The Mountains of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about The Mountains of California.

What there can be in that grand old church-tune that is so offensive to birds and squirrels I can’t imagine.  A year or two after this High Sierra concert, I was sitting one fine day on a hill in the Coast Range where the common Ground Squirrels were abundant.  They were very shy on account of being hunted so much; but after I had been silent and motionless for half an hour or so they began to venture out of their holes and to feed on the seeds of the grasses and thistles around me as if I were no more to be feared than a tree-stump.  Then it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to find out whether they also disliked “Old Hundredth.”  Therefore I began to whistle as nearly as I could remember the same familiar airs that had pleased the mountaineers of the Sierra.  They at once stopped eating, stood erect, and listened patiently until I came to “Old Hundredth,” when with ludicrous haste every one of them rushed to their holes and bolted in, their feet twinkling in the air for a moment as they vanished.

No one who makes the acquaintance of our forester will fail to admire him; but he is far too self-reliant and warlike ever to be taken for a darling.

How long the life of a Douglas Squirrel may be, I don’t know.  The young seem to sprout from knot-holes, perfect from the first, and as enduring as their own trees.  It is difficult, indeed, to realize that so condensed a piece of sun-fire should ever become dim or die at all.  He is seldom killed by hunters, for he is too small to encourage much of their attention, and when pursued in settled regions becomes excessively shy, and keeps close in the furrows of the highest trunks, many of which are of the same color as himself.  Indian boys, however, lie in wait with unbounded patience to shoot them with arrows.  In the lower and middle zones a few fall a prey to rattlesnakes.  Occasionally he is pursued by hawks and wildcats, etc.  But, upon the whole, he dwells safely in the deep bosom of the woods, the most highly favored of all his happy tribe.  May his tribe increase!

[Illustration:  TRYING THE BOW.]

CHAPTER X

A WIND-STORM IN THE FORESTS

The mountain winds, like the dew and rain, sunshine and snow, are measured and bestowed with love on the forests to develop their strength and beauty.  However restricted the scope of other forest influences, that of the winds is universal.  The snow bends and trims the upper forests every winter, the lightning strikes a single tree here and there, while avalanches mow down thousands at a swoop as a gardener trims out a bed of flowers.  But the winds go to every tree, fingering every leaf and branch and furrowed bole; not one is forgotten; the Mountain Pine towering with outstretched arms on the rugged buttresses of the icy peaks, the lowliest and most retiring tenant of the dells; they seek and find them all, caressing them tenderly, bending them in lusty exercise, stimulating their growth, plucking off a leaf or limb as required, or removing an entire tree or grove, now whispering and cooing through the branches like a sleepy child, now roaring like the ocean; the winds blessing the forests, the forests the winds, with ineffable beauty and harmony as the sure result.

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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