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THE STORK OF THE WOODS
BY C. WILLIAM BEEBE
WITH PICTURE BY CHARLES LIVINGSTON BULL
IF we should visit a collection of living
F we should visit a collection of living
wood-ibis, he would not be likely to occupy a high place in our estimation as regards beauty or intelligence. Poor fellow, even his names are awry or meaningless, for he is more of a stork than an ibis, and as to his scientific name (Tantalus loculator), it signifies nothing.
Few birds appear more stupid in captivity than a wood-ibis. His bald pate, his staring eyes, and his awkward motions perhaps prejudice one against him, but it gives one a feeling of irritation to see him fall over his own feet, and, through lack of wit, stand in a cement-lined pool and for hours patiently tap the bottom with his foot, trembling with eagerness the while as he watches for impossible worms to come to the surface. Even when he takes to wing, the effort is such that his head and legs rack back and forth until it seems as though they would part from his body.
Yet he is happy in captivity, for his meals of fish are regular and abundant, and to eat is his greatest joy. Simply inordinate is the bulk of fish which he can consume. Nature has been kind to him in this respect at least, for if any sharp fins or spines irritate his distended digestive system, it is no trouble at all for him to unload, and reswallow his meal, taking care this time that it is more comfortably packed. His coat of feathers often waxes dingy in confinement, his inner man, or, rather, bird, demanding so much of his attention.
But it is unfair to judge him thus. Nature did not adapt all creatures for display in a cage, even though it be of generous proportions. Before condemning the wood
ibis altogether, we should visit him in his native home, some cypress-shadowed bayou in Florida.
High up in the dead cypresses, half hidden by the swaying moss, we may see many nests-large loosely built platforms. As we approach the dismal solitudes, moccasin-snakes, blacker even than the water through which they undulate, move sluggishly away. We hear the loud reveille of a pileated woodpecker, and as we noisily splash over a hidden, sunken log, a loud flapping of wings is heard, and the woodpecker's roll is drowned in a confused clatter of beaks-the only voice of the wood-ibis. A flock of snow-white forms passes out from the cypress darkness into the bright sunlight.
And now if we retrace our steps to the pine-land prairie, we shall see the woodibis at his best. Here the moccasin gives place to the rattler, the green scum and the reeds to bright flowers, the drumming of the woodpecker to the scream of the eagle. High above all, awkwardness shaken off, neck and legs no longer clumsily apparent, the ibis looks down and shames us. His black pinions, contrasting with the snowy white of his body, are set and motionless. As gracefully as a swallow he swings round and upward; as lightly as a feather he drifts with the breeze or turns in a beautiful curve, soaring back over his aërial path. Perfect master of his art, we realize that he is one of the finest flyers among the birds.
Higher and higher he goes, circle upon circle, flapping or sailing at will, until our sight marks him as a speck against the blue. He disappears, comes into view again as the sunlight glints from his back, and vanishes from our straining eyes.
FARTHEST NORTH BY MOTOR-CAR
A JOURNEY ON WHEELS BEYOND THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
BY HOWARD S. HAMILTON
S befitting true pioneers, we had only a vague idea as to how we were to accomplish our object of making a record in motoring toward the Farthest North. Our program was to go to Stockholm by way of Denmark, and then to skirt the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, and, having penetrated Lapland as far north as possible, to return south through Finland. We had arranged for a guide familiar with the tongues of the people we should encounter; the rest was to be very much a matter of good fortune.
Our easy passage through the Swedish customs tended to encourage this irresponsibility. The entrance duty amounted to fifteen per cent. on the value of the car,about $650,-a deposit to be returned to us on leaving the country. In addition, there was a charge of twenty-six kroner (seven dollars), of which ten kroner covered the official examination of the car, which we were amused to find consisted of a perfunctory inquiry as to the number of brakes we had and whether the car was safe on the road. After its four years of good and faithful service in out-of-theway parts of Europe, we were able to give our car a clean bill of health. The other sixteen kroner were for the license proper and two number-plates-red letters on a white background.
We must have tempted the fates sorely from the very first. At the Stockholm Automobile Club, people looked askance at us, and shook their heads dubiously when they saw the big, high-powered car of long wheel-base with which we intended to penetrate the North, and which had to carry a dead weight of more than two tons along roads that were not of the best and over bridges and ferries that were not likely to prove equal to the task. At
first the news dismayed us, but our courage straggled back when we discovered. that there would be roads awaiting us miles beyond the 67th parallel of latitude. We learned, too, that the best objective point into Lapland was the mining settlement of Malmberget, a few kilometers north of Gellivare. Thus we constructed an itinerary, and on a favorable day in June, 1910, much refreshed in spirit, we two and our polyglot guide set out from Stockholm on our novel trip.
Happily our confidence had not been misplaced so far as the roads were concerned, because, as the sequel showed, we had good, hard, and comparatively level surfaces nearly all the way. Of course there were exceptions. The first stretch of the journey, for instance, between the capital and Upsala, and thence to Gefle, was none too good. The roadway was small, flat, and very dusty, the deep ruts giving us no end of steering trouble, as the narrow tread of the country carts permitted us to keep only one wheel in the worn groove, while the other labored through the loose sand.
We arrived in Gefle on the occasion of the great midsummer holiday of the 21st of June, encountering the usual holiday concomitant, the maximum of inconvenience to the stranger. As the town was enjoying a three-days festival, it was extremely difficult to procure gasolene. After rummaging about, we finally found an obliging paint-shopkeeper who provided a supply put up in twenty-liter cans, at fifty cents a gallon. Thus fortified, we started northward along the coast.
The coast was a blessing to us. In sight of the sea, we managed to keep reasonably cool, but the moment we headed inland and lost the fan of the sea-breeze