Read CHAPTER NINE - LESSONS IN TRACKING of Girl Scouts in the Adirondacks , free online book, by Lillian Elizabeth Roy, on ReadCentral.com.

“Well, scouts! That shows us how little we know about wild animal’s tracks,” remarked Mrs. Vernon, after Jake had been made to go back to the bungalow, and the Troop went on to camp.

“I could have sworn that skunk’s footprints were a coon’s or a fox’s, or something big!” exclaimed Julie, trying to justify her mistake.

“To me, the tracks in the soil looked like a lynx’s, or something,” added Joan, hoping to cover the ignominy of having unearthed a skunk without knowing the animal.

“Isn’t there some sort of book that will teach us how to recognize tracks, girls?” asked Hester.

“Is there, Verny? Maybe we can get one at the bungalow,” added Julie.

“I don’t know of any at this moment, but Mr. Gilroy surely will know,” replied the Captain.

So they all went to the bungalow the next morning to inquire after Jake’s scent, and also to borrow any books on the subject they had discussed.

“Yes, I have several books, and let me tell you they are precious, too. There are but few on this subject, and the one I consider the best was compiled by Ernest Seton-Thompson under great difficulties. He had to gather all information from plaster casts made in the tracks themselves, or from sketches, or from camera pictures taken on the spot.

“As every different animal leaves a different track, there are many illustrations necessary in such a work, and that makes the book most desirable and also very expensive. But it is great fun to study the pictures and then try to recognize the tracks in the woods.”

“We haven’t found any about camp,” said Judith, regretfully.

“There must be all sorts of tracks there, but you don’t know how to find them. Now, if you want to study this book and then practice early some morning, I’ll come down and help find the tracks,” Mr. Gilroy said.

“Oh, great! Will you come to-morrow morning?” asked the girls.

“Hadn’t we better study the book first, scouts, and let Gilly know when we are ready to go tracking?” suggested the Captain.

So for a time every one was busy reading the book and trying to discover a track in the woods near camp. But Julie laughed as she said, “It isn’t likely that a wild animal will prowl close to our camp at night. We’ll have to hunt one some distance away.”

Mr. Gilroy overheard the remark as he came down the trail. “Sometimes the animals will come quite close to camp just to find out what it is that is intruding on their forest domain.”

“Well, then, I wish they’d hurry and come here!” declared Judith.

“When you are ready to hunt tracks, I’ll arrange some baits around your camp grounds; and the next morning I’ll vow you’ll see that you’ve had callers while you slept. So quiet are they that you won’t hear them, either,” said Mr. Gilroy.

“We are ready to hunt now, Gilly. We know everything in the book and are crazy to test it,” said Joan, eagerly.

“Then I’ll tell you what we might do. I was going over to Grey Fox Camp, but if you girls will deliver a message for me, I will go home and attend to the bait I spoke of. Hiram and I will do the rest.”

“All right what do you want us to say to the boys?” agreed the scouts.

“Now, listen! Tell them that I want them to start out at dawn in the morning and hunt up all the tracks they can trace about their camp. Then to-morrow afternoon they are to come over here with their reports and have a match with you girls. The side showing the best results and most interesting experience shall have a prize. How does it strike you?” Mr. Gilroy glanced at the pleased faces as he concluded.

“Fine! Do they know much about tracks?” returned Julie.

“Oh, yes, but then you must understand that they have been scouting for more than four years. Tell them that this is your first summer in a genuine forest camp, and they need not expect you to accomplish wonders. Then you girls must turn in and do your best!” laughed Mr. Gilroy.

The scouts were most enthusiastic, and gaily agreed to follow Mr. Gilroy’s suggestions. When they were ready to hike over the crest, the Captain said, “We may as well invite the boys to supper to-morrow and make a party of it.”

“That will be splendid. And I’ll contribute my quota to the dinner instead of eating it at home,” added Mr. Gilroy.

“We may have quail or partridge for dinner if we track the birds carefully,” suggested Joan, giggling.

“Venison steaks are better,” hinted Mrs. Vernon.

“What’s the matter with bear steaks, while we’re about it? They’re said to be gamier in flavor,” laughed Julie.

“We’ll have all three, and serve a ten-course dinner to the boys,” added Ruth.

With light banter the scouts left Mr. Gilroy where the trails diverged, they to cross the crest and invite the boys over for supper the next day, and Mr. Gilroy to go home to find the “bait.”

Dandelion Camp was abandoned for a long time that day, and it was too late in the afternoon when the scouts returned, to ask what had been done in the woods during their absence; but a great deal had taken place there, as Hiram and his master could have told had they been so inclined. Even Jake could have testified to mysterious actions, and many queer maneuvers of familiar animals from the barnyard, but the girls never asked him. Their faith in Mr. Gilroy was sublime!

While the Dandelioners sat eating their camp supper, they discussed the boys they had visited that day.

“I declare! I wonder if we ever will know as much about the woods as those Grey Fox boys do,” sighed Hester, taking a bite of baked potato.

“Sure! We know almost as much as they do already,” bragged Joan.

“They gave us a lovely luncheon and all with nothing to do it with,” added Judith.

“And it’s up to us, girls, to give them a dinner that will make their eyes pop out to-morrow!” declared Ruth.

“Let’s plan it now, and do as much towards it as possible, then we can give that much extra time to tracking,” suggested Julie.

“And, scouts! I want you to display every bit of fine work you have done since we’ve been in camp, and all the work we did at camp last summer, as well, and brought with us this year,” advised the Captain.

“Yes, we don’t want those boys to think we don’t know a thing! The stuff we’ve made is so different from what they have, too,” admitted the leader.

So the evening was employed in arranging many exhibits to impress the visitors the following afternoon. Then the scouts rolled into bed.

“Verny, you’d better set the alarm clock for four in the morning,” called Julie, the last thing.

“Yes, we want to be up and ready to start when Gilly comes for us,” added Joan, the Corporal.

“All right. Go to sleep now, or you’ll all over-sleep,” laughed the Captain from her tent.

But there was no need of an alarm clock. The girls were up half an hour before it rang, and were impatiently waiting for the arrival of their instructor in tracking. Some of the scouts had gone into the bushes to begin a search, but had found nothing.

It took but a few moments after Mr. Gilroy arrived to outline his plans for the work and fun. “We will scatter in couples to hunt for any sort of track whatever. The first couple that discovers any genuine track must call out, then we all will run and study it for what it is, or where it leads to. Now, pair off, scouts, but the Captain and I will follow at a distance and hurry to the first pair who find a track.”

“There are nine of us how about the odd one?” asked Julie.

“Let the three youngest go together,” returned the Captain. So Amy, Betty and Judith hunted in trio.

It was a “still hunt” for a time, since every one was too intent on finding a track to speak. Most of the scouts took to the dense bushes and woods, but the Leader sought in a clearing and was the first to summon the others.

“Oh, come, every one! We’ve found a great big track!” called Julie, as she and her companion knelt to inspect the prints.

Every one raced wildly to the clearing, and, sure enough, there were hoof prints distinctly marked in the soil. The trail led across the clearing into the dense forest.

“Aren’t they big?” excitedly asked Joan.

“They’re made by a deer!” said Julie, boastfully.

“Are they, Gilly?” asked the girls as the Judge came up.

He pretended to study them carefully, and then said: “I shall have to wait and compare them with those in the book.”

“Maybe it is a reindeer?” suggested Betty, eagerly.

“Mercy no! We don’t have reindeers south of the Pole!” declared her sister.

“Look here, girls! This creature only had two legs it left only two hoofmarks, one for each side,” cried Judith now.

“Then I know what it was! It was that familiar animal that carries a pitchfork, smells of sulphur and is known to have hoofs,” retorted Julie, making them all laugh merrily.

“I’m sure I have no desire to trail him!” said the Captain, holding up both hands as if to ward off such a danger. “Let him go to his lair in peace!”

“All joking aside, girls, this is a queer track only two feet instead of four. Let’s follow and see where it goes,” suggested Mr. Gilroy.

So they trailed the plainly visible tracks, and after a distance, Julie said: “Whatever it is, it couldn’t have traveled so far as this if it was a cripple. It just couldn’t walk on two hind legs all this way.”

Mr. Gilroy had to laugh loudly at this, but he said, “No, but don’t give up hope! You may stumble right over the prostrate buck.”

But the trail now crossed itself several times, and the scouts wondered which way the two-legged creature finally went, for all tracks were obliterated after that criss-cross place in a tiny clearing.

The Corporal was determined to pick it up again somewhere, so she finally came out to the trail that ran from the camp to the bungalow. Here she wandered up and down for a short distance, and then spied the tracks again.

“Oh, I’ve got him again. He goes right up this trail,” so she followed.

The others followed at a distance, and then she shouted, “He prowled around Gilly’s house, too, last night, for I see the hoofmarks here.”

Julie would have gone after the tracks to the right “lair,” but Hiram came forward from the barnyard to meet her. He had heard her call to the others, and offered a solution to the problem.

“I seen them tracks this mornin’, too, Miss Julie, and I’m sure that animal come to the barnyard las’ night to feed offen the hay and corn he could find around there.”

“Oh, really! Would one do that?” asked Julie, amazed.

“Sure he would, if he was a deer. An’ them tracks ain’t no grizzly, er fox, er other critter, you know.”

“No; of course, it is a deer, as one can see by the tracks. But I’m sorry we have to end in such an ordinary place as the barnyard,” sighed Julie.

“I see’d some queer tracks down by that log where Jake caught the skunk,” now hinted Hiram.

That was enough! In another moment every scout was bounding down the trail in order to reach the spot first and win honor by knowing the track correctly.

Hester found these tracks first, and shouted to her friends, “This has small cloven feet, but there are only two legs, also! Now and then you can see where one track looks as if a hind foot had broken in on another one!”

“Oh, girls! That explains that other two-footed animal!” now exclaimed Julie, quickly.

“What, what?” demanded every one eagerly.

“Most likely the deer stepped daintily with its hind feet directly in the same track made by its forefeet. It said something about that in the book, you know.”

“Do you think that is it, Gilly?” now asked several anxious voices.

“Exactly! I was hoping you’d find that out,” agreed he.

“Well, does this creature show any unusual tendencies, girls, by which you can recognize it?” laughed Mrs. Vernon.

“Not a thing! It starts from the trail and goes right through the brush where we broke a way that day the skunk was killed, and it stopped to question nothing. It must have been in a hurry to get a drink,” explained Joan.

The trail plainly led to the brook, and ended there. No sign of anything going back again could be found, although the girls looked carefully over the entire place. Then Julie thought she saw something in the soft soil upon the opposite bank. To make sure, she waded through the shallow but swiftly running water, and there, on the steep bank, she saw the tracks again.

“Ha! I found ’em! plain as day. Come and follow!” called she. And off she started.

Not more than a dozen yards along the top of the bank she found the tracks go down again; and through the brook she went, up the other side, and back to the brush-clearing on a new trail, following the cloven-footed tracks. Out on the hard trail they were lost.

“Now, that makes two I’ve trailed and lost. It’s a shame!” cried Julie, stamping her foot.

“‘Better to have trailed and lost than never to have found at all,’” misquoted Mrs. Vernon, laughingly.

“If the first one was a deer, this second one must have been a little fawn,” said Judith.

“Is there any other animal that wears hoofs?” asked Ruth, of no one in particular.

Now, Mr. Gilroy must have dreaded the reply, for he quickly changed the subject. “How many of you brought the plaster and bottle of water?” Every one had.

“Well, why not make a little cast of both the tracks you do not recognize and then compare them with those in the book when we go back to camp?”

This sounded fine, so the scouts were soon busy making casts of the tracks. When hard, they were handed to the Captain and Mr. Gilroy to carry carefully until they all reached camp.

Quite near the camp ground Hester made a discovery. “Oh, come and see! Here is something with toes. As big as a wildcat, or maybe a little bear!”

Yes, there were toes in this animal’s tracks as plain as could be. So the scouts guessed every animal known, excepting the coyote and water-loving creatures. After many futile suggestions, they made a plaster cast of these tracks also.

“I’m going to carry this load back to camp, girls, and be ready for the next one you give me,” announced Mr. Gilroy, starting to go down the trail.

The next two tracks, one that of a large-toed animal and the other of one whose tracks showed how the hair grew down low on the hind legs, for the hair showed in several of the imprints made of plaster, strangely ended near the bungalow, and on the other side of the hard trail again, they ran as far as the barnyard.

“I never saw the beat of it! Any one would think Gilly hung the bait on the barn door to entice the animals here,” said Julie, who was angry at winding up at such a place three times running. Mr. Gilroy had to laugh in spite of himself.

“Say, where did you put that bait, anyway, Gilly?” demanded the scout leader, watching the man skeptically.

“Where we knew it would attract the best results.”

“Gilly, I verily believe you are hoaxing us!” cried Julie. Mrs. Vernon smiled at her bright scout, but Mr. Gilroy shook his head protestingly.

“Why should I hoax any one? I was laughing at the way you brave scouts dodged when Joan said the animal they lost might be crouching on a bough of the trees.”

“No, that wasn’t what made you laugh.” Then Julie went over and held a secret conference with her corporal and Ruth, and they, grinning, urged her to do as she suggested.

So Julie took a sample of the different casts made in the tracks, and left the others engaged in finding new and intricate tracks. Mr. Gilroy and the Captain were not taken into the three scouts’ confidence, but they must have suspected where Julie proposed going, for soon after she had gone Mrs. Vernon said:

“Girls, if we expect to entertain the Grey Fox boys at dinner this afternoon, we’d better go back now and begin work.”

“Without a clue to any wild animal we tracked?” sighed Judith.

“Oh, yes, Judy we’ve got some fine clues, and by the time we’re at camp and have our books out, Julie will be back with proofs! Come on,” was Joan’s assurance to the girls.

On the way, the scouts discussed the last track they had discovered. “I was sure it was a crow’s,” asserted Amy.

“No, it was more like a chicken-hawk’s,” Hester added.

“There wouldn’t be any chicken-hawk around here in these woods,” said Joan.

“Maybe it was the American Eagle,” laughed Mr. Gilroy.

“Yes, it got tired of sitting on the flagpole where the colors have hung for four days without being taken in at night, as they should be,” remarked the Captain.

“Dear me, Verny, there is so much to remember in camp. We always remember the flag after we are in bed at night,” complained Ruth.

“The Orderly will have to appoint a flagman for each day after this,” said Mrs. Vernon.

They finally reached camp, and had a light luncheon ready before Julie returned. She came down the trail sprightly, with one hand holding something behind her, and singing as she came.

“Where have you been, Julie?” asked several of the scouts.

“Did you find out what you went for?” asked others.

“Yep! I learned that we have among us the queerest sort of creature, girls. It really walks on two legs, holds its head upright, and belongs to the fox class. I tracked it right to our midst,” laughed Julie.

The scouts seemed perplexed, and Julie, too full of her discoveries to tease very long, said, “His name is ‘Foxy Grandpa,’ and you all know him well!”

Every eye glanced at Mr. Gilroy, and he laughingly replied, “Why do you all seem to think I am that animal?”

“Because you are, Gilly!” retorted Julie. “And I’ll prove it now, to every one’s satisfaction.”

“First, then: Did Hiram miss any calves or pigs or other domestic animals from his barnyard yesterday?”

Mr. Gilroy threw up both hands in submission when he saw the knowing look in the leader’s eyes.

“Because here are the molds we made of the tracks found in the forest, girls. And here are molds I made of the heifer, a pig, the Great Dane, and a chicken, at the bungalow. Can you find any difference?”

Both the Captain and Mr. Gilroy laughed, but the scouts gasped in unbelief, “Would Gilly do such a thing?”

Not one bit of difference was found when comparing the molds of each animal, and then Mr. Gilroy had to tell how he did it. Of course, the scouts laughed mirthlessly, for they were thinking of how those Grey Fox boys would jeer at their woodcraft. But Julie now brought out in front, the hand which had held something behind her.

“Here is the hawk or American Eaglet. I brought it with me for dinner to-night. To Gilly it will be crow-pie, but to us it will be spring chicken.” And the Leader tossed a dead chicken upon the grass. Then she added:

“That’s what happens to all ‘critters’ that trespass on our land. Hiram tells me that when a farmer catches an animal on his land, he generally holds it for ransom, or for food for himself, so we have not fared so badly, scouts, in this day’s work!

“Behold the other trophies coming! I took them because they broke the law and trespassed on our estates last night.” Julie waved a hand dramatically towards the trail, and every one turned to look.

Hiram was slowly advancing toward camp, leading with one hand a fractious pig, and with the other hand dragging an unwilling half-grown heifer on a chain. Jake was jumping about and barking excitedly as they came over and stood like prisoners at the bar.

“Mr. Foxy Grandpa,” began Julie, as severely as she could, “because of your crime of misleading trusting scouts into a snare, I pronounce this judgment upon you, and therefore levy upon your property to satisfy the judgment.

“This wild deer and its little fawn shall henceforth be the property of the injured ones insulted past all forgiveness by your fraud. And the innocent victims used to perpetrate your schemes, being as free from guile as the scouts themselves, shall dwell henceforth together in peace and tranquillity!”

Every one laughed heartily at the denouement for it was so like Julie; but Mrs. Vernon added, “Julie you speak exactly like the millennial times, when the lion and the lamb shall dwell in love and peace together.”

“The lion will dwell with the lamb, all right, but the lamb will be the piece inside the lion,” added Mr. Gilroy; “just as this pig will live in camp! Such a life as it will lead you!”

“No good talking ‘sour grapes’, now, Gilly,” advised Julie, wisely. “The calf and the pig remain, no matter what sort of life they lead us.”

“What can you expect to do with two such pets?” asked Mr. Gilroy, who was honestly amazed at the scouts’ unexpected appropriation.

“First, build a pen for them, and second, have veal and pork before we leave for home!” retorted Julie. She then ordered all the scouts to fall to work and construct a temporary shelter for the two creatures.

Mr. Gilroy seemed too surprised to comment, and when Hiram finally delivered the calf and pig into Julie’s custody, Mr. Gilroy turned to her and said, “Do you really mean to keep the beasts, here in camp?”

“Why, of course! Why should we go to all this fuss for nothing?”

“Well, I can’t see, yet, why you should?”

When the calf and pig were temporarily tied to a tree, where they seemed as much at home as back in the barnyard, Julie said, “By the way, Gilly, what did you call the pets when they were yours?”

“They have never been christened, because I waited for an opportune time. It is here now!” returned Mr. Gilroy, picking up one of the bottles of water that had done duty to make plaster casts that morning.

He held it over the calf’s head and poured half of its contents out while he said solemnly:

“Dear little deer, henceforth you shall be known as Julia, in honor of the intrepid scout that captured you, single-handed.

“Likewise, this sweet little fawn, known by its tracks through the wilderness, shall be named Ant-and-ett because of its peculiar habits, busy as an ant and eats all that comes its way!” Then the rest of the water was emptied over the pig’s head.

“Antoinette it shall be, now and forever,” declared Julie, while the other scouts laughed uproariously. But the two names stuck, and thereafter the calf was “Julia” and the pig was generally called by the name of “Anty.”

After the christening Mr. Gilroy beckoned for the Captain to join him where the girls could not over-hear his conversation. “You don’t suppose the girls are in earnest about keeping the pig and calf at camp, do you?” asked he, anxiously.

“Yes, certainly,” laughed Mrs. Vernon. “You don’t know girls of this age, or you’d understand that they enjoy all these silly pranks thoroughly, and really, they act as safety-valves.”