The Horsetail And The Jungle
from Things To See In Springtime
The Horsetail and the Jungle
Long, long ago, millions of years ago, this world was much hotter than it is now. Yes, in mid-winter it was hotter than it is now in mid-summer. Over all Pennsylvania there were huge forests of things that looked a little like palms, but some looked like pipes with joints, and had wheels of branches or limb wheels at every joint. They were as tall as some palms, and grew in swamps.
When one of those big joint-wheels fell over, it sank into the mud and was forgotten. So at last the swamp was filled up solid with their trunks.
Then for some unknown reason all the big joint-trees died, and the sand, mud, and gravel levelled off the swamp. There they lay, and slowly become blacker and harder under the mud, until they turned into coal.
That is what we burn to-day, the trunks of the wheel-jointed swamp trees. But their youngest great-grandchild is still with us, and shows, in its small way, what its great ancestors were like.
You will find it along some railway bank, or in any damp woods. Country people who know it, call it Joint Grass or Horsetails; the books call it Equisetum. The drawing will show you what to look for.
Gather a handful and take them home. Then get some of the moss known as ground-pine, a small piece of glass (the Guide should see that the edges of the glass are well rubbed with a stone, to prevent cutting the fingers), a cigar box, and white paste or putty, as in the Monkey-hunt.
Make a pool with the glass, and banks around it of the paste. Now cover these banks with the ground pine; using a little glue on the under side of each piece, but leave an open space without moss at the back, near the pool. Take a pointed stick and make holes through the moss into the clay or putty, and in each hole put one of the Horsetails, cutting it off with scissors if too tall for the top, till you have a thicket of these stems on each side; only make more on one side than on the other.
Now for the grand finish. You must make an extinct monster. Get half a walnut shell; cut a notch at one end where the neck will be; fill the shell with putty; stick in wooden pegs for legs, tail, and head. The central stalk of a tulip-tree fruit makes a wonderful sculptured tail; the unopened buds of dogwood do for legs, also cloves have been used. Any nobby stick serves for head if you make eyes and teeth on it.
When dry this makes a good extinct monster. Set it on the far bank of the water, and you have a jungle, the old Pennsylvania jungle of the days when the coal was packed away.
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