Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1950

The Stories

January 2 to January 7. (continued from 1949) Blacky the (domesticated) Rabbit escapes but quickly has too much adventure and wants to return to "prison." Peter Rabbit is disgusted by his helpless companion, spoiled by too much welfare. 

January 9 to January 11. Jumper the Hare, now in his white coat, hides from Reddy Fox.

January 12 to January 24. Lightfoot the Deer loses his antlers and Mrs. Lightfoot makes a yard for her and the twins. Meanwhile Jumper the Hare is peeved that the deer have spoiled a large section of forest.

January 25 to January 27. Reddy Fox, desperate with hunger, is tormented by crowing roosters and meadow mice hiding in the snow.

January 28 to February 4. The grouse plunge into the snow to avoid Terror the Goshawk. They leave the snow just in time to avoid an ice storm. 

February 6 to February 8. Farmer Brown's boy leaves out a hen for Reddy Fox. Reddy lets Mrs. Reddy have most of it. 

February 9 to March 1. Nibblet the young house mouse learns to avoid traps and rats. He lives in the barn (a "mouse paradise") until Spooky the Screech Owl starts terrorizing the place. Then he travels with Whitefoot the Wood Mouse until he sees a fox catching meadow mice and he wants to return home. 

March 2. Tommy Tit makes people happy during the winter. Peter Rabbit is envious.

March 3 to March 6. Peter unlearns the belief that all frogs hibernate when he meets Croaker the Green Frog. 

March 7. Peter Rabbit discovers that the tips of twigs are beginning to taste sweet--a sign of spring.

March 8. Despite the cold weather, Hooty and Mrs. Hooty are already nesting.

March 9 to March 18. Reddy and Gray Fox vex each other. 

March 20 to April 8. Peter Rabbit uses Johnny Chuck's hole to escape from predators (Johnny is peeved). Then Johnny must fight a rival for Polly. They make a new home in the Green Forest. 

April 10 to April 15. Everyone is celebrating the arrival of spring, especially Peeper the Hyla and Old Mr. Toad. 

April 17 to April 20. Stalkeye the Snail tells Peter Rabbit about his troubles.

April 21 to May 8. Peter Rabbit learns first-hand about shrews (who have invaded the briar patch), including the amazing Waterfoot the Water Shrew.

May 9 to May 11. Reddy Fox (unfairly) criticizes Johnny Chuck and Jimmy Skunk for being poor fathers. The truth is that woodchuck and skunk mothers don't need food brought to them. 

May 12 to May 20. Allie, an albino bluebird, befriends a fellow outcast, a black squirrel. 

May 22 to May 27. Mrs. Toad has misadventures on the way to the Smiling Pool.

May 29 to June 27. Rattles and Mrs. Rattles have a new family of kingfishers. Billy Mink tries, unsuccessfully, to get some. Later a young kingfisher gets a mussel caught on his bill. 

June 29 to July 12. Sally Sly's attempts to place her eggs are foiled by Jenny Wren (pierces egg) and Sunshine the Yellow Warbler (builds nest over cowbird egg) but she is able to find the "welfare" she is looking for from Little Friend the Song Sparrow. Black Pussy eventually chases the cowbird chick away.

July 13 to July 24. Little Jim the Skunk gets lost but learns he can defend himself. Eventually he ends up in the henyard and Farmer Brown's boy adopts him as a pet. Little Jim earns his keep by eating grasshoppers. 

July 25 to July 31. Peter Rabbit thinks that Logcock the Pileated Woodpecker is ruining trees but Unc' Billy Possum sets him straight. 

August 1 to August 23. Little Billy the Possum learns to keep himself safe

August 23 to September 2. Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare debate whether Unc' Billy Possum is in control of playing dead. Then Buster Bear tears down a tree to try to get him. Buster has a painful encounter with Prickly Porky instead. 

September 4 to September 12. Prickly Porky gnaws on an antler and Little Prickly teaches a young fox to get out of the way of porcupines. [Burgess makes some political remarks about the national defense]. 

September 13 to September 16. Reddy Fox and Bobby Coon compete for wild grapes. Bobby eats too many grapes.

September 18 to September 23. The folks at the Smiling Pool start getting ready for winter.

September 25 to September 29. Billy Mink takes a fish dropped by an osprey but soon finds it missing. Bobby Coon took it.

September 30 to October 19. Bobby Coon gets shot by a hunter but remembers the kindness of Aunt Sally. Meanwhile Aunt Sally invites a hunter to have breakfast with her and Goldie (AKA "Little Golden Coat") the Woodchuck. Goldie's love of apple pie causes the hunter to have a change of heart. 

October 20 to October 23. Chatterer must make the best of things after a storm destroys his storehouse.

October 24 to November 11. Honker's family begins their great flight south. On their way they watch as Flathorns convinces a rival for Mrs. Flathorn's affection to give up. Then they avoid minks and raccoons and Honker does his best to keep them away from hunting grounds. 

November 13 to December 2. The geese learn about Finback the Whale and "Bigmouth" the Baleen Whale, on their way across the ocean. Then Pilot the Whale must lead his school through a treacherous pass in order to escape from "The Terrible One" (killer whale). 

December 4 to December 23. Reddy Fox takes advantage a rabbit-hunting beagle to catch some rabbits for himself. Later he is shot by a hunter but it is was worth it

December 25. "Christmas in the Old Pasture" (Unread).

December 26 to December 30. Farmer Brown's boy reads the story of a three-legged fox in the snow. He leaves out a dead hen for the fox and its mate.


1950 was a tragic year for Thornton Burgess personally, his wife, Fannie, dying in August. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Burgess's creative power seems to have been reinvigorated, offering up new scenarios (Pilot the Whale vs. the Killer Whale) and some of his most well-crafted chase scenes (Peter Rabbit vs. both a beagle and a fox). The U.S. was at war again, prompting new references to national defense (through the character of Prickly Porky), and Burgess continued his now familiar critique of "welfare," particularly among domesticated animals. Appearances of Farmer Brown's boy were scarce, continuing a trend started the previous year. 

 "Little Golden Coat" made a reappearance, this time at Aunt Sally's for breakfast (an "old New England" breakfast featuring apple pie). In the story Aunt Sally uses the breakfast as an opportunity to convince a local hunter to stop killing woodchucks for sport. Burgess directly confronted some claims made by sportsmen (and himself, long ago):
Her guest of honor was a hunter who thought of himself as a sportsman and was most indignant when Aunt Sally wondered how he could so love to kill. "I don't love to kill," he protested. "It is the hunt, not the kill, that I love; the being afield and trying to be smarter than those I hunt. It is a sort of game, an exciting game." 
"But you don't feel that you have won unless in the end you kill the one you are hunting, and you are disappointed if you don't. If you didn't like to kill as well as hunt you wouldn't shoot Woodchucks. You don't eat them. You don't use their fur. Dead they are of no earthly use to you. But you try to kill them just the same. Why?" said Aunt Sally. 
The hunter claims the woodchucks are a common agricultural nuisance, which Aunt Sally refutes by reference to the woodchucks now eating apple pie on her kitchen floor. Eventually the hunter, charmed by the sight, concedes and pledges to leave the woodchuck shooting to farmers who are being directly harmed by particular woodchuck pests. 

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