Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 36 – Moose


Chapter 36

Moose


It was the last day of Mother Nature’s learning sessions in the Green Forest, and when jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun had climbed high enough in the blue, blue sky to peep down through the trees, he found not one missing of the little four-legged folks who had been learning so much about themselves, their relatives, neighbors and animals related to them living in other parts of this country. You see, not for anything in the world would one of them willingly have missed that last session.

Lightfoot the Deer was the first one on hand. In fact, he arrived before sun-up and, lying down in a little thicket close at hand, made himself very comfortable to wait for everyone’s arrival. You see he was eager to hear about his big cousin. Then the others began to arrive and settle in as they greeted Lightfoot and each other.

“The Deer family,” began Mother Nature, “is divided into two branches with the round-horned and the flat-horned. I have told you about the round-horned Deer such as Lightfoot.

“There is a cousin who is the biggest of all the Deer family. It is Flathorns the Moose. As you must guess by his name he is a member of the flat-horned branch of the family. His antlers spread widely and are flattened instead of being round. From the edges of the flattened part many sharp points spring out.”

Moose – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Flathorns wears his crown of great spreading antlers as if he is of great nobility. Mrs. Moose has no antlers. As I have said, Flathorns is the biggest member of the Deer family. He is quite as big as Farmer Brown’s Horse and stands much higher at the shoulders. Indeed, his shoulders are so high that he has a decided hump there, for they are well above the line of his back. His neck is very short, large and thick, and his head is not at all like the heads of other members of the Deer family. Instead of the narrow, pointed face of other members of the Deer family, he has a broad, long face, rather more like that of a Horse. Towards the nose it humps up, and the great thick upper lip overhangs the lower one. His nose is very broad, and for his size his eyes are small. His ears are large.”

“From his throat hangs a hairy fold of skin called a bell. He has a very short tail, so short that it is hardly noticeable. His legs are very long and rather large. His hoofs are large and rounded, more like those of Bossy the Cow than like those of Lightfoot the Deer. Seen at a little distance in the woods, he looks to be almost black, although he is really for the most part dark brown. His legs are gray on the inside.”

“Flathorns lives in the great northern forests clear across the country, and is especially fond of swampy places. He is fond of the water and is a good swimmer. In summer he delights to feed on the pads, stems, and roots of water lilies, and his long legs enable him to wade out to get them. For the most part his food consists of leaves and tender twigs of young trees, such as striped maple, aspen, birch, hemlock, alder and willow. His great height enables him to reach the upper branches of young trees. When they are too tall for this, he straddles them and bends or breaks them down to get at the upper branches. His front teeth are big, broad and sharp-edged. With these he strips the bark from the larger branches. He also eats grass and moss. Because of his long legs and short neck he finds it easiest to kneel when feeding on the ground.”

Local pond likely visited by the moose as it is only a few miles from “Moose Poop Loop”.

“Big as he is, he can steal through thick growth without making a sound. He does not jump like other Deer, rather he travels at a trot which takes him over the ground very fast. In the winter when snow is deep, the Moose family lives in a yard such as I told you Lightfoot the Deer makes. He is very smart and not easily surprised.”

“A special detail to remember is that all male members of the smaller Deer are called bucks, the female members are called does, and the young are called fawns. All male members of the big Deer, such as the Moose, are called bulls. The females are called cows and the young are called calves. The moose is a forest-loving animal and is seldom seen far from the sheltering woods of the Green Forest.”


“So,” said Mother Nature looking down at Peter and all the four-legged folks, “this wraps-up the learning sessions about the land animals, or mammals, in this neck-of-the-woods that Peter Rabbit was so curious to know and eager to share this opportunity with all of you.”

“There are other animals who live all over this great big world and in the ocean which is the salt water which surrounds the land that most of you have never seen. However those stories will have to wait for another time in the future,” Mother Nature said with a smile.


And so ended Mother Nature’s learning sessions in the Green Forest for now. One by one the four-legged folks thanked her for all she had shared with them, and then started for home. Peter Rabbit was the last to leave.

“I know ever so much more than I did when I first came to you, and I guess that after all I know very little of all there is to know,” he said with a gentle sigh and smile which shows that Peter really had learned a great deal. Then he started for the dear Old Briar-patch, already pondering with gratitude all he had learned, with a lipperty-lipperty-lip skip in his step!


  1. Near to where I live there is a walking trail called “Moose Poop Loop”. Can you guess one or more ways to see signs of a moose in an area even if you never actually see the moose?
  2. Visit this LINK to see and read more moose facts provided by 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.

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.”

  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.

Toad BOOK LOOK – Chapter 1 of 19


Chapter 1

Jimmy Skunk Is Puzzled


Old Mother West Wind had just come down from the Purple Hills and turned loose her children, the Merry Little Breezes, from the big bag in which she had been carrying them. They were very lively and very merry as they danced and raced across the Green Meadows in all directions, for it was good to be back there once more. Old Mother West Wind almost sighed as she watched them for a few minutes. She felt that she would like to join them. Always the springtime made her feel this way, young, carefree, and happy. However, she had work to do. She had to turn the windmill to pump water for Farmer Brown’s cows, and this was only one of many mills standing idle as they waited for her. So she puffed her cheeks out and started about her business.

Jimmy Skunk sat at the top of the hill that overlooks the Green Meadows and watched her out of sight. Then he started to amble down the Lone Little Path to look for some beetles. He was ambling along, never in a hurry, when he heard someone huffing and puffing behind him. Of course he turned to see who it was, and he was greatly surprised when he discovered Old Mr. Toad. He was quite out of breath, and yet he was hopping along in the most determined way as if he were in a great hurry to get somewhere.

Skunk – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Now it is a very unusual thing for Mr. Toad to hurry, very unusual indeed. As a rule he hops a few steps and then sits down to think it over. Jimmy had never before seen him hop more than a few steps unless he was trying to get away from danger, from Mr. Hognose the snake for instance. Of course the first thing Jimmy thought of was Mr. Hognose as he is very fond of toads for his dinner. And so he looked for him and yet there was no sign of Mr. Hognose nor of any other danger. Then he looked very hard at Old Mr. Toad, and he saw right away that Old Mr. Toad didn’t seem to be frightened at all, only very determined, as if he had something important on his mind.

“Well, well,” exclaimed Jimmy Skunk, “whatever has got into those long hind legs of yours to make them work so fast?”

Old Mr. Toad didn’t say a word, he simply tried to get past Jimmy and keep on his way. Jimmy stayed put in the path as he was so curious to know what was the rush.

“I–I beg your pardon. I don’t have any breath to spare,” panted Old Mr. Toad. “You see I’m in a great hurry.”

“Yes, I see,” replied Jimmy. “Now, what could you possibly be in such a hurry for? I don’t see anything to run away from.”

“I’m not running away, I’m running towards something” said Old Mr. Toad. “I’ve business to attend to at the Smiling Pool, and I’m late as it is.”

“Business!” exclaimed Jimmy as if he could hardly believe his ears. “What business have you at the Smiling Pool?”

“Why, I have a very important part in the spring chorus, and I’m going down there to sing and share my beautiful voice” Old Mr. Toad said with a smile.

This surprised Jimmy Skunk as he had never thought of Old Mr. Toad as a singer or as being a member in a chorus. This gave him a little chuckle realizing there is so much he still doesn’t know about his neighbors in the Green Forest and Green Meadows. He sat looking to the sky for a moment pondering this a bit.

“How is it that you are a singer and I’ve never even heard you?” Jimmy Skunk asked Old Mr. Toad with great curiosity.

However he was too late, Old Mr. Toad was already on his way again hop, hop, hipperty-hop, hop, hop, hipperty-hop down the Lone Little Path.

And so Jimmy Skunk sat alone with a puzzled look on his face trying to figure out what he had just learned.


  1. Why do toads sing? Do other amphibians sing? What other animals in general sing? Why do they sing? What is the difference between a bird singing vs. calling?
  2. Does Jimmy Skunk have a singing voice too? Does a skunk make sounds? If so, what are they?
  3. Have you ever seen a Hognose snake? If not, what do you think it looks like based on the name?

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


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.


Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 5 – Squirrels of the Trees


Chapter 5

Squirrels of the Trees


Peter Rabbit found Johnny Chuck sitting on his doorstep, sunning himself. Peter was quite out of breath because he had hurried so. “Do you know that you are a Squirrel, Johnny Chuck?” he panted.

Johnny slowly turned his head and looked at Peter as if he thought Peter had suddenly gone crazy. “What are you talking about, Peter Rabbit? I’m not a Squirrel; I’m a Woodchuck,” he replied.

“Just the same, you are a Squirrel,” replied Peter. “The Woodchucks belong to the Squirrel family. Mother Nature says so, and if she says so, it is so. You best join us Johnny Chuck and learn a little about your own relatives.”

Johnny Chuck blinked his eyes and for a minute or two couldn’t find a word to say. He knew that if Peter were telling the truth as to what Mother Nature had said, it must be true that he was member of the Squirrel family. However it was hard to believe. “What is this all about, learning with Mother Nature?” he finally asked.

Peter hastened to tell him. He told Johnny all about what he and Jumper the Hare had learned about their family, and all the surprising things Mother Nature had told them about the Squirrel family, and he ended by again urging Johnny Chuck to join them and promised to call for Johnny the next morning.

Woodchuck illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

However, Johnny Chuck does not like to go far from his own doorstep, so when Peter called the next morning Johnny refused to go, despite all Peter could say. Peter didn’t waste much time arguing for he was afraid he would be late and miss something. When he reached the Green Forest he found his cousin, Jumper the Hare, and Chatterer the Red Squirrel, and Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, already there. As soon as Peter arrived Mother Nature began the morning session.

“Happy Jack,” she said, “you may tell us all you know about your cousin, Chatterer.”

“To begin with, he is the smallest of the Tree Squirrels,” said Happy Jack. “He isn’t so very much bigger than Striped Chipmunk, and that means that he is less than half as big as myself. His coat is red and his waistcoat white; his tail is about two-thirds as long as his body and flat and not very broad.”

“He spends more of his time in the trees than I do,” continued Happy Jack, “and is especially fond of pine trees and other cone-bearing trees. He likes the deeper parts of the Green Forest more than I do, though he seems to feel just as much at home on the edge of the Green Forest, especially if it is near a farm where he can get access to corn.”

Red Squirrel illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“I have to admit that Chatterer is thrifty,” continued Happy Jack. “He is very fond of the seeds of cone-bearing trees. He cuts the cones from the trees just before they are ripe. Then they ripen and open on the ground, where he can get at the seeds easily. He often has a number of storehouses and stores up cone seeds, acorns, nuts, and corn when he can get it. He builds a nest of leaves and strips of bark, sometimes in a hollow tree and sometimes high up in the branches of an evergreen tree. He is a good jumper and jumps from tree to tree. He does take some of my stores too.”

“You do the same thing to me when you have the chance, which isn’t often,” sputtered Chatterer.

Happy Jack turned away from Chatterer and continued, “He doesn’t seem to mind cold weather at all, as long as the sun shines. His noisy tongue is to be heard on the coldest days of winter. He sauces and scolds everybody he meets, and every time he opens his mouth he jerks his tail.”

Here Mother Nature spoke up and said, “Happy Jack forgot to mention that you eat s few insects at times. He also forgot to mention that sometimes you have a storehouse down in the ground. Now tell us what you know about your cousin, Happy Jack.”

“Happy Jack is more than twice as big as I,” said Chatterer looking at Happy Jack. “He is gray all over, except underneath, where he is white. He has a tremendously big tail. When he sits up he has a way of folding his hands on his breast. I don’t know what he does it for unless it is to keep them warm in cold weather. He builds a nest very much like mine. Sometimes it is in a hollow tree, although quite as often it is in the branches of a tree. He is a good traveler in the tree tops, and he spends a good deal of his time on the ground as well. He likes open woodland best, especially where there are many nut trees. He has a storehouse where he stores up nuts for winter, and he buries in the ground and under the leaves more than he puts in his storehouse. In winter, when he is hungry, he hunts for those buried nuts, and somehow he manages to find them even when they are covered with snow. ”

Grey Squirrel illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Have you told us all you know about Happy Jack, Chatterer?” asked Mother Nature.

Chatterer nodded. “What you have told us is good as far as it goes,” she said. “You said that Happy Jack is all gray excepting underneath. Usually the Gray Squirrel is just as Chatterer has described him and sometimes a Gray Squirrel isn’t gray at all, rather it can be all black.”

Peter Rabbit’s ears stood straight up with astonishment. “How can a Gray Squirrel be black?” he questioned.

Mother Nature smiled. “That is a fair question, Peter,” she said. “Gray Squirrel is simply the name of Happy Jack’s family. Sometimes some of the babies are born with black coats instead of gray coats. Of course they are just the same kind of Squirrel, only they look different. In some parts of the country there are numbers of these black-coated Squirrels and many think they are a different kind of Squirrel. They are not. They are simply black-coated members of Happy Jack’s family. Just remember this. It is the same way in the family of Rusty the Fox Squirrel. Some members are rusty red, some are a mixture of red and gray, and some are as gray as Happy Jack himself. Way down in the Sunny South Fox Squirrels always have white noses and ears. In the North they never have white noses and ears. Rusty the Fox Squirrel is just a little bigger than Happy Jack and has just such a handsome tail. He is the strongest and heaviest of the Tree Squirrels and not nearly as quick and graceful as Happy Jack. Sometimes Rusty has two nests in the same tree, one in a hollow in a tree for bad weather and the other made of sticks and leaves outside in the branches for use in good weather. Rusty’s habits are very much the same as those of Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel, and therefore he likes the same kind of surroundings. Like his cousin, Happy Jack, Rusty is a great help to me.”

Fox Squirrel by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Seeing how surprised everybody looked, Mother Nature explained. “Both Happy Jack and Rusty bury a great many more nuts than they ever need,” she said, “and those they do not dig up sprout in the spring and grow. In that way they plant ever so many trees without knowing it. Very likely Happy Jack’s great-great-ever-so-great grandfather planted the very tree you get your fattest and best hickory nuts from Chatterer.”

“Way out in the mountains of the Far West you have a cousin called the Douglas Squirrel, who is really a true Red Squirrel and whose habits are very much like your own. Some folks call him the Pine Squirrel. By the way, Chatterer, Happy Jack forgot to say that you are a good swimmer. Perhaps he didn’t know it.”

By the expression of Happy Jack’s face it was quite clear that he didn’t know it. “Certainly I can swim,” said Chatterer. “I don’t mind the water at all. I can swim a long distance if I have to.”

This was quite as much news to Peter Rabbit as had been the fact that a cousin of his own was a good swimmer.

“Are there any other Tree Squirrels?” asked Jumper the Hare.

“Yes,” replied Mother Nature, “there are two. They live out in the Southwest, in one of the most wonderful places in all this great land, a place called the Grand Canyon. One is called the Abert Squirrel and the other the Kaibab Squirrel. They are about the size of Happy Jack and Rusty and have broader, handsomer tails and their ears have long tufts of hair. The Abert Squirrel has black ears, a brown back, gray sides and white underneath. Kaibab has brown ears with black tips, and his tail is mostly white. Both are very lovely, although their families are small and so they are little known.”

And with this last tidbit Mother Nature moved on with her day.

  1. Do you have more than one type of squirrel living near to you?
  2. Do you see squirrels at the local park? At a neighbor’s bird feeder? Or in what other locations?
  3. Visit this LINK for more information about squirrels from the Mass Audubon Society.
  4. *Observations and Ponderings: What is the food of the squirrel during each season? Where does it store food? Does it steal food from other wildlife? How does it carry nuts? How much squirrel language (or chatter) can you understand for example: surprise, anger, excitement? How many different sounds does it make?

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.


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 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 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!