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How mr flying squirrel almost got wings.docx
Start of Story
by Thornton Burgess.
Age Rating 4 to 8.
Jimmy Skunk and Peter Rabbit were having a dispute. It was a
good-natured dispute, but both Jimmy and Peter are very decided in their
opinions, and neither would give in to the other. Finally they decided
that as neither could convince the other, they should leave it for
Grandfather Frog to decide which was right. So they straightway started
for the Smiling Pool, where on his big green lily-pad Grandfather Frog
was enjoying the twilight and leading the great Frog chorus. Both agreed
that they would accept Grandfather Frog's decision. You see, each was
sure that he was right.
When they reached the Smiling Pool, they found Grandfather Frog looking
very comfortable and old and wise. "Good evening, Grandfather Frog. I
hope you are feeling just as fine as you look," said Jimmy Skunk, who
never forgets to be polite.
"Chug-a-rum! I'm feeling very well, thank you," replied Grandfather
Frog. "What brings you to the Smiling Pool this fine evening?" He looked
very hard at Peter Rabbit, for he suspected that Peter had come for a
"To get the wisest person of whom we know to decide a matter on which
Peter and I cannot agree; and who is there so wise as Grandfather Frog?"
Grandfather Frog looked immensely pleased. It always pleases him to be
considered wise. "Chug-a-rum!" said he gruffly. "You have a very smooth
tongue, Jimmy Skunk. But what is this matter on which you cannot agree?"
"How many animals can fly?" returned Jimmy, by way of answer.
"One," replied Grandfather Frog. "I thought everybody knew that. Flitter
the Bat is the only animal who can fly."
"You forget Timmy, the Flying Squirrel!" cried Peter excitedly. "That
Grandfather Frog shook his head. "Peter, Peter, whatever is the matter
with those eyes of yours?" he exclaimed. "They certainly are big enough.
I wonder if you ever will learn to use them. Half-seeing is sometimes
worse than not seeing at all. Timmy cannot fly any more than I can."
"What did I tell you?" cried Jimmy Skunk triumphantly.
"But I've seen him fly lots of times!" persisted Peter. "I guess that
any one who has envied him as often as I have ought to know."
"Hump!" grunted Grandfather Frog. "I guess that's the trouble. There was
so much envy that it got into your eyes, and you couldn't see straight.
Envy is a bad thing."
Jimmy Skunk chuckled.
"Did you ever see him away from trees?" continued Grandfather Frog.
"No," confessed Peter.
"Did you ever see him cut circles in the air like Flitter the Bat?"
"No-o," replied Peter slowly.
"Of course not," retorted Grandfather Frog. "The reason is because he
doesn't fly. He hasn't any wings. What he does do is to coast on the
air. He's the greatest jumper and coaster in the Green Forest."
"Coast on the air!" exclaimed Peter. "I never heard of such a thing."
"There are many things you never have heard of," replied Grandfather
Frog. "Sit down, Peter, and stop fidgeting, and I'll tell you a story."
The very word story was enough to make Peter forget everything else, and
he promptly sat down with his big eyes fixed on Grandfather Frog.
"It happened," began Grandfather Frog, "that way back in the beginning
of things, there lived a very timid member of the Squirrel family, own
cousin to Mr. Red Squirrel and Mr. Gray Squirrel, but not at all like
them, for he was very gentle and very shy. Perhaps this was partly
because he was very small and was not big enough or strong enough to
fight his way as the others did. In fact, this little Mr. Squirrel was
so timid that he preferred to stay out of sight during the day, when so
many were abroad. He felt safer in the dusk of evening, and so he used
to wait until jolly, round, red Mr. Sun had gone to bed behind the
Purple Hills before he ventured out to hunt for his food. Then his
quarrelsome cousins had gone to bed, and there was no one to drive him
away when he found a feast of good things.
"But even at night there was plenty of danger. There was Mr. Owl to be
watched out for, and other night prowlers. In fact, little Mr. Squirrel
didn't feel safe on the ground a minute, and so he kept to the trees as
much as possible. Of course, when the branches of one tree reached to
the branches of another tree, it was an easy matter to travel through
the tree-tops, but every once in a while there would be open places to
cross, and many a fright did timid little Mr. Squirrel have as he
scampered across these open places. He used to sit and watch old Mr. Bat
flying about and wish that he had wings. Then he thought how foolish it
was to wish for something he hadn't got and couldn't have.
"'The thing to do,' said little Mr. Squirrel to himself, 'is to make the
most of what I have got. Now I am a pretty good jumper, but if I keep
jumping, perhaps I can learn to jump better than I do now.'
"So every night Mr. Squirrel used to go off by himself, where he was
sure no one would see him, and practise jumping. He would climb an old
stump and then jump as far as he could. Then he would do it all over
again ever so many times, and after a little he found that he went
farther, quite a little farther, than when he began. Then one night he
made a discovery. He found that by spreading his arms and legs out just
as far as possible and making himself as flat as he could, he could go
almost twice as far as he had been able to go before, and he landed a
great deal easier. It was like sliding down on the air. It was great
fun, and pretty soon he was spending all his spare time doing it.
"One moonlight night, Old Mother Nature happened along and sat down on a
log to watch him. Little Mr. Squirrel didn't see her, and when at last
she asked him what he was doing, he was so surprised and confused that
he could hardly find his tongue. At last he told her that he was trying
to learn to jump better that he might better take care of himself. The
idea pleased Old Mother Nature. You know she is always pleased when she
finds people trying to help themselves.
"'That's a splendid idea,' said she. 'I'll help you. I'll make you the
greatest jumper in the Green Forest.'
"Then she gave to little Mr. Squirrel something almost but not quite
like wings. Between his fore legs and hind legs on each side she
stretched a piece of skin that folded right down against his body when
he was walking or running so as to hardly show and wasn't in the way at
"'Now,' said she, 'climb that tall tree over yonder clear to the top and
then jump with all your might for that tree over there across that open
"It was ten times as far as little Mr. Squirrel ever had jumped before,
and the tree was so tall that he felt sure that he would break his neck
when he struck the ground. He was afraid, very much afraid. But Old
Mother Nature had told him to do it. He knew that he ought to trust her.
So he climbed the tall tree. It was a frightful distance down to the
ground, and that other tree was so far away that it was foolish to even
think of reaching it.
"'Jump!' commanded Old Mother Nature.
"Little Mr. Squirrel gulped very hard, trying to swallow his fear. Then
he jumped with all his might, and just as he had taught himself to do,
spread himself out as flat as he could. Just imagine how surprised he
was and how tickled when he just coasted down on the air clear across
the open place and landed as lightly as a feather on the foot of that
distant tree! You see, the skin between his legs when he spread them out
had kept him from falling straight down. Of course if he hadn't jumped
with all his might, as Old Mother Nature had told him to, even though he
thought it wouldn't be of any use, he wouldn't have reached that other
"He was so delighted that he wanted to do it right over again, but he
didn't forget his manners. He first thanked Old Mother Nature.
"She smiled. 'See that you keep out of danger, for that is why I have
made you the greatest jumper in the Green Forest,' said she.
"Little Mr. Squirrel did. People who, like Peter, did not use their
eyes, thought that he could fly, and he was called the Flying Squirrel.
He was the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Timmy whom you both
"And Timmy doesn't really fly at all, does he?" asked Jimmy Skunk.
"Certainly not. He jumps and slides on the air," replied Grandfather
"What did I tell you?" cried Jimmy triumphantly to Peter.
"Well, anyway, it's next thing to flying. I wish I could do it," replied