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.

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 10 – The Ultimate Challenge

Original story written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 10 –

The Ultimate Challenge


Down from the top of the ridge back of the pond of Paddy the Beaver plunged Lightfoot the Deer, his eyes focused on the newcomer. He had understood the call of Sammy Jay. He knew that somewhere down there was the big newcomer he had been looking for.

The newcomer had understood Sammy’s call quite as well as Lightfoot. He knew he could not run away now so he bounded out into a little open place by the pond of Paddy the Beaver and there he waited.

Meanwhile Sammy Jay was flying about in the greatest excitement, calling out at the top of his lungs. Clever the Crow, over in another part of the Green Forest, heard him and took up the cry and at once hurried over to Paddy’s pond. Everybody who was near enough hurried there. Bobby Coon and Billy Possum climbed trees from which they could see and at the same time be safe. Billy Mink hurried to a safe place on the dam of Paddy the Beaver. Paddy himself climbed up on the roof of his house out in the pond. Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare, who happened to be not far away, hurried over where they could peep out from under some young hemlock trees.

For what seemed like the longest time, which was really only for a minute, Lightfoot and the big newcomer stood still, staring at each other. Then with a snort they lowered their heads and plunged together. Their antlers clashed with a noise that rang through the Green Forest, and both fell to their knees. There they pushed and struggled. Then they separated and backed away, to repeat the movement over again. If they had not known before, everybody knew now what those great antlers were for. Once the big newcomer managed to reach Lightfoot’s right shoulder with one of the sharp points of his antlers and made a long tear in Lightfoot’s gray coat. It only made Lightfoot push harder.

Sometimes they would rear up and strike with their sharp hoofs. Back and forth they plunged, and the ground was torn up by their hooves. Both were getting out of breath, and from time to time they had to stop for a moment’s rest. Then they would come together again to challenge one another.

As Lightfoot the Deer and the big newcomer from the Great Mountain were challenging one another in the little opening near the pond of Paddy the Beaver, neither knew who saw them. Each was determined to drive the other from the Green Forest. Each was trying for the to win over Miss Daintyfoot the Doe.

Neither of them knew that Miss Daintyfoot the Doe herself was watching them. She had heard the clash of their great antlers as they had come together the first time, and she had known exactly what it meant. Quietly she had stolen forward to a thicket where, safely hidden, she could watch. She knew that they were all tangled up over her.

After a while Lightfoot’s greater size and strength began to show and little by little the big newcomer was forced back towards the edge of the open place. Eventually the newcomer tired and he turned tail and plunged for the shelter of the Green Forest. With a snort of triumph, Lightfoot ran after him.

The newcomer’s one thought was to get away. Straight back towards the Great Mountain from which he had come. Lightfoot followed for only a short distance. He knew that the big newcomer was going for good and would not come back. Then Lightfoot turned back to the open place where they had fought. There he threw up his beautiful head, crowned by its great antlers, and signaled a challenge to all the Green Forest. As she looked at him, Miss Daintyfoot the Doe knew that she wanted to stay with him here in the Green Forest.

And so it was, that these white-tailed deer roamed the fields and forest throughout the winter leaving their tracks in the glistening white snow wherever they went.

And every so often if you take a walk in the woods, especially in the late autumn, you might come across a magical moment where you see another sign that they were here too.

OH DEER!
A surprise magical moment of finding frosted poop pellets in the forest!

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. What do deer do in the winter? What foods do they eat? How do they survive?
  2. How do deer stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer?
  3. When male and female deer mate how many babies do they have? What time of year are they born?
  4. What questions do you still have about Lightfoot the Deer and Daintyfoot the Doe? Write them down and seek out answers that lead you to more questions!

P.L.A.Y. presents . . .

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.

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 9 – Sammy Jay Makes the Call

Original story written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 9 –

Sammy Jay Makes the Call


Sammy Jay was bubbling over with excitement as he flew about through the Green Forest, following Lightfoot the Deer. He was so excited he wanted to call out. And yet he didn’t. He kept his tongue still. You see, he didn’t want Lightfoot to know that he was being followed. Under that pointed cap of Sammy Jay’s are quick wits. It didn’t take him long to discover that the big stranger whom Lightfoot was seeking was doing his best to keep out of Lightfoot’s way and that he was having no difficulty in doing so because of the random way in which Lightfoot was searching for him. Lightfoot made so much noise that it was quite easy to know just where he was and to keep out of his sight.

“That stranger is nearly as big as Lightfoot, however it is very plain that he doesn’t want to be challenged,” thought Sammy.

Now the truth is as big as he was, the stranger wasn’t quite so big as Lightfoot, and he knew it. He had seen Lightfoot’s big hoofprints, and from their size he knew that Lightfoot must be bigger and heavier than he. Then, too, he knew that he really had no right to be there in the Green Forest as that was Lightfoot’s home. He knew that Lightfoot would feel this way about it and that this would make him challenge the newcomer. So the big stranger wanted to avoid meeting Lightfoot. And yet he wanted still more to find that beautiful young visitor with the dainty feet for whom Lightfoot had been looking. He wanted to find her just as much as
Lightfoot wanted to find her, and he hoped that if he did find her, he could get her to go away with him back to the Great Mountain.

All this Sammy Jay guessed, and after a while he grew tired of following Lightfoot for nothing. “I’ll have to help in this thing myself,” muttered Sammy. “At this rate, Lightfoot never will find that big newcomer!”

So Sammy stopped following Lightfoot and began to search through the Green Forest for the big newcomer. It didn’t take very long to find him. He was over near the pond of Paddy the Beaver. As soon as he saw him, Sammy began to call out at the top of his lungs. At once he heard the sound of snapping twigs at the top of a little ridge back of Paddy’s pond and knew that Lightfoot had heard and understood.

Signs of Sammy Jay Making the Call!

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you heard a Blue Jay call?
  2. Have you ever wondered what the Blue Jay may be giving a warning call for? Is it your presence or something else?
  3. How do you feel about Sammy Jay calling out and exposing where the newcomer deer was in the Green Forest?
  4. Did you know that when some birds call out they are warning other birds and animals of a change in the forest or nearby area?
  5. More P.L.A.Y. Bird adventures, stories, and resources can be found HERE.

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 8 – Lightfoot’s Challenge

Originally written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 8 –

Lightfoot’s Challenge


In his search for the latest newcomer who had come to the Green Forest, Lightfoot the Deer no longer stole like a gray shadow from thicket to thicket as he had done when searching for the beautiful newcomer with the dainty feet. Now he bounded along, not caring how much noise he made. From time to time he would stop to whistle a challenge and to clash his antlers against the trees and stamp the ground with his feet.

Now and then he found the larger newcomer’s tracks, and from them he knew that this newcomer was doing just what he had been doing, which was seeking to find the beautiful newcomer with the dainty feet. Each time he found these signs Lightfoot became more frustrated.

Of course it didn’t take Sammy Jay long to discover what was going on. There is little that escapes those sharp eyes of Sammy Jay. As you know, he had early discovered the game of hide-and-seek that Lightfoot had been playing with the beautiful young visitor who had come down to the Green Forest from the Great Mountain. Then, by chance, Sammy had visited the Laughing Brook just as the larger newcomer had come down there to drink. For once Sammy had kept his tongue still. “There is going to be excitement here when Lightfoot discovers this fellow,” thought Sammy. “If they ever meet, and I have a feeling that they will, there is going
to be a challenge.”

Of course, Lightfoot knew nothing about all this. His one thought was to find that big newcomer and drive him from the Green Forest, and so he continued his search tirelessly.

Larger newcomer leaving signs behind.

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you ever heard the phrase “A bird’s eye view”? What does it mean?
  2. With Sammy Jay’s use of his “bird’s eye view” what advantages does he have in seeing stories unfold in the Green Forest?
  3. Are there any disadvantages to Sammy Jay’s use of his “bird’s eye view”?
  4. Why does Sammy Jay think there is going to be a challenge when Lightfoot the Deer meets this newcomer? What does he know? or not know?
  5. Why does Lightfoot the Deer say he wants to drive the newcomer from the forest vs. welcoming them? What natural behavior is playing out for this deer?

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 7 – A Startling New Hoofprint

Original story written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 7 –

A Startling New Hoofprint


The game of hide-and-seek between Lightfoot the Deer and the beautiful newcomer whose dainty hoofprints had first started Lightfoot to seeking her had been going on for several days and nights when Lightfoot found something which gave him a shock. He had gone very softly down to the Laughing Brook, hoping to surprise the beautiful newcomer drinking there. She wasn’t to be seen. Lightfoot wondered if she had been there, so he looked in the mud at the edge of the Laughing Brook to see if there were any fresh prints of those dainty feet. Almost at once he discovered fresh hoofprints. However, they were not the prints he was looking for. They were not the dainty prints he had learned to know so well. They were prints very near the size of his own big ones and they had been made only a short time before.

Startling new discovery of larger hoofprints!

The finding of those prints was a dreadful shock to Lightfoot. He understood instantly what they meant. They meant that a second newcomer had come into the Green Forest, one who had antlers just like his own.

“He has come here to seek that beautiful newcomer I have been searching for,” thought Lightfoot. “He has come here to take her away from me. He has come from the Great Mountain where that beautiful newcomer must have come from, too. I want her to stay here in the Green Forest with me and I must drive this fellow out.”

Lightfoot stamped his feet and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He threw his head high in the air and whistled angrily. Then he leaped over the Laughing Brook and once more began to search through the Green Forest. However, this time it was not for the beautiful newcomer with the dainty feet. He had no time to think of her now. He must first find this other newcomer and he meant to waste no time in doing so.

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. What time of day do deer move about the most?
  2. Where do the deer sleep? Do the sleep standing up or laying down?
  3. Do the males and the females form a herd together? or separate?
  4. Do deer walk over the same paths or form new paths throughout the forest?
  5. What are you curious about having read 7 chapters about Lightfoot the Deer? Capture your questions in your nature journal!

Deer tracks and scat (aka poop!) and so much more can be found in this handy guide book, Scats and Tracks of the Northeast by James C. Halfpenny, that fits easily in your backpack to take on your next P.L.A.Y. adventure in a field or forest near you!

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 6 – A Game of Hide-N-Seek

Original story written in 1921 by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 6 –

A Game of Hide-N-Seek


Little did he know that he, Lightfoot the Deer, was playing hide-and-seek in the Green Forest. He was “it”, and some one else was doing the hiding. He was now filled with longing to find and make friends with the beautiful newcomer of whom he had just once caught a glimpse, and of whom every day he found tracks.

At times Lightfoot would get frustrated. He would stamp his feet angrily and thrash the bushes with his great spreading antlers as if they were an enemy with whom he was fighting. More than once when he did this a pair of great, soft, gentle eyes were watching him, though he didn’t know it. If he could have seen them and the look of admiration in them, he would have been more eager than ever to find that beautiful newcomer.

At other times Lightfoot would steal about through the Green Forest as noiselessly as a shadow. He would peer into thickets and behind tangles of fallen trees and brush piles, hoping to surprise the one he sought. He would be very, very patient. He had thought himself very clever until this newcomer proved herself more clever.

Of course it wasn’t long before all the critters in the Green Forest knew what was going on. They knew all about that game of hide-and-seek. And instead of trying to help Lightfoot they gave him no help at all. The fact is, they were enjoying this game. Mischievous Sammy Jay even went so far as to warn the newcomer several times when Lightfoot was approaching. Of course Lightfoot knew when Sammy did this, and each time he got very frustrated.

Once Lightfoot almost ran smack into Buster Bear who just grinned good naturedly and allowed Lightfoot to continue on his search and go bounding away.

Then there were times when Lightfoot would sulk and would declare over and over to himself, “I don’t care anything about that newcomer and I won’t spend another minute looking for her,” and then within five minutes he would be watching, listening, and seeking some sign that she was still in the Green Forest.

Signs that the newcomer is still around and playing Hide-n-Seek.

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. When you feel out-of-sorts or you are frustrated have you ever gone outdoors and spent time in nature to regroup? If not, give it a try!
  2. How does the sound of the wind or songs of the birds, rays of sunshine or sprinkling of rain, scent of fresh flowers or the grass between your toes feel? Does it shift your mood?
  3. Does taking a moment outdoors help you feel grounded and centered and connected to the Great World and all that Mother Nature has created?
  4. Bring your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal outdoors and find a spot to simply sit and soak in all that nature has in store for you in the present moment and then try to capture it in your journal through writing, coloring, drawing, or painting. Ahhh . . . peace-filled P.L.A.Y.!

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 5 – Lightfoot Sees the Newcomer

Original story written by Thornton Burgess and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 5 –

Lightfoot Sees the Newcomer


Lightfoot the Deer was unhappy. It was a strange unhappiness, an unhappiness such as he had never known before. You see, he had discovered that there was a newcomer in the Green Forest and he knew it was another Deer. He knew it by the dainty hoofprints in the mud along the Laughing Brook and on the edge of the pond of Paddy the Beaver. He knew it by other signs which he ran across every now and then. And however much he searched he was unable to find the newcomer. He had searched everywhere and yet always he was just too late. The newcomer had come and gone.

Lightfoot felt a great longing and for the first time in his life Lightfoot felt lonely. He lost his appetite. He slept little. He roamed about uneasily, looking, listening, testing every Merry Little Breeze, and searching for the newcomer with no luck.

Then, one never-to-be-forgotten night, as he drank at the Laughing Brook, a strange feeling swept over him. It was the feeling of being watched. Lightfoot lifted his beautiful head and a slight movement caught his quick eye and drew it to a thicket not far away. The silvery light of gentle Mistress Moon fell full on that thicket in which a beautiful head in all the Great World was peeking out. For a long minute Lightfoot stood gazing. A pair of wonderful, great, soft eyes gazed back at him. Then that beautiful head disappeared.

With a mighty bound, Lightfoot cleared the Laughing Brook and rushed over to the thicket in which that beautiful head had disappeared. He plunged in and there was no one there. He searched thoroughly and yet that thicket was empty. Then he stood still and listened. Not a sound reached him. It was as still as if there were no other living things in all the Green Forest. The beautiful newcomer had slipped away as silently as a shadow.

All the rest of that night Lightfoot searched through the Green Forest with no luck. The longing to find that beautiful newcomer had become so great that he fairly ached with it. It seemed to him that until he found her he could know no happiness.

Capkin is curious to know who the newcomer is too!

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you taken a walk in the moonlight?
  2. Was it a full moon? Half-moon? Crescent moon?
  3. Have you ever recorded the phases of the moon in your nature journal each night?
  4. If you draw the moon each night for two months, what pattern do you see?
  5. Did you know that “moonlight” is actually the sun reflecting off of the moon? The moon does not have the ability to light up on its own. Brilliant!

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 4 – A Surprising Discovery

Original story written by Thornton Burgess in 1921 and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 4 –

A Surprising Discovery


It was a beautiful late autumn in the Green Forest as Lightfoot the Deer had returned after spending his spring and summer across the Big River.

Lightfoot roamed about and it seemed to him that he could not be happier. There was plenty to eat and he began to grow sleek and fat and handsomer than ever. The days were growing colder and the frosty air made him feel good.

Just at dusk one evening he went down to his favorite drinking place at the Laughing Brook. As he put down his head to drink he saw something which so surprised him that he quite forgot he was thirsty. It was a hoofprint in the soft mud.

Hoofprint in the soft mud. Who could it be?

For a long time Lightfoot stood staring at that hoofprint. In his great, soft eyes was a look of wonder and surprise. You see, that hoofprint was exactly like one of his own, only smaller. To Lightfoot it was a very wonderful hoofprint. He was quite sure that never had he seen such a dainty hoofprint. He forgot to drink. Instead, he began to search for other hoofprints, and presently he found them. Each was as dainty as that first one.

Who could have made them? That is what Lightfoot wanted to know and what he meant to find out. It was clear to him that there was someone new in the Green Forest, and somehow he was glad. He didn’t know why, however it was true.

Lightfoot put his nose to the hoofprints and sniffed them and knew for sure he had not met this newcomer before in the forest. A great longing to find the maker of those hoofprints took hold of him. He lifted his handsome head and listened for some slight sound which might show that the newcomer was near. With his delicate nostrils he tested the wandering little Night Breezes for a stray whiff of scent to tell him which way to go. However, there was no sound and the wandering little Night Breezes told him nothing. Lightfoot followed the dainty hoofprints up the bank. There they disappeared, for the ground was hard. Lightfoot paused,
undecided which way to go.


Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you ever made tracks in the mud? How long do they last? How do they change?
  2. Have you ever seen animal tracks in the mud?
  3. How do you know who the tracks belong to?
  4. Below are two favorite books for looking up animal tracks and discovering which four-legged friends have been making trails in your neck-of-the-woods!

WILD TRACKS: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints by Jim Arnosky

This book features GIANT fold-out pages of LIFE-SIZE animal foot prints!

From deer to bear, canines to felines, small rodents to birds, this book has all the key local animal tracks covered.

Scats and Tracks of the Northeast: A Field Guide to the Signs of Seventy Wildlife Species

by James C. Halfpenny and Jim Bruchac illustrated by Todd Telander

This book fits easily in your backpack and helps you identify tracks through illustrations, a handy ruler on the back flap for measuring, and written descriptions.

This is a must have outdoor guide for folks living or visiting: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Deer BOOK LOOK – Chapter 3 – Tree Branch Surprise

Original text written by Thornton Burgess in 1921 and revised by P.L.A.Y. for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 3 –

Tree Branch Surprise


It was evening and dear jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had gone to bed behind the Purple Hills, and the Black Shadows had crept out across the Big River. Mr. and Mrs. Quack were getting their evening meal among the brown stalks of the wild rice along the edge of the Big River. They took turns in searching for the rice grains in the mud. While Mrs. Quack tipped up and seemed to stand on her head as she searched in the mud for rice, Mr. Quack kept watch for possible danger. Then Mrs. Quack took her turn at keeping watch, while Mr. Quack stood on his head and hunted for rice.

It was wonderfully quiet and peaceful. There was not even a ripple on the Big River. It was so quiet that they could hear the barking of a dog at a farmhouse a mile away. They were far enough out from the bank to have nothing to fear from Reddy Fox or Old Man Coyote. So they had nothing to fear from any one other than Hooty the Owl. It was for Hooty that they took turns in watching. It was just the hour when Hooty likes best to hunt.

By and by they heard Hooty’s hunting call. It was far away in the Green Forest. Then Mr. and Mrs. Quack felt easier, and they talked in low, contented voices. They felt that for a while at least there was nothing to fear.

Suddenly a little splash out in the Big River caught Mr. Quack’s quick ear. As Mrs. Quack brought her head up out of the water, Mr. Quack warned her to keep quiet. Noiselessly they swam among the brown stalks until they could see out across the Big River. There was another little splash out there in the middle. It wasn’t the splash made by a fish; it was a splash made by something much bigger than any fish. Presently they made out a silver line moving towards them from the Black Shadows. They knew exactly what it meant. It meant that someone was out there in the Big River moving towards them.

Mrs. & Mr. Quack!

With their necks stretched high, Mr. and Mrs. Quack watched. They were ready to take to their strong wings the instant they discovered danger. However, they did not want to fly until they were sure that it was danger approaching. They were very much on alert.

Presently they made out what looked like the branch of a tree moving over the water towards them. That was odd, very odd indeed. Both Mr. & Mrs. Quack said so. And they were both growing more and more suspicious. Mr. and Mrs. Quack half lifted their wings to fly.

It certainly was very mysterious. There, out in the Big River, in the midst of the Black Shadows, was something which looked like the branch of a tree. However, instead of moving down the river, as the branch of a tree would if it were floating, this was coming straight across the river as if it were swimming. How could the branch of a tree swim? This continued to puzzle Mr. & Mrs. Quack.

So they sat perfectly still among the brown stalks of the wild rice along the edge of the Big River, and not for a second did they take their eyes from that strange thing moving towards them. They were ready to spring into the air and trust to their swift wings the instant they should detect danger. They did not want to fly unless they had to as they were very curious to find out what that mysterious thing moving through the water towards them was.

So Mr. & Mrs. Quack watched that thing that looked like a swimming branch draw closer and closer, and the closer it drew the more they were puzzled, and the more curious they felt. If it had been the pond of Paddy the Beaver instead of the Big River, they would have thought it was Paddy swimming with a branch for his winter food pile. And yet Paddy the Beaver was way back in his own pond, deep in the Green Forest, and they knew it. So this thing became more and more of a mystery. The nearer it came, the more nervous and anxious they grew, and at the same time the more curious they became.

At last Mr. Quack felt that it wasn’t safe to wait longer. He prepared to spring into the air, knowing that Mrs. Quack would follow him. It was just then that a funny little sound reached him. It was a half snort, half cough, as if some one had sniffed some water up their nose. There was something familiar about that sound.

“I’ll wait,” thought Mr. Quack, “until that thing, whatever it is, comes out of those Black Shadows into the moonlight. Somehow I have a feeling that we are in no danger.”

So Mr. and Mrs. Quack waited and watched. In a few minutes the thing that looked like the branch of a tree came out of the Black Shadows into the moonlight, and then the mystery was solved. They saw that they had mistaken the antlers of Lightfoot the Deer for the branch of a tree. He was swimming across the Big River on his way back to his home in the Green Forest.

At once Mr. and Mrs. Quack gladly swam out to meet Lightfoot and to tell him how happy they were to see him and his wonderful set of antlers.


Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. Have you ever seen things in the dark shadows outdoors and mistaken it for an animal?
  2. Have you ever seen tree branch shadows sprawling across white snow lit up by moonlight? What did it look like to you?
  3. Have you ever sat outdoors when the sun has gone down and the stars are out and simply listened and watched the night sky? Time to P.L.A.Y. and give it a try!
  4. When you come back in try to capture what you experienced in the dark of night by writing and drawing or even recreating and recording a batch of sounds that you heard. A great time to try this is nearer to the Winter Solstice in December as there is shorter hours of daylight so you can be outdoors early around 5PM in the dark!
  5. What senses did Mr. & Mrs. Quack rely on the most to figure out that it was only Lightfoot the Deer?

P.L.A.Y. presents . . .

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.

Arriving January 2021!

Deer BOOK LOOK -Chapter 2- The Adventures of Lightfoot the Deer

Original 1921 story written by Thornton Burgess now revised for the 21st century family.

– Chapter 2 –

Lightfoot the Deer’s New Antlers


Peter Rabbit was puzzled and curious again. He stared at Lightfoot the Deer a wee bit suspiciously. “Have you been tearing somebody’s coat?” he asked.

He didn’t like to think this of Lightfoot, whom he always had believed was quite gentle, harmless, and as timid as himself. However, what else could he think as he looked upon those rags hanging from his antlers?

Lightfoot slowly shook his head. “No,” he said, “I haven’t torn anybody’s coat.”

“Then what are those rags hanging on your antlers?” inquired Peter.

Lightfoot chuckled. “They are what is left of the coverings of my new antlers,” he explained.

“What’s that? What do you mean by new antlers?” Peter was sitting up very straight, with his eyes fixed on Lightfoot’s antlers as though he never had seen them before.

“Just what I said,” repeated Lightfoot. “What do you think of them? I think they are the finest antlers I’ve ever had. When I get the rest of those rags off, they will be as handsome a set as ever was grown in the Green Forest.”

Lightfoot rubbed his antlers against the trunk of a tree until some of the rags hanging on them dropped off.

Peter blinked very hard. He was trying to understand the meaning of this and he couldn’t. Finally he said so.

“I do not understand. Do you mean to tell me that those are not the antlers that you have had as long as I’ve known you? How can anything hard like those antlers grow? This sounds impossible! And if those are new ones, where are the old ones? The idea of trying to make me believe that antlers grow just like plants! I’ve seen Bossy the Cow all summer and I know she has got the same horns she had last summer. New antlers indeed!”

“You are quite right, Peter, quite right about Bossy the Cow. She never has new horns, and yet that isn’t any reason why I shouldn’t have new antlers, is it?” replied Lightfoot patiently. “Her horns are quite different from my antlers. I have a new pair every year. You haven’t seen me all summer, have you, Peter?”

“No, I don’t remember that I have,” replied Peter, trying very hard to remember when he had last seen Lightfoot.

“I know you haven’t,” said Lightfoot. “I know it because I have been hiding in a place you never visit.”

“What have you been hiding for?” Peter asked with great curiosity.

“For my new antlers to grow,” replied Lightfoot. “When my new antlers are growing, I want to be away by myself. I don’t like to be seen without them or with half grown ones. Besides, I am very uncomfortable while the new antlers are growing and I want to be alone.”

Lightfoot spoke as if he really meant every word he said, and still Peter couldn’t believe that those wonderful great antlers had grown out of Lightfoot’s head in a single summer. “Where did you leave your old ones and when did they come off?” he asked.

“They dropped off last spring and I don’t remember just where,” replied Lightfoot. “I was too glad to be rid of them to notice where they dropped. You see they were loose and uncomfortable, and I hadn’t any more use for them because I knew that my new ones would be bigger and better. I’ve got one more point on each than I had last year.” Lightfoot began once more to rub his antlers against the tree to get off the odd rags hanging to them and to polish the points. Peter watched in silence for a few minutes. Then, with his curiosity returning, he said: “You still haven’t told me everything about those rags hanging on your antlers.”


One of Lightfoot’s antlers found left behind in the Green Forest.

It is hard to believe what seems impossible. And yet what seems impossible to you may be a very commonplace matter to some one else. Peter Rabbit wanted to believe what Lightfoot the Deer had just told him, and yet somehow he found it confusing. If he had seen those antlers growing, it would have been another matter. However, he had only seen Lightfoot in the winter, and then Lightfoot had worn just such handsome antlers as he now had. So Peter really couldn’t be blamed for not being able to believe that those old ones had been lost and in their place new ones had grown in just the few months of spring and summer.

“I’m trying to believe you,” Peter said, quite humbly.

“It’s all true,” broke in another voice.

Peter jumped and turned to find his big cousin, Jumper the Hare. Unseen and unheard, he had come up behind them and had overheard what Peter and Lightfoot had said.

“How do you know it is true?” Peter asked for confirmation.

“Because I saw Lightfoot’s old antlers after they had fallen off, and I often saw Lightfoot while his new ones were growing,” Jumper replied.

“All right! I’ll believe anything that Lightfoot tells me if you say it is true,” declared Peter, who greatly admires his cousin, Jumper. “Now Lightfoot, please tell me about those rags.”

Lightfoot couldn’t resist the “please.”

“Those rags are what is left of a kind of covering which protected the antlers while they were growing” he said. “Very soon after my old ones dropped off the new ones began to grow. They were not hard, not at all like they are now. They were soft and very tender, and the blood ran through them just as it does through our bodies. They were covered with a sort of skin with hairs on it like thin fur. The ends were not sharply pointed as they are now, rather they were big and rounded, like knobs. They were not like antlers at all, and they made my head hot and were very uncomfortable. That is why I hid away. They grew very fast, so fast that every day I could see by looking at my reflection in water that they were a little longer. It seemed to me sometimes as if all my strength went into those new antlers. And I had to be very careful not to hit them against anything. In the first place it would have hurt, and in the second place it might have spoiled the shape of them.

“When they had grown to the length you now see, they began to shrink and grow hard. The knobs on the ends shrank until they became pointed. As soon as they stopped growing the blood stopped flowing up in them, and as they became hard they were no longer tender. The skin which had covered them grew dry and split, and I rubbed it off on trees and bushes. The little rags you see are what is left, and I will soon be rid of those too. Then I shall be ready to defend myself if need be.”

Lightfoot tossed his head proudly and rattled his wonderful antlers against the nearest tree. “Isn’t he a sight to see,” whispered Peter to Jumper the Hare; “and did you ever hear of anything so wonderful as the growing of those new antlers in such a short time? Amazing.”

“It is,” replied Jumper, “and I tell you, Peter, I wouldn’t want to have Lightfoot try those antlers on me, beautiful as they are.”


This is the Green Forest where Lightfoot hides in the Spring & Summer and rubs his antlers on tree trunks to remove the ‘rag’ skin covering.

Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!

  1. What is the difference between antlers and horns?
  2. Who has horns? Who has antlers?
  3. Have you seen deer near your home? Where are they often seen? What time of day is it?
  4. Have you seen a buck with antlers? How many points?
  5. What other signs could you look for to know a deer was nearby? Hint: What is scat?
  6. Try using a book like Scats and Tracks of the Northeast to clearly identify what you’ve discovered in the fields or forest!

P.L.A.Y. presents . . .

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.

Arriving January 2021!