Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1922

The Stories

January 2 to January 14. Old Man Coyote decides to make his den in the Brown family barnyard straw stack and is responsible for some mysterious disappearances. 
January 16 to February 11. Attracted to the bounty of food Farmer Brown's boy has left for the animals, Prickly Porky moves into the barnyard and proves difficult to dislodge.

February 13 to 18. Peter Rabbit and Jerry Muskrat warn each other about predators.
February 20 to March 8. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse has problems with predators. Timmy the Flying Squirrel helps out.
March 11 to March 17. Farmer Brown's boy has fun with Trader the Rat at the sugar house.
March 18 to April 3. The bear cub twins make a mess at the sugar house.

April 4 to April 8. It's spring but Peter Rabbit finds that Johnny and Polly Chuck are not in very good moods.
April 10 to April 20. There is great competition for the new and improved bird houses in the Old Orchard. 

April 21 to May 1.  Old Mr. Toad is almost swallowed up by Mr. Blacksnake on his way to the Smiling Pool. 

May 2 to May 13. Conflict develops between Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck when the chucks decide to build their home near the Old Briar Patch, but all is better when Johnny saves one of the rabbit children from Black Pussy. 

May 15 to May 17. Peter Rabbit learns all about Spadefoot the Toad.

May 18 to June 1. The fox couple plot to catch rabbit and chuck children but Johnny  Chuck and Peter Rabbit work together to foil their plans.
June 2 to July 5. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse finds a mate and has four children, one of whom, "The Venturesome Little Wood Mouse," has dangerous encounters with Buster Bear and Reddy Fox before he learns obedience.
July 6 to July 24. Peter Rabbit cannot resist the temptation to visit Farmer Brown's boy's garden and finds himself a prisoner. 
July 25 to July 29. Farmer Brown's boy reads "the story of tracks" to find who stole his trout and is astonished to find that it was Lightfoot the Deer.
July 31 to August 3. Peter Rabbit watches as Farmer Brown's boy takes care of Sooty the Chimney Swift, who had accidentally gotten to wet too fly.
August 4 to November 21. A long multi-part episode featuring the fox family.  Reddy Fox tries to get a domesticated duck for his children. Then Burgess focuses on the (mis)adventures of one fox child, (called "Little Mr. Smarty," until he learns humility at the hands of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky). Tempted by the Brown family henhouse, the young fox is captured and kept for a while as a pet by Farmer Brown's boy. 
November 22 to December 14. Paddy the Beaver and (the new) Mrs. Paddy build a new dam and attract many visitors, including a hungry Yowler the Bobcat and a stubborn Prickly Porky.  

December 15 to December 16. Mrs. Grouse uses her wits to escape being shot by a hunter.
December 18 to December 23. Unc' Billy Possum and Bobby Coon cooperate to outwit hunters.

December 25. Farmer Brown's boy leaves food for the birds and animals.

December 26 to December 30. Peter Rabbit is surprised to find a robin in the winter. (Continued in 1923.)


In 1922, even more than in 1921, the world of the Green Meadows and Green Forest pretty much revolved around Farmer Brown's boy and his family's property. In January and February, Old Man Coyote and Prickly Porky came to the farmyard to live (at least temporarily). In March, the sugar house was the center of action. In April Farmer Brown's boy installed newly designed ventilated bird houses in the Old Orchard, kicked out the house sparrows, and saved Old Mr. Toad from a blacksnake. In July Farmer Brown's boy took Peter Rabbit prisoner, learned that deer will eat fish, and rescued a chimney swift. In August, the foxes went after ducks at the Brown family farm. In October and November, Farmer Brown's boy kept a young fox chained up as a pet. And in December the Browns were away and poachers hunted grouse, raccoons and possum on their property (unsuccessfully). The Christmas story once again featured Farmer Brown's boy feeding the animals.

In 1922 it was Whitefoot the Wood Mouse's turn to find a mate and have a disobedient child. But the longest story line of the year featured the fox family and "Little Mr. Smarty," who had to be sprayed by a skunk, injured by Prickly Porky, and captured by Farmer Brown's boy before he learned his lessons.

Unlike previous years, in which Farmer Brown's boy had actively intervened to protect animals from hunters, he was absent during the hunting season in 1922 (interesting in a year in which he had featured so centrally). Indeed, the hunter characters were on the Brown property despite posted "no hunting" signs precisely because they knew the Browns were away. This meant that the hunted animals had to use their own wits and skills to avoid being killed.


  1. Wow, there actually was a story arc about opportunistic omnivory in deer? I'm more impressed than ever.

  2. Yes, Burgess had a thing for strange-but-true.

  3. UPDATE: It turns out that Burgess wrote about this experience for the Journal of Mammalogy (Feb. 1924); far from repeating a strange-but-true story, he was the primary source.