August 8, 1912 to January 4, 1913. (Stories 160 to 251)(Note: the story count reflects a four day period (August 30-September 3) when there was no story (Burgess was reportedly ill) and the fact that, as far as I know, there was no 1912 Christmas story.)
|Illustration for "Jerry Muskrat's secret door" (August 13, 1912).|
|Illustration for "Billy Mink becomes a boaster" (August 15, 1912).|
|Illustration for "Reddy Fox grows careless" (August 23, 1912)|
In the newspaper version, however, the story continues. After a brief episode that has Prickly Porky blocking the entrance to Reddy's hole (and inadvertently sheltering him from Bowser the Hound), the story moves on to describe the turmoil that Farmer Brown's boy continuing search is causing in the Green Forest and Green Meadow communities. Billy Mink calls a meeting and the animals decide to "give Reddy Fox up." Peter Rabbit, who is conflicted but feels duty-bound to follow the will of the community, is called to lure Bowser the Hound to the new fox home. A foot injury keeps Peter from carrying out the mission and the foxes, realizing their home has been revealed again, move far away to the "Old Pasture" near the mountain's edge.
|Illustration for "The mischief-makers" (November 1, 1912)|
|Illustration for "Why Ol' Mistah Buzzard has a red head" (November 19, 1912)|
|Illustration for "Happy Jack Squirrel's sad mistake" (November 30, 1912)|
|Illustration for "What happened to Bobby Coon" (December 9, 1912)|
|Illustration for "Happy Jack Squirrel is too busy to talk" (December 24, 1912)|
NotesPassing the first six month mark the stories are immediately more like the Burgess we would know for the next 48 years. There are clear moral messages about the dangers of pride, greed, and carelessness and the benefits of hard work. And there are clear nature study lessons about muskrat homes, mink abilities, mockingbird talents, pre-winter behaviors, etc.
On the other hand, animals are still doing impossible things, such as tipping hats and ripping skirts and using vines to trip one another...
|Illustration for "Happy days on the Green Meadow" (October 14, 1912)|
|"Billy Mink feels uncomfortable" (August 16, 1912)|
The long Reddy Fox episode is the first great Burgess Bedtime story, exhibiting mastery over point of view and presenting the reader with some ethical conundrums. Reddy certainly deserves punishment (he gets it in the form of banishment from the community) for his overweening pride and hen-stealing ways but the reader quickly becomes sympathetic to his plight after he is shot by Farmer Brown's boy (Peter Rabbit, of all characters, is the model for the sympathetic attitude). The later section of narrative, in which the community comes together to "give Reddy up," expresses a negative aspect of the (small town?) forest community (once again Peter Rabbit is a moral holdout).
Farmer Brown's BoyThe character of Farmer Brown's boy remains a nemesis of the animals. Indeed, Farmer Brown's boy repeatedly terrorizes the forest and meadow communities with his terrible gun and hound dog. In the words of Jimmy Skunk,
Boys with guns...get terribly careless, dreadfully careless. They don't seem to thing anything about the feelings of those likely to get hurt when the gun goes offAt the same time, Farmer Brown's Boy is admirably resourceful and observant. He is the kind of boy who "uses his eyes" (something that "many little boys and girls never learn to do"). His father, in a twist, is far kinder than his son. He has a "big heart" and "loves the little meadow and forest people."
Next: Burgess is popular!