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07 the Burgess Animal Book for Children

07 the Burgess Animal Book for Children

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Published by laurke
Year 2, Week 7 reading of the BAB, with illustrations.
Year 2, Week 7 reading of the BAB, with illustrations.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: laurke on Aug 31, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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by Thornton W. Burgess
Week 7
"Now we come to the largest family of the Rodentorder, the Rat family, which of course includes theMice," said Old Mother Nature, after calling school toorder at the old meeting-place. "And the largestmember of the family reminds me very much of theone we learned about yesterday.""I know!" cried Peter Rabbit. "You mean JerryMuskrat.""Go to the head of the class, Peter," said Old MotherNature, smiling. "Jerry is the very one, the largestmember of the Rat family. Sometimes he is spoken of as a little cousin of Paddy the Beaver. Probably this isbecause he looks something like a small Beaver, buildsa house in the water as Paddy does, and lives in verymuch the same way. The truth is, he is no more closelyrelated to Paddy than he is to the rest of you. He is atrue Rat. He is called Muskrat because he carries withhim a scent called musk. It is not an unpleasant scent,like that of Jimmy Skunk, and isn't used for the samepurpose. Jerry uses his to tell his friends where he hasbeen. He leaves a little of it at the places he visits.Some folks call him Musquash, but Muskrat is better."Jerry is seldom found far from the water and thenonly when he is seeking a new home. He is rather slowand awkward on land; but in the water he is quite athome, as all of you know who have visited the SmilingPool. He can dive and swim under water a longdistance, though not as far as Paddy the Beaver.""Has he webbed hind feet like Paddy?" piped upJumper the Hare."Yes and no," replied Old Mother Nature. "They are notfully webbed as Paddy's are, but there is a littlewebbing between some of the toes, enough to be of great help in swimming. His tail is of greater use inswimming than is Paddy's. It is bare and scaly, butinstead of being flat top and bottom it is flattened onthe sides, and he uses it as a propeller, moving itrapidly from side to side."Like Paddy he has a dark brown outer coat, lighterunderneath than on his back and sides, and like Paddyhe has a very warm soft under coat, through which thewater cannot get and which keeps him comfortable, nomatter how cold the water is. You have all seen hishouse in the Smiling Pool. He builds it in much thesame way that Paddy builds his, but instead of stickshe cuts and uses rushes. Of course it is not nearly aslarge as Paddy's house, because Jerry is himself somuch smaller. It is arranged much the same, with acomfortable bedroom and one or more passages downto deep water. In winter Jerry spends much of his timein this house, going out only for food. Then he liveschiefly on lily roots and roots of other water plants,digging them up and taking them back to his house toeat. When the ice is clear you can sometimes see himswimming below."
He is the largest of American Rats.Note how his tail is flattened.Muskrat 
The Burgess Animal Book for Children Natural History 
"I know," spoke up Peter Rabbit. "Once I was crossingthe Smiling Pool on the ice and saw him right underme.""Jerry doesn't build dams, but he sometimes digs littlecanals along the bottom where the water isn't deepenough to suit him," continued Old Mother Nature."Sometimes in the winter Jerry and Mrs. Jerry sharetheir home with two or three friends. If there is a goodbank Jerry usually has another home in that. He makesthe entrance under water and then tunnels back andup for some distance, where he builds a snug littlebedroom just below the surface of the ground where itis dry. Usually he has more than one tunnel leading tothis, and sometimes an opening from above. This iscovered with sticks and grass to hide it, and providesan entrance for fresh air."Jerry lives mostly on roots and plants, but is fond of mussels or fresh-water clams, fish, some insects and, Iam sorry to say, young birds when he can catch them.Jerry could explain where some of the babies of Mr.And Mrs. Quack the Ducks have disappeared to. Paddythe Beaver doesn't eat flesh at all."Jerry and Mrs. Jerry have several families in a year,and Jerry is a very good father, doing his share incaring for the babies. He and Mrs. Jerry are rathersocial and enjoy visiting neighbors of their own kind.Their voices are a sort of squeak, and you can oftenhear them talking among the rushes in the earlyevening. That is the hour they like best, though theyare abroad during the day when undisturbed. Man istheir greatest enemy. He hunts and traps them fortheir warm coats. But they have to watch out for Hootythe Owl at night and for Reddy Fox and Old ManCoyote whenever they are on land. Billy Mink also is anenemy at times, perhaps the most to be dreadedbecause he can follow Jerry anywhere."Jerry makes little landings of mud and rushes alongthe edge of the shore. On these he delights to sit toeat his meals. He likes apples and vegetables andsometimes will travel quite a distance to get them.Late in the summer he begins to prepare for winter bystarting work on his house, if he is to have a new one.He is a good worker. There isn't a lazy bone in him. Allthings considered, Jerry is a credit to his family."But if Jerry is a credit to his family there is one of itsmembers who is not and that is--who knows?""Robber the Brown Rat," replied Happy Jack Squirrelpromptly. "I have often seen him around FarmerBrown's barn. Ugh! He is an ugly-looking fellow."
Brown Rat 
"And he is just as ugly as he looks," replied Old MotherNature. "There isn't a good thing I can say for him, notone. He doesn't belong in this country at all. He wasbrought here by man, and now he is foundeverywhere. He is sometimes called the Norway Ratand sometimes the Wharf Rat and House Rat. He ishated by all animals and by man. He is big, being nextin size to Jerry Muskrat, savage in temper, the mostdestructive of any animal I know, and dirty in hishabits. He is an outcast, but he doesn't seem to care."He lives chiefly around the homes of men, and all hisfood is stolen. That is why he is named Robber. He eatsanything he can find and isn't the least bit particularwhat it is or whether it be clean or unclean. He gnawsinto grain bins and steals the grain. He gets into hen-houses and sucks the eggs and kills young chickens.He would like nothing better than to find a nest of yourbabies, Peter Rabbit."Peter shivered. "I'm glad he sticks to the homes of men," said he."But he doesn't," declared Old Mother Nature. "Oftenin summer he moves out into the fields, diggingburrows there and doing great damage to crops andalso killing and eating any of the furred and featheredfolk he can catch. But he is not fond of the light of day.His deeds are deeds of darkness, and he prefers darkplaces. He has very large families, sometimes ten ormore babies at a time, and several families in a year.That is why his tribe has managed to overrun theGreat World and why they cause such great damage.Worse than the harm they do with their teeth is theterrible harm they do to man by carrying dreadfuldiseases and spreading them-- diseases which causepeople to die in great numbers.""Isn't Robber afraid of any one?" asked Peter."He certainly is," replied Old Mother Nature. "He is indeadly fear of one whom every one of you fears--Shadow the Weasel. One good thing I can say forShadow is that he never misses a chance to kill a Rat.Wherever a Rat can go he can go, and once he finds acolony he hunts them until he has killed all or driventhem away."When food becomes scarce, Robber and his familymove on to where it is more plentiful. Often they makelong journeys, a great number of them together, and
 Ambleside Online Year 2
The Burgess Animal Book for Children Natural History 
do not hesitate to swim a stream that may be in theirpath.""I've never seen Robber," said Peter. "What kind of atail does he have?""I might have known you would ask that," laughed OldMother Nature. "It is long and slim and has no hair onit. His fur is very coarse and harsh and is brown andgray. He has a close relative called the Black Rat. Butthe latter is smaller and has been largely driven out of the country by his bigger cousin. Now I guess this isenough about Robber. He is bad, all bad, and hasn't asingle friend in all the Great World.""What a dreadful thing--not to have a single friend,"said Happy Jack."It is dreadful, very dreadful," replied Old MotherNature. "But it is wholly his own fault. It shows whathappens when one becomes dishonest and bad atheart. The worst of it is Robber doesn't care. To-morrow I'll tell you about some of his cousins who arenot bad.
"Way down in the Sunny South," began Old MotherNature, "lives a member of the Rat family who, thoughnot nearly so bad as Robber, is none too good and soisn't thought well of at all. He is Little Robber theCotton Rat, and though small for a Rat, being only atrifle larger than Striped Chipmunk, looks the littlesavage that he is. He has short legs and is ratherthick-bodied, and appears much like an overgrownMeadow Mouse with a long tail. The latter is not barelike Robber's, but the hair on it is very short and thin.In color he is yellowish-brown and whitish underneath.His fur is longer and coarser than that of other nativeRats.
Cotton Rat 
"He lives in old fields, along ditches and hedges, and insimilar places where there is plenty of cover in whichhe can hide from his enemies. He burrows in theground and usually has his nest of dry grass there,though often in summer it is the surface of the ground.He does not live in and around the homes of men, likethe Brown Rat, but he causes a great deal of damageby stealing grain in the shock. He eats all kinds of grain, many seeds, and meat when he can get it. He isvery destructive to eggs and young of ground-nestingbirds. He has a bad temper and will fight savagely. Mr.and Mrs. Cotton Rat raise several large families in ayear. Foxes, Owls and Hawks are their chief enemies."But there are other members of the Rat family farmore interesting and quite worth knowing. One of these is Trader the Wood Rat, in some parts of the FarWest called the Pack Rat. Among the mountains he iscalled the Mountain Rat. Wherever found, his habitsare much the same and make him one of the mostinteresting of all the little people who wear fur."Next to Jerry Muskrat he is the largest native Rat,that is, of the Rats which belong in this country. He isabout two thirds as big as Robber the Brown Rat, butthough he is of the same general shape, so that youwould know at once that he is related to Robber, he isin all other ways wholly unlike that outcast. His fur isthick and soft, almost as soft as that of a Squirrel. Hisfairly long tail is covered with hair. Indeed, somemembers of his branch of the family have tails almostas bushy as a Squirrel's. His coat is soft gray and ayellowish-brown above, and underneath pure white orlight buff. His feet are white. He has rounded ears andbig black eyes with none of the ugliness in them thatyou always see in the eyes of Robber. And he has longwhiskers and plenty of them."
This is the Eastern form of this interestingbranch of the Rat family.
 Ambleside Online Year 2

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