Beautiful Joe
Chapter 20, Page 4


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


She went up on the platform, and faced the roomful of children. "Dear boys and girls," she began, "I have had some papers sent me from Boston, giving some facts about the killing of our birds, and I want to state a few of them to you: You all know that nearly every tree and plant that grows swarms with insect life, and that they couldn't grow if the birds didn't eat the insects that would devour their foliage. All day long, the little beaks of the birds are busy. The dear little rose-breasted gross-beak carefully examines the potato plants, and picks off the beetles, the martins destroy weevil, the quail and grouse family eats the chinch-bug, the woodpeckers dig the worms from the trees, and many other birds eat the flies and gnats and mosquitoes that torment us so. No flying or crawling creature escapes their sharp little eyes. A great Frenchman says that if it weren't for the birds human beings would perish from the face of the earth. They are doing all this for us, and how are we rewarding them? All over America they are hunted and killed. Five million birds must be caught every year for American women to wear in their hats and bonnets. Just think of it, girls. Isn't it dreadful? Five million innocent, hardworking, beautiful birds killed, that thoughtless girls and women may ornament themselves with their little dead bodies. One million bobolinks have been killed in one month near Philadelphia. Seventy song-birds were sent from one Long Island village to New York milliners.

"In Florida, cruel men shoot the mother birds on their nests while they are rearing their young, because their plumage is prettiest at that time. The little ones cry pitifully, and starve to death. Every bird of the rarer kinds that is killed, such as humming birds, orioles and kingfishers, means the death of several others — that is, the young that starve to death, the wounded that fly away to die, and those whose plumage is so torn that it is not fit to put in a fine lady's bonnet. In some cases where birds have gay wings, and the hunters do not wish the rest of the body, they tear off the wings from the living bird, and throw it away to die.

"I am sorry to tell you such painful things, but I think you ought to know them. You will soon be men and women. Do what you can to stop this horrid trade. Our beautiful birds are being taken from us, and the insect pests are increasing. The State of Massachusetts has lost over one hundred thousand dollars because it did not protect its birds. The gypsy moth stripped the trees near Boston, and the State had to pay out all this money, and even then could not get rid of the moths. The birds could have done it better than the State, but they were all gone. My last words to you are, 'Protect the birds.'"

Mrs. Wood went to her seat, and though the boys and girls had listened very attentively, none of them cheered her. Their faces looked sad, and they kept very quiet for a few minutes. I saw one or two little girls wiping their eyes. I think they felt sorry for the birds.

"Has any boy done anything about blinders and check-reins?" asked the president, after a time.

A brown-faced boy stood up. "I had a picnic last Monday," he said; "father let me cut all the blinders off our head-stalls with my penknife."

"How did you get him to consent to that?" asked the president.

"I told him," said the boy, "that I couldn't get to sleep for thinking of him. You know he drives a good deal late at night. I told him that every dark night he came from Sudbury I thought of the deep ditch alongside the road, and wished his horses hadn't blinders on. And every night he comes from the Junction, and has to drive along the river bank where the water has washed away the earth till the wheels of the wagon are within a foot or two of the edge, I wished again that his horses could see each side of them, for I knew they'd have sense enough to keep out of danger if they could see it. Father said that might be very true, and yet his horses had been broken in with blinders, and didn't I think they would be inclined to shy if he took them off; and wouldn't they be frightened to look around and see the wagon wheels so near. I told him that for every accident that happened to a horse without blinders, several happened to a horse with them; and then I gave him Mr. Wood's opinion — Mr. Wood out at Dingley Farm. He says that the worst thing against blinders is that a frightened horse never knows when he has passed the thing that scared him. He always thinks it is behind him. The blinders are there and he can't see that he has passed it, and he can't turn his head to have a good look at it. So often he goes tearing madly on; and sometimes lives are lost all on account of a little bit of leather fastened over a beautiful eye that ought to look out full and free at the world. That finished father. He said he'd take off his blinders, and if he had an accident, he'd send the bill for damages to Mr. Wood. But we've had no accident. The horses did act rather queerly at first, and started a little; but they soon got over it, and now they go as steady without blinders as they ever did with them."