Chapter VII
More Chores And Pastimes

From "John Burroughs - Boy And Man" (1920)
By Clara Barrus

Does it seem as though John's chores would never end? If it does to you, how must it have seemed to John? But luckily the pastimes were pretty well sandwiched in between the chores' and the more chores there were, the more he had to exert his ingenuity to wrest some fun out of them. Necessary evils, they certainly were, but trust a boy to endure such evils with some degree of comfort, not to say pleasure, since they could not actually be cured I

There was a deep pool below the grist-mill down in Hardscrabble creek where, of a warm May-day, the farm hands would drive the sheep for their annual bath, preparatory to the shearing. John helped only with the driving, the rest was work for men. Once down in that deep cool gorge by the waterfall, they dragged the victims from the huddled frightened herd on the rocks and doused and rinsed them one by one, in spite of their objections, John looking on somewhat ruefully, his sympathies always with the bleating sheep. As the work progressed, he clambered about on the rocks in a general tour of inspection. Every year he found a phoebe's mossy nest with its five or six white eggs, cunningly placed under the grey ledges, within easy reach of his hand, yet safe from minks and skunks, and well-protected from the storms.

The shearing of the sheep was usually done in June. Bringing the wayward creatures from the fields, the boys shut them up in the barn where the farm hands ruthlessly divested them of their woolly coats. Poor, protesting, struggling creatures! their shorn hides presented many a bleeding jab after these tussles. As fast as they were sheared and released by the boys, they went bleating up on the mountain again, their lambs and their tails behind them.

The wool was taken to the fulling-mill over in Meeker's Hollow, where it was carded or combed on a wire brush, made up into rolls, and then spun into yarn by the womenfolks, on the big spinning-wheel.

The yarn was dyed in a primitive way with chamberlye and indigo. The skeins, previously wound with strings, were thrown into the dye-tub where they lay for weeks, after which, on being wrung out and the strings removed, they presented the variegated blue and white appearance of the yarn then so commonly used.

A familiar sound of John's boyhood was that crescendo and diminuendo of his mother's spinning-wheel

Z-z-z-z-rh! Z-z-z-z-rh! as his mother would walk up to the wheel and retreat, while spinning the yarn.

Coverlids and coats were made from that wool, and yarn for their stockings, mittens, wristlets, and comforts. Overcoats were not common, but the long knit comforts that went around the necks, crossing the chests, and around the waists, kept them good and warm.


John's father grew the flax and his mother spun it into thread and wove it into linen for their sheets, towels, shirts, and summer trousers. When we buy a yard of linen at a shop to-day we little think what slow, laborious work went into its making; this was especially true in those days of crude processes and primitive ways.

When the flax was ripe in the fall the boys pulled it, laying it on the ground to rot. When gathered into the barn, it was broken with a crackle -a machine for breaking up the woody 'parts, but not the fibre; it was like a glass rod encased in a cloth, the rod would be shattered, but the cloth left intact.

The next step, to swingle it, or to get out the woody fibre, was done by means of an upright board and a swingling-knife. The farmer would throw great handfuls of the flax over the edge of the board, striking it again and again with the swingle -- a wooden implement about two feet long, shaped something like a sword, with one edge thinner than the other. The shives, or small particles of the brittle, woody stalks, would drop down, and, in due time, the flax be comparatively freed from them. But before the flax could be used, it had to be hetchelled, or combed out on a board set full of sharp teeth. Although it was a combing process, instead of running the comb through the hair, the hair was in this case run through the comb till it was clean; the pieces, probably twenty inches long, were like strands of silky hair.

In the hetchelling process great wads of tow-the shorter and coarser pieces of flax-were combed out. From this the boys made twine for bagstrings, to tie up the corn, oats, and rye. They claimed the surplus tow themselves, making of it a glorious bonfire down in the meadows in the early autumn evenings.

Next came the quilling, or winding the thread on the distaff, and from there on the spools, after which the thread was woven into cloth on the loom. The boys made the spools by pushing out the pith from pieces of elder. Even when quite a little fellow John used to sit on a low stool and help his mother with the quilling. When the thread was on the spools, and the spools were in the shuttle, his mother would- stand and throw the shuttle back and forth, while weaving the cloth.

The cloth was of a greyish hue, and, as some of the shives always remained in, in spite of the hetchelling, the new shirts and towels were pretty harsh, or "hash," as they used to say, so that breaking in a flax-made shirt, and wiping on a new towel were among the rough experiences of John's boyhood which have left a smarting recollection behind. It was like wiping on a brier bushthat home-made towel. Well that it did not scratch out both his eyes, for he has made very good use of those organs, has even taught some of the rest of us why we have two eyes in our heads. After each washing, the shirts would bleach a little, and when about worn out, were nearly white. Those shirts and trousers were tough and strong. If a boy fell out of a tree catching by his trousers on the way down, he would hang wherever caught, until released.


Sunday mornings John's father sent him up on the sidehill toward Old Clump with a pail of coarse salt for the sheep and young cattle, a chore about which he never murmured. It was a job that could be indefinitely prolonged, and there was always much to see by the way. The prairie horned larks flitted before him with their shuffling, jingling, lisping calls; goldfinches soared above in


their billowy flight, calling gaily, "Here we go, here we go!" the vesper sparrow kept companionably near; the indigo bunting sang incessantly from the trees along the fence borders; butterflies sailed around him; and grasshoppers danced in a merry maze wherever he started them up as he climbed.

Then there were springs to be visited-the one high up toward the mountain-top, under the ledges, and others in the pastures, these, especially, often needing his attention. Whenever he found one fouled with leaves and trodden by cattle he cleared it out, on his return finding the water clear and cool. The salting of the cattle itself was a never-failing delight. The knowing creatures, seeming to divine when it was Sunday, were waiting for him at their "lick," instead of rambling here, there, and everywhere. How they would follow him about, eagerly licking up the salt as he scattered it on the smooth stones! He loved to watch them smack their lips over it, and gnaw the sward for the last bit. It was almost as good fun as to watch them eat pumpkins or apples, which always made his mouth water.

Sometimes a cow would be missing from the herd pastured below the beechwoods. This meant that the boys had to go on a hunt for heranother agreeable task. They never had the wondrous adventure, though, that Granther once had in that vicinity, years before: One night while wandering around in search of the lost Io, he heard something in the brush, and lot out in his path there stepped a bear! The bear did not get him, nor 'did he get the bear. Bruin ran away even more scared than was Granther.


When the early settlers had come in that region, they had to cut the birch, beech, maple, and basswood to browse their cattle, there being, of course, no hay until they could clear the land, raise and rake in the rye, sow grass seed, and thus secure a crop of hay. As a result of their tree-cutting, numerous stumps dotted the cleared land, and in John's boyhood a part of the spring work for boys was the burning of those stumps.

As they would come down to breakfast in the early April mornings, their father would say:

"John, you and Eden go up to the clover meadow to-day and burn stumps."

This was a lark. Building a huge fire, they would wort with a will the long forenoon through, working merrily day after day. The sparks burnt holes in their clothes burning them more and more each day, till after several days at the job, they were almost past wearing. One day Eden's new hat got afire and a big hole was burned in it That wasn't so much fun when they got back to the house

Sometimes they found a stump with a bluebird's nest in it. They always spared that stump. Approaching it stealthily, and clapping his hat over the nest, John could usually catch the bird in his hand. Then, on lifting his hat, he would free the little prisoner, which would rush out with a glad cry. Granther Kelly used to do the same thing when a boy. Once, when putting his hand in a stump to feel for bluebirds, he felt something peculiar, something 16 comical," he used to say, and on withdrawing his hand hastily, out came the head and neck of a black snake He ran, and the snake ran after him. It had almost


reached him when a ploughman struck the snake with his ox-whip. Safe to say John never questioned this story when Granther told it, but nowadays he would doubtless say that Granther, whose imagination was most lively, must have imagined that part about the snake chasing him.


In that mountainous Catskill region the meadows and pastures were divided, as to-day, by long lines of stone walls which give the land a characteristic and pleasing checker-board appearance. These dark, rugged boundary lines frame the fields, inclose the woods, creep up the steep hills, and descend to the valley bottoms. John used to listen with interest when Uncle John Kelly on his visits from Pennsylvania told how free the land in their state was from stones; how their fences had to be made of rails. A rail or a board fence was unheard of around Roxbury. The boy wondered why there was such a difference in the two regions, but there was no one to explain to him that it was the great Ice-sheet that was responsible for all that back-breaking work of picking up stones, of which he had so much as a boy. Those grooves he used to see on the rocks, high up on the hilly pastures and which he regarded so curiously-he had no inkling that they had been made by the glaciers passing over them, transporting the rocks and gravel, and leaving those tell-tale marks. Nor did he know a thing about that other mysterious force, Erosion, which had had so much to do with smoothing and rounding the familiar broad-backed hills, and scooping out the wide valleys of his native landscape.

The farmers, in that country so abundantly supplied with stone, turned their hindrances into helps, by "making the fields grow their own fences." A stone wall is a veritable sermon in stones, and a long, tiresome one at that. So thought John, and so thought his brothers while being pressed into the service of prying up rocks, and picking up stones.

Every spring John's father built about fifty rods of new wall, and sometimes as much more in the fall. The boys groaned in spirit when these times came round.

Stones of all sizes and shapes, big and little, round and square, thick and thin, smooth stones, jagged stones, stones of no shape at all-all was grist that came to the mill of the stone-layer. All were piled on the stone-boat drawn by Brock and 'Bright, and hauled to the place where the wall was to be laid. They were first thrown along in a windrow-an irregular, chaotic line of - stone from which the new wall slowly grew. Hiram, as has been said, was a good stone-layer; his enduring monuments stretch in never-ending line all over the Burroughs farm to-day; but the other boys, not entrusted with such skilled work as that, were chiefly helpful in gathering the raw material. They liked to watch the building of the wall, and to be on hand when blasting was to be done. The stone-layer makes his wall broad and deep at the bottom and firm and smooth on the top, making one side, the face side, much smoother than the other. Two rods a day was a good day's work, but a certain man who worked for John's father had a record of laying eight rods in one day!


The boys rejoiced when there was a barn-raising on hand. A "raising" meant just the putting up of the frame, the weather boards and the roof being added later. First the foundation was prepared and the sleepers and sills put in-work taking several days-then the neighbours came from miles around to help with the raising.

Carrying the beams and posts and joists to their places on the platform, they put together the first "bent," fastening it with oak pins. Then fifteen or twenty men with pike-poles ranged in line abreast of the bent, awaited the sharp commands of the "boss" as he steadied and guided the corner post:

"Take holt, boys! Now set her up! Up with her!" "Up she goes!"

They hoist it shoulder-high, then each man with pikepole braced awaits further orders:

"Altogether, boys!" "Heave her up!" "He-o-he! he-o-he!" shouts the boss at the top of his voice, every man doing his utmost.

There was one man at the barn-raisings, Rice Bouton, who always took John's eye; his strength was prodigious; his nimbleness and alertness were remarkable. The first one on the bent, catching a pin and putting it in place, he would walk the high beams fearlessly with the great beetle in his hand, and putting the pins in the holes would drive them in, as much at home in that perilous position as a squirrel on a limb.


When John was thirteen years old his father decided to move the old house away (the house in which John was born) and build a new one on the old site. It was indeed an exciting time. The house with all its contents was to be transplanted to the orchard, where they were to continue to live while the new house was building. These days were brimful of interest, When Farmer Burroughs bid his neighbours to his Moving-Bee, twenty farmers came, each bringing his yoke of oxen. The preparations for the moving, however, had taken several days: Two long smooth beech trees were cut down and hewn for the runners, and many green beechwood poles for skids. Prying up the house, they placed it on the runners, with the skids beneath. How queer the old house looked loosed from her mooring! She was setting out on her first journey pretty late in life.

With the heavy log chains, each link as big as a man's thumb, they chained her to the runners, and then hitched fast the twenty yoke of oxen and steers, in two long lines, one at each runner. Men and boys, stationed with levers, awaited orders.


" Go! "

Slowly the two long lines of oxen straighten; the great creatures settle into their bows; the chains around the runners tighten; the strain continues-but look! something has given way! A chain has broken! There's a delay while it is mended. Presently the work is resumed. Again the command:


Gads are flourished. Shouting lustily, the men urge on their teams, laying their "buds" on harder and harder. The excitement grows intense. The oxen bend to their work; their eyes bulge; their nostrils widen; the commands from the drivers rise to a discordant Babel. The old house creaks; she groans as if alive; she starts; she moves; and, once in motion, moves away to the orchard "as nimbly as a boy on a hand-sled," while the onlookers cheer mightily.


Haying in John's time, lacking modem machinery, was a thirty days' war, or more, and had something of the urge and excitement of battle. The work required many "hands" who came from near and far. Good mowers would quit their regular work, and, with scythe over shoulder, go about from farm to farm to help with the haying. Wages for this work were extra good, and the men were expected to work extra hard. They had a certain pride about it, too; the boys soon caught the fever -hay fever, shall we say? -- and were eager to do their stunts as well as the men.

The hay-makers were usually in the meadows working an hour or two before breakfast. With a stroke level and sure, they cut a wide swath, leaving no spears standing. There is a rigid etiquette of the hay field which John learned in his teens: One must not take another's swath; each has his turn as leader; it is not good hay-manners to mow too close to your neighbour, unless driven by the man behind. When one mower tries to put another through, that other, not to be out-done, follows close, and a heated race is on.

What a picturesque sight of a midsummer afternoon as the mowers move amid the ripening grain! and when, toward sundown, the smooth slopes, shaven and shorn, are dotted with haycocks! The great stack is built in the meadow, a man atop of it taking the forkfuls of hay from the pitchers below. But when the hay is mowed away in the loft, the picturesqueness is as hard to find as a needle in a haystack-it is just a hot, dusty, tiresome job!

John worked at spreading and raking hay long before he was old enough to take a turn at the mowing. But when he was fifteen or sixteen he could hold his swath against any youth of his age in any field, and even with some of the men, although on quitting for the nooning, his knees would shake under him from his sturdy efforts at keeping up with the men.

When the scythes got dull he had to turn the grindstone while Hiram ground them. At the best that was no picnic, but how he dreaded to see Uncle Ezekiel come to help with the haying! for he carried a gin bottle in his pocket, and after resorting to it a few times, mowed stones as readily as grass. The grown-up boy nowadays points to a field near Woodchuck Lodge and says, "Uncle Zeke cut the tops off all those stones in that field there, and I had to turn the grindstone!"

Haying always comes in the hottest weather. Many a time John fairly panted for breath in the hay-field. When it got unbearable, if they were anywhere near the swimming-hole, he dropped his scythe and took a dip, not stopping to remove his scanty clothing which was scarcely wetter when he came out than when he went in. And Oh! the delight of those pauses in the mowing, when they would stop and draw out the jug of spring water from its place in the shade, each mower in turn putting it to his sweaty lips and taking long draughts! They knew nothing about germs in those days and, blissfully ignorant, shared and shared alike with the little brown jug under the swath.

At ten o'clock, resting under a tree, and looking out over the quivering air of the fields, they ate their snack of rye bread and butter, with perhaps a cucumber and a doughnut to top off with. Thus fortified, on they mow till twelve, when summoned by the dinner horn, all hands hurry to the house. Washing up at the watering-trough, and taking their turn at the roller-towel, they seat themselves unceremoniously at the long table amid much clatter, raillery and guffaws.

The women bustle in with the heaped-up dishes; the hungry men fall to and attack the food. Now and then one reaches with his long arm, pieced out by his fork, and spears a slice of bread. Generous pieces of pie, cheese, doughnuts, and other eatables go the way of all the other food, arid, wiping their mouths on the backs of their hands, and shoving back their chairs, they scatter, some going out on the doorstones, others, leaning against the wall in tilted chairs, smoke or keep silent, until the" boss" gives the signal to return to the fields.


In the fall and winter John and his brothers threshed oats and rye on the floor of the barn that stood out in the field, called the barn on the hill.

"John, I want you and Curtis to go out and thresh five or six shocks this morning," his father would say at the breakfast table.

A shock was fifteen sheaves.

Filling their pockets with apples, the boys start out and tackle the job: Laying the sheaves down with their heads together in two long rows, they set-to with the flail-the instrument for beating grain from the sheaves. It was a straight, strong, hickory hand-staff to which hung, by means of a leathern thong, a wooden swipple, two and a half feet long, and about three inches in circumference, the swipple being the part with which the beating was done.

What a flapping and a pounding they gave those heads of oats and rye! what a jolly noise it made as the flails chased each other through the air! and what fun it wasfor a little while. But the dust filled their nostrils and settled on their clothes and in their hair, and, somehow, the fun was done long before the stunt was.

When they had threshed a flooring, the straw was bound into bundles, the grain being left in a pile till enough accumulated, when it was ran through the fanning-mill.

Threshing was a far more agreeable process to watch than to engage in. John delighted in watching them thresh buckwheat in the open: The men would spread the ruddy sheaves on a broad flat rock, or on a level piece of ground, and set to with a will. What a picture they made beating out the grain! and what a loud thud they made! and when there were three or four beating together, it was a continuous roll of sound. Threshers had to be very deft to keep from hitting, or being hit, with those swinging flails.

Out in the autumn sunshine it was lively and interesting work, but the dullest of drudgery in winter when, day after day, on dry cold days the boys, or, what was worse, one boy, would be sent to pound away by himself on the barn floor with the flail.

John remembers hearing of a suitor of his sister, Olly Ann, who threshed for them one fall -- a man of prodigious strength who could shoulder a barrel of flour. He threshed fourteen shocks of oats in one day-an unheard-of thing! Jonathan had looked upon Olly Ann and had found her as beautiful and well-favoured as Jacob had found Rachael, and would fain impress Farmer Burroughs with his industry, and Olly Ann with his great strength, and so the fourteen shocks had seemed unto him but a few sheaves, for the love he had for her; but, alas! the maiden did not look with favour upon the sturdy Jonathan, and the sound of his flail was heard from the barn on the hill no more.


It Lives there a boy, a live boy, anywhere who does not like apples? -- green apples, sour apples, crab apples, the poorest seedlings, even frozen apples-any of these will do in want of better ones, for an apple's an apple, even though there are apples and apples to the real apple connoisseur.

An apple is full of sunshine, and full of sugar-try those brown, juicy frozen ones that you find hanging on the bare trees in winter if you don't believe it. The apple is a rose when it blossoms, and a rose when it's ripe, so says the man who learned to be an expert judge of apples when a boy. He had apples in his blood and in his bones. The apple lured him, as it did Mother Eve, into forbidden regions, even into Neighbour Scudder's orchards where special favourites grew. He was invariably apple hungry when a boy.

The very sound of the apple dropping in the orchard was music to his ear; the siren winked at him with its single eye; it nodded to him from the boughs; it beckoned to him from afar; he willingly helped store it in the cellar in the fall, and fill the apple-hole in the back-yard, later in the season. On his tramps over the hills he crammed his pockets with apples: taking one out he would toy with it, rub it round and round, press it to his cheek, fumble it in his pocket, smell it, toss it in the air, roll it on the ground, and, in due time, eat it; and then he would eat another, and another, and another.

Apple-gathering almost ranked with sugar-making as a work that was three-quarters pastime. In the mellow October days, piling the bags and bushel baskets on the wagons, they drove over to that part of the home-farm called the Rundle Place, and gathered the fruit from both upper and lower orchards. What delightful work to sort the red and green and golden piles and fill the bags, and then the cellar bins!

Later in the season, some were put into the apple-hole. Some also went into special nests in the hay-mow where they lay and mellowed and, in dwindling numbers, awaited the frequent visits of the apple-misers who had hid them there; but if old Brindle, as sometimes happened, got her nose through the open door, she quickly smelled out the hidden hoard and made short work of it.

This is the way they made the apple-hole: Digging a shallow pit about a foot deep, and perhaps five feet in diameter, they spread in it a thick layer of rye-straw and dumped the apples in, many basketfuls, the hardiest, choicest varieties. They piled them up to as steep a peak as they could and still have them stay put.

How good they looked-the Greenings, the Spitzenburgs, the Northern Spies, the Tallman Sweets, the Swaars, the Kings, the Russets, the Belle-flowers!

Covering them all round, close and warm, in a coat of rye-straw, and spreading over this a layer of dirt so as to hide the straw, they also added, before winter set in, an overcoat of dry stable manure; the winter snows completed the covering. No frost could penetrate to the garnered fruit, and there it lay till spring, growing in grace and flavour in the darkness and silence.

As the supply in the cellar bins got low toward spring, the boys would attack the apple-hole. Taking a spade and an axe, they penetrated through snow and frozen earth till reaching the coat of straw, a little dingy and the worse for wear, but still serviceable; then, thrusting in their arms and mining for their favourites they drew them forth, crisp and cold, and glad to see the daylight again!


When the time for cider-making came round the boys sorted out the inferior apples, even the rotten and wormeaten ones, and took them over to the Gould farm in the West Settlement, where Jay Gould's father, who was the only farmer in that region owning one, had a cider-press.

The apples were first crushed in a mill. The horse, hitched to a sweep that turned the wooden cylinders, walked round and round. The crushed fruit was shovelled up to form the "cheese "-a layer of straw, a layer of apples, a layer of straw, a layer of apples, over and over, this was the "cheese." The press was then put on and screwed down, the mass yielding the amber juice that ran down a groove into a tub. Leaving it over night, they came back the next day and barrelled it up.

When the gimlet-holes were bored in the barrels for vents, the boys, armed with long straws, with bellies on barrels, lay and sucked up the delicious juice till too full for utterance. While hauling the barrels home they smacked their lips in anticipation of further delights. The contents would enliven many an autumn evening in the old kitchen!


Among the Snow Walkers on which the Burroughs boys kept a sharp eye were the raccoons that would come out early in the spring, lean and hungry, from their dens under the rocks, so much in want of food that they even came around the barns and outbuildings.

One morning in early spring, before daylight, the boys, hearing Cuff bark vociferously, knowing what was up, quickly got into their clothesWilson, Curtis, Eden, and John; and, on rushing out, found Cuff standing at the foot of an ash tree not more than thirty rods from the house. The dog was looking up into the tree and complaining sharply at the tardiness of the boys; and well he might! For there on one of the bare branches clung a big threatening 'coon!

Wilson, the boldest of the "bunch," shinned up the tree to shake the 'coon down, while Cuff bounded and barked with delight as he saw him climb. When he got within ten feet of the 'coon, seizing the branch on which it clung, he shook it long and vigorously, but to no purpose. Wilson was in greater danger of losing his hold than was the 'coon of its. Moreover, the 'coon growled and showed unmistakable signs of advancing on the enemy, causing Wilson to go down much faster than he went up.

They finally brought the rascal down with the gun, but for some moments it fought the dog fiercely, returning bite for bite, giving up the ghost only after it had been shaken unmercifully by Cuff and bitten clean through the small of its back!

" The raccoon is clear grit," says John, in rehearsing the incident. "He never shows the white feather. He is probably the most courageous of all our wild animals."

It was in the fall that cooning was such a pastime. Then the creatures were desirably fat and sweet-fleshed from their raids on the corn fields.

One moonless October night the boys and the 'coon dog started out in search of the nocturnal thieves, stealthily creeping near the ravaged fields at the east end of the farm.

" Hunt 'em up, Cuff, hunt 'em up! " they called as they sent in the dog; and Cuff went rattling through the corn; but the 'coons escaped on the opposite side of the field, displacing a stone which rattled loudly as they made for the nearest woods.

Presently the dog struck the trail and, clattering over the wall, entered the woods. One or two short barks, then all was still, for the dog barks very little when on the trail. But when the barking became loud and continuous -- a baying sound-they knew that Cuff had treed his 'coon.

Pell-mell up the hill and into the woods they rushed in the darkness, falling over logs, pitching into hollows, one losing his hat, another tearing his clothes, and all so wildly excited by Cuff's mad barking that they stopped, breathless, only on reaching the tree.

Making a light they try to shine his eyes, but the 'coon is either too well hidden, or too knowing to look at the light, and, as the tree is too large to fell, their only course is to sit at its base and wait till light enough to see their quarry. Hiram and Curtis go home, but Wilson and John stick it out till morning, when Wilson brings the captive down with ready skill, Cuff frankly and emphatically expressing his approval when Wilson slings the 'coon's warm body over his shoulder. As the sleepy boys and triumphant dog march home, their mouths water at the thought of the roast 'coon that is soon coming to them.


One of the winter joys in the Catskills was the wild cry of the fox on the mountains. John used to go out and stand in front of the house on still moonlight nights in winter and listen to that weird call, uttered at intervals, almost seeming to see the wily creature up there on the shoulder of Old Clump, sitting on the snow in his furs.

Sometimes as he listened he would hear the voice of an other fox answering amid the ghostly winter hills.

The long, trumpet-like baying of the hound on the mountain was music to John's ears. Sometimes it could be heard for a mile or more; now it comes near, now recedes, or is lost entirely, as the dog pushes on or descends into a gully; again it comes nearer and is loud and sharp, only to be lost yet again as the hound moves farther and farther away. The fox seems to enjoy the chase as much as does the hound which he lures on from spur to spur of the mountain. Confident of his superior fleetness, he even seems to wait for the dog; he sits down and listens; he stops for a mouse; he crosses and recrosses' and doubles on his track, apparently chuckling at thus perplexing his pursuer. But when the snow is very deep, or wet, it is the hound that laughs last, for then the fox's tail gets so be draggled he is forced to be a quitter, and take refuge in his den. When caught, they say, a fox "looks too cut up for anything."

John used to practise for fox-hunting by aiming at pumpkins which the other boys would roll down " Steepside." One day when he thought himself skilled enough to a bag Reynard, he took the old musket and followed Spot they could, on the mountain. As the hound started on the scent, burying his nose in the snow, he drew a deep breath and gave a snort; the scent being but faint at first, he wagged his tail in silence; but on coming upon more convincing evidence, he let out a melodious bay and was off.

On finding the run-way of the fox, John waited there a long while, gun in hand, but, no fox appearing and becoming chilled and benumbed, he rested the butt on the ground, keeping his hand on the barrel, and waited some more. Presently something stirred. Not fifty feet away a superb red fox, a large male, his massive tail tipped with white, came into view.

So startled was the lad and so fascinated at the sight of that yellow pumpkin that was not a pumpkin, as the handsome creature came loping along, that he stood motionless, gazing in amazement and admiration while Sir Fox gracefully disappeared over a knoll!

Aroused too late to his duty as a sportsman, feeling cheap enough, and out of humour as well, John trudged off home, mentally cursing hounds and foxes generally, and himself in particular. The worst was when he told his brothers about it:

"Why didn't you shoot, you goose!" asked his brothers, and all the answer the mortified lad could think of was, "B-b-because I had my m-mmitten on," and for years thereafter that mitten was thrust in his face.

"Did you have your mitten on, John?" Curtis would ask tauntingly if John failed in any undertaking.


It is about fifty years since the passenger pigeons have frequented our fields and groves, but in John's boyhood they could be seen in myriads passing over his father's farm. There were millions of them then because the conditions of climate and food favoured their increase. They did not tarry long in one place to tempt their enemies, but came and went like the summer clouds, not always every year, but every beech-nut year.

John used to watch their vast armies passing over, and listen to their tender, childlike calls. Sometimes the sky was actually darkened with them.

One day in early spring when they began to pour down in the beechwoods, he seized his musket, and running up the road, crept along behind the stone wall till within a few yards of the swarm of fluttering birds. The air, the woods, and the ground were blue with them; they whirled, and rushed, and fluttered, and cooed, as they moved about picking up the sprouting beechnuts. The ground seemed a yard deep with pigeons. The excited boy pointed his gun at the surging mass, then sat motionless, spell-bound -had the whole world turned to pigeons? Why did he not shoot? Still they came pouring down from the sky, and still the boy sat there waiting, his eye travelling along the gun-barrel, his whole being under a spell.

Suddenly they arose! With a rush and a roar they were gone! and then the dazed dreamer came to his senses!

There was no pigeon pot-pie that day for dinner in the Burroughs home, but one wonders whether the luckless hunter did not, after all, bag more birds that day in the beechen woods than if he had sent his deadly shot into the fluttering masses.

Pot-hunters and netters are responsible for the extermination of those beautiful birds. Though so abundant, they could not withstand the ruthlessness of the hunters. John used to hear of vast hordes of pigeons in other parts of the Catskills, especially in the Neversink valley; they nested in the trees over a tract many miles in extent, and there the greedy gunners thronged, making a perfect fusillade as they slaughtered them by tens of thousands.

It was the custom of the female to sit on the nest till noon, when the male would come and "spell" her; knowing this, the merciless hunters timed their attacks so as to kill them both. The birds that escaped went on with incubation as though nothing had happened, but countless nests were thus broken up. This continued for years, and then the birds began to take wider and wider range in search of food. Their last great nesting-grounds on record were certain localities in Michigan, where a fearful slaughter of them was made.

The hunters also set nets for them: After baiting them for awhile, they would hide in bough shelters, with ropes running from their nets to the bough houses; thus entrapping tens of thousands. Any of our other birds might share the fate of the passenger pigeon if our game laws failed to protect each species.

Instead of protecting the birds, there were in John's boyhood some states that even protected the conscienceless hunters: Massachusetts in 1848 passed a law protecting the netters of wild pigeons, and levying a fine upon any one who frightened the birds from the nests! but in 1870 it passed a law protecting pigeons-birds which had once been sold in its streets for a cent apiece! It is said that in the town of Hartford, Michigan, in 1869, there was a daily shipment of three carloads of pigeons for forty days, and that two years later, in another town in the same state, there were marketed 15,840,999 birds! The shipping records early in the nineteenth century show that every great market from St. Louis to Boston received hundreds of thousands of barrels of pigeons in one season.

The last wild pigeon Mr. Burroughs ever saw was in April, 1875, and that year seems to be the time when wild pigeons were last seen in great numbers anywhere in the United States, only a few in scattered flocks having been reported as observed later. It is believed that a female wild pigeon born in 1885, raised in captivity by the Cincinnati Zoological Society, and dying in 1914, was the last of the race.

Every little while, from various parts of the country, come reports of one or two of these birds having been seen, but on investigation they are usually found to be mourning-doves. In 1910, or thereabouts, several persons earnestly concerned in saving the wild pigeons, if they were indeed not extinct (Mr. Burroughs among the number), offered rewards amounting to over two thousand dollars for an undisturbed nest of wild pigeons anywhere in North America. Although the offer held good for two years. none of the rewards were ever claimed, many supposed "finds," on investigation, proving to be mourning-doves. The mourning-dove is about four inches shorter than the wild pigeon and seven inches less in spread of wings. It lacks the blue tint about the head and the reddish undersurface of the persecuted bird, and it never gathers in flocks for nesting purposes, though it may be seen in small flocks in winter.

Mr. Burroughs says it would be one of the gladdest hours of his life if he could again see the spring and fall migrations of the passenger pigeon.


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