Friday, October 12, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1923


The Stories

(Note: With 1923 we move into the post-public domain era. Good reproductions of Cady illustrations become more difficult to find).

January 2 to January 13. Over-wintering Welcome Robin, not used to the bad weather, moves into Farmer Brown's shed but must deal with Black Pussy. (Continued from 1922.)
January 15 to February 5. Peter Rabbit and Old Jed Thumper elude Shadow the Weasel.
February 6 to February 8. After Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox quarrel over rabbits, Reddy uses his friendship with Farmer Brown's boy to escape.

February 9 to February 14. Danny Meadow Mouse and Peter Rabbit play tricks on each other in the snow.
February 15 to February 23. Farmer Brown's boy must devise a way to keep Sammy Jay from taking all the peanuts from the bird feeder.
February 24 to March 3. Black Pussy and Spooky the Owl compete for a young meadow mouse. 

March 5 to March 24. Farmer Brown's boy takes a great-horned owl owlet for a pet with surprising consequences.

March 26 to March 30. Jumper the Hare uses the sugar house to escape from Reddy Fox.
March 31 to April 25. Farmer Brown's boy is surprised to see Johnny Chuck climb a tree. Later he must think of a clever way to save the chucks from his father when they build their home too close to the corn field.
April 25 to May 10. Farmer Brown's boy helps prevent Chatterer the Red Squirrel from raiding Drummer the Woodpecker's nest.
May 11 to June 16. Boxer and Woof Woof are replaced in the affections of Mother Bear by three new cubs, one of whom, the spoiled "Littlest Bear," runs away and must be rescued from Old Man Coyote and Yowler the Bobcat by Mother Bear.

June 18 to July 7. One of Mrs. Grouse's children is lost but is comforted by Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. 

July 9 to August 9. Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse build their home in a scarecrow. Farmer Brown's boy lets them be.

August 10 to September 5. A disobedient young chuck runs away from home and falls in with some bad company at Farmer Brown's barnyard. Later, Peter Rabbit is astonished to see the young chuck swimming.

September 6 to September 13. The crows save Happy Jack and his mate from Redtail the Hawk.

September 14 to September 22. Farmer Brown's boy accidentally catches Spotty the Turtle on his fishing line.
September 24 to September 29. Brownie the Thrasher gets banded.

October 1 to October 23. A hunter and his dog trespass on Brown land and wound a young Bob White. 

October 24 to October 29. A hunter, struck by the beauty of Mr. Grouse, decides to protect him rather than shooting him. Jumper the Hare sees the whole thing.

October 30 to November 3. The superior flying ability of the "man-bird" hurts Old Mr. Buzzard's pride.
November 5 to December 31. Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse explore the man-bird and end up taking an unexpected trip to the Sunny South , where they encounter some familiar and many unfamiliar animals (continued in 1924), including Gopher the Tortoise, Salamander the Gopher, Mr. Gopher Snake (Burgess enjoyed this particular set of confusing names), Gator the Alligator, Grandpa Pelican, and Darter the Snakebird.


In 1923 Farmer Brown's boy retained his centrality to the world of the Green Meadows and Green Forest, feeding, nurturing and actively protecting a wide variety of birds and animals. He cleverly engineered ways to keep Sammy Jay from hogging the bird food and Chatterer the Red Squirrel from climbing to the woodpeckers' hole. He started banding birds. (Burgess was an early proponent of bird banding and went out of his way to assure his audience that birds didn't seem to mind too much).  Reddy Fox had grown to trust Farmer Brown's boy so much that he ran toward him in order to escape from Old Man Coyote (curiously, Jumper the Hare used the same trick to escape from Reddy Fox). And Farmer Brown's boy was quick to rush to the defense of his bob white friends when threatened by a trespassing hunter.  On the other hand, he still couldn't resist bothering nesting great horned owls, this time taking an owlet as a (temporary) pet.

The Bob White episode was Burgess's main anti-hunting story of the year, a return to his earliest (1915) anti-hunting scenario. He also had a snowy egret tell a dreadful tale to Danny Meadow Mouse about plume hunters. The Welcome Robin episode at the beginning of the year provided an opportunity to talk about the predations of house cats (they are described as being like human hunters--killing for the sake of killing, not necessity). And in a twist on the anti-hunting theme, Burgess had a (poaching) grouse hunter experience a revelation. Grouse were beautiful, interesting animals, more valuable alive than dead. The hunter still got to use his gun, though, to scare away a grouse-hunting goshawk. This, I believe, was a strategic tactic on Burgess's part--you can only get so far by vilifying your opponents; at some point you need to start encouraging them to convert.

The Meadow-Mouse-on-an-plane storyline that filled the last two months of the year (and stretched deep into the following year) was a new storytelling device for Burgess that he would use repeatedly in future years. Rather than having other well-traveled (migrating birds) or mystical (Mother Nature) characters talk about animals in other regions of the United States, why not have Burgess characters (in the future this would be mostly Farmer Brown's boy) encounter them face-to-face?

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