The How and Why Library/Life/Animals-Section IX
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IX. Mr. Crawfish and His Table Manners
When Mr. Crawfish was an earthworm he felt his way along with his pointed nose. Now that he is shut up inside of his shell—nose and all—what is he going to do?
"Why, I'll feel my way with my feelers," he says.
"And what are your feelers?"
"Those two long things that I keep moving back and forth in front of me, as I go along. You have seen the same kind of feelers on insects. Yes, and the cat—she has whiskers, you know, that she uses somewhat as I do my feelers. The mouse, too, has whiskers."
Speaking of noses, it is thought that Mr. Crawfish can actually smell with these feelers. It is a good thing Mr. Crawfish is able to smell food, just as you and I do, because nobody calls him to breakfast—nobody, except his own nose.
He must not only be up in time to eat his breakfast, but he must get it himself. "Help" is very scarce in Crawfish land. Everybody helps himself to everything he can lay his claws on, whether others have been helped or not. "Finders are keepers," says Mr. Crawfish.
In looking over Mr. Crawfish's seven-jointed legs, we found that some of these legs had shrivelled up into little hairs, fringing his tail and other parts of his body. These hairs are really fingers to him— like those big, long feelers in front; for he feels things with them.
If you have a crawfish in your aquarium at school—or the next time you meet one on the bank of a creek—move your finger back and forth in front of him. Do this some distance away; then closer.
Yes, as you will learn by doing this, Mr. Crawfish is near-sighted. He would have to hold his morning paper very close to his nose. So, being near-sighted, he must have those long feelers, like a blind man's cane, to pick his way along.
It is believed, also, that Mr. Crawfish's ears, such as he has,— for he is "near" of hearing, as well as near-sighted—are in those two bumps from which his feelers grow. Notice that he has four feelers—the two long ones we have been talking about, and two shorter ones just in front of them.
Those pinchers are to get his food with. You will know that if he ever mistakes your little big toe for a nice dinner, when you growto be a larger boy, and go swimming in the same river with Mr. Crawfish.
Those big front pinchers are called "claw feet." As he has two little feelers and two big feelers, so Mr. Crawfish has two big pincher feet and two smaller ones. He uses these pincher legs and arms to walk with, to fight with and to eat with.
Of course it's ill-bred to fight; and so, as we might expect, Mr. Crawfish has very bad table manners. When he finds something to eat he just "gobbles" it down as fast as he can. He does this partly because he never sits down at the table with other little crawfish and learns to say:
"May I help you to this, and this?" Or, "Do have some more of that."
He hunts his food all alone. He eats it all alone. He crowds it into his lonely mouth as fast as he can. He does this because he hasn't learned to think of anybody's appetite but his own. And then he's always afraid some bigger crawfish will come along and take it away from him!
"Claws were made before knives and forks," says the crawfish and the lobster, and they tear up their food as much as they can before they poke it into their jaws.
To us the crawfish seems a good deal mixed up. For instance, he not only has jaws on his second pair of legs, but at the upper end of this second pair of legs are his gills. Now the gills of a water animal, as you know, are his lungs.
Oh, no; you mustn't think that Mr. Crawfish carries his lungs around outside of him, as you carry your school books, swung ovef your shoulder. He's got a nice place to keep his lungs where he will not strike them with his great awkward arms and legs. There is a groove running back from each side of his mouth to two roomy places on each side of his body under his great back shield. In these two rooms he keeps his lungs.
And did you ever!—he uses his third set of legs to help himself breathe. It is as if, in order to breathe, you had to keep scooping up handfuls of air and pouring it into your lungs. For, these legs have little scoops, or bailers, on them that scoop the water up and pour it over his gills. You see he must have fresh water for his lungs all the time, just as you must have fresh air for yours; only his fresh air is in the water itself. When he is moving—eating, or strolling along the sandy shore, as the walrus and the carpenter did—thesescoops, being a part of his legs, scoop up water out of the sand and to give him more fresh air just when he needs it most. You know you breathe harder when you are walking or running than when you are sitting still. Nature has that way of making one part serve another. When the crawfish learns the lesson from his leg scoops, that it is best to serve one another and not fight one another, he is much happier.
And he helps to make others happy—which is the best part of it all, not only for them but for himself. It is even more blessed to give than to receive. For the happiest people are those who make others happy.
Mr. Crawfish has learned the joy of making others happy by the time he gets to be a bird—say a pigeon or a robin—with a mate and little ones, and other birds to sing to.
Well meet Mr. Crawfish again when he gets to be a bird.
And we'll know him, too—in spite of his feathers and wings— see if we don't!