Ernest Thompson Seton.

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NY PUBLIC L BRARY THE BRANCH LIBRARIES



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THE STORY OF

AGRAYSQUIRREL



With 100 Drawings
by

Ernest Thompson Seton



WildAmniais Ihavc ftnpwn
Trail o^^-SahdhJII Stag;
Biography of a GrizcJi^
Lives of the hunted
Monarch the Big Sear

t

Neuu VJorK

Charles Scribner's Sons




COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
ERNEST THOMPSON SETON

Printed in the United States of America




FOREWORD

These are the ideas that I have aimed to
set forth in this tale.

1st. That although an animal is much
helped by its mother's teaching, it owes still
more to the racial teaching, which is in-
stinct, and can make a success of life with-
out its mother's guidance, if only it can live
through the dangerous time of infancy and
early life.

2d. Animals often are tempted into im-
morality by which I mean, any habit or
practice that would in its final working,
tend to destroy the race. Nature has rigor-
ous ways of dealing with sueb.

3d. Animals, like ourselves, must nain-*

[v]















I

*



Foreword

tain ceaseless war against insect parasites-
or perish.

4th. In the nut forests of America, prac-
tically every tree was planted by the Gray-
squirrel, or its kin. No squirrels, no nut-
trees.

These are the motive thoughts behind my
woodland novel. I hope I have presented
them convincingly ; if not, I hope at least
you have been entertained by the romance.




CONTENTS

Chapter

I. The Foundling 1

II. His Kittenhood 9

III. The Red Horror 15

IV. The New and Lonely Life 19

V. The Fluffing of His Tail 25

VI. The First Nut Crop 31

VII. The Sun Song of Bannertail 39

VIII. The Cold Sleep 49

IX. The Balking of Fire-eyes 57

X. Redsquirrel, the Scold of the Woods . . 65

XI. Bannertail and the Echo Voice .... 71

XII. The Courting of Silvergray 77

XIII. The Home in the High Hickory .... 85

XIV. New Rivals 91

vii



Contents

Chapter Page

XV. Bachelor Life Again 97

XVI. The Warden Meets an Invader . . 103

XVII. The Hoodoo on the Home .... 109

XVIII. The New Home 117

XIX. The Moving of the Young .... 125

XX. The Coming-out Party 135

XXI. Nursery Days of the Young Ones . 141

XXII. Cray Hunts for Trouble 147

XXIII. The Little Squirrels Go to School . 151

XXIV. The Lopping of the Wayward Branch 157
XXV. Bannertail Falls into a Snare ... 163

XXVI. The Addict 173

XXVII. The Dregs of the Cup 181

XXVIII. The Way of Destruction 185

XXIX. Mother Carey's Lash 191

XXX. His Awakening 199

XXXI. The Unwritten Law 205

viii



Contents

Chapter Page

XXXII. Squirrel Games 213

XXXIII. When Bannertail Was Scarred for

Life 221

XXXIV. The Fight with the Black Demon . 229
XXXV. The Property Law among Animals . 243

XXXVI. Gathering the Great Nut Harvest . 251

XXXVII. And To-day 261



IX



ILLUSTRATIONS

Facing Page

His kittenhood 12

Baffling Fire-eyes 60

They twiddled whiskers good night 82

With an angry "Quare!" Silvergray scrambled

up again 130

The little squirrels at school 154

Cray sank a victim to his folly 160

A dangerous game 226

The battle with the Blacksnake 238



THE FOUNDLING




CHAPTER I
THE FOUNDLING

[T was a rugged old tree
standing sturdy and big
among the slender second-
growth. The woodmen had
spared it because it was
too gnarled and too difficult for them to
handle. But the Woodpecker, and a host
of wood -folk that look to the Woodpecker
for lodgings, had marked and used it for
many years. Its every cranny and bore-
hole was inhabited by some quaint elfin
of the woods; the biggest hollow of all,
just below the first limb, had done duty
for two families of the Flickers who first
made it, and now was the homing hole of
a mother Gray squirrel.

[3]



Bannertail




She appeared to have no mate ; at least
none was seen. No doubt the outlaw
gunners could have told a tale, had they
cared to admit that they went gunning
in springtime; and now the widow was
doing the best she could by her family in
the big gnarled tree. All went well for a
while, then one day, in haste maybe,
she broke an old rule in Squirreldom;
she climbed her nesting tree openly, in-
stead of going up its neighbor, and then
crossing to the den by way of the over-
head branches. The farm boy who saw
it, gave a little yelp of savage triumph;
his caveman nature broke out. Clubs
and stones were lying near, the whirling
end of a stick picked off the mother Squir-
rel as she tried to escape with a little one
in her mouth. Had he killed two dan-
gerous enemies the boy could not have
yelled louder. Then up the tree he
climbed and found in the nest two living

[4]



The Story of a Graysquirrel

young ones. With these in his pocket he
descended. When on the ground he
found that one was dead, crushed in -^
climbing down. Thus only one little
Squirrel was left alive, only one of the



family that he had seen, the harmless T
mother and two helpless, harmless little 1^

b

ones dead in his hands. i

Why? What good did it do him to
destroy all this beautiful wild life? He
did not know. He did not think of it
at all. He had yielded only to the wild
ancestral instinct to kill, when came a
chance to kill, for we must remember
that when that instinct was implanted,
wild animals were either terrible enemies
or food that must be got at any price.

The excitement over, the boy looked
at the helpless squirming thing in his
hand, and a surge of remorse came on
him. He could not feed it; it must die
of hunger. He wished that he knew of

[5]




Bannertail

some other nest into which he might put
it. He drifted back to the barn. The
mew of a young Kitten caught his ear.
He went to the manger. Here was the
old Cat with the one Kitten that had
been left her of her brood born two days
back. Remembrance of many Field-mice,
Chipmunks and some Squirrels killed by
that old green-eyed huntress, struck a
painful note. Yes ! No matter what he
did, the old Cat would surely get, kill,
and eat the orphan Squirrel.

Then he yielded to a sudden impulse
and said: "Here it is, eat it now." He
dropped the little stranger into the nest
beside the Kitten. The Cat turned to-
ward it, smelled it suspiciously once or
twice, then licked its back, picked it up in
her mouth, and tucked it under her arm,
where half an hour later the boy found
it taking dinner alongside its new-found
foster-brother, while the motherly old

[6]



The Story of a Graysquirrel

Cat leaned back with chin in air, half-
closed eyes and purring the happy, con-
tented purr of mother pride. Now, in-
deed, the future of the Foundling was
assured.



[7]



HIS KITTENHOOD



CHAPTER II




HIS KITTENHOOD

ITTLE Graycoat developed
much faster than his Kitten
foster-brother. The spirit of
play was rampant in him, he
would scramble up his moth-
er's leg a score of times a day, clinging on
with teeth, arms and claws, then mount
her back and frisk along to climb her up-
right tail; and when his weight was too
much, down the tail would droop, and he
would go merrily sliding off the tip to
rush to her legs and climb and toboggan
off again. The Kitten never learned the
trick. But it seemed to amuse the Cat
almost as much as it did the Squirrelet,
and she showed an amazing partiality

[11]





Bannertail

for the lively, long-tailed Foundling. So
did others of importance, men and women
folk of the farmhouse, and neighbors
too. The frisky Graycoat grew up amid
experiences foreign to his tastes, and of a
kind unknown to his race.

The Kitten too grew up, and in mid-
summer was carried off to a distant farm-
house to be " their cat."

Now the Squirrel was over half-grown,
and his tail was broadening out into a
great banner of buff with silver tips.
His life was with the old Cat; his food
was partly from her dish. But many
things there were to eat that delighted
him, and that pleased her not. There
was corn in the barn, and chicken-feed
in the yard, and fruit in the garden.
Well-fed and protected, he grew big and
handsome, bigger and handsomer than
his wild brothers, so the house-folk said.
But of that he knew nothing ; he had never

[12]




Q
O
O
BB


a
H

2



The Story of a Graysquirrel

seen his own people. The memory of his
mother had faded out. So far as he
knew, he was only a bushy-tailed Cat.
But inside was an inheritance of instincts,
as well as of blood and bone, that would
surely take control and send him herding,
if they happened near, with those and
those alone of the blowsy silver tails.



[13]



THE RED HORROR




CHAPTER III
THE RED HORROR

[N the Hunting-moon it came,
just when the corn begins
to turn, and in the dawn,
when Bannertail Graycoat
was yielding to the thrill
that comes with action, youth and life,
in dew-time.

There was a growing, murmuring sound,
then smoke from the barn, like that he
had seen coming from the red mystery in
the cook-house. But this grew very fast
and huge; men came running, horses fran-
tically plunging hurried out, and other
living things and doings that he did not
understand. Then when the sun was
high a blackened smoking pile there was

[17]



Bannertail




where once had stood the dear old barn;
and a new strange feeling over all. The
old Cat disappeared. A few days more
and the house-folk, too, were gone. The
place was deserted, himself a wildwood
roving Squirrel, quite alone, without a
trace of Squirrel training, such as exam-
ple of the old ones gives, unequipped,
unaccompanied, unprepared for the life-
fight, except that he had a perfect body,
and in his soul enthroned, the many deep
and dominating instincts of his race.



[18]



THE NEW AND LONELY LIFE




CHAPTER IV
THE NEW AND LONELY LIFE

'HE break was made com-
plete by the Red Horror,
and the going of the man-
people. Fences and build-
ings are good for some
things, but the tall timber of the distant
wooded hill was calling to him and though
he came back many a time to the garden
while there yet was fruit, and to the field
while the corn was standing, he was ever
more in the timber and less in the open.
Food there was in abundance now, for
it was early autumn; and who was to be
his guide in this: "What to eat, what to
let alone?" These two guides he had,
and they proved enough: instinct, the

[21]



Banner tail







wisdom inherited from his forebears, and
his keen, discriminating nose.

Scrambling up a rotten stub one day,
a flake of bark fell off, and here a-row
were three white grubs; fat, rounded,
juicy. It was instinct bade him seize
them, and it was smell that justified the
order; then which, it is hard to say, told
him to reject the strong brown nippers
at one end of each prize. That day he
learned to pry off flakes of bark for the
rich foodstuffs lodged behind.

At another time, when he worked off a
slab of bark in hopes of a meal, he found
only a long brown millipede. Its smell
was earthy but strange, its many legs and
its warning feelers, uncanny. The smell-
guide seemed in doubt, but the inborn
warden said: "Beware, touch it not." He
hung back watching askance, as the evil
thing, distilling its strange pestilent gas,
wormed Snake-like out of sight, and Ban-

[22]



The Story of a Graysquirrel

nertail in a moment had formed a habit
that was of his race, and that lasted all
his life. Yea, longer, for he passed it on
this: Let the hundred-leggers alone.
Are they not of a fearsome poison race ?
Thus he grew daily in the ways of
woodlore. He learned that the gum-
drops on the wounded bark of the black
birch are good to eat, and the little faded
brown umbrella in the woods is the sign
that it has a white cucumber in its un-
derground cellar; that the wild bees'
nests have honey in them, and grubs as
good as honey; but beware, for the bee
has a sting ! He learned that the little
rag-bundle babies hanging from vine and
twig, contain some sort of a mushy shell -
covered creature that is amazingly good
to eat; that the little green apples that
grow on the oaks are not acorns, and are
yet toothsome morsels of the lighter sort,
while nearly every bush in the woods at

[23]




Bannertail

autumn now had strings of berries whose
pulp was good to eat and whose single
inside seed was as sweet as any nut.
Thus he was learning woodcraft, and
grew and prospered, for outside of sundry
Redsquirrels and Chipmunks there were
few competitors for this generous giving
of the Woods.



[24]



THE FLUFFING OF HIS TAIL




CHAPTER V
THE FLUFFING OF HIS TAIL

^HERE are certain stages of
growthth at are marked by
changes which, if not sud-
den, are for a time very
quick, and the big change
in Bannertail, which took place just as
he gave up the tricks and habits learned
from his Cat-folk, and began to be truly
a Squirrel, was marked by the fluffing of
his tail. Always long and long-haired, it
was a poor wisp of a thing until the coming
of the Hunting-moon. Then the hairs
grew out longer and became plumy, then
the tail muscles swelled and worked with
power. Then, too, he began a habit of

[27]



Banner/a//

fluffing out that full and flaunting plume

every few minutes. Once or twice a day
,( ~ v'
| IA^ Y he combed it, and ever he was most care-

ful to keep it out of wet or dirt. His coat



s .



f
1 " I \ might be stained with juice of fruit or

. ^ gum of pine, and little he cared; but the

ii^ *^~7

.iv /r moment a pine drop or a bit of stick,
moss, or mud clung to his tail he stopped
all other work to lick, clean, comb, shake,
fluff and double-fluff that precious, beau-
tiful member to its perfect fulness, light-
ness, and plumy breadth.

Why? What the trunk is to the ele-
phant and the paw to the monkey, the
tail is to the Graysquirrel. It is his spe-
cial gift, a vital part of his outfit, the
secret of his life. The 'possum's tail is
to swing by, the fox's tail for a blanket
wrap, but the Squirrel's tail is a para-
chute, a "land-easy"; with that in per-
fect trim he can fall from any height in
any tree and be sure of this, that he will

[28]



The Story of a Qraysquirrel

land with ease and lightness, and on his
feet.

This thing Bannertail knew without
learning it. It was implanted, not by
what he saw in Kitten days, or in the
woods about, but by the great All-
Mother, who had builded up his athlete
form and blessed him with an inner
Guide.



[29]



THE FIRST NUT CROP




CHAPTER VI
THE FIRST NUT CROP

JHAT year the nut crop was a
failure. This was the off-
year for the red oaks; they
bear only every other sea-
son. The white oaks had
been nipped by a late frost. The beech-
trees were very scarce, and the chestnuts
were gone - - the blight had taken them
all. Pignut hickories were not plentiful,
and the very best of all, the sweet shag-
hickory, had suffered like the white oaks.
October, the time of the nut harvest,
came. Dry leaves were drifting to the
ground, and occasional "thumps" told of
big fat nuts that also were falling, some-
times of themselves and sometimes cut
by harvesters; for, although no other

[33]




Bannertail

Graysquirrel was to be seen, Bannertail
was not alone. A pair of Redsquirrels
was there and half a dozen Chipmunks
searching about for the scattering pre-
cious nuts.

Their methods were very different from
those of the Graysquirrel race. The
Chipmunks were carrying off the prizes
in their cheek-pouches to underground
storehouses. The Redsquirrels were hur-
rying away with their loads to distant
hollow trees, a day's gathering in one
tree. The Graysquirrels' way is differ-
ent. With them each nut is buried in
the ground, three or four inches deep, one
nut at each place. A very precise essen-
tial instinct it is that regulates this plan.
It is inwrought with the very making of
the Graysquirrel race. Yet in Banner-
tail it was scarcely functioning at all.
Even the strongest inherited habit needs
a starter.
^[34]




The Story of a Grcfysquirrel

How does a young chicken learn to
peck? It has a strong inborn readiness
to do it, but we know that that impulse
must be stimulated at first by seeing the
mother peck, or it will not function. In
an incubator it is necessary to have a
sophisticated chicken as a leader, or the
chickens of the machine foster-mother
will die, not knowing how to feed. Nev-
ertheless, the instinct is so strong that a
trifle will arouse it to take control. Yes,
so small a trifle as tapping on the incu-
bator floor with a pencil -point will tear
the flimsy veil, break the restraining bond
and set the life-preserving instinct free.

Like this chicken, robbed of its birth-
right by interfering man, was Bannertail
in his blind yielding to a vague desire to
hide the nuts. He had never seen it
done, the example of the other nut-gath-
erers was not helpful was bewildering,
indeed.

[35]



Bannertail

Confused between the inborn impulse
and the outside stimulus of example,
Bannertail would seize a nut, strip off the
husk, and hide it quickly anywhere.
Some nuts he would thrust under bits
of brush or tufts of grass ; some he buried
by dropping leaves and rubbish over
them, and a few, toward the end, he hid
by digging a shallow hole. But the real,
well-directed, energetic instinct to hide
nut after nut, burying them three good
inches, an arm's length, underground, was
far from being aroused, was even hin-
dered by seeing the Redsquirrels and the
Chipmunks about him bearing away
their stores, without attempting to bury
them at all.

So the poor, skimpy harvest was gath-
ered. What was not carried off was
hidden by the trees themselves under a
layer of dead and fallen leaves.

High above, in an old red oak, Banner-

[36]



The Story of a Graysquirrel

tail found a place where a broken limb
had let the weather in, so the tree was
rotted. Digging out the soft wood left
an ample cave, which he gnawed and gar-
nished into a warm and weather-proof
home.

The bright, sharp days of autumn
passed. The leaves were on the ground
throughout the woods in noisy dryness
and lavish superabundance. The sum-
mer birds had gone, and the Chipmunk,
oversensitive to the crispness of the
mornings, had bowed sedately on Novem-
ber 1, had said his last "good-by," and
had gone to sleep. Thus one more voice
was hushed, the feeling of the woods
was "Hush, be still!" - - was all-expectant
of some new event, that the tentacles
of high-strung wood-folk sensed and
appraised as sinister. Backward they
shrank, to hide away and wait.

[37]




Nov



THE SUN SONG OF BANNERTAIL




CHAPTER VII
THE SUN SONG OF BANNERTAIL

HE sun was rising in a
rosy mist, and glinting the
dew-wet overlimbs, as there
rang across the bright bare
stretch of woodland a loud
" Qua, qua, qua, quaaaaaaa !" Like a high
priest of the sun on the topmost peak of
the temple stood Bannertail, carried away
by a new-born inner urge. A full-grown
wildwood Graysquirrel he was now, the
call of the woods had claimed him, and
he hailed the glory of the east with an
ever longer "Qua, qua, quaaaaaaaaaa /"

This was the season of the shortest
days, though no snow had come as yet to
cover the brown-leaved earth. Few birds

[41]



Bannertail




were left of the summer merrymakers.
The Crow, the Nuthatch, the Chickadee,
and the Woodwale alone were there, and
the sharp tang of the frost-bit air was
holding back their sun-up calls. But Ban-
nertail, a big Graysquirrel now, found
gladness in the light, intensified, it
seemed, by the very lateness of its com-
ing.

"Qua, qua, qua, quaaaaaa," he sang,
and done into speech of man the song
said: "Hip, hip, hip, hurrahhh!"

He had risen from his bed in the hol-
low oak to meet and greet it. He was
full of lusty life now, and daily better
loved his life. "Qua, qua, qua, quaaaa!'
- he poured it out again and again. The
Chickadee quit his bug hunt for a moment
to throw back his head and shout: "Me,
too!' The Nuthatch, wrong end up, an-
swered in a low, nasal tone: "Hear, hear,
hear!' Even the sulky Crow joined in at

[42]



The Story of a Graysquirrel

last with a "'Rah, 'rah, 'rah!" and the
Woodwale beat a long tattoo.

"Hip, hip, hip, hurrah, hurrah, hur-
rah!' shouted Bannertail as the all-
blessed glory rose clear above the eastern
trees and the world was aflood with the
Sun-God's golden smile.

A score of times had he thus sung and
whip-lashed his tail, and sung again, ex-
ulting, when far away, among the noises
made by birds, was a low "Qua, quaaa !'

- the voice of another Graysquirrel !

His kind was all too scarce in Jersey-
land, and yet another would not neces-
sarily be a friend; but in the delicate
meaningful modulations of sound so accu-
rately sensed by the Squirrel's keen ear,
this far-off "Qua, qua," was a little softer
than his own, a little higher-pitched, a
little more gently modulated, and Ban-
nertail knew without a moment's guess-
ing. "Yes, it was a Graysquirrel, and it

[43]



=f I



Bannertail

was not one that would take the war-
path against him."

The distant voice replied no more, and
Bannertail set about foraging for his
morning meal.

The oak-tree in which he had slept was
only one of the half-a-dozen beds he now
claimed. It was a red oak, therefore its
acorns were of poor quality; and it was
on the edge of the woods. The best
feeding-grounds were some distance away,
but the road to them well known. Al-
though so much at home in the trees,
Bannertail travelled on the ground when
going to a distance. Down the great
trunk, across an open space to a stump,
a pause on the stump to fluff his tail and
look around, a few bounds to a fence,
then along the top of that in three-foot
hops till he came to the gap; six feet across
this gap, and he took the flying leap with
pride, remembering how, not so long ago,

[44]




The Story of a Graysquirrel

he used perforce to drop to the ground
and amble to the other post. He was
making for the white oak and hickory
groves; but his keen nose brought him
the message of a big red acorn under the
leaves. He scratched it out and smelled
it - - yes, good. He ripped off the shell
and here, ensconced in the middle, was a
fat white grub, just as good as the nut
itself, or better. So Bannertail had grub
on the half-shell and nuts on the side for
his first course. Then he set about nos-
ing for hidden hickory-nuts; few and
scarce were they. He had not found one
when a growing racket announced the
curse-beast of the woods, a self-hunting
dog. Clatter, crash, among the dry leaves
and brush, it came, yelping with noisy,
senseless stupidity when it found a track
that seemed faintly fresh. Bannertail
went quietly up a near elm-tree, keeping
the trunk between himself and the beast.

[45]




on ffte

half shell



Bannertail

From the elm he swung to a basswood,
and finished his meal off basswood buds.
Keeping one eye on the beast, he
scrambled to an open platform nest that
he had made a month ago, where he lazed
in the sun, still keeping eyes and ears
alert for tidings from the disturber below.

The huge brute prowled around and
found the fresh scent up the elm, and
barked at it, too, but of course he was
barking up the wrong tree, and presently
went off. Bannertail watched him with
some faint amusement, then at last went
rippling down the trunk and through the
woods like a cork going down a rushing
stream.

He was travelling homeward by the
familiar route, on the ground, in undu-
lated bounds, with pauses at each high
lookout, when again the alarm of ene-
mies reached him a dog, sniffing and
barking, and farther off a hunter. Ban-

[46]



The Story of a Graysquirrel

nertail made for the nearest big tree, and
up that he went, keeping ever the trunk
between . Then came the dog a Squirrel
Hound and found the track and yelped.
Up near the top was a "dray," or plat-
form nest, one Bannertail had used and
partly built, and in this he stretched out
contentedly, peering over the edge at the
ugly brutes below. The dog kept yelp-
ing up the trunk, saying plainly: "Squir-
rel, squirrel, squirrel, up, up, up!' 1 And
the hunter came and craned his neck till
it was cricked, but nothing he saw to
shoot at. Then he did what a hunter
often does. He sent a charge of shot
through the nest that was in plain view.
There were some heavy twigs in its make-
up, and it rested on a massive fork, or the
event might have gone hard with Banner-
tail. The timber received most of the
shock of the shot, but a something went
stinging through his ear tip that stuck

[47]




Banner tail

beyond the rim. It hurt and scared


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