In the Old Time, Ableegumooch the rabbit was the forest guide, and helped wayfarers lost in the woods. However, as time went on, the people and animals learned to find their own way in the forest and didn’t need the rabbit’s services as much.
Ableegumooch grew fat and lazy. If there was something easy and fun to do, he did it. If a thing were difficult or tiring, he did not. But that is no way to keep a wigwam stocked with food.
Often, poor old Noogumee (a term of respect amongst Indians for any elderly female), his grandmother, with whom he lived, had to hunt for food herself, or they would have gone hungry. And no matter how much she scolded him, Ableegumooch refused to change his ways.
Glooscap, far away in his lodge on Blomidon, saw that the rabbit was becoming a thoroughly useless creature. He must be warned against the dangers of laziness. So, wasting no time, Glooscap descended from his lodge to the beach in three huge strides, launched his canoe, and paddled across the Bay of Fundy to the shore near the rabbit’s home.
It was a fine bright morning, the air cool and tasting of salt, as it always does in the Maritime Provinces. And presently along hopped the rabbit, singing with fine spirit:
“It’s a lovely day to do nothing, nothing, all the day through!”
He paid no attention to the tasty leaves and berries he might have been gathering for dinner. He was much more interested in watching other people work.
There was Miko the squirrel scampering up the big maple tree, his cheeks bulged out with nuts, pausing only long enough to scold Ableegumooch for coming too near his storehouse.
There was Mechipchamooech the bumble bee, busy at the goldenrod, gathering honey for his hive. And there was Teetees the blue jay, flying worms to his family in the big pine. It was all so interesting that Ableegumooch stopped beside a stately fir tree to enjoy the scene. Suddenly behind him, he heard a voice.
“Ableegumooch, be careful!”
The rabbit jumped and whirled about, but there was nobody there. The voice spoke again, from somewhere over his head.
“Take care, Ableegumooch, or your lazy ways will bring you pain and sorrow.”
The rabbit looked up and saw the fir tree shake like a leaf in a storm, yet not a breath of wind stirred. Frightened out of his wits, he ran–and he never stopped running until he was safe at home, where he told his grandmother what had happened.
“Glooscap has given you a warning,” said his grand mother. “Be sure to obey him, grandson, or you will be sorry.”
The rabbit’s legs were still trembling from fright and exertion, and he promised at once that he would take care to mend his lazy ways in future.
And indeed, for a while, he went busily about his hunting and kept the wigwam well stocked with food. But, when autumn came, he grew lazy again and went back to his old careless ways.
“It’s a lovely day to do nothing, nothing, all the day through!”
So sang Ableegumooch as he sauntered through the glory of autumn trees. Noogumee begged and scolded and pleaded, but he continued to spend more time visiting his neighbors than gathering food.
One day, when winter had come to the land, he came to the wigwam of Keoonik the otter. Keoonik politely asked him to dine, and the rabbit promptly accepted. Keoonik turned to his elderly house keeper and addressed her in the usual native’s fashion, “Noogumee, prepare the meal.”
Then he took some fishhooks and went off, the rabbit hopping along behind, curious to see what he was going to do. Keoonik sat on the snowy bank of the river and slid down an icy path into the water.
In a moment, he reappeared with a string of eels which he carried to his grandmother, and she promptly cooked them for dinner.
“Gracious!” thought Ableegumooch. “If that isn’t an easy way to get a living. I can do that as well as Keoonik,” and he invited the otter to be his guest at dinner on the following day. Then he hurried home.
“Come,” he said to his grandmother, “we are going to move our lodge down to the river.” And in spite of all she could say, he insisted on moving it. Noogumee reminded him that the wigwam was empty of food, and he ought to be out hunting, but Ableegumooch paid no attention. He was busy making a slide like Keoonik’s.
The weather was cold, so all he had to do was pour water down the snowy bank, where it soon froze, and there was his fishing slide. Early next day, the guest arrived. When it was time for dinner, Ableegumooch said to his grandmother, “Noogumee, prepare the meal.”
“There is nothing to prepare,” said she, sadly.
“Oh, I will see to that,” said the rabbit with a confident laugh, and he took his place at the top of the slide to go fishing. When he tried to push off, however, he found it was not so easy. His coat was rough and bulky and dry, not smooth and slippery like the otter’s.
He had to wriggle and push with his heels until at last he slid down and plunged into the water. The cold took his breath quite away, and he suddenly remembered he was unable to swim.
Struggling and squealing, he thought no more of fishing, for he was in great danger of drowning.
“What on earth is the matter with him?” Keoonik asked the grandmother.
“I suppose he has seen someone else do that,” sighed Noogumee, “and he thinks he can do it too.”
Keoonik helped the freezing, half-drowned rabbit out of the water and, since there was nothing to eat, went home hungry and disgusted.
But do you think that cold bath cured Ableegumooch? Not at all. The very next day, as he ran idly through the forest, he came to the lodge of some female woodpeckers. He was delighted when these woodpeckers invited him to dinner.
He watched eagerly to see how they found food.
One of the woodpeckers took a dish, went up the side of an old beech tree and quickly dug out a plentiful supply of food, which was cooked and placed before the rabbit.
“My, oh my!” thought Ableegumooch. “How easily some people get a living. What is to prevent me from getting mine in that fashion?” And he told the woodpeckers they must come and dine with him.
On the day following, they appeared at the rabbit’s lodge and Ableegumooch said to his grandmother importantly, “Noogumee, prepare the meal.”
“You foolish rabbit,” said she, “there is nothing to prepare.”
“Make the fire,” said the rabbit grandly, “and I shall see to the rest.”
He took the stone point from an eel spear and fastened it on his head in imitation of a woodpecker’s bill, then climbed a tree and began knocking his head against it.
Soon his head was bruised and bleeding, and he lost his hold and fell to the earth with a tremendous crash. The woodpeckers could not keep from laughing.
“Pray what was he doing up there?”
“I suppose he has seen someone else do that,” said Noogumee, shaking her head, “and thinks he can do it too.” And she advised them to go home, as there would be no food for them there that day.
Now, sore as he was, you would certainly think the rabbit had learned his lesson. Yet, a day or two later, he was idling in the woods as usual when he came upon Mooin the Bear, who invited him to dinner.
He was greatly impressed at the way in which the bear got his meal. Mooin merely took a sharp knife and cut small pieces off the soles of his feet. These he placed in a kettle on the fire, and in a short while they enjoyed a delicious meal.
“This must be the easiest way of all to get a dinner,” marveled Ableegumooch, and he invited Mooin to dine with him next day.
Now what the rabbit did not know was that the bears preserve food on their feet. They press ripe blueberries with their paws and, after the cakes have dried upon them, cut bits off to eat. The silly rabbit thought Mooin had actually cut pieces off his paws!
At the appointed time, Ableegumooch ordered his grand mother to prepare the meal, and when she said there was nothing to prepare, he told her to put the kettle on and he would do the rest.
Then he took a stone knife and began to cut at his feet as he had seen Mooin do. But oh dear me, it hurt. It hurt dreadfully! With tears streaming down his cheeks, he hacked and hacked, first at one foot and then at the other. Mooin the Bear was greatly astonished.
“What on earth is the fellow trying to do?” he asked.
Noogumee shook her head dismally.
“It is the same old thing. He has seen someone else do this.”
“Well!” said Mooin crossly, “It is most insulting to be asked to dinner and get nothing to eat. The trouble with that fellow is– he’s lazy!” and he went home in a huff.
Then at last, Ableegumooch, nursing his sore feet, remembered what Glooscap had said. All at once, he saw how silly he had been.
“Oh dear!” he said. “My own ways of getting food are hard, but others’ are harder. I shall stick to my own in the future,” and he did.
From then on, the wigwam of Ableegumooch and his grandmother was always well stored with food, winter and summer, and though he still sings, his song has changed, “It’s a wiser thing to be busy, busy, Constantly!
And far away on Blomidon, Glooscap, seeing his foolish rabbit mend his ways at last, set a light to his pipe and smoked contentedly.