Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 35 – Deer


Chapter 35

Deer


Lightfoot the Deer appeared the next morning, emerging from the Green Forest, as he stepped quietly out from a thicket and bowed to Mother Nature.

“I heard,” he said, “that my fellow four-legged friends are here to learn something about my family this morning, and thought you would not mind if I joined them.”

“Oh, please do!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit forgetting that Lightfoot had spoken to Mother Nature.

All laughed, even Mother Nature. You see, Peter was so very much in earnest, and at the same time so excited, that it really was funny.

“Peter has spoken for all of us,” said Mother Nature. “You are more than welcome, Lightfoot I am delighted to have you here and I know that the others are too. I suspect you will be more comfortable if you lie down, however before you do this I want everybody to have a good look at you. Just stand for a few minutes in that little open space where all can see you.”

Lightfoot walked over to the open space where the sun fell full on him and there he stood, a picture of grace and beauty with his appearance giving him an air of nobility. There was more than one little gasp of admiration among his little neighbors.

Mother Nature began, “Lightfoot belongs to the Deer family, as you all know, and this in turn is in the order called Ungulata, which means hoofed.”

White-tailed Deer – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Peter Rabbit abruptly sat up, and his ears stood up like exclamation points. “Farmer Brown’s cows have those funny feet called hoofs; are they related to Lightfoot?” he asked eagerly.

“Actually, they belong to another family, however it is in the same order. So they are distant cousins of Lightfoot,” replied Mother Nature.

“And Farmer Brown’s Pigs, what about them?” asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“Yes, they also belong to that order and so are related,” explained Mother Nature

“Lightfoot,” Mother Nature continued, “is the White-tailed or Virginia Deer. You have only to look at him to know that those slim legs of his are meant for speed. He can go very fast, although not for long distances without stopping. Like Peter Rabbit he is a jumper rather than a true runner, and travels with low bounds with occasional high ones when alarmed. He can make very long and high jumps, and this is one reason he prefers to live in the Green Forest where there are fallen trees and tangles of old logs. If frightened he can leap over them, whereas his enemies must crawl under or climb over or go around them. Ordinary fences, such as Farmer Brown has built around his fields, do not bother Lightfoot in the least. He can leap over them as easily as Peter Rabbit can jump over that little log he is sitting beside.”

“Just now, because it is summer, Lightfoot’s coat is decidedly reddish in color and very handsome. In the winter it is very different.”

“I know,” spoke up Chatterer the Red Squirrel. “It is gray then. I’ve often seen Lightfoot in winter, and there isn’t a red hair on him in that season.”

“Quite right,” agreed Mother Nature. “His red coat is for summer only. Notice that Lightfoot has a black nose. That is, the tip of it is black. Beneath his chin is a black spot. A band across his nose, the inside of each ear and a circle around each eye is whitish. His throat is white and he is white beneath. Now, Peter, you are so interested in tails, tell me without looking what color Lightfoot’s tail is.”

“White, snowy white,” replied Peter promptly. “I suppose that is why he is called the White-tailed Deer.”

“Huh!” Johnny Chuck ,who happened to be sitting a little back of Lightfoot, chimed in “I don’t call it white. It has a white edge and is mostly the color of his coat.”

Now while Lightfoot had been standing there his tail had hung down, and it was as Johnny Chuck had said. Then at Johnny’s remark up flew Lightfoot’s tail, showing only the under side. It was like a pointed white flag. With it held aloft that way, no one behind Lightfoot would suspect that his whole tail was not white.

Follow this LINK for more Lightfoot the Deer stories!

“Notice how long and fluffy the hair on that tail is,” said Mother Nature. “Mrs. Deer’s tail is just like it, and this makes it very easy for her babies to follow her in the dark. When Lightfoot is feeding or simply walking about he carries it down, but when he is frightened and bounds away, up goes that white flag. Now look at his horns. They are not true horns. The latter are hollow, while these are not. Farmer Brown’s cows have horns. Lightfoot has antlers. Just remember that. The so-called horns of all the Deer family are antlers and are not hollow. Notice how Lightfoot’s curve forward with the branches or tines on the back side.”

Of course everybody looked at Lightfoot’s crown as he held his head proudly. “What is the matter with them?” asked Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. “They look to me as if they are covered with fur. I always supposed them to be hard like bone.”

“So they will be a month from now,” explained Mother Nature, smiling down at Whitefoot. “That which you call fur will come off. He will rub it off against the trees until his antlers are polished, and there is not a trace of it left. You see Lightfoot has just grown that set this summer.”

“Do you mean those antlers?” asked Danny Meadow Mouse, looking very much puzzled. “Didn’t he have any before? How could things like those grow, anyway?”

“He loses his horns, I mean antlers, every year!” shared Jumper the Hare. “His old ones fell off late last winter. I know, for I saw him just afterward. He didn’t carry his head as proudly as he does now. He looked a lot like Mrs. Deer; you know she hasn’t any antlers.”

“Then can you tell me how could hard, bony things like those grow?” inquired Danny Meadow Mouse.

“I think I will have to explain,” said Mother Nature. “They were not hard and bony when they were growing. Just as soon as Lightfoot’s old antlers dropped off, the new ones started. They sprouted out of his head just as plants sprout out of the ground,and they were soft and very tender and filled with blood, just as all parts of your body are. At first they were just two round knobs. Then these pushed out and grew and grew. Little knobs sprang out from them and grew to make the branches you see now. All the time they were protected by a furry skin which looks a great deal like what humans call velvet. When Lightfoot’s antlers are covered with this, they are said to be in the velvet state.”

“When they had reached their full size they began to shrink and harden, so that now they are quite hard, and very soon that velvet will begin to come off. When they were growing they were so tender that Lightfoot didn’t move about any more than was necessary and kept quite by himself. He was afraid of injuring those antlers. By the time cool weather comes, Lightfoot will be quite ready to use those sharp points on anybody who gets in his way.”

Antler found in the Green Forest

“As Jumper has said, Mrs. Deer has no antlers. Otherwise she looks much like Lightfoot, save that she is not quite as big. Have any of you ever seen her babies?”

“I have,” declared Jumper, who, as you know, lives in the Green Forest just as Lightfoot does. “They are the dearest little things and look like their mother, only they have the loveliest spotted coats.”

“That is to help them to remain unseen by their predators,” explained Mother Nature. “When they lie down where the sun breaks through the trees and spots the ground with light they seem so much like their surroundings that unless they move they are not often seen even by the sharpest eyes that may pass close by. They lie with their little necks and heads stretched flat on the ground and do not move so much as a hair. You see the first thing their mother teaches them is to keep perfectly still when she leaves them.”

“When they are a few months old and able to care for themselves a little, the spots disappear. As a rule Mrs. Deer has two babies each spring. Once in a while she has three, although two is the usual. She is a good mother and always on the watch for possible danger. While they are very small she keeps them hidden in the deepest thickets. By the way, do you know that Lightfoot the Deer and Mrs. Deer are fine swimmers?”

Happy Jack Squirrel looked the surprised. “I don’t see how under the sun any one with little hoofed feet like Lightfoot’s can swim,” he said.

Deer hoof prints in the mud.

“Nevertheless, Lightfoot is a good swimmer and fond of the water,” replied Mother Nature. “That is one way he has of escaping his enemies. When he is hard pressed by Wolves or Dogs he makes for the nearest water and plunges in. He does not hesitate to swim across a river or even a small lake.”

“Lightfoot prefers the Green Forest where there are close thickets with open places here and there. He likes the edge of the Green Forest where he can come out in the open fields, yet be within a short distance of the protecting trees and bushes. He requires much water and so is usually found not far from a brook, pond, or river. He has a favorite drinking place and goes to drink early in the morning and just at dusk. During the day he usually sleeps hidden away in a thicket or under a windfall, coming out late in the afternoon. He feeds mostly in the early evening. He eats grass and other plants, beechnuts and acorns, leaves and twigs of certain trees, lily pads in summer and delights to get into Farmer Brown’s garden, where almost every green thing tempts him.

“Like so many others he has a hard time in winter, particularly when the snows are deep. Then he and Mrs. Deer and their children live in what is called a yard. Of course it isn’t really a yard such as Farmer Brown has. It is simply a place where they keep the snow trodden down in paths which crisscross, and is made where there is shelter and food. The food is chiefly twigs and leaves of evergreen trees. As the snow gets deeper and deeper they become held up in the yard until spring comes to melt the snow and set them free.

Deer tracks in the winter in the Green Forest

“Lightfoot depends for safety more on his nose and ears than on his eyes. His sense of smell is wonderful, and when he is moving about he usually goes up wind; that is, in the direction from which the wind is blowing. This is so that it will bring to him the scent of any predator that may be ahead of him. He is very clever and cunning. Often before lying down to rest he goes back a short distance to a point where he can watch his trail, so that if a predator like Old Man Coyote is following him he will have warning.”

“The White-tailed Deer is the most widely distributed of all the Deer family. He is found from the Sunny South to the great forests of the North–everywhere except in the vast open plains of the mid-west in this country. That is, he used to be. In many places he has been so hunted by man that he has disappeared. When he lives in the Sunny South he never grows to be as big as when he lives in the North.”

“These members of the Deer family belong to the round-horn branch, and are very much smaller than the members of the flat-horn branch whom I shall tell you about tomorrow.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. For 10(!) more chapters of Lightfoot the Deer story adventures visit this LINK.
  2. Deer and signs of them are very common to see in your local forests or even backyards. What types of signs have you seen? Where have you seen deer? How did it feel to witness them in nature or come across signs of them having been nearby?
  3. Visit this LINK to see and read more about the white-tailed deer from the Mass Audubon Society.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.



P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Spring #75 – Nature Alliteration Adventure


 P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books – Purchase Here


❤ ❤ ❤

An April treasure quest for you & your curious Capkin

is to search in nature for  . . .

“Several Splashy Splotches in the Sylvan Setting”

Bonus Camouflage Covering

❤ ❤ ❤

My curious Capkin & I found this treasure to match the description.

❤ ❤ ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your P.L.A.Y. Nature Adventure book!

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 4 of 19


Chapter 4

Peter Rabbit Finds Old Mr. Toad


As each spring rolls around Peter Rabbit finds himself wishing he could burst into song as his feathered friends do at this time of year. The birds pour out in beautiful song the joy that is in them and he wishes he could do the same. Instead of a singing voice Mother Nature gave him the ability to kick his long heels and jump about to express his feelings . While that gives Peter a great deal of satisfaction, he still wishes from time to time that he could join in the singing.

And so he was wishing this very thing now, as he sat on the bank of the Smiling Pool, listening to the great spring chorus.

“Tra-la-la-lee! Oka-chee! Oka-chee! There’s joy in the spring for you and for me,” sang Redwing the Blackbird from the bulrushes.

Meadow Lark by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

From over in the Green Meadows rose the clear lilt of Carol the Meadow Lark, and among the alders just where the Laughing Brook ran into the Smiling Pool a flood of happiness was pouring from the throat of Little Friend the Song Sparrow. Winsome Bluebird’s sweet, almost plaintive, whistle seemed to fairly float in the air, so that it was hard to say just where it did come from, and in the top of the Big Hickory tree, Welcome Robin was singing as if his heart were bursting with joy. Sammy Jay was also adding a beautiful bell-like note. As for the Smiling Pool, it seemed as if the very water itself sang, for a mighty chorus of clear piping voices from unseen singers rose from all around its banks. Peter knew who those singers were, although look as he might he could see none of them. They were hylas, the tiny cousins of Stickytoes the Tree Toad.

Listening to all these joyous voices, Peter forgot for a time what had brought him to the Smiling Pool. However, Jimmy Skunk and Billy Possum didn’t forget. They were still looking for Old Mr. Toad.

“Well, Mr. Dreamer, have you found him yet?” asked Jimmy Skunk, coming up behind Peter.

Peter came to himself with a start. “No,” he said. “I was just listening and wishing that I could sing, too. Don’t you ever wish you could sing, Jimmy?”

“No,” replied Jimmy. “I never spend time wishing I could do things that I was never meant to do. It is funny though that Old Mr. Toad is nowhere in sight. He said that he was coming down here to sing, and Redwing the Blackbird seemed to be expecting him. I’ve looked everywhere I can think of without finding him. Ah well, I do believe I’ll give it one more try. Stop your day dreaming Peter and come help us look.”

So Peter stopped his dreaming and joined in the search. Now there was one place where neither Peter nor Jimmy nor Billy had thought of looking. That was in the Smiling Pool itself. They just took it for granted that Old Mr. Toad was somewhere on the bank. Presently Peter came to a place where the bank was very low and the water was shallow for quite a little distance out in the Smiling Pool. From out of that shallow water came the piping voice of a hyla, and Peter stopped to stare, trying to see the tiny singer.

Suddenly he jumped right up in the air with surprise. There was a familiar looking head sticking out of the water. Peter had found Old Mr. Toad!

Toad in the water during mating season

P.L.A.Y. Ponderings

  1. Is it spring where you are? What animals are singing? Softly? Loudly?
  2. Could you describe their songs with words or letters and make a drawing? Or could you try to mimic or copy their sounds with your voice or by whistling?
  3. Are there animals that are staying silent at this time?

Discover more P.L.A.Y. TOAD nature videos and adventures!

Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!


Spring #74 – Nature Alliteration Adventure


P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books – Purchase Here


❤ ❤ ❤

An April treasure quest for you & your curious Capkin

is to search in nature  . . .

Shiny + Splattered + Spots

BonusGolden Yellow + Coin Size

❤ ❤ ❤

My curious Capkin & I found this treasure to match the description.

❤ ❤ ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your P.L.A.Y. Nature Adventure book!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 34 – Opossum


Chapter 34

Opossum


On his way to the next learning session Peter Rabbit passed a certain tree in the Green Forest when a familiar voice hailed him.

“Good Morning Peter Rabbit,” said the voice. “What’s your hurry?” Peter stopped abruptly and looked up in that tree. There, peering down at him from a hole high up in the trunk, was a sharp, whitish-gray face, with a pair of twinkling black eyes.

“Hello Billy the Opossum,” Peter called out. “How are you and Mrs. Opossum this fine day?”

“Poorly, Peter as we haven’t had breakfast yet,” replied Billy with a grin.

A sudden thought popped into Peter’s head. “Billy,” shouted Peter excitedly, “are you a Carnivora?”

Billy the Opossum poked his head a little farther out and put his hand behind his ear as if he were a little hard of hearing. “What’s that Peter Rabbit? Am I a what?” he asked.

“Are you a Carnivora?” repeated Peter.

Peter wasn’t listening for the answer. The fact is, Peter had started lipperty-lipperty-lip for the next learning session, without even saying good-by. He arrived quite out of breath. “I know!” he panted. “I know!”

“What do you know?” asked Mother Nature.

“I know the answer to the question you asked yesterday. I know who it is that eats flesh, yet doesn’t belong to the order of flesh eaters. It’s Billy the Opossum!” cried Peter.

“Right you are,” replied Mother Nature. “However did you find it out?”

“I didn’t exactly find it out; I guessed it,” replied Peter. “On my way here I saw Billy the Opossum, and it popped into my head right away that he was one we haven’t heard about, and must be the one. However, if he eats flesh, I don’t see why he isn’t a member of the order of flesh eaters.”

“It is because he belongs to a group which has something which makes them entirely different from all other animals, and for this reason they have been given an order of their own,” explained Mother Nature. “They belong to the order of Marsupials, which means pouched animals. It is because the mothers have big pockets in which they carry their babies. Mrs. Opossum has just such a pocket.”

“Of course,” exclaimed Peter. “I’ve seen those babies poking their heads out of that pocket.”

“The Opossums are the only Marsupials in this country,” continued Mother Nature. “Now have I made it quite clear why, although they eat flesh, Billy and Mrs. Opossum are not members of the same big order as Buster Bear and the other flesh eaters?”

Everybody nodded. Just then Chatterer the Red Squirrel shouted, “Here comes Billy, and Mrs. Opossum and all the little Opossums.”

Opossum – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Sure enough, down the Lone Little Path came the Opossum family, and a funny looking sight they were. Billy was whitish-gray, his face whiter than the rest of him. He looked as if he had just gotten out of bed and forgotten to brush his hair; it pointed every which way. His legs were dark, his feet black and his toes white. His ears were without any hair at all, and were black for the lower half, the rest being white. He had a long whitish tail without any hair on it. Altogether, with his sharp face and naked tail, he looked a great deal as though he might be a giant Rat.

Mrs. Opossum was even more funny-looking as she seemed to have heads and tails all over her. You see, she had brought along her family, and Mrs. Opossum is one of those who believes in large families. There were twelve youngsters, and they were exactly like their parents, only small. They were clinging all over Mrs. Opossum. Some were on her back, some were clinging to her sides, and a couple were in the big pocket, where they had spent their babyhood.

“We thought we’d join you and see what’s going on today,” explained Billy with a grin.

“I’m glad you did,” replied Mother Nature. “You see, the rest of your friends here are a little curious about the Opossum family.”

Meanwhile Mrs. Opossum was climbing a tree, and when she had reached a comfortable notch the little Opossums left her and began to play about in the tree. It was then that it appeared what handy things those naked little tails were. When the little Possums crawled out where the branches were small, they simply wrapped their tails around the twigs to keep from falling.

“My!” exclaimed Peter. “Those certainly are handy tails.”

“Handiest tails ever,” declared Billy the Opossum smiling proudly at his family.

“Would you like to climb a tree, Billy, and show your friends here how you manage to get the eggs from a nest that you cannot reach by crawling along the branch on which it is placed,” said Mother Nature.

Billy nodded and good-naturedly started up a tree. He crept out on a branch that overhung another branch way out where the branch was small. Then he wrapped the end of his tail around the branch and swung himself off, keeping hold of the branch only with his tail and one hind foot. Then, stretching down full length, he could just reach the branch below him. “You see,” he explained, “if there was a nest on this branch down here, I could get those eggs without any trouble. I wish there was a nest. Just speaking of eggs makes my mouth water.” Again Billy pulled himself back to the other branch.

“What else do you eat?” asked Mother Nature.

Two Toads that would make a Tasty Treat for an Opossum!

“Anything,” replied Billy the Opossum. “I’m not very particular–insects, roots, Frogs, Toads, small Snakes, Lizards, berries, fruits, nuts, young Rats and Mice, corn, any old meat that has been left lying around. I could find a meal most any time most anywhere.”

“Do you always have as big a family as you have here today?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Not always,” replied Billy. “Although sometimes Mrs. Opossum has to tote around a still bigger family. We usually have two or three big families a year.”

“Where is your home?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“I know,” said Peter Rabbit. “It’s up in a big hollow tree.”

Billy looked down at Peter and said, “remember it isn’t necessary to tell everyone where that hollow tree is now Peter.”

“Are Possums found anywhere except around here?” inquired Happy Jack.

“Yes, indeed,” replied Mother Nature. “They are found all down through the Sunny South, and in the warmer parts of the Mid-West. Billy the Opossum and his relatives are not fond of cold weather. They prefer to be where they can be reasonably warm all the year round.”

“Billy learned a long time ago that he can’t run as fast as some others, so he has learned to depend on his wits in time of danger. What do you think he does?”

“I know,” cried Peter; “I saw him do it once. Farmer Brown’s boy surprised Billy, and Billy just fell right over dead.”

“Pooh! Now that’s a story, Peter Rabbit. How could Billy the Opossum have fallen over dead and be alive up in that tree this very minute?” cried Happy Jack.

“I didn’t mean he was really dead just that he looked as if he were dead,” explained Peter. “And he did, too. He was the deadest looking thing I ever saw. I thought he was dead myself. I was watching from a bramble tangle where I was hiding, and I certainly thought the life had been scared right out of Billy. I guess Farmer Brown’s boy thought so too. He picked Billy up by the tail, and looked him all over, and said, ‘You poor little thing. I didn’t mean to hurt you.’ Billy didn’t so much as wink an eye. Farmer Brown’s boy went off up the path carrying Billy the Opossum by the tail. By and by he laid Billy down on an old stump while he went to look at a nest of Clever the Crow. When he came back Billy wasn’t there. I never did see Billy hurry as he did the minute Farmer Brown’s boy’s back was turned. He came to life as suddenly as he had dropped dead.”

“Very good, Peter,” said Mother Nature. “Pretending to be dead in order to remain alive is the cleverest thing Billy does.”

“Now, how about we focus on Lightfoot the Deer for our next lesson?”

“Splendid,” cried everyone at once and prepared to start for their homes.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What is the difference between an Opossum like Billy and a Possum? Have you heard folks talk about one or the other where you live? Time to get curious and investigate! Check out this LINK to the Mass Audubon Society page to discover more!
  2. Have you ever hung upside down from “your tail”(using your legs bent at the knees) from a tree branch or on a bar at the playground? What does the world look like from that view? Would you want to hang like that often? Would you wish for a marsupial tail?
  3. Where do many marsupials live? Do they look like Billy the Opossum? What do they have in common? What are their differences?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Spring #70 – Nature Alliteration Adventure


 P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books – Purchase Here


❤ ❤ ❤

An April treasure quest for you & your curious Capkin

is to search in nature for  . . .

“Straight + Slender + Stretches (on+on+on!)”

Bonus  White + Walk-along Without Wavering

❤ ❤ ❤

My curious Capkin & I found this treasure to match the description.

❤ ❤ ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your P.L.A.Y. Nature Adventure book!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 32 – Black Bear


Chapter 32

Black Bear


“Has Buster Bear a tail?” asked Mother Nature, and her eyes twinkled.

“No,” declared Whitefoot the Wood Mouse promptly.

“Yes,” replied Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“What do you say, Prickly Porky?” Mother Nature asked.

“I don’t think he has any; if he has, I’ve never seen it,” said Prickly Porky.

“He certainly has a tail,” said Jumper the Hare. “It isn’t much of a one, however it is a tail. I know because I’ve seen it many times.”

Huffing and woofing a deep, rumbly, grumbly voice spoke “What’s going on here? Who is it that hasn’t any tail?”

At the sound of that deep voice it looked for a few minutes as if the learning session would be broken up for that day. There was the same mad scrambling to get away that there had been the morning Reddy Fox unexpectedly appeared. However, there was this difference: When Reddy appeared, most of the little people sought safe hiding places, versus now they merely ran to safe distances, and there turned to stare with awe and great respect at the owner of that rumbly, grumbly voice. It was Buster Bear himself.

Buster stood up on his hind legs, like a man, and his small eyes, for they are small for his size, twinkled with fun as he looked around the awe filled circle. “Don’t let me interrupt,” he said. “I heard about these sessions and I thought I would just pay a friendly visit. There is nothing for you to fear. I have just had my breakfast and I couldn’t eat another mouthful to save me, not even such a tender morsel as Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.”

Whitefoot hurriedly ran a little farther away, and Buster Bear chuckled. Then he looked over at Mother Nature. “Won’t you tell them that I’m the best-natured and most harmless fellow in all the Great World?” he asked.

Black Bear collecting honey – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature smiled. “That depends on the condition of your stomach,” she said. “If it is as full as you say it is, and I know you wouldn’t tell me an untruth, then not even timid Whitefoot has anything to fear from you.” Then Mother Nature told all the little four-legged folks to put aside their fears and return.

Buster, seeing that some of the more timid were still fearful, backed off a short distance and sat down on his haunches. “What was that about a tail I overheard as I arrived?” he asked.

“It was a little discussion as to whether or not you have a tail,” replied Mother Nature. “Some say you have, and some say you haven’t. Whitefoot the Mouse thinks you haven’t.”

Once more Buster Bear chuckled way down deep in his throat. “Whitefoot never in his life looked at me long enough to know whether I’ve got a tail or not,” he said. “I never yet have seen him until now, when he wasn’t running away as fast as his legs could take him. So with me always behind him, how could he tell whether or not I have a tail?”

“Well, have you?” Peter Rabbit asked bluntly.

“What do you think?” asked Buster.

“I think you have,” said Peter.

Again Buster chuckled. “Quite right, Peter; quite right,” he said. “I’ve got a tail, although hardly enough of a one to really call it a tail.”

As Buster sat there, every one had a splendid chance to see just how he looked. His coat was all black; in fact he was black all over, with the exception of his nose, which was brown. His fur was long and rather shaggy. His ears were round. His paws were big and armed with strong, wicked looking claws.

“You all see what a black coat Buster has,” said Mother Nature. “Now I’m going to tell you something which may surprise you. Just as there are Red Foxes that are black, so there are Black Bears that are brown.”

“What’s that?” grunted Buster, with the funniest look of surprise on his face.

“It’s a fact, Buster,” said Mother Nature. “A great many of your family live out in the mountains of the Far West, and there quite often there will be one who is all brown. People used to think that these brown Bears were a different kind of Bear, and called them Cinnamon Bears. It was a long, long time before it was found out that those brown Bears are really black Bears. Sometimes one of the twin babies will be all black and the other all brown. Sometimes one of Buster’s family will have a white spot on his chest. Buster’s branch of the family is found in nearly all of the wooded parts of the entire country. In the Sunny South they live in the swamps and do not grow as big as in the North. Buster, there is a soft open dirt spot on the ground and I’d like it if you would walk across it so that these little folks can see your footprints.”

Good-naturedly Buster dropped on all fours and walked across the soft dirt spot. Right away every one understood why Mother Nature had asked Buster to do this. The prints of his hind feet were very like the prints of Farmer Brown’s boy when barefoot, only of course very much larger. You see, they showed the print of the heel as well as the rest of the foot.

“You see,” said Mother Nature, “Buster puts his whole foot on the ground, while all members of the Dog and Cat families walk all on their toes. Animals that put the whole foot down are called plantigrade. How big do you think Buster was when he was born?”

Mother Nature smiled at the curious looks on all the faces. “The fact is Buster was a very tiny and very helpless little chap. He was just about the size of one of Prickly Porky’s babies. He was no bigger than a Rat. He was born in the middle of winter and didn’t get his eyes open for forty days. It was two months before he poked his head outside the den in which he was born, to find out what the Great World was like. At that time he wasn’t much bigger than Peter Rabbit, and he and his twin sister were as lively a pair of youngsters and as full of mischief as any Bears the Green Forest has ever seen. And now, Buster, you might tell us what you live on.”

Buster’s eyes snapped. “I live on anything I can eat, and I can eat most everything. I suppose a lot of people think I live only on the little four-legged folks who are my neighbors, however that is a mistake. I do catch Mice when I am lucky enough to find them where I can dig them out, and they certainly are good eating.”

Active Ant Hill – Tiny Snack Time for a Black Bear

At this Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse hastily scurried farther away, and Buster’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “Of course I don’t mind a Rabbit either, if I am lucky enough to catch one,” he said and Peter Rabbit quickly backed off a few steps. “In fact I like meat of any kind,” continued Buster. “However, the greater part of my food isn’t meat at all. In the spring I dig up roots of different kinds, and eat tender grass shoots and some bark and twigs from young trees. When the insects appear they help out wonderfully. I am very fond of Ants. I pull over all the old logs and tear to pieces all the old stumps I can find, and lick up the Ants and their eggs that I am almost sure to find there. Almost any kind of insect tastes good to me if there are enough of them. I love to find and dig open the nests of Wasps that make their homes in the ground, and of course I suppose you all know that there is nothing in the world I like better than honey. If I can find a Bee nest I am utterly happy. For the sake of the honey, I am perfectly willing to stand all the stinging the Bees can give me. I like fish and I love to hunt Frogs. When the berry season begins, I just feast. In the fall I get fat on beechnuts and acorns. The fact is, there isn’t much I don’t like.”

“I’ve been told you sleep all winter,” said Johnny Chuck.

“That depends on the winter,” replied Buster Bear. “I don’t go to sleep until I have to. I don’t have to as long as I can find enough to eat. If the winter begins early, with bad weather, I make a comfortable bed of leaves in a cave or under a big pile of fallen trees or even in a hollow log, if I can find one big enough. Then I go to sleep for the rest of the winter. However, if the winter is mild and open and there is a chance of finding anything to eat, I sleep only in the really bad weather.”

“Do you try to get fat before going to sleep, the way I do?” asked Johnny Chuck.

Buster grinned. “Yes, Johnny, I try,” he said, “and usually I succeed. You see, I need to be fat in order to keep warm and also to have something to live on in the spring, just the same as you do.”

“I’ve been told that you can climb, although since I don’t live in the Green Forest I have never seen you climb. I should think it would be slow work for such a big fellow as you to climb a tree,” said Johnny Chuck.

Buster looked up at Happy Jack Squirrel and winked. Then he walked over to the tree in which Happy Jack was sitting, stood up and suddenly began to scramble up the tree. There was nothing slow about the way Buster Bear went up that tree. Happy Jack squealed with sudden fright and started for the top of that tree as only Happy Jack can climb. Then he made a flying jump to the next tree. Halfway up Buster stopped. Then he began to come down. He came down tail first. When he was within ten feet of the ground he simply let go and dropped.

“I did that just to show you how I get out of a tree when I am really in a hurry,” explained Buster. “I don’t climb trees much now unless it is for honey, however when I was a little fellow I used to love to climb trees.”

Suddenly Buster sat up very straight and pointed his nose up in the wind. An anxious look crept into his face. He cocked his ears as if listening with all his might. That is just what he was doing. Presently he dropped down to all fours. “Excuse me,” he said, “I think I had better be going. Farmer Brown is coming down the Lone Little Path.”

Buster turned and disappeared at a speed that was simply astonishing for such a big fellow. Mother Nature laughed. “Buster’s eyes are not very good,” she said, “and yet there is nothing the matter with his nose or with his ears. If Buster says that Farmer Brown is coming down the Lone Little Path, there is no doubt that he is, although he may be some distance away yet. Time for us all to move along.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Would you like to see a Black Bear snack in action? Visit this LINK to see a log full of fun food frenzy!
  2. Are there any Black Bears in your neighborhood or neck-of-the-woods? Do they visit any specific spots like bird feeders or dumpsters?
  3. Visit this LINK for photos and information about Black Bears from the Mass Audubon Society.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Spring #62 – Nature Alliteration Adventure


P.L.A.Y. Nature Alliteration Adventure Guide Books – Purchase Here


❤ ❤ ❤

An April treasure quest for you & your curious Capkin

is to search in nature for . . .

” Prominent Pedestal with Protrusions”

Bonus Wonder in the Woods

❤ ❤ ❤

My curious Capkin & I found this treasure to match the description.

❤ ❤ ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your P.L.A.Y. Nature Adventure book!

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 3 of 19


Chapter 3

The Hunt for Old Mr. Toad


Now, Old Mr. Toad was hurrying as fast as ever he could and was quite out of breath, and he wasn’t getting along very fast compared with the way Peter Rabbit or Jimmy Skunk or Billy Possum could cover the ground. You see he cannot make long jumps like his cousin, Grandfather Frog, only little short hops instead.

Possum – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

So Peter and Jimmy and Billy took their time about following him. They stopped to hunt for fat beetles for Jimmy Skunk, and pausing at every little patch of sweet clover for Peter Rabbit to help himself. They waited for Billy Possum to hunt for a nest of Carol the Meadow Lark, on the chance that he would find some fresh eggs there. He didn’t find the nest for the very good reason that Carol hadn’t built one just yet this season.

Half way across the Green Meadows they stopped to play with the Merry Little Breezes, and because it was very pleasant there, they played longer than they realized. When at last they started on again, Old Mr. Toad was out of sight.

“Never mind,” said Peter, “we can catch up with him easy enough”.

Meanwhile, Old Mr. Toad kept right on, hop, hop, hipperty-hop, while the others were playing, and so it happened that when at last Peter and Jimmy and Billy reached the Smiling Pool, they hadn’t caught another glimpse of him.

“Do you suppose he hid somewhere, and we passed him?” asked Peter.

Billy shook his head. “ I don’t reckon so, I think he just got ahead of us and we’ll find him here sitting on the bank somewhere.”

So right away the three separated to look for Old Mr. Toad. All along the bank of the Smiling Pool they looked. They peeped under old leaves and sticks. They looked in every place where Old Mr. Toad might have hidden, and they could not find a trace of him.

“Tra-la-la-lee! Oka-chee! Oka-chee! Happy am I as I can be!” sang Mr. Redwing, as he swayed to and fro among the bulrushes.

Redwing Blackbird – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Say, Mr. Redwing, have you seen Old Mr. Toad?” called Peter Rabbit.

“No,” replied Mr. Redwing. “Is that whom you fellows are looking for? I wondered if you had lost something. What do you want with Old Mr. Toad?”

Peter explained how they had followed Old Mr. Toad to see what he was up to. “We are curious to know if he really has a singing voice,” said Peter,” or if the spring has made Old Mr. Toad crazy as he was in such a hurry to reach the Smiling Pool.”

“Oh, that’s it, is it?” replied Mr. Redwing, his bright eyes twinkling. “I’ve been wondering where Old Mr. Toad was, and I’m ever so glad to learn that he hasn’t forgotten that he has a very important part in our beautiful spring chorus.” Then once more Mr. Redwing began to sing.


  1. If there was a foot race on land who would come in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place between Jimmy Skunk, Billy Possum, Old Mr. Toad, and Peter Rabbit. Why?
  2. What would it like to spend your day with a “bird’s eye view” like Mr. Redwing flying overhead and seeing what is going on in the meadow, orchard, Smiling Pool, and other special spaces?

Discover more P.L.A.Y. TOAD nature videos and adventures!

Visit the P.L.A.Y. Bird Nature Story Adventures too!

The Burgess Animal Story for Children, The Burgess Bird Story for Children, and The Adventures of __________ series (Paddy the Beaver, Lightfoot the Deer, Old Mr. Toad, etc.), are all originally authored by Thornton Burgess and are now available to you through P.L.A.Y.

P.L.A.Y. has provided new online versions of these updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classics to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about the fields and forests through these animal story adventures
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.