think of a Snake.”
“I saw him once, and he wasn’t brown at all,” interrupted Jumper the Hare. “He was all white, every bit of him except the end of his tail which was black.”
“Striped Chipmunk is quite right and so are you,” said Mother Nature. “Striped Chipmunk saw him in the summer and you saw him in the winter. He changes his coat according to the season, just as you do yourself, Jumper.”
“Oh, I see” said Jumper.
“What was he doing when you saw him?” asked Mother Nature, turning to Striped Chipmunk.
“Hunting,” replied Striped Chipmunk, and shivered. “He was hunting me. He had found my tracks where I had been gathering beechnuts, and he was following them with his nose just the way Bowser the Hound follows Reddy Fox. I nearly died of fright when I saw him.”
“You are lucky to be alive,” declared Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
“I know it,” replied Striped Chipmunk and shivered again. “I know it. I guess I wouldn’t be if Reddy Fox hadn’t happened along just then and frightened Shadow away. I’ve actually had a kindlier feeling for Reddy Fox ever since.”
“I never ran harder in my life than the time I saw him,” spoke up Jumper the Hare. “He was hunting me just the same way, running with his nose in the snow and following every twist and turn I had made. Only for that black-tipped tail did I see him before it was too late.”
“The idea of a big fellow like you running from such a little fellow as my Cousin Shadow, what a thought!” added Jimmy Skunk to the conversation.
“I may be ever so much bigger, however he is so quick I wouldn’t stand the least chance in the world,” said Jumper the Hare. “When I suspect Shadow is about, I go somewhere else, the farther the better. If I could climb a tree like Chatterer, it would be different.”
“Actually no it wouldn’t,” interrupted Chatterer. “That fellow can climb almost as well as I can. The only thing that saved me from him once was the fact that I could make a long jump from one tree to another and he couldn’t. He had found a hole in a certain tree where I was living, and it was just luck that I wasn’t at home when he called. I was just returning when he popped out. I ran for my life.”
“Has he any predators?” asked Peter Rabbit to Mother Nature.
“Oh, yes,” replied Mother Nature. “Reddy Fox, Old Man Coyote, Hooty the Owl and various members of the Hawk family have to be watched for by him. Although they do not worry him much. You see he moves so quickly, dodging out of sight in a flash, that whoever catches him must be quick indeed. Then, too, he is almost always close to good cover. He delights in old stone walls, stone piles, brush-grown fences, piles of rubbish and barns and old buildings, the places that Mice delight in. In such places there is always a hole to dart into in time of danger. He hunts whenever he feels like it, be it day or night, and often covers considerable ground, though nothing to compare with his big, brown, water-loving cousin, Billy Mink. It is because of his wonderful ability to disappear in an instant that he is called Shadow.”
“Shadow is known as the Common Weasel, Short-tailed Weasel, Brown Weasel, and Ermine, and is found all over the forested parts of the northern part of the country. Most Weasels are alike in habits. When running they bound over the ground much as Peter Rabbit does.”
“Now tomorrow we will meet on the bank of the Smiling Pool.”
- If you were to think of a “furry snake” is a weasel what comes to mind or a different image?
- Who do you think we will meet at the Smiling Pool in Chapter 25 when the four-legged folks gather again? Who lives around or in a pond? How many critters can you name?