Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 17 – More Mice


Chapter 17

More Mice


With Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, Danny Meadow Mouse and Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse attending the learning sessions, the Mouse family was well represented, and when they began the next morning there was still another present. It was Piney the Pine Mouse. Whitefoot, who knew him, had brought him along.

“I thought you wouldn’t mind if Piney came,” explained Whitefoot.

“I’m glad he has come,” replied Mother Nature. “It is much better to see a thing than merely to be told about it, and now you have a chance to see for yourselves the differences between two cousins very closely related, Danny Meadow Mouse and Piney the Pine Mouse. What difference do you see, Happy Jack Squirrel?”

“Piney is a little smaller than Danny, though he is much the same shape,” was his prompt reply.

“True,” said Mother Nature. “Now, Striped Chipmunk, what difference do you see?”

“The fur of Piney’s coat is shorter, finer and has more of a shine. Then, too, it is more of a reddish-brown than Danny’s,” replied Striped Chipmunk.

“And what do you say, Peter Rabbit?” asked Mother Nature.

“Piney has a shorter tail,” declared Peter, and everybody laughed.

“Trust you to look at his tail first,” said Mother Nature. “These are the chief differences as far as looks are concerned. Their habits differ in about the same degree. As you all know, Danny cuts little paths through the grass. Piney doesn’t do this, instead he makes little tunnels just under the surface of the ground very much as Miner the Mole does. He isn’t fond of the open Green Meadows or of damp places as Danny is, rather he likes best the edge of the Green Forest and brushy places. He is very much at home in a poorly kept orchard where the weeds are allowed to grow and in young orchards he does a great deal of damage by cutting off the roots of young trees and stripping off the bark as high up as he can reach. Would you please tell us, Piney, how and where you make your home?”

Home of Piney the Pine Mouse at the edge of the Green Forest and brushy places.

Piney hesitated a little and then he ventured to say “I make my home under ground. I dig a nice little bedroom with several entrances from my tunnels, and in it I make a fine nest of soft grass. Close by I dig one or more rooms in which to store my food, and these usually are bigger than my bedroom. When I get one filled with food I close it up by filling the entrance with earth.”

“What do you put in your storerooms?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Short pieces of grass and pieces of roots of different kinds,” replied Piney. “I am very fond of tender roots and the bark of trees and bushes.”

Gardens are great for a tunneling mouse.

“And he dearly loves to get in a garden where he can tunnel along a row of potatoes or other root crops,” added Mother Nature. “Striped Chipmunk mentioned his reddish-brown coat. There is another cousin with a coat so red that he is called the Red-backed Mouse. He is about the size of Danny Meadow Mouse with larger ears and a longer tail.”

“This little fellow is a lover of the Green Forest, and he is quite as active by day as by night. He is pretty, especially when he sits up to eat, holding his food in his paws as does Happy Jack Squirrel. He makes his home in a burrow, the entrance to which is under an old stump, a rock or the root of a tree. His nest is of soft grass or moss. Sometimes he makes it in a hollow log or stump instead of digging a bedroom under ground. He is thrifty and lays up a supply of food in underground rooms, hollow logs and similar places. He eats seeds, small fruits, roots and various plants.”

Old stump entrance for a home of a Red-backed mouse.

“There is still another little Redcoat in the family, and he is especially interesting because while he is related to Danny Meadow Mouse he lives almost all in trees. He is called the Rufous Tree Mouse. Rufous means reddish-brown, and he gets that name because of the color of his coat. He lives in the great forests of the Far West, where the trees are so big and tall that the biggest tree you have ever seen would look small beside them. And it is in those great trees that the Rufous Tree Mouse lives.”

“Just why he took to living in trees no one knows, for he belongs to that branch of the family known as Ground Mice. However he does live in trees and he is quite as much at home in them as any Squirrel.”

Chatterer the Red Squirrel was interested right away. “Does he build a nest in a tree like a Squirrel?” he asked.

“He certainly does,” replied Mother Nature, “and often it is a most remarkable nest. In some sections he places it only in big trees, sometimes a hundred feet from the ground. In other sections it is placed in small trees and only a few feet above the ground. The high nests often are old deserted nests of Squirrels enlarged and built over. Some of them are very large indeed and have been added to year after year.”

“One of these big nests will have several bedrooms and little passages running all through it. It appears that Mrs. Tree Mouse usually has one of these big nests to herself, Rufous having a small nest of his own out on one of the branches. The big nest is close up against the trunk of the tree where several branches meet.”

“Does Rufous travel from one tree to another, or does he live in just one tree?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Wherever branches of one tree touch those of another, and you know in a thick forest this is frequently the case, he travels about freely if he wants to. However those trees are so big that I suspect he spends most of his time in the one in which his home is,” replied Mother Nature. “And if a predator appears in his home tree, he makes his escape by jumping from one tree to another, just as you would do.”

“What I want to know is where he gets his food if he spends all his time up in the trees,” spoke up Danny Meadow Mouse.

Mother Nature smiled. “Where should he get it other than up where he lives?” she asked. “Rufous never has to worry about food. It is all around him. You see he lives mostly on the thick parts of the needles, which you know are the leaves, of fir and spruce trees, and on the bark of tender twigs. So you see he is more of a tree dweller than any of the Squirrel family. While Rufous has the general shape of Danny and his relatives, he has quite a long tail. Now I guess this will do for the nearest relatives of Danny Meadow Mouse.”

“He certainly has a lot of them,” remarked Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. Then he added a little wistfully, “Of course, in a way they are all cousins of mine, although I wish I had some a little more closely related.”

“You have,” replied Mother Nature, and Whitefoot pricked up his big ears. “One of them Bigear the Rock Mouse, who lives out in the mountains of the Far West. He is as fond of the rocks as Rufous is of the trees. Sometimes he lives in brush heaps and in brushy country, although he prefers rocks, and that is why he is known as the Rock Mouse.”

“He is maybe a trifle bigger than you, Whitefoot, and he is dressed much like you with a yellowish-brown coat and white waistcoat. He has just such a long tail covered with hair its whole length. And you should see his ears. He has the largest ears of any member of the whole family. That is why he is called Bigear. He likes best to be out at night and often only comes out on dull days. He eats seeds and small nuts and is especially fond of juniper seeds. He always lays up a supply of food for winter. Often he is found very high up on the mountains.

“Another of your cousins, Whitefoot, lives along the seashore of the East down in the Sunny South. He is called the Beach Mouse. In general appearance he is much like you, having the same shape, long tail and big ears, although he is a little smaller and his coat varies. When he lives back from the shore, in fields where the soil is dark, his upper coat is dark grayish-brown, and when he lives on the white sands of the seashore it is very light. His home is in short burrows in the ground.”

“Now have we covered enough about the Mouse family?”

“Wait, you haven’t told us about Nibbler the House Mouse yet. And you said you would,” Peter Rabbit said with a pout.

“And when we were learning about Longfoot the Kangaroo Rat you said he was most closely related to the Pocket Mice. What about them?” said Johnny Chuck.

Mother Nature laughed. “Alright, I can see that you want to know all there is to know,” she said. “Be on hand tomorrow morning. I guess we can finish up with the Mouse family then and with them the order of Rodents to which all of you belong.”

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. Have you been on the look out for rodents, specifically mice, in your neck-of-the-woods? Or field? Or backyard? Or barn? Or even a rock wall? Are there signs of their homes? Nesting materials or tracks or seed stashes?
  2. Do you have any predators of mice around or near your home? An outdoor barn cat perhaps? Or owls or hawks? Who else might be eating the mice in your area?

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. + Thornton Burgess


P.L.A.Y. and Thornton Burgess:

Nature Storytellers Past + Present


Thornton W. Burgess (1874-1965), author and longtime resident of Massachusetts, is best known for his 50 years of writing about nature conservation through children’s literature. He wrote over 150 books and thousands of daily newspaper columns bringing the forest and fauna to life for families across the United States and around the world over 100 years ago.

In so many of his books about the Green Forest, often featuring Peter Rabbit as the reader’s guide, Burgess was able to share with great detail all the wonderful magical moments Mother Nature provided in his local New England landscape. Through his nature story telling he was able to weave in factual information and his own personal observations from time spent outdoors. This was beneficial by informing his audience, both parents and children, as to what they could find just by stepping out their own door and encouraging them to immerse in their own spot of nature. This has allowed his books to be timeless and of great value even to this day.

However over the past ten years I’ve been revisiting his story books, especially looking at how the characters interact and treat one another, and knowing in my heart as a mother and as a human walking this earth a change was needed.

So for the past few years P.L.A.Y. has taken on the task to reinvent Thornton Burgess’ works for the 21st century family. Many of his stories are readily available in the public domain to be used by creatives and artists and for general public use. P.L.A.Y. has maintained the intention to keep all of the wonder and value of his nature stories intact AND to replace some of his language with new phrasing to reflect the way we’d like to see people being and connecting in this world with a primary focus on loving-kindness and compassionate communication.

For the most part Thornton Burgess’ descriptions of plants, landscape features, and basic animal behaviors has not changed in the past 100+ years since he first wrote these works. What has, and continues to change, is what is considered acceptable language and behaviors for human interactions. And since Burgess used anthropomorphizing, attributing human characteristics or behaviors to animals, as a mechanism to get messages across to the reader it is important to take a closer look at how this was written in the past and see how it could be adjusted to still be relevant now and for future generations.

In the past Thornton Burgess often had his animal characters shame and blame one another as they went about their day in the Green Forest and Green Meadow. There were put downs, name calling, bullying, and derogatory remarks cast at one another. And sometimes a characters name or description would negatively label them, for example as a thief or robber, when they were simply acting on natural instinct. For me, this does not model the change we’d like to see in this world and certainly doesn’t represent the behaviors we’d like to experience with each other. And since the intended audience of these stories is primarily children and families I felt strongly that there needed to be a change.

One example of how P.L.A.Y. has adapted these stories for present day audiences is by applying compassionate communication principles in the dialog between characters so that you will no longer hear Peter Rabbit making fun of Old Man Toad or tossing put downs at Jumper the Hare and instead Peter Rabbit gets curious and asks questions whenever he becomes troubled or frustrated or afraid.

Another example of how P.L.A.Y. has modified these stories is by apply loving-kindness concepts such as “treat others how you’d like to be treated”. These values are all woven into the story in such a way to encourage the audience to put these into practice in their own lives with family, friends, and neighbors and to experience the positive ripple effects daily.

The P.L.A.Y. annotated versions of these Burgess stories also have added bonus content for curious minds including prompts and questions to explore ideas further, lists of topic resources, and photos from locations in New England reflecting the story landscape and animal habitats.

P.L.A.Y.‘s annotated series of Burgess’ stories include free versions found here online: Paddy the Beaver, Old Man Toad, Lightfoot the Deer, Burgess Bird Book, Burgess Animal Book, or they may be purchased in book format HERE.

P.L.A.Y. intends to add future nature titles to this collection annually so be sure to check back often for more magical moments!

I have much gratitude for these century old writings created by Thornton Burgess and the focus on connecting families to nature through story telling. I also have much gratitude for the opportunity to bring this work forward with adaptations suitable for the next generation of families engaging both their curiosity for nature and connection to wholehearted living through encouraging compassionate communication and loving-kindness.


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.


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!

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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!

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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.

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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!

This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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.


This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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.


This Curious Capkin has created more P.L.A.Y. Adventures just for you!

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!