At sun-up the next morning Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare were on hand promptly for their next lesson. Mother Nature smiled as she saw the eager curiosity shining in their eyes. She didn’t wait for them to ask questions. “Yesterday,” said she, “I told you about your water-loving cousin, the Marsh Rabbit. You have another relative down there in the Sunny South who is almost as fond of the water. Some folks call him the Swamp Rabbit. Others call him the Swamp Hare. The latter is really the best name for him, because he is a true Hare. He lives in swamps instead of marshes, but he is a splendid swimmer and fond of the water. When he is chased by an enemy he makes for the nearest point or stream.”
“How big is he?” asked Jumper.
“Just about your size, Jumper, and perhaps a little bit heavier” replied Mother Nature. Because his hair lies much smoother than yours, you probably would look a little bit bigger if you were sitting beside him. As with his cousin, the Marsh Rabbit, the hair on his feet is thin. His toes are rather long and he can spread them widely, which is a great help in swimming. He doesn’t have to take to the water as his little cousin does, for he is a very good runner. However, he does take to it as the easiest way of getting rid of those who are chasing him. The Marsh Rabbit and the Swamp Hare are the only members of your family in all the Great World who are fond of the water and who are at home in it. Now, who shall I tell you about next?”
“Our biggest cousins,” cried Peter and Jumper together. “The ones you told us yesterday are bigger than Jumper,” added Peter. “It is hard to believe that there can be any much bigger than he.”
Mother Nature’s eyes twinkled. “It is often hard to believe things you can not see,” she said. “Compared with these other relatives, Jumper really isn’t big at all. He seems big to you, Peter, however if he should meet his cousin, Snow White the Arctic Hare, who lives way up in the Frozen North, I am quite sure Jumper would feel small. Snow White looks very much like Jumper in his winter coat, for he is all white save the tips of his ears, which are black.”
“Does he wear a white coat all year round?” asked Peter eagerly.
“When he lives so far north that there is snow and ice for most of the year, he does,” replied Mother Nature. “And when he lives far enough south for the snow to disappear for a little while in the summer, he changes his white coat for one of gray.”
“How can he live so far north that the snow and ice seldom melt?” asked Peter, looking very much puzzled. “What can he find to eat?”
“Even way up there there is moss growing under the snow. And in the short summer other plants grow. During the long winter Snow White digs down through the snow to get these. He also eats the bark and twigs of little stunted trees. And yet as big as he is, you have a cousin who is still bigger, the biggest of all the family.”
“Who is he?” Jumper and Peter cried together.
“He is called White-tailed Jack,” replied Mother Nature. “And he lives chiefly on the great plains of the Northwest, though sometimes he is found in the mountains and forests. He is sometimes called the Prairie Hare. In winter his coat is white and in the summer it is a light brown. Summer or winter his tail is white, much like you Peter. It is because of this that he is called White-tailed Jack.”
“Is his tail as short as mine?” asked Peter eagerly.
Mother Nature laughed right out. “No, Peter,” she replied. “It wouldn’t be called a long tail by any other animal, however for a member of your family it really is long, and when White-tailed Jack is running he switches it from side to side. His hind legs are very long and powerful, and he can make a single jump of twenty feet without half trying. Not even Old Man Coyote can catch him in a straightaway race. You may think Jumper’s ears are long, Peter, and yet they are short in comparison to the ears of White-tailed Jack. Not only are his ears long they are also very big. When he squats in his form and lays his ears back they reach way over his shoulders. Like the other members of the Hare family he doesn’t use holes in the ground or hollow logs. He trusts to his long legs and to his wonderful speed to escape from his predators. Among them are Howler the Wolf, Old Man Coyote, Eagles, Hawks and Owls. He is so big that he would make five or six of you, Peter.”
Peter drew a long breath. “It is dreadfully hard to believe that I can have a cousin as big as that,” he exclaimed. “Have I any other cousins anywhere near as big?”
Mother Nature nodded. “There are some others very like White-tailed Jack, only not quite as big,” she said. “They have long hind legs, and great ears, although their coats are different, and they live on the great plains farther south. Some of them live so far south that it is warm all the year round. One of these is Antelope Jack, whose home is in the Southwest.”
“Oh please tell us about him,” begged Peter.
“To begin with,” replied Mother Nature, “he is a member of the big Jack Rabbit or Jack Hare branch of your family. None of this branch should be called a Rabbit. All the members are first cousins to Jumper and are true Hares. All have big ears, long, rather thin necks, and long legs. Even their front legs are comparatively long. Antelope Jack is probably next in size to White-tailed Jack. Strange to say, although he lives where it is warm for most of the year, his coat is very largely white. His back is a yellowish-brown and so is his throat. His sides are white. The surprising thing about him is that he has the power of making himself seem almost all white. He can make the white hair spread out at will by means of some special little muscles which I have given him, so that the white of his sides at times almost seems to meet on his back. When he does this in the sun it makes flashes of white which can be seen a long way. By means of this Antelope Jack and his friends can keep track of each other when they are a long distance apart. There is only one other animal who can flash signals in this way, and that is the Antelope of whom I will tell you some other time. It is because Jack flashes signals in this way that he is called Antelope Jack. In his habits he is otherwise much like the other members of his family. He trusts to his long legs and his wonderful powers of jumping to keep him out of danger. He is not as well known as his commoner cousin, plain Jack Rabbit. Everybody knows Jack Rabbit.”
Peter shook his head. “I don’t,” said he very meekly.
“Then it is time you did,” replied Mother Nature. “If you had ever been in the Far West you would know him. Everybody out there knows him. He isn’t quite as big as Antelope Jack although he is still a big fellow. He wears a brownish coat much like Jumper’s, and the tips of his long ears are black. His tail is longer than Jumper’s, and when he runs he carries it down.”
“I don’t carry mine down,” Peter piped up.
Mother Nature laughed right out. “True enough, Peter, true enough,” she said. “You couldn’t if you wanted to. It isn’t long enough to carry any way other than up. Jack has more of a tail than you have, just as he has longer legs. My, how he can run! He goes with great bounds and about every tenth bound he jumps very high. This is so that he can get a good look around to watch out for predators.”
“Who are his natural predators?” asked Peter.
“Foxes, Coyotes, Hawks, Eagles, Owls, and Weasels,” replied Mother Nature. “In fact, he has about as many predators as you have.”
“I know I ought to keep away from that garden,” said Peter very meekly, “but you have no idea what a temptation it is. The things in that garden do taste so good.”
Now I guess you have learned sufficient about your long-legged cousins. I’ve a great deal to do, so skip along home, both of you,” said Mother Nature.
“If you please, Mother Nature, may we come again tomorrow?” asked Peter.
“And whatever for?” inquired Mother Nature. “Haven’t you learned enough about your family?”
“Yes,” replied Peter, “however there are lots and lots of things I would like to know about other animals. If you please, I would like to come to you every day. You see, the more I learn about my neighbors, the better able I will be to take care of myself and understand them as well.”
“All right, Mr. Curiosity,” replied Mother Nature good-naturedly, “come again tomorrow morning as I’m happy to share what I know.”
So Peter and Jumper politely bade her goodbye and started for their homes. Lipperty-lipperity-lip!
This Curious Capkin has created moreP.L.A.Y. Ponderings just for you!
Following the prompts below draw, doodle, write, ponder, paint, color, and creatively capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!
What do you think of rabbits swimming (Chapter 2) and rabbits playing in the snow? What do you see in your minds-eye when you try to picture them in the water or in the fluffy white crystals? Was this news to you and hard to picture?
*Chapters 1-3 talk about various rabbits and the size of their ears. Of what use are large ears? How are the ears held when the rabbit is resting? running? Or when the rabbit is startled vs. checking for danger? Can you mime or act this out with your hands or draw it on a page?
* Describe the eyes of a rabbit. Where are they positioned? Do you think a rabbit sleeps with their eyes open or closed? Does a rabbit wink?
* What do most rabbits eat? What are they drawn to eat in warm summer like conditions vs. cold winter conditions?
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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.
This Curious Capkin has created moreP.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!
Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!
Have you heard a Blue Jay call?
Have you ever wondered what the Blue Jay may be giving a warning call for? Is it your presence or something else?
How do you feel about Sammy Jay calling out and exposing where the newcomer deer was in the Green Forest?
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?
More P.L.A.Y. Bird adventures, stories, and resources can be found HERE.
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.
This Curious Capkin has created moreP.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!
Capture your thoughts in your P.L.A.Y. Adventures nature journal!
Have you taken a walk in the moonlight?
Was it a full moon? Half-moon? Crescent moon?
Have you ever recorded the phases of the moon in your nature journal each night?
If you draw the moon each night for two months, what pattern do you see?
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!