Ants invaded the kitchen as never before and tortured our cook Viola. They marched in military formation through minute cracks around the baseboards and windows and headed straight for the sink. Viola took up arms against them to no avail. They were desperate for water and would not be stopped. We deemed the fireflies a bounty and the ants a plague, but it occurred to me for the first time to question why there should be such a distinction. They were all just creatures trying to survive the drought, as we were. I thought Viola should give up and leave them alone, but I reconsidered after discovering that the black pepper in the egg salad was not pepper at all.
While certain insects overran us, some of the other normal inhabitants of our property, such as earthworms, disappeared. My brothers complained about the lack of worms for fishing and the difficulty of digging for them in the hard, parched ground. Perhaps you've wondered, can earthworms be trained? I'm here to tell you that they can. The solution seemed obvious enough to me: the worms always came when it rained, and it was easy enough to make some rain for them. I carried a tin bucket of water to a shaded area in the five acres of scrub and dumped it on the ground in the same place a couple of times a day. After five days, I only had to show up with my bucket, and the worms, drawn by my footsteps and the promise of water, crawled to the surface. I scooped them up and sold them to Lamar for a penny a dozen. Lamar nagged me to tell him where I'd found them but I wouldn't. However, I did confess my method to my oldest brother Harry, my favorite, from whom I could keep nothing. (Well, almost nothing.)
"Callie Vee," he said, "I've got something for you." He went to his bureau and took out a pocket-sized red leather notebook with 'Souvenir of Austin' stamped on the front.
"Look here, " he said. "I've never used it. You can use it to write down your scientific observations. You're a regular naturalist in the making."
What, exactly, was a naturalist? I wasn't sure, but I decided to spend the rest of my summer being one. If all it meant was writing about the things you saw around you, I could do that. Besides, now that I had my own place to note things down, I saw things I'd never noticed before.
My first recorded notes were of the dogs. Due to the heat, they lay so still in the dirt as to look dead. Even when my younger brothers chivvied them with sticks out of boredom, they wouldn't even bother to raise their heads. They got up long enough to slurp at the water trough, and then flopped down again, raising puffs of dust in their shallow hollows. You couldn't have rousted Ajax, Father's prize bird-dog, with a shotgun let off a foot in front of his muzzle. He lay with his mouth lolling open and let me count his teeth. In this way I discovered that the roof of a dog's mouth is deeply ridged in a backwards direction down his gullet, in order no doubt to encourage the passage of struggling prey in one direction only, namely that of dinner. I wrote this in my Notebook.
I observed that the expressions of a dog's face are mainly manifested by the movement of its eyebrows. I wrote: Why do dogs have eyebrows? Why do dogs need eyebrows?
I asked Harry but he didn't know. He said, "Go ask Grandfather. He knows that sort of thing."