THE EDUCATION OF ROCKY M. GOAT, JR.
NO OTHER SCHOOLHOUSE IN THE WORLD IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
"WHERE? Where? I can't see any little white spot that moves."
Margaret jumped up and down excitedly. "Where? Oh tell me where to look. I must see that little white spot that moves. Tell me! Tell me where!"
"I can't tell you now," said Uncle Tom, "for the spot has vanished. But I can tell you a story about another little white spot just like that one."
"Oh, it's just too mean that I haven't seen one yet!" cried Margaret. "But look! Look! See where Uncle Billy and Mother and Auntie have got to!"
"Gee," said Jack, "they're most up to the glacier. It was awful mean of them to leave us behind."
"Not a bit of it," retorted Uncle Tom. "On Blackfeet Glacier the other day you nearly fell into a crevasse. That was quite enough excitement for one summer. But sit down on this grass and listen to my story."
The children sat down beside a glassy lake which reflected the broad stretch of blue-white ice upon a sloping shelf of rock hundreds of feet above its surface. Two snow-spattered mountains rose above it, one on either hand.
"That's some glacier," said Jack admiringly. "Say, Uncle Tom, those rocks look awfully old, don't they? They are gray and wrinkled and all cut up into seams and cracks just like that old Indian we saw at the station when we came in. They must be just terribly old."
"Yes, Jack, they are," said Uncle Tom, "they are almost the oldest rock in the world. Do you know how the Glacier National Park was made?"
"No, how?" asked the children together.
"Well, you know already that many geologists believe that the earth was once a vast globe of hot gas, and that it became solid and much smaller as it cooled."
"Yes, I know," said Margaret, looking very wise indeed. "Heat expands and cold contracts."
"Other geologists," continued Uncle Tom, "believe that the earth never was gaseous, but a big globe of loose rock, the outside skin of which, as the ages passed, settled of its own weight into the hard, solid thing it is to-day. In either case the inside contracted and became too small, here and there, for the skin. Naturally the skin crackedjust as an orange-skin sometimes does when you suck the juice out. Then one edge of the cracked part got squeezed up and pushed over the other edge. That happened right here in what is now Glacier National Park."
"It must have scared the people who were spending the summer here," said big-eyed Margaret, greatly interested.
"Oh, bless you, child," said Uncle Tom, "there were no people living anywhere in the world then. That was long before God made Adam and Eve. That was millions of years ago."
"Millions of years?" asked Margaret.
"Yes, millions, many millions. Perhaps fifty, sixty, a hundred millions of years ago. No one knows. Anyway, after this edge was pushed over the other one the rains and the frosts began to chisel and carve it.
"How? I'll tell you. In the summer the water soaked down into all the tiny cracks and in the winter froze up tight. Now, when water turns into ice it expands just a trifle; so, when the rain-water froze in the cracks, the ice forced the cracks wider open. After a while flakes and chunks of rock loosened and broke off and the next summer's rains and freshets washed them away. Jack Frost is a wonderful sculptor. It is he who has carved these mountains with his millions of millions of tiny icy chisels.
"At first this great overthrust edge stood up bare and shapeless. Probably it was many miles thick. But after Jack Frost had worked upon it for a few centuries, the top wore off. Jack Frost is a busy fellow. He never stops to play or sleep. He worked on this overthrust for centuries of centuries; for thousands of thousands of years; for many times thousands of thousands of years. And during this tremendous period, whose length no human mind can grasp, all of the enormous bulk of overthrust rock was chiselled out and washed away except the very bottom layer.
"Now, this bottom layer was, of course, the very oldest of all the rock. It belongs to a period which geologists call the Algonkian. Once, before it was hoisted so far up in the air, it was the bottom of a sea. And that is why it looks so very oldsimply because it really is the oldest rock there is."
"Gee, but that's interesting!" said Jack. "Was there any life at all when that rock was made?"
"Maybe there were just the beginnings of life," said Uncle Tom. "But there were no animals or trees. Possibly there were tiny living vegetable growths; many geologists think so."
"Uncle Tom," asked Jack, "why are there so many lakes in Glacier? And what makes the mountains such queer shapes? A lot of them make me think of that keel-boat of Uncle Billy's when he turned it upside down for the winter."
"First of all, Jack," Uncle Tom replied, "because the rock is principally sandstone and limestone, which are both softer than the granite in the Rocky Mountain National Park; and next because these rocks have been exposed to the frosts and the rains for so many millions of years. For these two reasons the glaciers have cut deeper cirques and valleys and have gouged out bigger precipices and more and larger lakes. For the same reasons the mountains have worn away into those strange shapes you speak of. The lakes and mountains of Glacier National Park are the most romantically beautiful in the world because they are the oldest in the world. Jack Frost has had softer material to work with and more time to spend upon his carving."
"But aren't you going to tell us that story about the other little white spot?" asked Margaret.
"Of course I am," said Uncle Tom. "The scene of the story is right here where we are sitting. Do you see that horizontal ledge up there on the side of Mount Grinnell? How high up do you think that is?"
Neither of the children could tell.
"Well, that is probably more than two thousand feetsay, half a milehigher than this lake. If twenty steeples as high as our church-steeple at home were set one on top of the other it would not reach so high. You will notice that the rock from that ledge seems to drop straight down."
"It does drop straight down," asserted Jack, "just as straight as a house."
"Well," said Uncle Tom, "how would you like to have been born up on that ledge?"
"Oh, goodness!" cried Margaret. "And be a little baby up there? And creep out and fall off? No, sir! But nobody ever was born up there, Uncle Tom; really?"
"Little Rocky was born in a cave back of that ledge," asserted Uncle Tom. "The ledge was his front yard; and it had no fence, either. Mrs. Rocky Mountain Goat, his mother, was a nice, timid, mild-eyed lady who wore long white furs all the time, summer as well as winter. His daddy, Mr. Goat, had a straight white beard and big staring eyes. He looked very like old Mr. O'Reilly who keeps the candy stand near your school, Jack. Only his face was as white as a clown's, and he dressed in white from head to foot. The long hair on his legs stopped a good deal short of his feet, just like Mr. O'Reilly's Sunday trousers. Mr. Goat had funny short horns sticking straight up out of his funny long head. I'm afraid he was a queer-looking person, but Mrs. Goat thought him very handsome; and, as for little Rocky, he thought Dad the most wonderful creature in all the world.
"Now, when Rocky was big enough to go out upon the ledge where his parents cropped grass and wild flowers all day, his father led him to the edge and told him to look over. Rocky did so. A thousand feet below him enormous rockssee them there?threatened him in case he should fall. But he was not afraid because he never thought of falling. His father and mother were not afraid; so why should he fear?
"Later on his father led him out to the edge of still greater precipices and taught him to leap across chasms and jump up and down to other ledges. In these leaps, Rocky's little body often would momentarily pass across chasms a quarter of a mile or more deep, but he had no more sense of danger than you children have in ascending some high office-building in an elevator.
"Remember that fear is almost wholly a thing of the imagination. The same persons who are terrified by the sight of harmless snakes often have no fear whatever of germs which are exceedingly dangerous and deadly. Rocky was fearless because no one had ever suggested to him the possibility of his falling. And, because he had never feared falling, his chances of ever falling became very small. Fearlessness, couragethis is what enabled Rocky to leap across the dizziest gulf, and what will enable you children to do most of the things you want to do in life.
"But Rocky's life was not all spent upon the ledges. Sometimes his parents took him down to those beautiful wild-flowered slopes by the glacier's side; but they did not do this often while he was still very small for fear of the lions."
"Lions? Not really!" cried Margaret, and Jack looked up with sudden interest.
"Yes, indeed," said Uncle Tom, "but not the kind of lions you have seen in the zoo. Those live only in hot countries. The American mountain-lion is a large and ferocious brute that does not fear the cold. In fact, his home is in the coldest regions in the United States. When the snow is many feet deep in the valleys and the thermometer is fifty or sixty degrees below zero, Mr. Lion goes out hunting for the goats and the deer that serve the same purpose for him that roast beef and broiled chops do for you.
"Now, Mr. Goat was a powerful and fearless fellow, and taught little Rocky many things about getting along in the world. He taught him where to find the salt-licks, for animals need salt just as much as you need it, but they do not need it so often. He taught him to go to the licks at times when he was least likely to find lions waiting under near-by bushes. He taught him how to jump down a precipice and alight on some small ledge with all four feet held together, and from there leap to another ledge lower down. In fact, little Rocky's sturdy father gave him the best possible education in the art of making a living and escaping his enemies in a land where living was difficult.
"But Rocky learned many other useful things that his father could not teach him. Uncle Waggletoe, his father's older brother, was a very wise old goat. He had not been content to graze in one neighborhood like most goats. He had, indeed, travelled over all the neighboring mountains for many miles around. He had asked countless questions of the mountain sheep and the eagles and the smaller animals and birds whom he had met on his travels. He was, indeed, a wise old goat."
"Why did they call him Uncle Waggletoe?" asked Margaret.
"For the same reason that we call you Margaret," said Uncle Tom, "because it was his name."
Jack laughed and Margaret pouted.
"The fact is," said Uncle Tom, "that Uncle Waggletoe had a curious habit of shaking his left hind foot whenever anything interested him greatly. That is what gave him his name. You will hear presently how this habit served him a very good turn.
"One day when Rocky was a vigorous youngster who could leap farther and butt harder than any other young bucks of his own age, Uncle Waggletoe and Daddy Goat had a long and earnest conversation on the top of a lofty precipice looking down upon Iceberg Lake. At its close they trotted gravely for a quarter mile down a slanting ledge, leaped from there to the next lower and so on till they joined a group of several families gossiping idly in the sunshine near the water's edge. Mr. Goat called Rocky from a wrestling-bout with a visiting kid from Mount Wilbur and said solemnly:
"'Rocky, Uncle Waggletoe thinks you ought to travel. I never travelled, myself, and I always have been well, happy, and safe. On the other hand, he was a great traveller in his youth. He has seen the mountains of Canada and the plains of the Blackfeet. He has even drunk of the swift waters of the Flathead. He has had many adventures and several narrow escapes. Perhaps travel has broadened and improved him. Many say so. Your Uncle Waggletoe is much respected. He has offered to show you the World, and I have consented. You see,' he added, lowering his voice, 'your Uncle Waggletoe's influence is undoubtedly greater for his having travelled. People think he is a much more important goat than really he is. I don't much believe in travel myself, but certainly it is a cheap and easy way to make a reputation.' And Mr. Goat winked one eye solemnly.
"From which you will perceive, children, that Uncle Waggletoe was not the only wise old goat in the Iceberg Gorge that morning.
"They started early one spring morning from Iceberg Lake. More than a hundred white goats, young and old, great and small, gathered on the ledges to bid them farewell.
"'In all Goatland, my dear Rocky,' said Uncle Waggletoe, 'you will see nothing grander than this spot. That glacier slanting sharply down the mountainside and splitting off ice chunks into the water is not so large as many you will see, but it is very, very wonderful. An eagle once told me that he had seen a place called Mount Rainier where the glaciers were hundreds of times as long as this and the ice as thick as the Garden Wall is high. But eagles are such liars!' Uncle Waggletoe sighed.
"Now, I am not going to describe their travels, for that would take too long. They were away all summer, and they saw most of the magnificent mountain country which we call the Glacier National Park. They crossed the Continental Divide, not by the beautiful Swiftcurrent Pass which we shall cross to-morrow on horseback, but right up over the Garden Wall. They skirted the crests of giant heights and stood on the top of Mount Cleveland, the loftiest peak in the park, from which they looked upon one of the noblest mountain spectacles in the whole world. South of them the McDonald Valley, framed in ice-topped mountains, wound its magnificent course through distant passes to placid forest-bordered Lake McDonald. Thousands of feet below them lay the broad green Waterton Valley, dotted with lakes and backed by splendid glacier-shrouded heights. To the north lay the lesser Canadian Rockies.
"'I did not know the world could be so big,' gasped Rocky.
"'Those strange men-creatures that walk on their hind legs and ride horses,' said Uncle Waggletoe, 'seldom come up here. That is why I like it here. They are getting too plentiful at Lake McDermott and Iceberg Lake for my comfort. Of course they never kill us as they used to do. Your father thinks we are quite safe; but, frankly, I should feel safer if we all moved up here.'
"'Did they ever kill us? ' cried Rocky, aghast.
"'Did they? Well, they did, indeed,' said Uncle Waggletoe. 'Many years ago when my father was a young buck like you, they used to point magic sticks at us that made noises like rocks dropping from precipices. Every time that noise was heard a goat died. Then they would climb up and get his poor body. We never could understand why. Sometimes we would find blackened sticks where a fire had been burning and bones lying near it. Perhaps they ate goats; we never knew. It seemed strange that we never found goats' heads and skins. I think they must have eaten the heads and skins. But lions don't do that; we never could understand.'
"'But don't they point magic sticks at us any more?' asked Rocky nervously.
"'They have not done so for many years.'
"'Perhaps they have lost the sticks,' Rocky suggested.
"'No,' said Uncle Waggletoe, 'they still have them, and sometimes they point them at lions. That is what makes your father think they have become our friends. They do not kill any animals nowadays but lions.'
"They travelled west across the Divide and descended between bleak white glaciers to the most beautiful water that Rocky ever had seen.
"'I don't like to come down as far as this,' said Uncle Waggletoe, 'but I want you to see Lake Bowman close by. There is nothing finer in all Goatland.'
"Then they travelled south to the largest sheet of water Rocky had ever seen.
"'Lake McDonald is getting spoiled,' said Uncle Waggletoe, shaking his whiskers sadly. 'Too many men here. Look at that big house where they meet. There's a second group of houses down the lake and still another group at the head of the lake. And now they have houses floating on the water. Do you see that one? It moves as fast as a bird. No, I'm going back to Mount Cleveland.'
"'But why?' asked Rocky. 'These creatures do not kill us any more. Yon say they are our friends. If they are our friends why should we run away? The fact is, I rather like to see them moving around. They are interesting.'
"Uncle Waggletoe gazed solemnly at his nephew for a long while. Then he wagged his head slowly and said:
"'New times, new ideas. You young fellows actually will tolerate these queer hind-legged creatures, eh? But look there at that deer, quick!'
"His left hind foot wagged rapidly.
"Rocky looked at the big house by the lake side. A deer had come out of the woods and was walking calmly up to the door. A group of children ran out and patted its head and stroked its brown sides. Their gay shouts resounded across the water. Uncle Waggletoe's left hind foot wagged harder than ever.
"'Scandalous!' he cried. 'There is your new spirit for you! A disgraceful spectacle, I call that. I thought better of deer. I did not think they would deliberately associate with these men-creatures.'
"But Rocky's eyes were glistening. If goats can smile, I am sure he was smiling then.
"'No, no, Uncle Waggletoe, I don't agree with you. I think those little baby men are cunning. I thinkI'dliketotohave them pat me.'
"Uncle Waggletoe bowed his head in shame. For a long while he was silent. Then he groaned:
"'I'm afraid my time has come. I cannot understand these new ideas. I think next year I shall go to Mount Cleveland and spend my remaining days in solitude.'
"The next day they stood on the cliffs above Lake Margaret Wilson and watched its waters cascade twelve hundred feet into a hidden lake below. They crossed magnificent Gunsight Pass, they looked down upon beautiful Saint Mary Lake, spoiled in Uncle Waggletoe's eyes (but not in Rocky's) by the picturesque and luxurious chalets built upon its banks; and then, from the summit of Rising Wolf Mountain, they looked over upon the wonderful beauty of Two Medicine Lake and out upon the broad plains where the Blackfeet Indians, once so warlike, now work their peaceful farms.
"'I'll say this much for the new times,' said Uncle Waggletoe, 'that those Indians don't hunt us any more. Grandfather Crookedhorn used to tell me stories of the time when they dressed in furs and feathers and chased us all over these mountains. They don't come up here much now, and, when they do, they let us alone.'
"Near the summit of lofty Mount Stimson, Uncle Waggletoe met an old friend whom he had not seen for many summers.
"'Well, if it isn't Daddy Shortbreeches!' he cried, rubbing noses with a goat of venerable countenance. 'And who are these with you? Your grandchildren?'
"'I'm showing them the world,' said Daddy Short breeches. They talked long together.
"Meantime Rocky leaped upon a ledge on which was perched a graceful young goat.
"'Kid, your eyes shine like the stars,' he said.
"'What is your name?'
"'My name is Flower-Bright,' she said. 'Your eyes shine, too, and your young beard is whiter than the daisy's petal.'
"This was Rocky's wooing. But he did not see Flower-Bright again until the next spring when her grandfather brought her to him at Grinnell Mountain.
"'You're only ten months old now,' said the old goat grimly. 'You modern youngsters travel too fast for me. You can wait till the young birches bud.'
"In September the two travellers returned. They had seen many wonderful sights. Their great adventure was on the road back to Lake McDermott. Rocky had insisted upon going down to examine this strange trail over which extraordinary animals sped back and forth more swiftly than the fastest deer can run.
"'What is the name of that animal?' he asked, as, from a mountain top, they watched one glide by.
"'I call it black lightning because it moves so fast. At night its eyes shine brighter than the sun. Your father thinks it is a deer, but it is more like a turtle than a deer. Some think it is a kind of horse, but it is too big for that. Twenty or thirty men can ride on one at once. The eagles tell me that these animals come from the southland. There were none here when I was young. They did not come till men made that wide trail down there. They never leave the trail; and not even the squirrels, who go very close to houses, have ever seen them eat.'
"Uncle Waggletoe was loath to go down to look at the strange trail.
"'Suppose a black lightning should come,' he said.
"But Rocky prevailed. Very reluctantly and cautiously his Uncle led the way across an intervening plain to the dusty road. They skirted it awhile before venturing to step upon it; but they found it pleasant walking and followed it for several miles. Then came their adventure.
"Rounding a rocky point with a slight precipice upon one side, Uncle Waggletoe, who was in front, suddenly spied an automobile stage approaching rapidly. Instantly he stopped and wagged his left hind foot at tremendous speed. He hesitated and reared. The automobile horn sounded and the passengers saw him and began to scream excitedly. For the first time in his life Uncle Waggletoe completely lost his head. His fighting instinct was aroused. He lowered his horns and gathered himself together in defense.
"Rocky's first intimation of trouble was the rapid movement of his uncle's left hind foot. He bounded forward beside him and saw the strange black animal approaching.
"As Uncle Waggletoe gathered for the attack, Rocky with a sudden instinct swung around and butted his Uncle full in the side, knocking him off the road. Down the sharp declivity they both rolled, over and over, got footing at the bottom, and galloped for the mountains at a speed which neither had ever equalled before. The automobile passed slowly by, the passengers leaning from its side to watch their course.
"In telling the story at home Uncle Waggletoe declared that the black lightning had followed them for two miles, and Rocky, who knew better because he had looked back over his shoulder, did not deny it. That much was due to Uncle Waggletoe's years and injured dignity. In fact, he made no comment even when Uncle Waggletoe described the gnashing of the strange animal's fearful teeth and the burning sensation of its hot, panting breath.
"It was a jolly home-coming. Nearly two hundred goats gathered on Grinnell Mountain to welcome the wanderers and hear their strange adventures. And, when all had gone home, kindly Mother Goat gazed into her son's great soft eyes and affectionately licked his placid, kindly face.
"'You've grown so big,' she said thoughtfully. 'Your beard is longer, and you have quite a masterful air, just like your father. Tell me, boy, what was the most wonderful of all the wonderful things you saw?'
"Rocky did not hesitate a moment.
"'Flower-Bright,' he said."
"Gee!" said Jack after a little silence, "that is some story, Uncle Tom. I only wish it was true."
"Oh, quick, look, look!" exclaimed Margaret, pointing excitedly far up the mountainside. "There's a white spot that moves! See it? Oh, dear, can't you see it?"
"Yes," cried Jack, "and there's another right behind it. See? They're goats. And there is another little white spot following along behind. Do you see?"
Uncle Tom adjusted his field-glasses and examined the goats attentively.
"As I live," he said, "they are Rocky and Flower-Bright and their little kid."
Last Updated: 30-Oct-2009