The Mountains of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about The Mountains of California.
fly on the instant, but as I remained as motionless as the stone, he gained confidence, and looked me steadily in the face for about a minute, then flew quietly to the outlet and began to sing.  Next came a sandpiper and gazed at me with much the same guileless expression of eye as the Ouzel.  Lastly, down with a swoop came a Steller’s jay out of a fir-tree, probably with the intention of moistening his noisy throat.  But instead of sitting confidingly as my other visitors had done, he rushed off at once, nearly tumbling heels over head into the lake in his suspicious confusion, and with loud screams roused the neighborhood.

Love for song-birds, with their sweet human voices, appears to be more common and unfailing than love for flowers.  Every one loves flowers to some extent, at least in life’s fresh morning, attracted by them as instinctively as humming-birds and bees.  Even the young Digger Indians have sufficient love for the brightest of those found growing on the mountains to gather them and braid them, as decorations for the hair.  And I was glad to discover, through the few Indians that could be induced to talk on the subject, that they have names for the wild rose and the lily, and other conspicuous flowers, whether available as food or otherwise.  Most men, however, whether savage or civilized, become apathetic toward all plants that have no other apparent use than the use of beauty.  But fortunately one’s first instinctive love of song-birds is never wholly obliterated, no matter what the influences upon our lives may be.  I have often been delighted to see a pure, spiritual glow come into the countenances of hard business-men and old miners, when a song-bird chanced to alight near them.  Nevertheless, the little mouthful of meat that swells out the breasts of some song-birds is too often the cause of their death.  Larks and robins in particular are brought to market in hundreds.  But fortunately the Ouzel has no enemy so eager to eat his little body as to follow him into the mountain solitudes.  I never knew him to be chased even by hawks.

An acquaintance of mine, a sort of foot-hill mountaineer, had a pet cat, a great, dozy, overgrown creature, about as broad-shouldered as a lynx.  During the winter, while the snow lay deep, the mountaineer sat in his lonely cabin among the pines smoking his pipe and wearing the dull time away.  Tom was his sole companion, sharing his bed, and sitting beside him on a stool with much the same drowsy expression of eye as his master.  The good-natured bachelor was content with his hard fare of soda-bread and bacon, but Tom, the only creature in the world acknowledging dependence on him, must needs be provided with fresh meat.  Accordingly he bestirred himself to contrive squirrel-traps, and waded the snowy woods with his gun, making sad havoc among the few winter birds, sparing neither robin, sparrow, nor tiny nuthatch, and the pleasure of seeing Tom eat and grow fat was his great reward.

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The Mountains of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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