“Pa was shaking his head. “We’re going to have a hard winter, he said, not liking the prospect.
“Why, how do you know?” Laura asked in surprise.
“The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses,” Pa told her. “I never saw a heavier-built muskrats’ house than that one.”
Laura looked at it again. It was very solid and big. But the sun was blazing, burning on her shoulders through the faded, thin calico and the hot wind was blowing, and stronger than the damp-mud smell of the slough was ripening smell of grasses parching in the heat. Laura could hardly think of ice and snow and cruel cold.
“Pa, how can the muskrats know?” she asked.
“I don’t know how they know,” Pa said. “But they do. God tells them, somehow, I suppose.”
“Then why doesn’t God tell us?” Laura wanted to know.
“Because,” said Pa, “we’re not animals. We’re humans, and, like it says in the Declaration of Independence, God created us free. That means we got to take care of ourselves.”
Laura said faintly, “I thought God takes care of us.”
“He does,” Pa said, “so far as we do what’s right. And He gives us a conscience and brains to know what’s right. But He leaves it to us to do as we please. That’s the difference between us and everything else in creation.”
“Can’t muskrats do what they please?” Laura asked, amazed.
“No,” said Pa. “I don’t know why they can’t but you can see they can’t. Look at that muskrat house. Muskrats have to build that kind of house. They always have and they always will. It’s plain they can’t build any other kind. But folks build all kinds of houses. A man can build any kind of house he can think of. So if his house don’t keep out the weather, that’s his look-out; he’s free and independent.”
Pa stood thinking for a minute, then he jerked his head. “Come along, little Half-Pint. We better make hay while the sun shines.”
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
While I don’t completely agree with his theology, I think he is much closer than science’s explanation of animal instincts.
Did animals just evolve these instincts to migrate and plan for the seasons and weather? How do they know how to build their homes? Are these things not God given?
Take this excerpt from The Long Winter as an inspiration to make observations on the unique characteristics of animals. The following are a few resources, but don’t stop at just reading about animals. Take note of the birds or butterflies migrating. Notice the bird nests or crawdad holes or gopher burrows or animal tracks. Notice the insects.
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