Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse
Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is one of the smallest of the little four-legged folks who live in the Green Forest. Being so small he is one of the most timid. You see, by day and by night sharp eyes are watching for Whitefoot and he knows it. Never for one single instant, while he is outside where sharp eyes of hungry predators may see him, does he forget that they are watching for him. To forget even for one little minute might mean–well, it might mean the end of little Whitefoot, and a dinner for some one with a liking for Mouse.
So Whitefoot the Wood Mouse rarely ventures more than a few feet from a hiding place and safety. At the tiniest sound he startles nervously and often darts back into hiding without waiting to find out if there really is any danger. If he waited to make sure he might actually wait too long, and it is better to be safe than sorry.
This being the way Whitefoot looked at matters, you can guess how he felt when Chatterer the Red Squirrel caught sight of him and gave him Mother Nature’s message.
“Hey there,” shouted Chatterer, as he caught sight of Whitefoot darting under a log. “Hey! I’ve got a message for you!”
Slowly, cautiously, Whitefoot poked his head out from beneath the old log and looked up at Chatterer. “What kind of a message?” he asked suspiciously.
“A message you’ll do well to heed. It is from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer.
“A message from Mother Nature!” cried Whitefoot, and came out a bit more from beneath the old log.
“That’s what I said, a message from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer. “She says you are to come join all of us for a learning session at sun-up tomorrow morning.”
Then Chatterer explained about the learning sessions and where they were typically held each morning and what a lot he and his friends had already learned together. Whitefoot listened with something very like dismay in his heart. That place where they gathered was a long way off. That is, it was a long way for him, though to Peter Rabbit or Jumper the Hare it wouldn’t have seemed long at all. It meant that he would have to leave all his hiding places and the thought made him shiver.
However, Mother Nature had sent for him and not once did he even think of not attending. “Did you say that you gather at sun-up?” he asked, and when Chatterer nodded Whitefoot sighed. It was a sigh of relief. “I’m glad of that,” he said. “I can travel in the night, which will be much safer. I’ll be there. That is, I will if I am not caught on the way.”
Meanwhile over on the Green Meadows Peter Rabbit was looking for Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny’s home was not far from the dear Old Briar-patch, and he and Peter were very good friends. So Peter knew just about where to look for Danny and it didn’t take him long to find him.
“Hello, Peter! You look as if you have something very important on your mind,” was the greeting of Danny Meadow Mouse as Peter came hurrying up.
“I have,” said Peter. “It is a message for you. Mother Nature says for you to be on hand at sun-up tomorrow when our learning session opens over in the Green Forest.”
“Of course,” replied Danny in the most matter-of-fact tone. “Of course. If Mother Nature really sent me that message–”
“She really did,” interrupted Peter.
“There isn’t anything for me to do then attend,” finished Danny. Then his face became very sober. “That is a long way for me to go, Peter,” he said. “I wouldn’t take such a long journey for anything or for anybody else. Mother Nature knows, and if she sent for me she must be sure I can make the trip safely. What time did you say I must be there?”
“At sun-up,” replied Peter. “Shall I call for you on my way there?”
Danny shook his head. Then he began to laugh. “What are you laughing at?” asked Peter.
“At the very idea of me with my short legs trying to keep up with you,” replied Danny. “I wish you would sit up and take a good look all around to make sure that Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox and Redtail the Hawk and Black Shadow, that pesky Cat from Farmer Brown’s, are nowhere about.”
Peter obligingly sat up and looked this way and looked that way and looked the other way. No one of whom he or Danny Meadow Mouse need be afraid was to be seen. He said as much, then asked, “Why did you want to know, Danny?”
“Because I am going to start at once,” replied Danny.
“Start for where?” asked Peter, looking much puzzled.
“Start for the gathering space of course,” replied Danny.
“Um— we don’t begin until sun-up tomorrow,” Peter stated with hesitation.
“Which is just the reason I am going to start now,” replied Danny. “If I should put off starting until the last minute I might not get there at all. I would have to hurry, and it is difficult to hurry and watch for danger at the same time. The way is clear now, so I am going to start. I can take my time and keep a proper watch for danger. I’ll see you over there in the morning, Peter.”
Danny turned and disappeared on one of his hidden little paths though the tall grass. Peter noticed that he was headed towards the Green Forest.
When Peter and the others arrived the next morning they found Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse waiting with Mother Nature. Safe in her presence, they seemed to have lost much of their usual timidity. Whitefoot was sitting on the end of a log and Danny was on the ground just beneath him.
“I want all the rest of you to look well at these two little cousins and notice how unlike two cousins can be,” said Mother Nature. “Whitefoot, who is quite as often called a Deer Mouse as Wood Mouse, is one of the prettiest of the entire Mouse family. I suspect he is called Deer Mouse because the upper part of his coat is such a beautiful fawn color. Notice that the upper side of his long slim tail is of the same color, while the under side is white, as is the whole under part of Whitefoot. Also those dainty feet are white, hence his name. See what big, soft black eyes he has, and notice that those delicate ears are of good size.”
“His tail is covered with short fine hairs, instead of being naked as is the tail of Nibbler the House Mouse, of whom I will tell you later. Whitefoot loves the Green Forest, although out in parts of the Far West where there is no Green Forest he lives on the brushy plains. He is a good climber and quite at home in the trees. There he seems almost like a tiny Squirrel. Tell us, Whitefoot, where you make your home and what you eat.”
“My home just now,” replied Whitefoot, “is in a certain hollow in a certain dead limb of a certain tree. I suspect that a member of the Woodpecker family made that hollow, as no one was living there when I found it. Mrs. Whitefoot and I have made a soft, warm nest there and wouldn’t trade homes with anyone. We have had our home in a hollow log on the ground, in an old stump, in a hole we dug in the ground under a rock, and in an old nest of some bird. That was in a tall bush. We roofed that nest over and made a little round doorway on the under side. Once we raised a family in a box in a dark corner of Farmer Brown’s sugar camp too.
“I eat all sorts of things–seeds, nuts, insects and meat when I can get it. I store up food for winter.”
“I suppose that means that you do not sleep as Johnny Chuck does in winter,” remarked Peter Rabbit.
“I should say not!” exclaimed Whitefoot. “I like winter. It is fun to run about on the snow. Haven’t you ever seen my tracks, Peter?”
“I have, lots of times,” spoke up Jumper the Hare. “Also I’ve seen you skipping about after dark. I guess you don’t care much for sunlight.”
“Oh no, I don’t,” replied Whitefoot. “I sleep most of the time during the day, and work and play at night. I feel safer then. On dull days I often come out. It is the bright sunlight I don’t like. That is one reason I stick to the Green Forest. I don’t see how Cousin Danny stands it out there on the Green Meadows. Now I guess it is his turn to share and tell us more.”
Every one looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. In appearance he was as unlike Whitefoot as it was possible to be and still be a Mouse. His body was rather stout, looking stouter than it really was because his fur was quite long. His head was blunt, and he seemed to have no neck at all, though of course he did have one. His eyes were small, like little black beads. His ears were almost hidden in his hair. His legs were short and his tail was quite short, as if it had been cut off when half grown. No, those two cousins didn’t look a bit alike.
“Danny is a lover of the fields,” began Mother Nature, “and meadows where there is little else other than grass in which to hide. Everything about him is just suited for living there. Isn’t that so, Danny?”
“Yes, I guess so,” replied Danny.
“Now it is your turn to tell how you live and what you eat and anything else of interest about yourself,” Mother Nature said encouragingly.
“I guess there isn’t too much interesting about me,” began Danny modestly. “I’m just one of the plain, common little folks. I guess everybody knows me so well there is nothing for me to tell.”
“Some of them may know all about you, however I don’t,” declared Jumper the Hare. “I never go out on the Green Meadows where you live. How do you get about in all that tall grass?”
“Oh, that’s easy enough,” replied Danny. “I cut little paths in all directions.”
“Just the way I do in the dear Old Briar-patch,” added Peter Rabbit.
“I keep those little paths clear and clean so that there never is anything in my way to trip me up when I have to run for safety,” continued Danny. “When the grass gets tall those little paths are almost like little tunnels. The time I dread most is when Farmer Brown cuts the grass for hay. I not only have to watch out for that dreadful mowing machine, I also have to watch when the hay has been taken away since the grass is so short that it is hard work for me to keep out of sight.”
“I sometimes dig a short burrow and at the end of it make a nice nest of dry grass. Sometimes in summer Mrs. Meadow Mouse and I make our nest on the surface of the ground in a hollow or in a clump of tall grass, especially if the ground is low and wet. We have several good-sized families in a year. All Meadow Mice believe in large families, and that is probably why there are more Meadow Mice than any other Mice in the country. I forgot to say that I am also called Field Mouse.”
“Danny eats,” continued Mother Nature, ” grass, clover, bulbs, roots, seeds and garden vegetables. He also eats some insects. He sometimes puts away a few seeds for the winter, although he depends chiefly on finding enough to eat, for he is active all winter. He tunnels about under the snow in search of food. When other food is hard to find he eats bark. He gnaws the bark from young fruit trees all the way around as high as he can reach, and of course this kills the trees.”
“ And I will finish our session today mentioning that Danny is a good swimmer and not at all afraid of the water,” said Mother Nature. “No one has more predators than he, and the fact that he is alive and here this morning is due to his everlasting watchfulness. This will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up others of the Mouse family.”
- How do a Wood Mouse and Meadow Mouse look different? Are they the same in any way since they are from the same larger family?
- Have you ever seen a Meadow Mouse out in a field? Did you think it was something else?
- Have you ever seen a family of humans and wondered how they are all related even though they may have different hair color or texture, different skin tones, even facial features (like eyes and nose) that just don’t look the same? What were your thoughts? Could it be that we are all one human family just like all the different types of mice all belong to one mouse family?
NOTE: The specific science Family name is Muridae which comes from the Latin word mus meaning mouse.