Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
OT far from the home of the Rabbits was another burrow
where the Ground Hog lived, and there was a very kindly
feeling between the neighbors. They liked the same
food, and as there was plenty for all, they often
nibbled together near the edge of the forest. The
little Rabbits were fond of him and liked
listen to his stories. Once the biggest little rabbit
had run into the Ground Hog's burrow by mistake when he
was frightened, and that was the beginning of a great
friendship between them.
They were a queer-looking couple,
for the Rabbit was
small and quick and dainty, while the Ground Hog, with
his stout body covered with thick, reddish fur, his
broad, flat head, and his short legs, was a clumsy
fellow. To be sure, he could get out of sight quickly
if he had to, but he never scampered around and kicked
up his heels for the fun of it, as the Rabbits did. He
was too dignified to do that. He came of an old family
and he could remember who his grandfather was. There
were but few people in the forest who could do that;
so, of course, he could not frisk like his neighbors.
Perhaps if the Ground Hog had not belonged to so old a
family, he might
have had a better time. Yet the
thought that he could remember his grandfather was a
great pleasure to him, and when he was talking he would
often remark in the most careless way, "as my
grandfather used to say"; or, "That reminds me of
something my grandfather once did." Some people said
that he did this to show off; but it may be that they
However that may have been, the Ground Hog was
certainly a haughty fellow, and if he had not been so
gentle and kind a neighbor people would not have liked
him. Only once had he been known to get angry, and
that was when a saucy young Chipmunk had spoken of him
as a Woodchuck. "Woodchuck! Woodchuck!" he had
grunted. "You young Bushy-tail,
I am a Ground Hog, and
the Ground Hog family lived in this forest long before
you ever opened your eyes. People with good manners do
call us 'Woodchucks.' We do not like the
name. My grandfather could not endure it."
It was not very long after this that he told the
wondering young Rabbits about his grandfather. When
talking, the Ground Hog rested by the edge of his
burrow, sitting on his haunches, and waving his queer
little forepaws whenever he told anything especially
important. And this was the story:
"Perhaps you may have heard me speak of my grandfather.
Ah, he was a Ground Hog worth seeing! He was large,
and, although when I knew him the black fur on his back
was streaked with gray, he was still handsome. He was
clever, too. I have often heard my father say that he
could dig the deepest and best burrow in the forest.
And then he had such fine manners! There was not
another Ground Hog in the country around who could eat
as noisily as he, and it is said that when he
courting my grandmother she chose him because of the
elegant way in which he sat up on his haunches. I have
been told, children, that I am very much like him."
Just here, a Red-headed Woodpecker gave a loud
"Rat-a-tat-tat" on the tree above
the Ground Hog's
head, and there was a look around her bill as though
she wanted to laugh. The Ground Hog slowly turned his
head to look at her as she flew away. "Quite a
good-looking young person," he said, "but badly brought
up. She should know better than to disturb those who
are talking. What was I saying, children?"
"You were telling how well your grandfather sat up on
his haunches," said the smallest little Rabbit.
"So I was! So I was! I must tell you how my
grandfather came to know the world so well. When he
was only a young fellow, he made his home for a time
by a Hen house, and so heard the talk of the
barn-yard people. Once he heard them tell how the
farmer watched on a certain winter day to see my
grandfather come out of his burrow. Of course, you
children all know how we Ground Hogs do; in the fall we
are very fat, and when the cold weather comes we go to
sleep in our burrows to wait for spring. Sometimes we
awaken and stretch, but we go to sleep again very soon.
Then, when spring comes we are slender and have healthy
"The Hens treated my grandfather with great politeness,
and the Black Brahma Cock showed plainly how honored
they felt to have him there. They said that they were
so glad my grandfather stayed out of his burrow awhile
on this winter day when the farmer was watching,
because they were in a hurry for warm weather. My
grandfather did not know what they meant by that, but
he was too
wise to say so, and he found out by
asking questions, that if a Ground Hog leaves his
burrow on this certain day in winter, and sees his
shadow, and goes back again, it will be cold for a long
time after that. If he does not see his shadow, and
stays out, it will soon be warm.
"You see now, children, how important our family is;
and yet we are so modest that we had not even known
that we made the weather until the Hens told my
grandfather. But that is the way! Really great people
often think the least of themselves."
"And do you make the weather?" asked the smallest
"I suppose we do," said the Ground Hog, with a smile.
"It is a great care. I often say to myself: 'Shall I
have it warm, or shall I have it cold?' It worries me
so that sometimes I can hardly eat."
"And how do you know when the day comes for you to make
the weather?" said the smallest little rabbit.
"Ahem! Well-er! I am sorry to say that my
grandfather did not find out exactly what day it is
that they watch for us, so I have to guess at that.
But to think that we Ground Hogs make the weather for
all the other people! It is worth a great deal to
belong to such a family. I suppose I might have been a
Weasel, a Fox, an Owl, or an Oriole. And it is a great
thing to have known one's grandfather."
The little Rabbits sat very still, wishing that they
had known their grandfather, when suddenly the biggest
one said: "If you should stay out of your burrow when
that day comes, and another Ground Hog should go back
into his burrow, how would the weather know what to
"Children," said the old Ground Hog, "I think your
mother is calling to you. You might better go to see.
Good-by." And he waved his paw politely.
The seven little Rabbits scampered
their mother was not calling them. She
there, and when they went back they
couldn't find the
Ground Hog. They wondered how he happened to make such
a mistake. The Red-headed Woodpecker who came along at
about that time, twisted her head on one side and said:
Rat-a-tat-tat! Not he!"