I T would be hard to tell which family is the most important among the farmyard people. There is no one animal so wise as Collie, the farmer's dog, and all the rest love him and mind him when he is sent to bring them up from the pasture or to drive them to the water. Still, he does not spend his days in barn or field and only comes with his master or for a visit now and then.
You may remember how the Garter Snake and the old
There were also the Horses, fine strong creatures, always helping somebody else and working all day during most of the year. They drew the reaper through the tall grain, and where in the morning had been a field of waving golden wheat, at sunset were bundles or sheaves of gathered grain, and the stubble was ready for the fowls. They were busy people; and sometimes during the winter they liked to remind their neighbors how much they had done.
Then again, there were the Cows, who are the sisters of
the Oxen. They are large
and there are many of them, yet they are not so wise,
and that is easily understood.
All that they have to do on the farm is to give milk
for the butter- and
Truly, it would be hard to say which farmyard family is
the most important, but
there is no trouble at all in telling which family
think themselves the most so. If
you ask any Goose, she will tell you that one of their
flock is worth five Horses or
a dozen Cows. Nobody else would tell you this, and if
you should speak of it to the
span of Bays, or the
There has always been a flock of Geese on the
farm, and their neighbors are so
used to their queer ways that they only smile when the
Geese put on airs, and it is
Perhaps the Nigh Ox was right in what he said, for
certainly after they have worn
their feathers all winter, they hold their heads higher
than ever, and tell what
they think and what they would do, and it is well they
should be reminded that they
work for a living like all their neighbors. The
farmer's wife never plucks the
Geese until warm weather comes. Then she takes all the
soft, short feathers that
they have worn through the winter, and this leaves them
looking very ragged indeed.
There was a time, years ago, when Geese had to give up
their long tail- and
"Ssssss!" the Gander used to say, "if the farmer's boys must have feather pillows on which to lay their heads, why do they not grow their own feathers?"
"Humph!" said the Nigh Ox once; "If you must have oats to eat, why don't you grow the oats?" But the Gander was already waddling away and pretended not to hear him.
It is in the winter that the Geese put on the most
airs. Then, when the Horses are
being harnessed, they say to each other, "Dear me!
Wouldn't it be dreadful to work
in that way for a living?" And sometimes, when the
team is hitched to a post by the
farmhouse, they waddle
past in a single line with
the Gander at the head, and
say to the Horses: "Hear you have to take a load of
wood to town. It's too bad.
Hope you won't get very tired. We are going to the
river for a nice cold swim.
Every winter the Geese forget about having to be plucked, and every spring they are surprised to lose their feathers. They are plucked four times before fall comes, and these four times come so near together that even they can remember from one to another. You would think that then they would not be so airy, but instead of saying, "Of course we work for our living—why shouldn't we?" they say, "Why, yes, we do let the farmer's wife have some of our feathers when she wants them. We suppose you might call it work to grow feathers for her, still it does not take much of our time, and it is quite different from drawing loads and getting tired as the Horses and Oxen do. Growing feathers is genteel."
They do not remember anything long, and so, when they
have made a mistake once, they
are likely to make the same mistake over and over
again. Then, too, they cannot
tell big things from little things, and they are not
happy unless they can have
their own way all the time. And you know that nobody
can be sure of that. It all
comes of their not being willing to think hard, and
sometimes it makes them a great
deal of trouble, as it did on the day when the
This was soon after the Gander and his wife had hatched
their brood of seven
Goslings, and they were taking them at
the brook. It was a happy day
for all the flock. The Gander and the
The gate from the farmyard into the meadow stood wide
open, and all the Geese except
the Gray one followed the Gander through. The
The gray goose tried to go through.
"Wait for me," she cried. "Wait for me-ee!"
"Hurry, then," said the Gander.
"I am hurrying," she cried, and she pushed with all her strength, but since the hole in the fence was so small, she did not get any farther than before.
"Go through the gateway," said the Nigh Ox, who was grazing near by.
"Sssss!" said the Gray Goose stiffly. "I would rather go through here. I have chosen to go this way."
"Oh!" said the Nigh Ox, "excuse me! Do go through there by all means!"
"We are going on," called the Gander; "we would wait, but the Goslings are in a hurry to take their first bath. Come as soon as you can."
The Gray Goose tried harder than ever to go the way
that she had chosen, but it only
made her so out of breath that she had to lie down and
rest. Once she thought she
heard somebody laugh, yet
when she looked at the
Down by the brook the rest of the flock were cackling merrily, and she could see the seven Goslings swimming with the Geese and the Gander. "Oh," she cried, "how I wish I were with them! I don't see what is the matter with this hole in the fence. The farmer ought to make it bigger."
She pushed and scolded and fussed until her neck was sore and she was too tired to swim if she had a chance, so she sat down to rest. She did remember what the Nigh Ox had said; still, if she couldn't go as she had planned, she wouldn't go at all. She walked into the barn to find a cool and shady place, lowering her head as she stepped over the threshold of the high front door.
"What did you do that for?" twittered a Swallow.
"Because I don't want to hit my head on the top of the doorway," she replied. "I always do so. All of our flock do so."
"Tittle-ittle-ittle-ee," laughed the Swallow, as she
darted away and alighted on the
fence by the
"Because she can't push her fat body through that hole
in the fence," said the
"Why doesn't she go through the gateway, then?" asked the Swallow.
"Because she says she would rather go the other way, and that if she can't go that way, she won't go at all."
"And she is missing all that fun?" said the Swallow.
"All of it," answered the Nigh Ox, "but then, you know, she is such a Goose!"