(an Algonquin Indian tale)
Long long ago, Ableegumooch, a rabbit, was a forest guide. As time passed, he grew lazy, and though his grandmother scolded him for this, nothing changed his ways. So his poor grandmother was forced to do the work to feed the family.
When Glooscap, the legendary hero of the forest and all its creatures, saw that Ableegumooch was becoming useless, he decided he must warn against the dangers of laziness. In three great strides Glooscap stepped from his lodge to shore, launched his canoe and paddled across the Bay of Fundy to the other side of the forest.
Glooscap arrived near the rabbit’s home on a bright spring morning. He stood in the forest, and before long Ableegumooch came along, singing a song.
It was the same song he always sang: “It’s a lovely day to be lazy/it’s a lovely day to rest/it’s a lovely day to be lazy/days like this day are the best!”
He paid no attention to the leaves and berries he might have collected for supper. He noticed Miko, a squirrel, with cheeks fat with nuts, and Mechipchamooech, a bumble bee, gathering honey, and Teetees, a blue jay, digging up worms.
But he just shook his head and laughed at their hard work. “They don’t know how to have fun,” he said.
But suddenly he heard a voice: “Take care, Ableegumooch, or you shall suffer.”
He turned but saw nobody there, and the voice came again, this time from above his head: “Your laziness will bring trouble to your family.”
There was no wind at all, but Ableegumooch saw the fir tree shake, and though he did not like to run, he dashed back home and told his grandmother of the strange warning.
“That is Glooscap,” his grandmother said. “You’d better obey his warnings.”
Ableegumooch was exhausted from his run, but he promised to change his ways. That very day he went out hunting, and soon the warren was well-stocked. His grandmother was happy.
But weeks passed, and Ableegumooch grew lazy again. By autumn he was back to his old ways, singing, “It’s a lovely day to be lazy/it’s a lovely day to rest/it’s a lovely day to be lazy/days like this day are the best!”
His grandmother pleaded with him to hunt again, but he did not listen, and that winter, when snow had fallen everywhere, Ableegumooch walked past the wigwam of Keoonik, an otter.
“Would you like to dine with me?” Keoonik asked. Naturally, Ableegumooch accepted.
“Come, we’ll fish,” Keoonik said, and curious to see what this entailed, Ableegumooch hopped along behind him. The otter slid down a snowbank into the water. A moment later Keoonik reappeared with a string of eels, and these he took home to his grandmother, who cooked up a feast for the otter and the rabbit.
“Thank you!” Ableegumooch said when he was full. “You’ll have to come to my house for a meal one day.”
Ableegumooch thought Keoonik’s way was easy, so he told his grandmother they must move their lodge down to the river.
“That is unwise,” she said, but the young rabbit was already moving their home. He built a slide like otter’s slide by pouring water down a snowy bank.
When it was time for dinner, Ableegumooch told his grandmother to build a fire. “Otter will come to supper tonight.”
“We have nothing to cook!” she argued, but rabbit only laughed and sat at the top of his slide. Alas, when he tried to slide into the water, his rough coat would not slide the way otter’s sleek coat did. He wriggled and pushed and finally plunged into the water.
The cold took the rabbit’s breath away. And then he remembered that he could not swim. “Help!” he cried.
Keeonik, hearing Ableegumooch’s screams, ran to his grandmother and said, “What on earth is wrong?”
“I suppose he saw someone else do that and thinks he can, too,” she said, and so the otter helped the rabbit out of the water, and Ableegumooch went home hungry.
That did not cure the rabbit of his lazy ways. The next day, Antawaas, the woodpeckers, invited the rabbit to dinner. He watched carefully as one woodpecker climbed up a tree and rapped his head against the trunk. He dug out a plentiful supply of food, and they all feasted together.
So the rabbit invited the woodpeckers to dine with him the next day, and that morning he told his grandmother to make the fire.
Ableegumooch then attached the point of an eel spear to his head like a woodpecker’s bill, climbed a tree and knocked his head against it. Alas, this only bruised his head, and he fell to the ground with no food at all.
Ableegumooch’s grandmother shook her head and said to one of the woodpeckers, “I suppose he saw someone else do that and thinks he can, too.”
Two days later, the rabbit was strolling when he came upon Mooin, a bear, who invited him to supper. When Mooin cut small pieces from the soles of his feet, placed these in a kettle and soon presented a feast, the rabbit thought, “Well, that’s easy!”
So he invited Mooin to dine with him the next day. In the morning, he instructed his grandmother to prepare the table, and he took a stone knife and cut at his paws. But Ableegumooch did not know that bears collect ripe berries and press these into their paws. After the cakes of berries have dried, the bears cut off bits to eat.
Naturally, Ableegumooch had no dried berries in his paws, and soon he was crying out in pain.
His grandmother shook her head and said, “I suppose he saw someone else do that and thinks he can, too.”
Mooin was cross: “It is insulting to invite someone to dinner, but give them nothing to eat!”
As the rabbit nursed his aching head and his sore feet, he began to think. Before long, he remembered Glooscap’s words. He realized he was silly for trying to do what others do. He must work the way a rabbit works.
From that day on, Ableegumooch changed his ways. Ever since that day he worked hard, and he and his family were happier, and Glooscap was pleased.