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THE ADVENTURES
OF A GRAIN OF DUST



OP CALIF. LIBB1W



STRANGE ADVENTURES IN NATURE'S WONDERLANDS

*

THE ADVENTURES
OF A GRAIN OF DUST



BY

HALLAM HAWKSWORTH

AUTHOR OF "THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PEBBLE"



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



NEW YORK CHICAGO



BOSTON



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



Printed in the United States of America
B




JUST A WORD



I don't want you to think that I'm boasting, but I do
believe I'm one of the greatest travellers that ever was;
and if anybody, living or dead, has ever gone through with
more than I have I'd like to hear about it.

Not that I've personally been in all the places or taken
part in all the things I tell in this book I don't mean to
say that but I do ask you to remember how long it is
possible for a grain of dust to last, and how many other
far-travelled and much-adventured dust grains it must
meet and mix with in the course of its life.

The heart of the most enduring grains of dust is a little
particle of sand, the very hardest part of the original rock
fragment out of which it was made. That's what makes
even the finest mud seem gritty when it dries on your
feet. And the longer these sand grains last the harder
they get, as you may say; for it is the hardest part that
remains, of course, as the grain wears down. Moreover,
the smaller it gets the less it wears. If it happens to be
spending its time on the seashore, for example, the very
same kind of waves that buffet it about so, waves that,
farther down the beach hurl huge blocks of stone against
the cliffs and crack them to pieces, not only do not wear
away the sand grains, to speak of, but actually save them
from wear. The water between the grains protects them;



2130126



vi JUST A WORD

like little cushions. And the sand in the finer dust grains
carried by the wind is protected by the material that
gathers on its surface.

Why, if a pebble of the size of a hickory-nut may be
ages and ages old almost in the .very form in which you
see it, 1 think what the age of this long-enduring part of a
grain of dust must be.

Then remember what the ever-changing material on the
surface of these immortal grains is made of; the dust par-
ticles of plants and animals, of buried Caesars and still
older ancients, such as those early settlers of Chapter II.

Finally, if what we call flesh and blood can think and
talk, why not a grain of dust ? In fact, what is flesh and
blood but dust come back to life ? Says the poet and the
poets know:

"The very dust that blows along the street
Once whispered to its love that life is sweet."

You see it's as likely a thing as could happen this

whole story. ~

THE GRAIN OF DUST.

(Per H. H.)

1 "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble. "



CONTENTS

CHAPTER . PAGE

I. The Little Old Man of the Rock .... i

II. Some Early Settlers and Their Bones ... 19

III. The Winds and the World's Work .... 37

IV. The Bottom-Lands 55

V. What the Earth Owes to the Earthworm . . 75

VI. The Little Farmers with Six Feet .... 92

VII. Farmers with Four Feet 114

VIII. Water Farmers Who Help Make Land . . 137

IX. Farmers Who Wear Feathers 162

X. TJie Busy Fingers of the Roots 186

XI. The Autumn Stores and the Long Winter Night 204

XII. The Brotherhood of the Dust 225

Index 247



THE ILLUSTRATIONS

The author wishes to make special acknowledgment to the
following publishers for their courtesy in supplying illustrations:

The Macmillan Company for the pictures from Tarr and
Martin's "College Physiography" on page 239; Darwin's
"Formation of Vegetable Mould" on page 77.

D. Appleton and Company for the pictures from Gilbert and
Brigham's "Introduction to Physical Geography" on page 94;
"Picturesque America" on page 243.

J. B. Lippincott Company for the pictures from Beard's
"American Boy's Book of Bugs, Butterflies, and Beetles" on
page 229; McCook's "Natural History of Agricultural Ant of
Texas" on pages 206 and 213.

McClure's Magazine for the pictures on pages 149 and 157.

Scientific American Publishing Company for the picture from
"Scientific American Boy at School" on page 227.

Harper and Brothers for the pictures from McCook's "Na-
ture's Craftsmen" on pages 98, 105, 109, 207, and 208.

Strand Magazine for the pictures on pages 165, 182, and 204.

Charles Scribner's Sons for the pictures from Yard's "Top
of the Continent" on page 5; "Country Life Reader" on pages
9, 64, 85, 114, 186, and 241; Osborn's "Men of the Old Stone
Age" on page 33. Hornaday's "American Natural History" on
pages 116, 117, 119, 123, 130, 144, and 225; Seton's "Life His-
tories of Northern Animals" on pages 123, 129, 147, and 151.

Henry Holt and Company for the pictures from Beebe's
"The Bird, Its Form and Function" on page 167; Salisbury's
"Physiography" on pages 55, 71, and 167.



X THE ILLUSTRATIONS

Carnegie Institution of Washington for the pictures on pages
8 and 69.

University of Nebraska for the picture on page 37.

Columbia University Press for the picture from Wheeler's
"Ants*and Their Structure" on page 95.

Houghton Mifflin Company for the pictures from Sharp's
"Year Out of Doors" on page n; "Riverside Natural His-
tory" on page 117; Mill's "In the Beaver World" on pages
152 and 153.

Ginn and Company for the pictures from Breasted's "Ancient
Times" on page 67; "Agriculture for Beginners" on page 47;
Bergen's "Foundation of Botany" on pages 49, 190, and 197;
Bergen's "Elements of Botany" on pages 193 and 195; Beal's
"Seed Dispersal" on page 51.

U. S. Geological Survey for the pictures on pages 21, 22, 23,
30, 31, and 59.

New York Zoological Society for the pictures on pages 145,
159, and 216.

School Arts Magazine for the picture on page 221.

U. S. Department of Agriculture for the pictures on pages
125 and 189.

American Museum of Natural History for the pictures on
pages 20, 24, 26, 139, and 162.

Cassell and Company for the pictures from "Popular History
of Animals" on pages 118, 177, 179, and 217; "Popular Science"
on page 242.

Hutchinson for the pictures from "Marvels of the Universe"
on pages 92, 101, 103, 141, 169, and 173; "Marvels of Insect
Life" on page 211.

The Dunham Company for the picture on page 45.

International Harvester Company for the picture on page
199.

Northern Pacific Railway for the pictures on pages 235 and
237-



THE ADVENTURES
OF A GRAIN OF DUST



It will be understood, as stated in the preface, that, like
"The Strange Adventures of a Pebble," this is an autobi-
ography. In other words, it is the grain of dust itself that
tells the story of the life of the soil of which it is a part.



THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN
OF DUST

CHAPTER I

(JANUARY)

In truth you'll find it hard to say
How it could ever have been young
It looks so old and grey.

Wordsworth.

t

THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK

Some say it was Leif Ericson, some say it was Colum-
bus, but 7 say it was The Little Old Man of the Rock.

And I go further. I say he not only discovered America
but Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the islands of the sea.
I'll tell you why.

I. How LITTLE MR. LICHEN DISCOVERED THE WORLD

As everybody knows, we must all eat to live, and how
could either Columbus or anybody else except Mr.
Lichen have done much discovering in a world where
there was nothing to eat? When the continents first rose
out of the sea 1 there wasn't anything to eat but rock.
Rock, to be sure, makes very good eating if you have the

1 "The Strange Adventures of a Pebble."



2 THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST

stomach for it, as Mr. Lichen has. It contains sulphur,
phosphorus, silica, potash, soda, iron, and other things
that plants are fond of, but ordinary plants can't get these
things out of the rock let alone human beings and other
animals; and that's why Mr. Lichen had the first seat at
the table and always does.

On bare granite boulders in the fields, on the rocky
ruins at the foot of mountains, and even on the mountain
tops themselves, on projecting rocks far above the snow
line, you find the lichens. On rock of every kind they
settle down and get to work. They never complain of the
climate hot or cold, moist or dry. When the land goes
dry they simply knock off, and then when a little moisture
is to be had they're busy again. A little goes a long way
with members of the family who live in regions where
water is scarce. Indeed, most of them get along with
hardly any moisture at all. The very hardiest of them
are so small that a whole colony looks like a mere stain
upon the rock.

While lichens are generally gray they seem to have
been born old, these queer little men of the rock you can
find some that are black, others bright yellow or cream-
colored. Others are pure white or of various rusty and
leaden shades. Some are of the color of little mice. To
make out any shapes in these tiny forms, you must look
very close; and if you have a hand lens you will be sur-
prised to find that this fairy-land of the lichens isn't so
drab as it seems to the naked eye. For there are flower
gardens the tiny spore cups. Some of them are vivid
crimson and, standing out on a background of pure white,
they're very lovely. Some of the science people believe



THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK 3

the colors attract the minute insects that the lens shows
wandering around in these fairy flower gardens. But just
what the insects can be there for nobody knows, since the
lichens are scattered, not by insects, but by the wind.

As a rule lichens grow only in open, exposed places,
although some are like the violets they enjoy the shade.
Some varieties grow on trees, some on the ground, others
on the bleached bones of animals in fields and wastes and
on the bones of whales cast up by the sea.

Of course the whole country was awfully wild when the
continents first came out of the sea, but that just suited
Mr. Lichen, for there is one thing he can't stand, and that
is city life, with its smoke and bad air.

"Why, one can't get one's breath !" he says.

WHY THE LICHENS DISLIKE CITY LIFE

So, while you will not meet Mr., Lichen in cities at
least, until after the people are all gone; that is to say, on
ruins of cities of the past you will find him beautifying
the ancient walls of abbeys, old seats of learning like
Oxford, and the tombstones of the cities of the dead.

Mr. Lichen always travels light. On the surface of the
lichens are what seem to be little grains of dust, and these
serve the purpose of seeds. A puff of wind will carry
away thousands of them, and so start new colonies in
lands remote.

You see, the fact that he requires so little baggage must
have been a great advantage to Mr. Lichen in those early
days, when he had to discover not only America but all
the rest of the world map, spread out so wide and far.
You can just imagine how the grains of lichen dust, the



4 THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST

seed of the race, must have gone whirling across the world
with the winds.

But if a breath of wind would carry them away so easily,
how could they stay on a rock, these tiny lichen travel-
lers? Especially as they have no roots? They have
curious rootlike fibres which absorb food by dissolving the
rock, and this dissolved rock, hardening, holds them on.
The fibres of lichens that grow on granite actually sink
into it by dissolving the mica and forcing their way be-
tween the other kinds of particles in the rock that they
can't eat. Thus they help break it up.

As we all know, little people are great eaters in propor-
tion to their size, but it is said the lichens are the heartiest
eaters in the world. They eat more mineral matter than
any other plant, and all plants are eaters of minerals.

Yet, you'd wonder what they do with the food they eat
most of them grow so slowly. A student of lichens
watched one of them on the tiled roof of his house in
France one of the kind of lichens that look like plates of
gold and in forty years he couldn't see that it had grown
a single bit, although he measured it carefully.

HOW MR. LICHEN EATS UP STONES

But how could such feeble creatures, as they seem to be,
ever eat anything so hard as rock? Well, they couldn't if
it wasn't for one thing they understand chemistry. At
least they carry with them, or know how to make, an
acid, and it's this acid which enables them to dissolve the
rock so that they can absorb it. The acid is in their fibres
what answer for roots. And the dissolved rock not
only gives them their daily bread, but, as I said a moment
ago, holds them on. This use of acid is their way of eat-




THE SEQUOIAS; THE SUNLIGHT AND THE SHADE

Wonderful sunlight effect, isn't it? We are here in Sequoia National Park and those big
trees are sequoias, members of the pine-tree family.



6 THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST

ing; chewing their food very fine, and mixing it with
saliva, as all of us young people are taught to do.

The first and smallest of the lichen family spread and
decay into a thin film of soil. This decay makes more
acid, just as decaying leaves do to-day they learned it,
no doubt, from the lichens and this acid of decay also
eats into the rock and makes more soil. (You see nature,
from the start, has been helping those that help them-
selves, just as the old proverb has it.) Then, after the
first tiny lichens mere grains of dust that have just begun
to feel the stir of life come somewhat larger lichens which
can only live where there is a little soil to begin with.
These in turn die, which means a still deeper layer of soil,
still more acid of decay, and so on up to larger lichens and
later more ambitious plants. Then, on the soil made by
these successive generations of lichens, higher types of
plants plants with true roots get a foothold.

Besides making soil themselves, the lichens help accumu-
late soil by holding grains of rock broken up by their fibres
and loosened by the action of the heat and cold of day
and night and change of season. These little grains be-
come entangled in the larger lichens and are kept, many
of them, from being washed away by the heavy rains. So
held, they are in time crumbled into soil by the action of
the acids and by mixture with the products of plant de-
cay. To this day, go where you will, over the whole face
of the earth, and you'll find the lichens there ahead of you,
dressed in their sober suits, some gray as ashes, others
brown, but some are as yellow as gold; for even these
old people like a little color once in a while. As travellers
they beat all.



THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK 7

"Their geographical range is more extended than that of any
other class of plants."

That's how the learned lichenologists put it. For these
lichens, these humble little brothers of our dust, that many
of us never looked at twice on the stones of the field, or
the gray stumps and dead limbs in the wood, are so inter-
esting when you've really met them been properly intro-
duced that a whole science has grown up around them
called "lichenology." And exciting! You ought to hear
the hot discussions that lichenologists get into. You read,
for instance, that such and such a theory "was received
with a storm of opposition" (as most new theories are,
by the way, particularly if they are sound).

But the tumults and the strifes of science, of politics,
or of wars don't disturb little old Mr. Lichen himself.
There on his rock he'll sit, overlooking the scenery and
watching life and the seasons come and go for 100, 200,
500 years, and more. For while they grow so slowly the
lichens make up for it by living to an extreme age.

THE LICHENS AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Why, do you know that during the lifetime of certain
lichens that are still hale and hearty, not only a long line
of Caesars might rise, flourish, die, and, with their clay,
stop holes to keep the wind away, as Mr. Shakspere put
it, but the vast Roman Empire could and did come into
being, move across the stage with its banners and trumpets
and glittering pomp and go back to the dust again.

Some lichens, growing on the highest mountain ranges
of the world, are known to be more than 2,000 years old !



8 THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST




EARLY SETTLERS IN THE DESERT

Besides earning their own living under hard conditions, these sturdy pioneers of the desert
are preparing the way for plants of a higher kind, as the next two pictures will tell you.



II. THE MARCH OF THE TREES

Of course I don't mean to say it takes any 2,000 years
for the average lichen to die and turn to dust. These
long-lived lichens are the Methuselahs of their race. Most
kinds die much younger, as time goes among the lichens,
and in a comparatively few years, a century say, after
their first settlement on the rock, the lichens have become
soil. All this time the heating of the rock by day and the
cooling off at night, the work of frost and the gases of the
rain and the air l have also helped to make more soil and
by and by there is enough for lichens of a larger growth;
and mosses begin to get a foothold. These, in turn, die
and, in decaying, make acids, as did the little lichens before

1 All these things put together are called "weathering."



THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK 9

them, and this acid joins hands with all the other forces to
work up the rock into soil. Presently there is enough
soil to let certain adventurers of the Weed family drop
in. The picking is very thin, to be sure, but some of these
Weed people have learned to put up with almost any-
thing. Don't suppose, however, that all weeds are alike
in this respect. Oh, dear, no ! They come into new plant




WHAT THE DESERT PIONEERS DO FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

Only the sturdiest kinds of shrubs and weeds, such as you see in the desert, can earn their
keep in sandy soil, always thirsty, like that on the right. But the desert vegetation, dying
and decaying it is then called ''humus" not only knits the soil together but absorbs
moisture and ammonia from the air and so helps grow good crops.



communities just as the trees do, not haphazard, but ac-
cording to a certain more or less settled order. Some of
them, the adventurer type, will, it is true, settle down and
seem contented enough on land so poor that to quote the
witty Lady Townshend "you will only find here and there
a single blade of grass and two rabbits fighting for that";
while other weeds will have nothing to do with soil that,
in their opinion, is not good enough for people of their
family connections.

It has long been known that the character of soil may



io THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST

be told, to a considerable degree, by the kind of weeds
that grow on it. An old English writer pointed this out
in his quaint way some 200 years ago:

"Ground which, though it bear not any extraordinary abun-
dance of grass yet will load itself with strong and lusty weeds, as
Hemlocks, Docks, Nettles and such like, is undoubtedly a most
rich and fruitful ground for any grain whatsoever."

But, he goes on to say:

"When you see the ground covered with Heath, Broom, Bracken,
Gorse and such like, they be most apparent signs of infinite great
barrenness. And, of these infertile places, you shall understand,
that it is the clay ground which for the most part brings forth the
Moss, the Broom, the Gorse and such like."

Wherever soil is coarse and bouldery the weeds also are
of a sturdy breed. In his long, delightful days among
the mountains Muir 1 tells us what a brave show the
thistles made in this new world of soil; how royal they
looked in their purple bloom, standing up head and shoul-
ders above the other plants, like Saul among the people.

HOW PLANT PEOPLE PAY THEIR TAXES

In all these plant republics each citizen must pay some-
thing into the common treasury for its board and keep.
This fund not only meets "national expenses" during the
lifetime of the ones who pay these taxes, but it helps pre-
pare the land for the great citizens of the future the
trees. In another hundred years making two hundred
in all, after the arrival of the very first lichens low shrubs
1 Muir. "The Mountains of California."



THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK n

and bushes often find spots in these new communities
where the soil is thick enough for their needs.

It is very curious how members of the plant world,




THE LEADERS OF THE GRAND MARCH



growing side by side, seek their food at different depths,
and send out their roots accordingly. It reminds one of
the rigid class distinctions below stairs in a nobleman's
household where the chef has his meals in his own private
apartment, the kitchen maids in their quarters, the chauf-
feurs, footman, under butler, and pantry boys in the ser-
vants' hall.

But most striking, it has always seemed to me, is the
settled order in which trees march into the land. Why



12 THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST

shouldn't the oaks come before the maples? Or the
maples before the beeches? Or the beeches before the
pines? Why is it that, with the exception of a straggler
here and there, the first trees to climb the stony moun-
tainsides are the pines? Then close behind come such
trees as the poplars, and along the streams below, the
willows. Still farther down the valley are the beeches;
farther still the maples, and last of all the oaks.

So it is they advance in a certain regular way, each in
its own place in the ranks. At first it seems as strange
as the coming of Birnam wood to Dunsinane that gave
poor Macbeth such a turn that time. But, after all, the
explanation is quite simple and no doubt you have guessed
it already.

The reason such trees as the pines, poplars, and willows
come first is that the seeds are so light they are easily car-
ried by the winds and so reach new soil ahead of other trees
with winged seeds like the beeches and the maples; for,
although these seeds also travel on the wind, they are
much larger than the winged seeds of the pine and they
travel much more slowly and for shorter distances.

Moreover, at the end of their first journey, having once
fallen to the ground, they are apt to stay. Then there is
no further advance, so far as these particular seeds are
concerned, until trees have sprung from them and they, in
turn, bear seeds. In the case of very light seeds, like those
of the pines, the wind not only carries them far beyond the
comparatively slow and heavy march of the beech and
the maple, but if they fall on rock with little or no soil
the next wind picks them up and carries them farther, so
that they may strike some other spot where there is soil



THE LITTLE OLD MAN OF THE ROCK 13

and perhaps a little network of grass and weeds to secure
them until they can take root and so hold their own. It
is not only a great advantage to the pine seeds to be so
small, so far as getting ahead of other trees is concerned,
but it is an advantage in another way. Because they are




From the painting bv Rousseau in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

THE EDGE OF THE WOODS
Last of all come tramping along the sturdy old oaks.

so small they require comparatively little soil to start
with, are more easily covered up, and so they soon begin
to sprout. The very winds that carry them up among
the mountain rocks are quite likely to cover them with
enough dust to start on, and I myself have helped raise
many a giant of the mountain forests in this way. It
is really wonderful how little soil a pine-tree can get along
with; if, say, its fortunes are cast on some mass of moun-
tain rock. Somehow it manages to get a living among the



14 THE ADVENTURES OF A GRAIN OF DUST

cracks and at the same time to hold its own in the bitter
struggle with the winds.

"The pine trees," says Muir, " march up the sun-warmed
moraines in long hopeful files, taking the ground and estab-
lishing themselves as soon as it is ready for them."

Last of all come tramping along the sturdy old oaks
and the nut-bearing trees. Their seeds are so heavy they
get little help from the winds, and then only in the most
violent storms. They must advance very slowly indeed,
with occasional help from absent-minded squirrels who
carry away and bury nuts and acorns and then forget
where they put them.

ROUGH CITIZENS AMONG THE PIONEERS

The beginnings of a forest are stunted because the soil
is thin. Moreover, the company in which the trees find
themselves is very miscellaneous, like the population of
all pioneer communities weeds, grasses, briers, shrubs.
High up on a mountainside you can find all these types of
vegetation. Pines growing clear to the snow line; farther
down the mountain, in crannies, sumach and elder bushes


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