Mother West Wind “Where” Stories
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Thornton Waldo Burgess was a writer and conservationist. He loved animals and nature and used them as the subject of his writing for most of his life. Mother West Wind "Where" Stories is a collection of stories published in 1918 that use many of the same characters from his other books. His Mother West Wind series of books are bedtime stories or fairy tales with animal protagonists such as Peter Rabbit and Jimmy Skunk.

Mother West Wind
“Where” Stories

Thornton W. Burgess

Mother West Wind “Where” Stories

Chapter I.
Where Grandfather Frog Got His Big Mouth

Everybody knows that Grandfather Frog has a big mouth. Of course! It wouldn’t be possible to look him straight in the face and not know that he has a big mouth. In fact, about all you see when you look Grandfather Frog full in the face are his great big mouth and two great big goggly eyes. He seems then to be all mouth and eyes.

Anyway, that is what Peter Rabbit says. Peter never will forget the first time he saw Grandfather Frog. Peter was very young then. He had run away from home to see the Great World, and in the course of his wanderings he came to the Smiling Pool. Never before had he seen so much water. The most water he had ever seen before was a little puddle in the Lone Little Path. So when Peter, who was only half grown then, hopped out on the bank of the Smiling Pool and saw it dimpling and smiling in the sunshine, he thought it the most wonderful thing he ever had seen. The truth is that in those days Peter was in the habit of thinking everything he saw for the first time the most wonderful thing yet, and as he was continually seeing new things, and as his eyes always nearly popped out of his head whenever he saw something new, it is a wonder that he didn’t become pop-eyed.

Peter stared and stared at the Smiling Pool, and little by little he began to see other things. First he noticed the bulrushes growing with their feet in the water. They looked to him like giant grass, and he began to be a little fearful lest this should prove to be a sort of magic place — a place of giants. Then he noticed the lily-pads, and he stared very hard at these. They looked like growing things, and yet they seemed to be floating right on top of the water. It wasn’t until a Merry Little Breeze came along and turned the edge of one up so that Peter saw the long stem running down in the water out of sight, that he was able to understand how those lily-pads could be growing there. He was still staring at those lily-pads when a great deep voice said:

“Chug-a-rum! Chug-a-rum! Don’t you know it isn’t polite to stare at people?”

That voice was so unexpected and so deep that Peter was startled. He jumped, started to run, then stopped. He wanted to run, but curiosity wouldn’t let him. He simply couldn’t run away until he had found out where that voice came from and to whom it belonged. It seemed to Peter that it had come from right out of the Smiling Pool, but look as he would, he couldn’t see any one there.

“If you please,” said Peter timidly, “I’m not staring at anybody.” All the time he was staring down into the Smiling Pool with eyes fairly popping out of his head.

“Chug-a-rum! Have a care, young fellow! Have a care how you talk to your elders. Do you mean to be impudent enough to tell me to my face that I am not anybody?” The voice was deeper and gruffer than ever, and it made Peter more uncomfortable than ever.

“Oh, no, Sir! No, indeed!” exclaimed Peter. “I don’t mean anything of the kind. I — I — well, if you please, Sir, I don’t see you at all, so how can I be staring at you? I’m sure from the sound of your voice that you must be somebody very important. Please excuse me for seeming to stare. I was just looking for you, that is all.”

A little movement in the water close to a big green lily-pad caught Peter’s eyes, and then out on the big green lily-pad climbed Grandfather Frog. If Peter had stared before he doubly stared now, eyes and mouth wide open. Grandfather Frog was looking his very best in his handsome green coat and white-and-yellow waistcoat. But Peter had hardly noticed these at all.

“Why, you’re all mouth!” he exclaimed, and then looked very much ashamed of his impoliteness.

Grandfather Frog’s great goggly eyes twinkled. He knew that Peter was very young and innocent and just starting out in the Great World. He knew that Peter didn’t intend to be impolite.

“Not quite,” said he good-naturedly. “Not quite all mouth, though I must admit that it is of good size. The fact is, I wouldn’t have it a bit smaller if I could. If it were any smaller, I should miss many a good meal, and if I were forced to do that, I am afraid I should be very ill-tempered indeed. The truth is, I am very proud of my big mouth. I don’t know of any one who has a bigger one for their size.”

He opened his mouth wide, and it seemed to Peter that Grandfather Frog’s whole head simply split in halves. He hadn’t supposed anybody in all the Great World possessed such a mouth.

“Where did you get it?” gasped Peter, and then felt that he had asked a very foolish question.

Grandfather Frog chuckled. “I got it from my father, and he got his from his father, and so on, way back to the days when the world was young and the Frogs ruled the world,” said he. “Would you like to hear about it?”

“I’d love to!” cried Peter. So he settled himself comfortably on the bank of the Smiling Pool for the first of many, many stories he was to hear from Grandfather Frog.

“Chug-a-rum!” began Grandfather Frog. You know he always begins a story that way. “Chug-a-rum! Once upon a time the Great World was mostly water, and most of the people lived in the water. It was in those days that my great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather lived. Those were happy days for the Frogs. Yes, indeed, those were happy days for the Frogs. Of course they had enemies, but those enemies were all in the water. They didn’t have to be watching out for danger from the air and from the land, as I do now. There was plenty to eat and little to do, and the Frog tribe increased very fast. In fact, the Frogs increased so fast that after a while there wasn’t plenty to eat. That is, there wasn’t plenty of the kind of food they had been used to, which was mostly water plants, and water bugs and such things.

“Of course there were many fish, and these also increased very fast, and the big fish ate the Frogs whenever they could catch them, just as they do to this day. The big fish also ate the little fish, and it wasn’t long before the Frogs and the little fish took to living where the water was not deep enough for the big fish to swim, and this made it all the harder to get enough to eat. The mouths of the Frogs in those days were not big. In fact, they were quite small. You see, living on the kind of food they did, they had no need of big mouths.

“One day as a Great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather Frog sat with just his head out of water, wondering what it would seem like to have his stomach really filled, a school of little fish came swimming about him, and it popped into his head that if little fish were good for big fish to eat, they might be good for a Frog to eat. So he caught the first one that came within reach, and he found it was good to eat. He liked it so well that after that he caught fish whenever he could. Of course he swallowed them whole. He had to, because he had no chewing or biting teeth.

“Now the Frogs always have been famous for their appetites, and Great-grandfather Frog found that it took a great many of these teeny weeny fish to make a comfortable meal. He was thinking of this one day when a larger fish came within reach, and almost without realizing what he was doing Great-grandfather snapped at and caught him. He caught the fish by the tail and at once began to swallow it, which, of course, was no way to swallow a fish. But Great-grandfather Frog had much to learn in those day, and so he tried to swallow that fish tail first instead of head first. He got the tail down and the smallest part of the body, and then that fish stuck. Yes, Sir, that fish stuck. The fact was, Great-grandfather Frog’s mouth wasn’t wide enough. It was bad enough not to be able to swallow all of that fish, but what was worse was the discovery that he couldn’t get up again what he had swallowed. That fish was stuck! It would go neither down nor up.

“Poor Great-grandfather Frog was in a terrible fix. Big tears rolled down his cheeks. He choked and choked and choked, until it looked very much as if he might choke to death. Just in time, in the very nick of time, who should come along but Old Mother Nature. She saw right away what the trouble was, and she pulled out the fish. Then she asked how that fish had happened to be in such a place as Great-grandfather Frog’s mouth. When he could get his breath, he told her all about it — how food had been getting scarce and how he had discovered that fish were good to eat, and how he had make a mistake in catching a fish too big for his mouth. Old Mother Nature looked thoughtful. She saw the great numbers of young fish. Suddenly she reached over and put a finger in Great-grandfather Frog’s mouth and stretched it sideways. Then she did the same thing to the other corner. Great-grandfather Frog’s mouth was three times as big as it had been before.

“‘Now,’ said she, ‘I don’t believe you’ll have any more trouble, and I’m going to do the same thing for all the other Frogs.’

“She did that very day, and from then on the Frogs no longer had any trouble in getting plenty to eat. So that is where I got my big mouth, and I tell you right now I wouldn’t trade it for anything anybody else has got,” concluded Grandfather Frog, as he snapped up a foolish green fly who came too near.

“I think it is splendid, perfectly splendid,” cried Peter. “I wish I had one just like it.” And then he wondered why Grandfather Frog laughed so hard.

Chapter II.
Where Miser the Trade Rat First Set up Shop

It was quite by accident that Peter Rabbit first heard of Miser the Trade Rat. You know how it is with Peter; he is forever using those big ears of his to learn interesting things. That is what ears are for; but there is a right way and a wrong way to use them, and I am afraid that Peter isn’t always over-particular in this respect. I suspect, in fact I know, that Peter sometimes listens when he has no business to listen and knows he has no business to listen. Again he sometimes overhears things quite by accident when he cannot very well help hearing. It was in this way that he first heard of Miser the Trade Rat.

Peter had crept into a hollow log in the Green Forest to rest and to feel absolutely safe while he was doing it. He had been there only a little while when he heard light footsteps outside and a moment later a voice which made him shiver a little in spite of himself and the knowledge that he was perfectly safe. The footsteps and the voice were Old Man Coyote’s.

Very carefully Peter peeped out. Old Man Coyote had sat down close by the log in which Peter was hiding. On a dead tree close at hand sat Ol’ Mistah Buzzard, who had come up from way down south for the summer, and it was to him that Old Man Coyote was talking.

“I was over by Farmer Brown’s barn last night,” said Old Man Coyote, “and I caught a glimpse of Robber the Brown Eat. What a disgrace he is to the whole Rat tribe! For that matter, he is a disgrace to all who live on the Green Meadows and in the Green Forest. He isn’t much like his cousin, Miser the Trade Rat.”

“Mah goodness! Do yo’ know Miser?” exclaimed Ol’ Mistah Buzzard.

“Do I know Miser? I should say I do!” replied Old Man Coyote. “I’ve tried to catch him enough times to know him. He kept a junk shop very near where I used to live way out west. Do you know him, Mr. Buzzard?”

“Ah cert’nly does,” chuckled Ol’ Mistah Buzzard. “Ah cert’nly does. Ah never did see such a busy fellow as he is. Ah done see his junk shop many times, and always it done be growin’ bigger. Ah wonders, Brer Coyote, if yo’ ever heard the story of his Great-great-ever-so-great-gran’-daddy, the first of the family, and how and where he started the business that’s been kept in the family ever since.”

“No,” said Old Man Coyote, “I never did, and I’ve wondered about it a great deal.”

Peter Rabbit almost forgot that he was hiding. He was so eager to hear that story that he was right on the point of speaking up and begging Ol’ Mistah Buzzard to tell it when he remembered Old Man Coyote. Just in the nick of time he clapped a hand over his mouth. It seemed to Peter a long, long time before Old Man Coyote said:

“I’d like to hear that story, Mr. Buzzard, if it isn’t too much to ask of you.”

“Not at all, Brer Coyote; not at all. Ah’ll be mor’n pleased to tell it to yo’. Ah cert’nly will,” said Ol’ Mistah Buzzard, and Peter settled himself comfortably to listen.

“Yo’ see it was this way,” began Ol’ Mistah Buzzard. “Ah got it from mah gran’daddy, and he got it from his gran’daddy, and his gran’daddy got it from — ”

“I know,” interrupted Old Man Coyote. “It was handed down from your greatest-great-grandfather, who lived in the days when the world was young and what you are going to tell me about happened. Isn’t that it?”

“Yes, Suh,” replied Ol’ Mistah Buzzard. “Yes, Suh, that’s it. Ol’ Mother Nature treat ‘em all alike in those days. She’s a right smart busy person, and she ain’t got no time fo’ to answer foolish questions. No, Suh, she ain’t. So, quick as she get a new kind of critter made, she turn him loose and tell him if he want to live he got to be right smart and find out for hisself how to do it. Ah reckons yo’ know all about that, Brer Coyote.”

Old Man Coyote nodded, and Ol’ Mistah Buzzard scratched his bald head gently as if trying to stir up his memory. Peter Rabbit almost squealed aloud in his impatience while he waited for Ol’ Mistah Buzzard to go on.

“When Ol’ Mother Nature made Brer Trade Rat in the beginning and turned him loose in the Great World, he was just plain Mistah Rat and nothing more, same as his no ‘count cousin, Robber the Brown Rat,” continued Ol’ Mistah Buzzard. “He had to win a name for hisself same as ev’ybody else. He had mighty sharp wits, had this Mistah Rat, and directly he found he had to shift for hisself he began to study and study and study what he gwine to do to live well and be happy. He watched his neighbors to see what they did, and it didn’t take him long to find out that if he would be respected he must have a home. Those without homes were mostly no ‘count folks, same as they are today.

“So Brer Rat made a nest close to the trunk of a tree on the edge of the Green Forest, a soft, warm nest, and in collectin’ the stuff to make it of he learned the joy of bein’ busy. Person’ly, yo’ understand, Ah thinks he was all wrong. Ah never am so happy as when Ah can take a sun-bath with nothin’ to do. But Brer Rat was never so happy as when he was busy, and when he got that li’l nest finished time began to hang heavy on his hands. Yes, Suh, it cert’nly did. Just because he didn’t have anything else to do he began to add a little more to his house. One day he stepped on a thorn. ‘Ouch!’ cried Brer Rat, and then right away forgot the pain in a new idea. He would cover his house with thorns, leavin’ just a little secret entrance for hisself! Then he would be safe, wholly safe from his big neighbors, some of whom had begun to look at him with such a hungry look in their eyes that they made him right smart uncomfortable. So he spent his time, did Brer Rat, in huntin’ for the longest and sharpest thorns and in cuttin’ the branches on which they grew. These he carried to his house and piled them around it and on it until it had become a great pile with sharp thorns stickin’ out in every direction, and the hungriest of the big people of the forest passed it at a respectful distance.

“When Brer Rat had all the thorns he needed and more, he began to collect other things and added these to his pile. Yo’ see, he had found that it was great fun to collect things; to find the queerest things he could and bring them home and look at them and wonder about them. So little by little his house became a sort of junk shop, the very first one in all the Great World. Bright stones and shells, bones, anything that caught his bright eyes and pleased them, he brought home. When he was tired of huntin’ fo’ food or more strange things he would sit and gloat over his treasures and play with them. And then the first thing he knew he had a name. Yes, Suh, he had a name. He was called Miser.

“Of course Brer Miser hadn’t lived ve’y long befo’ he found out that one law of the Great World was that things belonged to whoever could get them and keep them. He saw that some thought themselves ve’y smart when they stole from their neighbors. Brer Miser didn’t like this at all. He was ve’y, ye’y honest, was Brer Miser. Perhaps he wasn’t really much tempted, not fo’ a long time anyway.

“But at last came a time when he was tempted. Quite by accident he found one of Mr. Squirrel’s storehouses. In it were some nuts different from any he ever had seen befo’. ‘Brer Squirrel won’t mind if Ah taste just one,’ said he, and did it. It tasted good; it tasted ve’y good indeed. Brer Miser began to wish he had some nuts like those. When he got home he couldn’t think of anything but how good those nuts tasted. He knew that all he had to do was to watch until Brer Squirrel was away and then go he’p hisself. He knew that was just what any of his neighbors would do in his place. But Brer Miser couldn’t make it seem just right any way he looked at it. He was too honest, was Brer Miser, to do anything like that.

“He was sitting staring at his treasures but thinking about those nuts when an idea popped into his head, an idea that made him smile until Ah reckons he most split his cheeks. ‘Ah knows what Ah’ll do,’ said he. ‘Ah’ll just he’p mahself to some of those nuts and Ah’ll leave something of mine in place of them. That’s what Ah’ll do.’

“And that’s what he did do. He picked out a bright shell of which he was very fond and he left it in Brer Squirrel’s storehouse to pay fo’ the nuts that he took. After that he always helped himself to anything he wanted, but he always left something to pay fo’ it. It wasn’t long befo’ his neighbors found out what he was doing, and then they called him Miser the Trade Rat. Whenever anybody found something he didn’t want hisself, he took it to the little junk shop of Miser the Trade Rat and traded it fo’ something else, or left it where Miser would find it, knowing that Miser would leave something in its place.

“And it’s been just so with Miser’s family ever since. There is one Rat who is a credit to his family instead of a disgrace,” concluded Ol’ Mistah Buzzard.

Chapter III.
Where Yap-Yap the Prairie Dog Used His Wits

Peter Rabbit had just had a great fright. He is used to having great frights, but this time it was a different kind of a fright. It was not for himself that he had been afraid but for one of his old friends and neighbors. Now that it was over, Peter drew a little breath of sheer relief.

You see it was this way: Peter had started over for a call on Johnny Chuck. When he reached Johnny Chuck’s house he found no one at home. At first he thought he would go look for Johnny, for he knew that Johnny must be somewhere near, as he never goes far from his own doorstep. Then he changed his mind and decided to wait for Johnny to return. So he stretched himself out in some tall grass beside Johnny Chuck’s house, intending to jump out and give Johnny a scare when he came home. Hardly had he settled himself when he heard Johnny coming, and he knew by the sounds that Johnny was running from some danger.

Very, very carefully Peter raised his head to see. Then he ducked it again and held his breath. Johnny Chuck was running as Peter never had seen him run before and with very good reason. Just a few jumps behind Johnny’s twinkling little black heels was Old Man Coyote. It looked to Peter as if Old Man Coyote certainly would catch Johnny Chuck this time. He was so frightened for Johnny that he quite forgot that he himself might be in danger. Head first through his doorway plunged Johnny, and Old Man Coyote’s teeth snapped together on nothing.

Old Man Coyote backed away a few steps and sat down with his head on one side as he studied Johnny Chuck’s house in the ground. It was plain to be seen that he was trying to make up his mind whether it would be worth while to try to dig Johnny out. Presently Johnny came half-way up his long hall where he could look out. Then he began to scold Old Man Coyote. Old Man Coyote grinned.

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