Bluebirds 5


 

THE BLUEBIRDS & THEIR NEIGHBOURS

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Chapter 25
Chatterer the Red Squirrel Tries to Steal

IT IS a hard thing to say, but Chatterer the Red Squirrel was a thief He lived in a Hollow Den Tree in the Wide Wide Pasture near the Green Meadow. He had lived there a long time. During the winter, Chatterer ate nuts and acorns and cones and dried mushrooms that he had stored here and there in places where he could find them when the Merry Little Snowflakes were deep.

Chatterer had plenty of his own food to eat, so there really was no need for him to steal. Even if he had needed something to eat, that would have been no reason why he should take something that did not belong to him; for there is never any excuse to steal. He should have worked and earned what he needed as his cousin Worker the Gray Squirrel did.

Sometimes we see people who are like Chatterer the Red Squirrel. They would rather steal than earn an honest living. God has said in the eighth commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." Those who steal not only get into trouble as did Chatterer the Red Squirrel, but they will lose eternal life.

Now, the worst thing about Chatterer was that he was not only a thief but also a murderer. In the summer time when the Feathered Friends had nests, Chatterer ran through the trees looking for them to rob. He stole the eggs and murdered the baby birds. Anyone who steals is likely to do worse. And so it was with Chatterer.

One day in early fall Chatterer started out to see what he could find to put in his Secret Storehouse for winter. Sometimes he visited Farmer Smith's cornfield, and carried away some corn. And if he chose to do so, he even went into Farmer Smith's corncrib in winter and helped himself Of course, Farmer Smith did not care if Chatterer took some corn, and that is the more reason why Chatterer should not have stolen from, his Furry Friends.

First Chatterer went to the Tall Spruce to see if the cones were ready to har�vest. He found a few that suited him, and these were carried to the foot of a tree near his Hollow Den Tree and stored under a log. After he had carried cones awhile, he visited the Broad Oak to see if the acorns were getting ripe. Chatterer really preferred cones to eat, but he liked acorns for a change.

Then Chatterer ran from place to place in the Wide-Wide Pasture, just playing. He told himself it would be quite a while until, Old Man Winter came, and so he would wait until later to gather more food. He thought he would have plenty of time. But while Chatterer played, Worker the Gray Squirrel was busy every day gathering and storing food for winter.

Worker the Gray Squirrel lived in a Big Stick Nest in the top of a tree, not a great way from Chatterer's home in the Hollow Den Tree. Chatterer and Worker did not get along well together. You see, several times Worker, had been unable to find some of the food that he had saved for winter. When he came for it, it was gone.'' He had thought that Chatterer had stolen it, but he had never caught him at it. Also, Chatterer had tried to drive Worker away from that part of the Wide-Wide Pasture where the best food was found. And so they had not lived peaceably together.

When Chatterer finally decided it was time to finish storing his food for the winter, he found that acorns and cones and other things were not so plentiful as he had thought. Worker the Gray Squirrel had been preparing for a long, cold winter, and had gathered most of the things that grew near by. Of course, Chatterer did not like the idea of having to go so far away to find supplies. He was rather lazy, anyway.

Chatterer thought the best way to get his supply in a hurry would be to find one of Worker's Secret Storehouses. He looked here and there, and at last he found some cones that Worker had hidden under a big rock. There were not very many, and Chatterer soon had them moved away to a Secret Storehouse of his own.

Chatterer thought that some place Worker the Gray Squirrel had a Secret Storehouse that held many good things. He thought if he could only find that, it would be all he needed. Up and down the Wide Wide Pasture went Chatterer looking under every log and rock.

But Worker the Gray Squirrel had grown wise with age. Instead of keeping most of his supplies in one big Secret Storehouse, he had made many Secret Storehouses in different places. Sometimes he had made a hole in the ground just large enough to hold one or two acorns. Sometimes, if the place suited and he thought Chatterer would not find it, he had left more.

It is a mystery how Worker the Gray Squirrel could remember where he had made all his Secret Storehouses. That is one of Worker's secrets. All the Little Wild Creatures have secrets, and that is what makes them so interesting. Worker did not have a lock with which to protect his stores as we do, and so he had to do it another way. Perhaps he trained his memory by using only a few places at first. Or he may have had some way of marking his Secret Storehouses. I have never seen him carrying around a notebook, have you?

So Chatterer the Red Squirrel had to gather his own food when he could not find the Secret Storehouses of Worker the Gray Squirrel.

CHAPTER 26

Mrs. Cowbird Plays a Trick

MRS. COWBIRD had been having a good time all spring. While the other birds were busy building their nests, she had been playing. She did not care anything about having a home. Instead, she stayed in the Wide-Wide Pasture with Old Bent Horn and the other cows. That is why she is called a cowbird. She walked around on the ground near Old Bent Horn, picking up the insects that Old Bent Horn knocked from the grass and weeds. She even sat on Old Bent Horn's back and rode around the Wide-Wide Pasture. But she never once thought about building a nest. Or if she did, she was too lazy to build one.

Mrs. Cowbird is a near relative of Spink the Bobolink, Weaver the Oriole, Burlingame the Lark, and Redwing the Blackbird, and the other blackbirds, but she is a disgrace to the whole blackbird family. She is like Noisy the English Sparrow, who disgraces the sparrow family. But she is even worse than Noisy. It is too bad that Mrs. Cowbird does not belong to the same family as Jim Crow and Tattler the Jay and Pesty the Magpie, for they are all a bad lot. But she doesn't, and so it cannot be helped.

No one would ever think that Burlingame the Lark and Spink the Bobolink and others were relatives of Mrs. Cowbird, because they are such good citizens. They are honest and cheerful and good to their neighbors, and every one likes them. So if we do right, other people will like us even though some of our relatives may not always live as they should.

One day Mrs. Cowbird decided it was time for her to begin, to lay her eggs. And there she was without a nest of any kind. Now, Mrs. Whippoorwill would have laid her eggs in an old stump or among loose leaves on the ground without a nest. But that is not what Mrs. Cowbird did. Oh no ! She hunted around until she found the nest of Yellowbreast the Chat. Then, when Mrs. Chat was not looking, Mrs. Cowbird rolled one of Mrs. Chat's eggs out of her nest and laid one in its place. The next day she did the same thing with Mrs. Field Sparrow. And the next day she laid an egg in the nest of Mrs. Yellow Warbler. After Mrs. Cowbird had laid all her eggs, she went back to the Wide-Wide Pasture to play around Old Bent Horn as if nothing had happened.

Of course, Mrs. Cowbird thought the other birds would not know the difference. She thought they would sit on her eggs and keep them warm and save her the trouble. Then she could go on with her playing. She did not want the responsibility of caring for them herself. Sometimes we see people who try to avoid responsibilities. We call them "shirkers" because they let other people do their work. They are never well liked. Some people even shirk their Christian' duties. In the Bible we read about Joseph and Daniel and others who always were faithful and lived in a way that pleased God, and God blessed and prospered them.

Have you ever gone camping? If you have, no doubt you have seen some people who try to get out of helping with the work. They would rather play if some one else will wash the dishes and carry the water and cut the wood. That is like Mrs. Cow�bird. She is the worst shirker in the bird world.

If Mrs. Chat and Mrs. Field Sparrow noticed the difference in the eggs, they said nothing about it. They kept them warm, and when the baby birds broke open the shells and came out, they fed the Baby Cowbirds as well as their own. In fact, they fed them better.

You see, Mrs. Cowbird's egg usually hatches two or three days before Mrs. Chat's and Mrs. Field Sparrow's. So by the time the other eggs hatch the Baby Cowbird is quite strong, and it crowds to the top of the nest where it will be fed. As it is much larger than the Baby Chats and Baby Field Sparrows, it gets most of the food.

Mrs. Cowbird thought she had played a clever trick on the other birds when she left her eggs in their nests.

But Mrs. Yellow Warbler was not so easily fooled.

"Now, where do you suppose that egg came from?" asked Mrs. Yellow Warbler.

Mr. Warbler hopped over to the nest and looked in. There was an egg almost an inch long lying in the nest with two of Mrs. Warbler's little eggs.

"That must belong to Mrs. Cowbird," said Mr. Warbler, "for I saw her fly away from our Nesting Tree not long ago."

"Well, I refuse to keep her egg warm for her, said Mrs. Yellow, Warbler.

And so Mrs. Warbler set to work carrying material, and soon she had built another nest on top of the first one. Then she went right on laying eggs.

If all birds were like Mrs. Yellow Warbler, Mrs. Cowbird would have to build a nest of her own. No doubt, she would have quite a time deciding how to build it and where. I wonder if she would try to build it on Old Bent Horn's back.

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