Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/737

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

let for smoke; some brushwood laid on stones is the family bed, and the floor in wet weather is inches deep in slush and filth. The summer spent in the caves and in the open air must be a delightful change from this. Sometimes you may see a serpent in these cottages, which is never disturbed, but is deemed the genius loci, just as in ancient days if a serpent was found in a house an altar was erected to it, and it was esteemed a symbol of happiness; and there are invisible serpents, too, they say, which bring good when blessed, but when driven away by neglect cause the destruction of homes; and thus they account for the Greek ruins in their midst. They look upon the green lizards which run over their walls with a very different eye. The idea prevails that it is from eating these that serpents derive their venom; so they kill lizards whenever they can, and it is thought that whoever succeeds in killing forty of them is sure to go to heaven, having saved so many men from poison. I visited many families in their mountain caves, which are deliciously cool in the summer heats, and the mud floors are scarcely ever dry. Stone benches are put along the sides covered with dairy produce; in one corner is the oven, where the new milk is simmering all day. When the family goes out to attend the flocks, a lot of prickly brush-wood is placed at the cave's mouth; no other door is needed."

The Occidental Ant.—As described by J. D. McLaren, in the "Bulletin" of the Washburn College Laboratory of Natural History, the nests of the Occidental ant (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, or Western bearded ant), seen from the outside, are bare, flat disks of earth, from three to six feet in diameter, with their center marked by a heap of pebbles, lime-modules, sticks, and lumps of dried clay. The insects—who work in the evening, but not in the hottest part of the day or during storms—cut down all plants that spring up on the disk, carry seeds into the nest from the vicinity, and form, with the pellets of clay which they bring up from underground, and other solid lumps, a very hard and compact concrete pavement, which acts as a roof for the nest and sheds the rain. Some loose earth and a heap of sticks and pebbles are left around the holes, which serve as doors to the nest. During rain-storms this loose earth is easily pulled into the holes, so as to close them and keep out the rain. Digging into the nest, one finds a series of galleries, each from one to three inches below the other. In these galleries are some small piles of grass or weed seeds, with here and there a group of yellowish-white larvæ. The ants have a large, broad head, a small chest with two horn-like points projecting backward, and a small abdomen, and are, as a rule, chestnut-brown. They appear to be strict vegetarians. The small black ants build nests on the disks, and work among the Occidental ants in the greatest apparent harmony.


A proposition is on foot for forming vast reservoirs in the Rocky Mountains by erecting dams in the cañons to hold back the spring floods and store the water for use in the dry season in irrigating the arid lands of the plains. It is a similar scheme to that which was broached more than forty years ago to be applied to the ravines in the Alleghanies, for the purpose of furnishing the Ohio River with a constant supply. Major Powell, who is thoroughly acquainted with the region affected, considers the scheme entirely feasible, and believes that the expense, great as it will be, will amount to but a fraction of the value of the land that will be reclaimed. An appropriation of $250,000 for preliminary surveys is to be asked for.

The Canadian Institute has sent out circulars inviting co-operation in an effort to collect data respecting the political and social institutions, the customs, ceremonies, beliefs, pursuits, modes of living, habits, exchange, and the devolution of property and office which obtain among the Indian peoples of the Dominion. As in the United States, there is danger of the opportunity of collecting and testing the facts relating to these traits soon passing away. Contributions to the philology of the Indian tongues and additions to their folk-or myth-lore will also be welcomed as heretofore. The schedule of inquiries embraces sixteen classes of facts, under which a considerably more minute amplification in detail is suggested.

A marble medallion portrait of Dr. Thomas Davidson, the distinguished paleontologist, has been unveiled in the Geological room of the Free Town Museum in Brighton, England. Sir Richard Owen, who was not able to attend, sent a letter of regret, and Professor Judd wrote testifying to the skill and enthusiasm with which Dr. Davidson carried on his researches.