Saturday, November 17, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1941

The Stories

January 1 to January 11. Peter Rabbit has enough excitement (goshawk, fox)  in the Green Forest and returns to the Old Briar patch.

January 13 to January 15. Lightfoot the Deer fights off Yowler the Bobcat.

January 16 to January 18. Peter Rabbit and Danny Meadow Mouse disagree about the desirability of snow.

January 20 to January 23. Reddy and Mrs. Reddy plan a daring raid on a hen house and elude a vengeful farmer and his dog. 

January 24 to February 12. Jumper the Hare and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse scare each other.  Then Jumper is trapped but escapes when Whitey the Owl and Gray Fox fight. Meanwhile Reddy and Mrs. Reddy are no match for Jumper's snowshoes. Later Blacky the Crow benefits when Reddy digs in the snow for mice.

February 13 to February 17. Farmer Brown's boy shows Farmer Smith that Reddy Fox has been eating harmful mice, not stealing his chickens. 

February 18 to February 26. Butcher the Shrike is back and kills a cedar waxwing. Dotty the Tree Sparrow, despite being chased, doesn't think he is all bad.

February 27 to March 1. Sammy Jay watches a respectful encounter between Reddy Fox and Jimmy Skunk.

March 3 to March 8. Yank Yank the Nuthatch dodges Sharpshin the Hawk.

March 10 to March 24. Jimmy Skunk rescues Johnny Chuck, who has been treed by Flip. Farmer Brown's boy uses a new method of reducing skunk spray smell.

March 25 to April 4. Johnny Chuck searches for Polly and gets chased by a very hungry Buster Bear. Polly kicks him out (it's child-rearing time again) and Johnny decides to live in the Green Forest.

April 5 to May 2. The woodchucks and the opossums compare notes about child-rearing. Mrs. Jumper joins the conversation. 

May 3 to May 21. Johnny Chuck learns about Ol' Mistah Buzzard and Chatterer the Red Squirrel is foolishly tempted by Mrs. Buzzard's eggs.

May 22 to May 31. The birds of the Old Orchard regard Boomer the Nighthawk as a show-off and criticize Mrs. Boomer for being a lazy nest builder. The nighthawks, the chimney swifts and the bats represent an anti-insect "Air Patrol."

June 2 to June 7. Mrs. Peter Rabbit fights off a blacksnake. 

June 9 to June 11. Mrs. Welcome Robin tries to use strips of fabric provided by Mother Brown but they really don't work. 

June 12 to June 16. Peter Rabbit tries to fish like Bobby Coon but gets pinched by a crawfish.

June 17 to June 28. On his home from the Smiling Pool, Old Mr. Toad gets rolled by Jimmy Skunk (who is planning to eat him until he gets chased off by an owl) and harassed by a little snake. Farmer Brown's boy helps him return to the garden.

July 1 to July 12. Peter Rabbit helps Queen Bumble find a place to nest and learns about bumblebee nurseries. He hides the location of the nest from Jimmy Skunk. (Reprinted in On the Green Meadows).

July 14 to July 16. Jimmy Skunk, Unc' Billy Possum and Bobby Coon are looking for snapping turtle eggs. Peter Rabbit accidentally shields them. 

July 17 to August 2. Reddy Fox's son, Snoopy, watches a young chuck get caught in a steel trap and leave some toes behind. Reddy teaches him how to spring traps. Later Farmer Brown's boy helps the young trapper after the trapper's dog is caught in and badly injured by one of his traps.

August 4 to August 13. Farmer Brown's boy and his mother watch a mother squirrel teaching her children how to get food from feeding shelf. It turns out she is dying and wants her children to know how to fend for themselves. Later two of the three orphans are killed in "air raids" (hawks). 

August 14 to August 25. Peter Rabbit learns about hummingbirds.

August 26 to September 6. A pair of dogs (compared by Burgess to Nazis) conspires to hunt deer. The twins survive (thanks to Farmer Brown's boy) and learn to detect possible predators through their scents.

September 8 to September 13. Old Mr. Toad and Hummer the Hummingbird hang out in Farmer Brown's garden.

September 15 to October 8. A huge storm causes an out-of-season flood. Many animals, including Bobby Coon, Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse, and Chatterer the Red Squirrel end up stranded on rafts in the water. Later Jerry and Mrs. Jerry Muskrat must build a new home.

October 9 to October 18. Peter Rabbit believes that certain signs indicate a hard winter is approaching. Tommy Tit is dubious.

October 20 to October 31. It is hunting season and while Peter Rabbit does his best to help a wounded woodcock, Reddy Fox waits with anticipation for a feast of wounded grouse. Farmer Brown's boy argues with a hunter about the cause of low grouse numbers. Later hunters use bait to make a drake mallard comfortable then kill him. And Danny Meadow Mouse likes hunting season because foxes and hawks are well-fed. 

November 1. Johnny Chuck decides it's time to hibernate.

November 3 to November 12. Mrs. Quack helps Mr. Quack after he is wounded by a hunter.

November 13 to November 20. Sammy Jay and the squirrels compete over a particularly fat nut. Blacky the Crow finds it, buries it, and forgets about it.

November 21 to December 3. Buster Bear finds a honey tree, as does Tommy Brown and his cousin Sammy. Familiar comic consequences ensue. Later Buster is tempted by a farmer's pigs but decides to go to sleep instead. 

December 4 to December 9. Animals prepare for winter.

December 10 to December 20. A fawn is orphaned when dogs kill her sister and mother. Farmer Brown's boy adopts her and names her "Tippy." When hunting season approaches, a game warden warns him that it is illegal to shelter deer (he plans to do it anyway). When his plan is discovered Farmer Brown's boy writes a letter to the Commissioner of Conservation requesting an exception to the law.

December 22 to December 25. Spooky the Screech Owl gets caught in the Brown's stove. He spends Christmas with the Browns. 

December 26 to December 31. Reddy Fox and Whitey the Owl compete for prey. 


1941 was another war year, with Burgess continuing to draw parallels between the animal world and the world of war. Hawk attacks were now "air raids" (pitilessly taking two already orphaned squirrels), while nighthawks and swifts provided anti-insect "air patrols." (Burgess had used similar language during his WWI Green Meadow Club Bird Sanctuaries campaign.) When a pair of dogs decided to go deer hunting, Burgess compared them to the "human monsters who started the terrible World War of today."

Farmer Brown's boy continued his advocacy work, again confronting farmers, hunters, and trappers and trying to convince them to change their ways of seeing the natural world. Farmer Brown's boy's biggest challenge, however, would be the government. Knowing that "Tippy," the orphaned deer he had raised, was unafraid of humans (and thus an easy target) he planned to shelter him during hunting season. When the local game warden showed up and reminded him that this was against the law, he protested that it was a "bad law" (and planned to disobey it) but was finally convinced to write a letter to the State Commission of Conservation petitioning for an exemption. Remarkably, on December 17, Burgess provided the text of the entire letter.

Dear Mr. Commissioner:
Please give me a permit to save Tippy's life. Tippy is a little Deer who comes from the woods to our dooryard every day and isn't afraid of anybody. He eats from our hands. He follows me into the barn. He has even walked into the house. He came to us when he was so little that he had to be fed milk. He has lost his mother. He has been coming ever since. He is like one of the family, as much so as my Dog or Cat. 
The open season on Deer begins pretty soon. If Tippy goes off our place he will go right to the first hunter he sees. You know what will happen. It will be butchery, not sport. Even if he were not tame he isn't big enough to kill. He isn't but a few months old. He is almost a baby. Let him live another year and he will be more than twice as big. Please, Mr. Commissioner, let me shut him in the barn until the hunting season is over. I promise to let him go the very next day. Please.
Tommy Brown.

After some suspenseful waiting the permit was finally granted. Thus Burgess directly modeled the kind of civic behavior that he himself had used so successfully in getting protections for the likes of the Bald Eagle and game birds.

Finally it is worth noting that in 1941 Burgess defended Butcher the Shrike, who could have so easily remained a stock villain, offering praise for his independence and his thrift (!)

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