Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/145

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137
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

acknowledged to be one of the most stimulating and suggestive treatises on education in the language; and those of the lecturers who have made the book a theme for comment, and occasionally for adverse criticism, speak in the strongest terms of the value of that intellectual discipline which is to be had in discussing both its shortcomings and its many merits." That its alleged imperfections were not deemed very serious even by their discoverers is shown by the fact that, although Locke's Thoughts on Education was permitted as an alternative, Spencer's book was chosen, in 1891, by all but the two Catholic colleges and one other out of twenty-six. Mr. Wilde, one of the inspectors of colleges for schoolmasters, reports that the students "had in all the colleges given to me invariably taken this book." Mr. Byrne, another inspector, speaking of the general influence of the book, says: "Mr. Spencer's little work on education is doing an incalculable amount of good to the elementary teachers of the rising generations. The obligation now imposed on them to study it is bearing fruit by awakening in them an interest in the proper ends and methods of education and instruction which they had never possessed before. That their occupation is an art, and does not consist in obedience to a number of arbitrarily devised rules, is something to have learned."

 

Pennsylvania Folk Lore.—Dr. D. G.Brinton's account of the folk lore of his early home in Chester County, Pennsylvania, has little that is peculiar, but in most of its traits recalls familiar English customs. The usual superstitions about the moon were in vogue, and there was a mysterious buried treasure of blood money with a legend attached. Some mythical animals were believed in; among them a descendant of the were wolf of the middle ages—a big black dog with fiery eyes, which never appeared except at night, and was an object of terror to those who heard him. He was supposed to haunt a certain valley which people avoided. Another animal of this class was the hoop snake, which was said to form itself into a ring with its tail in its mouth, and to revolve like a wheel, faster than a horse could trot. Dragon flies, as "snake servants," were supposed to warn snakes of approaching danger, and as "snake-feeders," to seek out food and notify the snakes where it could be found. Cats were uncanny; many animals could predict the weather; and "conjuring" was held responsible for many ills, while charms were cherished as competent to remove them. Ghosts were familiar in popular belief, and were in many cases associated with spots connected with scenes of the Revolution. The author was himself somewhat of a ghost-seer in his early days—a faculty which he regrets having lost as he advanced in years. Having such evidence of his own, he was quite prepared to accept without question the statements of others on such points. The later influx of Irish laborers has introduced a mass of folk lore and superstitious notions that did not exist in the region in the author's boyhood. For instance, he never heard that Friday was an unlucky day, or that the number thirteen at dinner was ominous, or that one should stroke himself to avoid the influence of a bad sign.

 

Animal Life in the Death-Valley Region.—A pointed illustration of the effect of change of environment on the life of a region is given in Dr. A. K. Fisher's report of the birds observed in the course of the examination of the Death-Valley region, California, undertaken by Prof. C. Hart Merriam, under the direction of the Department of Agriculture. while the bird life of any region is affected by various agencies, such as the results of the destruction of forests, the drying of springs and watercourses, etc., in the high Sierra the sheep industry is doing more than any other cause to make that region uninhabitable. During the summer the sheep destroy all the smaller plants and shrubs to such an extent that they do not grow again till the following spring. The author has walked for miles along the hillsides where sheep had recently grazed without seeing any plants except the larger woody shrubs. That this destruction is a potent cause of the scarcity of ground-inhabiting birds is evident by contrast to any one visiting the national parks, where no sheep are allowed to graze, and where vegetation is consequently uninjured and many species of birds abound. Yet two hundred and ninety species and subspecies of birds were found in this region,