ALONG THE ROAD
A DAY -- ITS JOY AND TRAGEDYThis has been a tragical day. Yesterday I discovered Heron Town in treetops seven miles away (which isn't very far when 'tis something you are very much interested in). I hurried home to tell the others about this wonderful town in the treetops (why those skyscrapers Glen Hankins was telling about could not be much ahead of Heron Town), but when I reached home no one was interested in herons. There was company, and furthermore "little girls should be seen and not heard." The only time anyone seemed interested was at bedtime, when mother and father forbid me to try climbing to Heron Town. (It's awful to have an exploring, climbing spirit and to have it suppressed.) I think the tragedy really began last night with their forbidding my climbing to Heron Town. Why, all the way home I had been thinking of finding out about Heron home life and of assisting mother and father Herons in feeding the babies. And how in the world was one to feed baby Herons unless one climbed up to their cradles? I thought about so many things to be found out about the way a heron lives, and kept thinking, and I dreamed last night that I was in Heron Town. And this morning I got up before anyone else in the house was up and went to the pantry and to the garden, and took my breakfast along with me. Also I took along Belshazzer (one of my pet frogs), Shep (the dog), Solomon Rheoboam (the pet skunk), and Plato (the pet turtle). Thus we started for Heron Town -- Plato and Belshazzer in my apron pockets, being as they could not travel at the pace Solomon Rheoboam, Shep and I travel.
When I arrived at the trees in whose tops Heron Town was located I once more shared what remained of my breakfast with my companions, and leaving all but Belshazzer at the foot of the tree, I started upwards. It was considerable more than a hundred feet above the ground and a very hard climb, so that before I reached the village I had fully decided that if I was going to assist in feeding baby Herons I would need larger pockets to carry food in. When I was almost at the first big nest (there were heaps of others), I took Belshazzer out of my pocket and set him on the nearest limb until I could get balanced and settled down for observation; but right then and there a Heron gobbled him up, and it surprised me so that I lost part of my balance and started earthward -- and on my way I decided right then and there that if baby Herons were to be fed upon such a diet I would withdraw my offer of assistance made on the previous day. I didn't get quite to earth, because I lodged on a limb on the way down. Then I began the climb all over again and had the most wonderful day at Heron Town. The homes were just platforms of sticks -- Herons are not neat housekeepers, and the babies are gawky and squawky; but it was a wonderful feeling one had being up among them. I'm note sure whether baby Herons like being cuddled or not. I tried to cuddle two, one in each arm, but they squawked so much I almost lost my balance again. Some nests had eggs in them -- three and four bluish green ones. And some were queer-looking things who had not been long out of the eggs. There were so many things happening in Heron Town -- folks coming and going all the time -- every minute was so exciting. I'd like to have stayed there all night; but toward evening I began to get so hungry -- it seemed years since I had had anything to eat. (I'd only kept a weeny bit of my breakfast and had given the most of it to the other folks about me.)
I arrived home just at supper time, and was reminded that it was a school day -- a fact which I had forgotten all about. Also I was reminded that my apron was torn in four places -- a fact I had not noticed. That I had been to Heron Town was made known by my torn apron before I had time to open my mouth and tell them about the wonderfulness of being up there with the baby Herons so far above the world.
May 22nd -- I'm having little bits of troubles at school every day -- just because the school curriculum and my nature study do not fit together. And sometimes what seems like a big trouble in the end brings me a friend. Today the trouble was mostly about caterpillars. I hunted them on the way to school and found seventeen; but I arrived at school nine minutes after tardy bell rang. That wasn't the worst of it, though, because in the afternoon some way they escaped from my desk. I sit in a seat partnership with Mable, who neither likes caterpillars nor our teacher -- and she told me confidentially that it was not especially because she did not like the caterpillars that she shoved them out of the desk; but mostly because she hoped it would make the creepers go up teacher's spine -- but teacher was a hero and helped me to find every one of those truant caterpillars after school let out. (Of course she didn't pick them up -- I did the picking up.) Teacher admitted that she was afraid of caterpillars, because they were such dreadfully creepy things. Then I told her how velvety they were and how wonderful they were -- and all about my caterpillar farm. When I finished telling her about them I held out the big green velvety one that was going to be a Luna Moth and let her feel how velvety it was. Afterwards she went part way home with me and helped me to gather walnut leaves for the velvety green one that was going to be a Luna Moth, oak leaves for three who were going to be White Admiral butterflies, and Monkey Flower leaves for seven who were going to be Checker-spot Butterflies.
May 24th -- Along the way to school to-day I saw Bluebirds, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, Towhees, Monarch Butterflies, Chipping Sparrows, Swallowtail Butterflies, three Chipmunks, one Gray Squirrel, and three Carabadae Beetles. I was almost late to school.
By the side of the road where the Children of Men pass by there is my Hummingbird garden. That these fairies may come again and again I've planted there for them the flowers that they love -- Trumpet Flower, Cardinal Flower, Oswego Tea, Columbine, Honeysuckle, Painted Cup, Nasturiums, and Gladiolas. 'Tis now the second year of this flower garden; and many times [editor's note: book text abruptly ends there]
With dizzy wings and dainty craft
In green and gold, the humming-bird
Dashed here and there, and touched and quaffed
The honey-dew, then flashed and whirred
And vanished like a feathered shaft
That glitters from a random bow.
Minutest of the feathered kind,
Possessing every charm combin'd.
Nature, in forming thee, design'd
That though shoul'st be
A proof within how little space
She can confine such perfect grace,
Rendering thy lovely fairy race
Thy burnished colors to bestow
Her pencil in the heavenly bow
She dipp'd and made thy plumes to glow
With every hue.
May 29th -- Today and yesterday along the way we found upon Sicky Monkey Flower plants little bristly black caterpillars with big appetites -- little caterpillars who had but recently come out of their tiny eggs that were pale yellowish when first they were laid by Mother Checker-spot Butterfly upon the Monkey Flower plant. It was only last year that we raised from the eggs on hundred and one butterflies like Checker-spot, who other name is Melitaea Chalcedon.
May 30th -- Saw six little pig fairies by the road today. Of course Pig fairies are interesting. What does a Pig use his nose for beside to smell with? What do you think a Pig wallows in the mud for? How does he take his bath? Have you fed acorns to Pigs? Do you know the different kinds of Pigs when you see them -- Yorkshire, Cheshire, Poland-China, Duroc-Jersey, and Berkshire? Have you had a pet Pig? I once had a little Poland-China pet who was very fond of going on nature walks along the road, and stopping at the oak grove. She sometimes went to school with me, which displeased the teacher, but pleased all the pupils. We learned this rhyme about Pigs (of course all grown-up Pigs are not lumps of iniquity).
The nice little pig with its curly tail,
As soft as satin and pinky pale,
Is a very different thing by far
From the lumps of iniquity big pigs are.
Little Diogenes, bearing your tub,
whither away so gay,
While your eyes on stalks and a foot that walks,
tell me this, I pray:
Is it an honest snail you seek
that makes you go so slow;
And over the edges of all things peek,
have you found him, I want to know
Or do you go slow because you know
your house is neat and tight?
And there is no hurry and surely no worry
lest you stay out late at night?
May 28th -- Really Snail fairies are very interesting -- of course they can not hurry rapidly about. (But could we if we had, like the Snail, only one foot?) And his horns -- they are not horns at all. Truly his eyes are on the end of these two stalks. I wonder how it would be if you and I had our eyes on stalks. And really through he has but one foot -- that foot is a wonder. And the places he carries about with him -- now isn't Snail as wonderful a fairy as the magicians of fairy stories -- for Snail takes his house right along with him. When danger threatens he withdraws himself into his palace. Have you raised Snails from babyhood? I find their eggs in masses under old decaying leaves. Snail eggs are as big as the small peas that grow in Grandma's garden. And these eggs, in which were the Baby Snails to be, were almost transparent when I found them. When Baby Snails first hatched each had a tiny shell -- and as baby grew the shell grew too. So I beheld the growing of a palace, spire by spire. "Snail Nursery" was in a large box, with soil and moss and leaves (dampened ones) in the bottom. For breakfast, dinner, and supper my Baby Snails, who were to be grown up Snails some day, were served vegetables and fruits. This year we had twenty-seven Snail babies. (Did you know that Mother and Father Snail are one and the same fairy dwelling in one Snail shell?) But about our Baby Snails -- we brought out the Bible and the Ancient history and after much discussion selected their names. The responsibility of selecting names is enormous and growing from year to year -- as the number of Butterfly, Moth, Beetle, Toad, Frog, Snake, and other fairies raised from the eggs increases and friendships made with Birds, Squirrels, and Skunks grow. Then there are the scientific names -- it is so interesting to know them. Scientifically those twenty-seven baby Snails are Epiphragmophora didelis.
May 29th -- We met a number of Wild Radish fairies today. Their ancestors dwelt in the gardens here about and these, their children, have traveled beyond the gardens. Did you know that Radish is a cousin to Mustard, Spring Beauty, Rock Cress and Lace Pod?
May 30th -- The Wren, the little darling House Wren, has chosen one of our bird-houses for her home -- and we are just as happy as can be. First we watched her for bringing tiny twigs -- then soft feathers. That was several days ago. Now there are five dear little eggs in the nest. We can hardly wait until they hatch, for it's so much fun helping with a Wren nursery.