WHEN THE WILD WOOD CALLS
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WHEN THE WILD WOOD CALLS

WHEN THE WILD WOOD CALLS




      

WHEN THE WILD WOOD CALLS


WHEN THE WILD WOOD CALLS

By Walter S. Chansler

THE gentle zephyrs are whispering to the budding trees the sweet message that spring is near. Down in the swamp the din of the frogs assures us that spring is on its way. Spring! spring! spring! call the piping voices from the sylvan swamp. From the dead and blackened timber comes the Rap! rap! tap-tap-tap! of the woodpeckers and the lonesome wail of a screech owl comes drifting to us on the soft, sighing breeze, as this little feathered creature stirs in a restless manner on his perch in the evergreen down in the deep woods. The sap is rising in the trees, and there is a {eel of spring in the air. Nature herself has spring in her heart!

Down in the woods the daisies, bluebells and crocuses nod their welcome to the gentle breezes. The white fleecy clouds, drifting lazily in the clear, blue sky, far above the sylvan landscape, cast fleeting shadows over hill and dell, like the transient troubles that momentarily mar the human life. The pink bloom of the red bud down by the little brook appears in striking contrast with the green of the witch-hazel. The maple buds are swelling and the air is filled with the humming of busy bees. Wild water fowl are winging their way across the cloud flecked sky toward their nesting grounds farther north. The wood folk are—each one in his own way—showing the gladness of their hearts in appreciation of the joyous tidings brought by the gentle zephyrs from the land of perpetual slimmer. All nature is persistently assertive of her presence.

As we stand beneath the spreading branches of the great oaks in the deep woods, we are moved impressively by the vastness of the forces of Nature. The beauty and harmony of the activities of Nature are awe-inspiring and we marvel at the facility with which these activities are performed. But why meditate on the impressiveness of Nature's activities when the voice of Nature is calling—calling us from the harsh world of discord to the realm of harmony and beauty? The rippling waters of the woodland stream; the flood of bird-song; the gentle breezes sighing among the leafless branches of the tall trees; the sweet scented flowers nodding in the balmy breeze; the fleecy clouds floating in the deep blue sky; the piping voices of the frogs down in the swamp; the bursting buds; all these appeal to our sense of admiration and impress us with the sublimity of Nature. In a thicket of sprouts and briars a rabbit sits nibbling at the tender blades of grass just peeping through the dead leaves that carpet the ground, and at our approach she scurries away through the sprouts and underbrush, striking the ground a resounding whack! with her hind foot in a bold attempt to frighten us. Searching carefully among the daisies on a moss grown bank beneath the great oak trees we find a snug nest lined with rabbits' fur and containing six of the prettiest little creatures one most ever saw. Deeply interested in the tiny creatures, we become oblivious to our surroundings until startled by an abrupt thud! in the leaves close beside us, then quickly turning we catch a glimpse of a streak of grayish brown vanishing in the dense undergrowth just beyond the flower-strewn bank. The mother has returned and is trying to frighten us. Again that sudden thud comes from a clump of hazel bushes just beyond the fringe of ferns to our right, and peering through the tangled undergrowth we see a rabbit watching us, with a look of questioning doubt in her big lucid eyes. Anxiously she watches every move we make, no doubt suffering untold mental anguish all the while. Carefully replacing the covering of soft fur over the tiny creatures, and feeling we have no cause to further prolong the mother's anguish, we quietly withdraw from the vicinity of the nest, thankful for the opportunity of observing this bit of wild life.

We are attracted to a little glade by a flood of bird-song; brown thrashers, wood pewees, red-winged blackbirds, cardinal grosbeaks, robins, bluebirds, song sparrows and wrens are pouring forth melodies of such sweetness and happiness as can come only from hearts in harmony with the spirit of nature. How gentle and soothing are the notes of the wild birds melodies! Listen to the soft, sweet notes of the wood pewee! The song of this bird is a sure and reliable prognostic of the coming of balmy breezes, gentle sunshine and blossoming flowers. The plaintive call of the mourning dove is telling us of cloudless skies and blossoming flowers; like the bluebird, he, too, is a harbinger of spring, but unlike the bluebirds, his voice, and not his presence, is the prognostic sign. We listen for the soft, persuasive song of the redeyed vireo, but are unable to hear the voice of this charming little songster. He is yet far away in the land of flowers and sunshine—old King Boreas has too recently relinquished his reign throughout the land for Nature to touch the little vireo's heart too deeply with the spirit of migration. He is probably on the way; but he loves the leafly boughs of the trees too well to forge ahead into leafless woods. He will comes with the butterflies, the beetles, and the green leaves, and when the trees expand their leaves to the warm spring sunshine, and the shadows deepen in the dense foliage, his song will swell the melodies in the woodland retreats. Seating ourselves on a weather-beaten stump beneath a large maple tree, we are dimly conscious of the activities of Nature about us. A saucy squirrel sits on a dead limb, on a large oak tree just across the brook, scolding us for intruding in his sacred domain. He sits staring at us a moment as if doubting the forms on the moss-covered stump being a part of the natural landscape and at a slight movement on our part, he flips his tail in pure derision—as if to say: "I told you so"—and scampers up the tree to a hole just below a broken limb near the top. A little wood mouse pokes his head out from beneath a partial decayed log—his protruding, bead-like eyes gleaming in the deep shadows like those of a venomous adder—and stares at us in wonder. A little screech owl, sitting in a low evergreen directly before us with his head drawn down between his shoulders, keeps blinking at us in blank astonishment, his cat-like eyes a-gleam with that innocent expression so characteristic of the owl family.

As we sit musing on the moss-covered stump in the deep woods, these beautiful lines of William Cullen Bryant keep ringing in our ears:

To him who, in the love of Nature, holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language; for his gayer hours She has a voice of gladness and a smile And eloquence of beauty; and she glides Into his darker musings with a mild And gentle sympathy, that steals away Their sharpness, ere he is aware.

We are aroused from our lethargy by the clear call of Bob White, the quail, coming from a briar patch down the brook. Cautiously approaching the spot from whence the call issued, we are suddenly startled by the sound of whirring wings, and Mr. Bob White goes whirring away, and is soon lost to view in the tangled undergrowth. We do not follow him. Oh, no' Our interest is centered in that briar patch. In our search for Mr. Bob White we espied a fine lot of mushrooms growing on a fern-strewn bank, near the base of a large elm tree. Dozens of fine specimens of this fungus peep out from among the dwarf ferns. We proceed to gather a quantity of this delicious delicacy, carefully breaking the stem from the root in such a manner as to leave the root intact, that it may reproduce itself for future gatherings. Placing them in a neat heap at the base of the large elm tree, and covering them with a thickness of dead leaves to preserve their tenderness and freshness, we become so absorbed in the work that we lose all consciousness of the presence of the living creatures about us; the calls of the birds; the noisy squirrels; the din of the frogs down in the swamp; these sounds of Nature are unnoticed and unheard.

"Tisk-a-dee! Tisk-a-dee dee dee!" comes the cheery bird-voice from a dead limb on the elm tree just above our heads. Our ears at once resume their normal functioning. Who could be deaf to such a cheerful call? Like the botolink, the little chickadee has a heart always overflowing with joy and happiness. The sky may be overcast with dark clouds, and the recesses of the deep woods cast in gloom; the voices of the wood-folk may be hushed by the deep silence of an impending storm, when all the activities of Nature seem to cease and hang in suspense, awaiting the approach of the Storm Gods; yet the cheery "Tisk-a-dee dee dec!" ol this little bird breaks the deep silence of the forest gloom, like the flash of pearly teeth through smiling lips.

At our feet are several clusters of blossoming daisies, yet un-kissed, at this late hour, by the morning sunshine. Large, pearl-like drops o' dew adorn the delicately formed blossoms ami sparkle in the subdued light of the deep woods like costly gems. The little pinkish-white blossoms sparkling with dew, as seen against the background of velvet-like moss, remind one of twinkling stars far away in the deep blue heavens; the large yellow dandelion blossom here by the tree is the moon; that portion of the moss-covered bank so thickly strewn with the little pinkish-white blossoms of the daisy is the milky-way, and the purple blossoms of the violets showing in bold contrast with the paler coloring of the moss are the planets. The tuft of tall dead grass here close by the "milky-way" may well be likened to a comet, and by stretching the imagination to the limit, we may liken the subdued light about the flower-strewn bank to the darkness of night, and our "star-lit heavens" are complete.

We are attracted to the brooding the subdued murmur of the rippling waters rushing over the pebbly surface of the brook-bed! Many small fishes are swimming about in the clear waters, and the piping voices of the frogs come drifting; to our expectant ears on the gentle, perfume laden breeze. The bluebells nodding in the breeze on the farther bank of the little brook seem to beckon to their image down in the water below them, and the trees extend their branches over the waters, as if endeavoring to clasp hands with their neighbors across the brook. The image of the white fleecy clouds down in the clear blue waters, reminds one of masses of ice floating in the water, or submarine ships squaring for action.

Strolling about the woods and by the brook, we have been unconscious of the swift passing of time, and now looking at our timepiece we are surprised to learn that the day is old and that the sun has passed the meridian and is slowly descending through the trackless southwestern sky—calling us from the realm of harmony back to a world of discord.

Knox County, Indiana.

Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.

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