Monday, October 22, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1928

The Stories

January 2 to January 7. Shadow the Weasel goes hunting around the stone wall and then heads to the barn to slaughter rats.

January 9 to January 14. Speckles the Starling is brought to trial by his fellow birds and is acquitted.

January 16 to January 21. Shadow the Weasel and Billy Mink quarrel over Jumper the Hare, who manages to escape by combining his trail with Lightfoot the Deer's.

January 23 to January 30. Spite the Marten chases Billy Mink and then Chatterer the Red Squirrel. Terror the Goshawk, who has escaped from Farmer Brown's boy's cage, interferes. 

January 31 to February 9. Reddy Fox fails to catch Peter Rabbit and Jerry Muskrat but ends up with Billy Joe Otter's half-eaten fish.

February 10 to February 13. Peter Rabbit breaks through the ice at the Smiling Pool and is "saved" by Old Man Coyote.

February 14 to February 23. Nanny Meadow Mouse is convinced that Roughleg the Hawk has caught Danny.

February 24 to March 13. Whitefoot and Mrs. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse make a nest in Farmer Brown's beehive but must move when the weather gets warmer (and the bees awaken). 

March 14 to March 17. Birds return to the Old Orchard, including Sharpshin the Hawk.

March 19 to April 26. Scrapper the Kingbird and Boomer the Nighthawk tell stories about the animals of Panama, including Nosey the Coati, Kinky the Kinkajou, Banana Bill the Toucan, Silly the Sloth, Beauty the Ocelot, Shelly the Armadillo, and Black Howler.

April 27 to May 11. Mr. Blacksnake bothers Old Mr. Toad, Striped Chipmunk, and the birds of the Old Orchard before Farmer Brown's boy intervenes.

May 12 to May 21. Sally Sly the Cowbird lays eggs in other birds' nests. Farmer Brown's boy removes one from a red-eyed vireo nest.

May 22 to June 12. A hungry Cubby Bear watches Longbill the Woodcock. Then Farmer Brown's boy finds Mrs. Woodcock and lifts her off the nest to see her eggs. When Shadow the Weasel shows up, the boy scares the birds off. Then Cubby has his chance to be tormented by Shadow.

June 13 to June 25. We learn about a variety of toad and tree frog species.

June 26 to July 25. The rabbits have an albino child, "Whitey." Farmer Brown's boy adopts it as a pet, feeling it wouldn't survive in the wild.

July 26 to August 8. King Eagle makes the rounds, getting shot at, stealing a fish from an osprey, and saves (intentionally) Lightfoot the Deer's twins from Yowler the Bobcat.

August 9 to August 18. Chatterer jumps into the water to avoid Shadow the Weasel, gets pushed on a raft to avoid Red Tail the Hawk, and is flung out of a tree by Cubby Bear.

August 20 to August 30. There are bobcat kittens in the Green Forest, chasing Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Peter Rabbit and learning caution from Prickly Porky.

August 31 to September 20. The sugar house is an active place, the home of  Whitefoot and Mrs. Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, and Trader the Wood Rat, and visited by Yowler the Bobcat, Cubby Bear, Buster Bear and Bobby Coon.

September 21 to September 26. Cubby bear meets Bobby Coon and is tricked by Unc' Billy Possum.

September 27. Ol Mistah Buzzard leaves for the Sunny South

September 29 to October 13. Jerry and Mrs. Jerry Muskrat begin preparing for winter and visit Farmer Brown's garden with Johnny Chuck to gather carrots. Jimmy Skunk intervenes to stop Reddy and Mrs. Reddy Fox from catching them. 

October 15 to October 25. Jimmy Skunk gets into trouble at a nearby farm and has a close call with a Great Horned Owl that leaves him lame. 

October 26 to October 27. Jerry and Mrs. Jerry Muskrat finish their preparations and get a sinister visit from Billy Mink.

October 29 to November 2. When the beechnut crop is poor, Happy Jack Squirrel moves to be close to Farmer Brown's boy's winter food supply.

November 3 to November 24. Boys with guns hunt Rusty the Fox Squirrel but one ends up getting accidentally shot by the other.  Then a different hunter tries to get Rusty by smoking him out.

November 26 to December 24. After Buster Bear takes a farmer's pig he is hunted and nearly trapped. 

December 25. Flitter the Bat proves a Christmas Day surprise.

December 26 to December 31. (continued) Reddy Fox schemes to catch Peter Rabbit. 


In 1927 Thornton Burgess had spent six weeks in Panama as a guest of the ornithologist Alfred Gross. It was his first-hand experience with coatimundi, toucans and the like that inspired the long series of Central American animal stories that he ran during April and May in 1928. 

Burgess returned to the theatrical with the "trial" of Speckles the Starling, complete with a prosecution (Sammy Jay), and defense (Tommy Tit) presided over by "Judge Crow." Like his fellow foreigner, Bully the English Sparrow, Speckles is accused of being a thief and a pest, but Tommy Tit finally convinces everyone that the starling's good points (insect eating) balanced out his bad points. The relative usefulness of the starling is hardly universally accepted in the United States now, but was still an open question in the 1920s.

Farmer Brown's boy remained an important character in 1928, though not as dominant a figure in the life of the Green Meadows and Forest as in previous years. He again chased off Mr. Blacksnake and foiled the efforts of Sally Sly the Cowbird and adopted an animal in need (Peter Rabbit's albino son). In 1928 he also built a house just for Happy Jack Squirrel.  He was also remarkably intrusive in his behavior toward the female woodcock, applying a test of "Mother Love" that he would use again and again in the future, daring mothers to risk an encounter with him (he required something similar of Mrs. Whitefoot in 1928).

The anti-hunting theme in 1928 was expressed primarily in a story about squirrel hunters vs. Rusty the Fox Squirrel (as in 1920). As occasionally happens in real life, there was a (non-fatal) accident as one boy hunter shot another. [The year's number of hunting accidents was a running theme during hunting season on the Radio Nature League.] The "unfairness" of hunters was expressed in the efforts of one to smoke Rusty out into the open. The other major hunting-related stories involved farmers perfectly justified in defending their livestock from Jimmy Skunk and Buster Bear.

It is, finally, worth noting another reference to the bald eagle. As King Eagle soars high above, Burgess has Farmer Brown's boy salute. Then a hunter fires a shot at the eagle. In 1928 bald eagles were not yet protected by federal law; this would be a project that Burgess would work on over the next decade.

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