Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1943



The Stories

January 1 to January 6. Blacky the Crow visits a barnyard to eat chicken feed and pig slop. 

January 7 to January 13. Sammy Jay steals from Chatterer the Red Squirrel's storehouse, but Blacky the Crow steals from him.

January 14 to January 21. Reddy Fox and Hooty the Owl take meadow mice who emerge from the snow.

January 22 to January 29. Peter Rabbit is surprised to find Welcome Robin during the winter.

January 30. Farmer Brown's boy shows his mother a letter from a reader of Nature Stories recounting how they removed a jar from a skunk's head.

February 1 to February 4.  Strayfoot the young fox learns the hard way to heed Jimmy Skunk's warning.

February 5 to February 18. Gray fox is trapped between two porcupines after he his chased by hunters for slaughtering chickens. Meanwhile Reddy Fox uses his wits to get a chicken and monitor hunters.

February 19 to February 25. Farmer Brown's boy's bird feeder is a "good investment," attracting birds who will control insects in the Old Orchard.

February 26 to March 5. Farmer Brown's boy rescues a grouse from under the ice crust. 

March 6 to March 17. Peter Rabbit finds signs of spring. (Reprinted in The Crooked Little Path).

March 18 to March 27. Teeny Weeny the Shrew threatens Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. Short-tail the shrew chases a meadow mouse.

March 29 to April 10. Buster Bear, newly awake, enters the cookhouse of a lumber camp and helps himself to cookies and molasses.

April 12 to April 18. Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, and Johnny Chuck commiserate about being kicked out of their homes during child-rearing days. Reddy Fox (unfairly) criticizes them for being poor fathers. 

April 19 to May 8. While the male grouses display, the foxes watch. Later the grouses use decoy behavior to protect their eggs and chicks from predators. (Partially reprinted in The Crooked Little Path).

May 10 to May 15. Farmer Brown's boy ejects house sparrows from the bluebird box and Flip chases Black Pussy away.

May 17 to June 8. The grackles nest with the ospreys, who drive off hawks and a boy egg collector. Later King Eagle demands tribute and the young ospreys learn to fish.

June 9 to June 12. Carol and Mrs. Carol the Meadowlark work together to conceal her nest. (Reprinted in On the Green Meadows).

June 14 to June 19. Goldie the Baltimore Oriole and Weaver the Orchard Oriole disagree about nest location and nest design.

June 21 to July 9. Bob White is angry when Peter Rabbit inadvertently leads a dog to his nest. Later young bobwhites learn to survive (three don't make it, one "through no fault of its own").  

July 10 to July 12. There is an air raid (Darter the Cooper's Hawk) on the Green Meadows. Carol the Meadow Lark gives the alarm and all the animals hide. Later Old Mr. Toad scolds Peter Rabbit for wasting food in Farmer Brown's boy's Victory Garden.

July 13 to July 15. The days of Old Mr. Toad, Johnny Chuck, and Jimmy Skunk are very different. 

July 16 to July 24. Rattles the Kingfisher raises a family.

July 26 to August 4. The duckling convoy sustains an underwater attack. Later Jimmy Skunk and Mrs. Snapper foolishly exchange threats and then Jimmy and Bobby Coon compete to find her eggs. 

August 5 to August 18. Six young muskrats must learn to distinguish friends from foes. Three don't learn quickly enough. 

August 19 to August 25. Billy Mink fights with Longlegs the Heron over a foolish young frog. 

August 26 to September 4. Peter Rabbit surveys the "blessings" of different animals.

September 6 to September 18. Peter Rabbit learns about pie-billed grebes. (Partially reprinted in At the Smiling Pool).

September 20 to October 14. The love and adventures of Wee Mouse in the berry patch. Later Little Miss Snowfoot hides their babies.

October 15 to November 5. Life at the Smiling Pool is disturbed while the Slaptails engineer a new beaver pond upstream. 

November 6 to November 8. Peter Rabbit thanks Johnny Chuck for building shelters that other animals can use.

November 9 to November 20. Danny and Nanny Meadow Mouse move into a strawstack for the winter. Black Pussy and Short-ear the Owl threaten the "popular resort."

November 22 to November 27. Butcher the Shrike and Kestrel the Sparrow Hawk have their eyes on birds at Farmer Brown's boy's feeders. 

November 29 to December 6. Bobby Coon outwits hunters and their dogs.

December 7 to December 11. Peter Rabbit chats about winter with Mourning Cloak the Butterfly and Wooly Bear the Caterpillar. 

December 13 to December 24. "Three-legs" the Raccoon and "Three-legs" the Skunk exchange stories about how they lost their legs to steel traps. Then Reddy Fox springs traps but can't prevent a "headstrong" young fox from being caught in the crafty trapper's "booby trap."

December 25. "The Day of Promise" [I've not yet been able to find this one yet. Many papers didn't print Christmas editions.]

December 27 to December 31. Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Peter Rabbit are dismayed when a whole family of skunks moves into an old woodchuck hole in the Old Briar Patch.

Notes

Generally speaking, Burgess stories in 1943 were rather familiar, with Burgess repeating many story-lines, scenarios, and images from previous years (e.g, grackles in the osprey nest, mortality among slow-learning young muskrats, Smiling Pool levels falling because of beaver dam). He continued to use war imagery but not nearly at the level of 1942's stories. Many images (duckling convoy vs. snapping turtle U-boat, hawk air-raid) were repeated. One new reference compared a trapper to a military engineer laying down mines and booby-traps.

The major difference in 1943 was the dramatic reduction in Burgess's use of Farmer Brown's boy. While he still made appearances to carry out his familiar functions (feed the birds, save the grouse from the ice crust, manage the bird houses) he was absent for months at a time.

For the first and only time, Burgess printed a letter from a reader as part of a story (Jan 30). (Burgess's "personal letters" in the early days of Little Stories for Bedtime and the Radio Nature League had allowed him to make use of the many letters he would receive on a daily basis, but those outlets were now gone.) The letter, from a reader who had used Burgess's advice in freeing a skunk's head from a jar, was rather clumsily integrated (addressed to Farmer Brown's boy yet referencing Burgess's Nature Stories). Burgess ended (further conflating himself and Tommy Brown):
We hear much these days about people being misunderstood. No people in all the Great World are so widely misunderstood as the little people of the Green Forest and the Green Meadows. No wonder Farmer Brown's boy rejoiced and still rejoices in that letter. I do myself.
Burgess apparently received many letters addressed directly to "Farmer Brown's boy," so this was perhaps an opportunity to play with that fact.


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