The Living Pincushions

Growing on a porcupine’s tail and its back are a lot of quills that are like long sharp needles. When it is in danger, the porcupine makes these quills stand out from its body. But it can’t shoot them away from itself and it doesn’t have to. The quills are so loosely fastened to its body that they come out when they press against anything. The barbed ends stick into the skin of any unlucky animal that tries to catch the porcupine.

The quills make a porcupine look like a living pincushion with the long pins sticking out the wrong way.-the pointed end out! with these quills a porcupine can win a fight almost every time. But still it is a peaceful animal and will run away if it can. Not like another that has quills. Not like the porcupine’s cousin the hedgehog.

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Bang! bang! bang!
When hunters shoot, most animals will run to hide but not the hedgehog. The hedgehog has only to hear a frightening noise or feel a touch,and it curls up into a small, tight ball, with all its needles or quills sticking out in every direction. Its quills are so sharp that no animal with any sense at all would try to bite it. The hedgehog just stays there quietly not moving until the danger is over. Then it stretches out to its full length and walks away.

Hedgehogs are smaller than porcupine. Two hedgehogs could easily hide behind one big porcupine with room to spare. Hedgehogs don’t eat twigs and tree bark as porcupine do. The little hedgehogs have noses made just right for digging up ants and bugs for dinner. They also eat plants, fruits, eggs, frogs, toads and even wiggly snakes.

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And hedgehogs use their quills for more than protection from other animals. In the winter they sleep most of the time, as groundhogs and some mice do. It is a special kind of sleep called hibernating in which they barely breathe. They sleep in a leaf nest in a hole in the ground or under tree roots or wherever they can find some protection in the gardens or woods where they live. When cold rains come, the quills serve as a raincoat to help keep them dry.

Unless you live in Europe or Asia, you may never see a hedgehog. But if you should ever find one, walk softly or all you’ll see is a ball of needles.

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Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The big trees in the forests couldn’t stop them. Wide rivers couldn’t stop them. Fires on the grassy plains couldn’t stop them. Ice and snowslides and avalanches in the high mountains couldn’t stop them. It took Indians to stop them. Two hundred Indians stopped 5,000 men from the building a railroad across the great, lonesome country of Canada.All this happened about 100 years ago. The Indians pitched their tents or tepees at the end of the railroad and sat there with guns and bows and arrows. They wouldn’t let the men build the railroad any farther.

“We need the railroad,” the builders told the Indians.” We need it to carry people into the West and to carry out lumber and grain and coal and everything else to people all over the world.
“The white men are taking our land and killing our buffalo,” the Indian chief answered.”We do not want the white men in our country.
One day two men in red coats came riding on horseback. The coats were so red that the Indians could see them from a long way off. With their red coats the men wore blue trousers with gold stripes down the sides.

The two men stopped their horses. One said to the Indians,”You have to move your tents so that the railroad can be built.”
“We will not move,” chief replied.
“We know how you feel,” the man went on,” but the railroad must be built. There was much arguing and some scuffling but at last Indians gave in. They moved their tents and the men in red coats promised that they would treat the Indians fairly which they did.

This king of thing was happening in different places all over the vast western land of Canada. A few men in red coats were bringing law to places where they had been no law before. Many times they rode to help the Indians-chasing away the outlaws who gave the Indians poisonous whiskey to drink and stole the Indians’ fur. Who were these red-coated riders who moved quietly through this threat lonely land and settled the problems of white men,Indians and Eskimos-usually without shooting their guns or even shouting?

They were men of the Canadian Northwest Mounted Police-often called Mounties. The Canadian Mounties were much more than policeman. To become a Mountie a man had to spend long months in hard training. When he was finished he was more like a soldier than a policeman. A very special soldier. One who tried to keep trouble from starting in the first place. A soldier trained as an explorer, woodsman, mountain climber, nurse, cook, detective, map maker and reporter. He could ride a horse like a cowboy. He could paddle a canoe like an Indian. He could travel on snowshoes and drive a dog team like an Eskimo.

There were only 300 Mounties to start with-300 to keep people safe in land so vast it went all the way from the northern borders of the United States almost to the North Pole. The Canadian West at that time was even wilder than the West in the United States. The Indian Chief Sitting Bull and thousands of his warriors had crossed over into Canada after winning a great battle against General Custer’s army in the United States. Everybody was afraid that the famous chief would lead the Canadian Indians in a war against the white men.

They might have except for the Mounties. In the United States people had lied to the Indians and cheated them and taken their land without paying for it. There were many cruel and terrible wars because of this. But in Canada there were no big Indian wars. This was partly because the Indians found that the Mounties” played fair”. They told the truth. If they promised something they kept their word. So the Indians trusted them and called them their white brothers.

Today the Mounties serve all of Canada, and their name been changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They don’t wear their famous red coats anymore except in parades and on special days of celebration. Most Mounties today travel in jeeps or airplanes or helicopters or speedboats instead of on horseback. But they are still trained to ride horses, and a few still patrol far and silent places by canoe or dogsled.