Friday, December 7, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1951

The Stories

January 1 to January 2. Reddy Fox's outlook on life brightens after he eats food left out by Farmer Brown's boy.

January 3 to January 20. Spite the Marten chases Chatterer the Red Squirrel but then must escape from Pekan the Fisher. 

January 22 to January 24. Glutton the Wolverine destroys a trapper's cabin.

January 25. Peter Rabbit wonders how Happy Jack can find buried nuts.

January 26. Mrs. Lightfoot and the twins find themselves trapped in their yard, with little food.

January 27 to February 3. Blacky the Crow envies folks able to fish during the winter.

February 5 to February 13. Flaptoes the [red-necked?] Grebe gets trapped on the ice. Farmer Brown's boy (alerted by Blacky the Crow) rescues him before Reddy Fox can get him.

February 14 to February 16. Peter Rabbit is surprised to find Welcome Robin during the winter.

February 17 to February 24. The great-horned owls begin nesting.

February 26 to April 21. Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper meets old friends (osprey, pelican) at his winter home on "Robin Crusoe's Island" (off the coast of Trinidad). Then Farmer Brown's boy arrives and learns about local animals including the "king of the woods" (motmot), Cousin Manicoe [manicou], Old Iggy the Iguana, Tatoo the Armadillo, and Big Claw the Land Crab. 

April 23 to May 4. The animals back home worry that Farmer Brown's boy's land is no longer a sanctuary. They rejoice when he returns. Reddy Fox shows him a trap set while he was away. 

May 5 to May 9. Redtail the Hawk kills a rat feeding on chicken eggs. 

May 10 to May 26. Chatterer the Red Squirrel unwisely tries to get red-tailed hawk eggs. 

May 28 to June 2. Peter Rabbit gets into deep water to escape detection by Gray Fox. Then Gray Fox, forced up a tree by a hound, is aided by Reddy Fox. 

June 4 to June 20. The two new bear cubs get chased by their father and rescued by their mother. Then they get into the sugar house and make a mess. Farmer Brown's boy and his friend have a comic encounter with the cubs. 

June 21 to July 6. Prickly Porky falls in the water after Paddy the Beaver cuts down the tree he was in. Then the porcupine drives off Buster Bear. 

July 7 to July 23. The animals compete over blueberries, but Jimmy Skunk wins. Farmer Brown's boy tries to get some too but, startled by Buster Bear, he drops his bucket and sits on a yellow jacket's nest. Jimmy Skunk eats all off his berries plus the yellow jackets. 

July 24 to August 3. Mrs. Peter Rabbit fights off Flip the Terrier and Mr. Blacksnake in defense of her babies.

August 4 to August 10. Shadow the Weasel goes after Striped Chipmunk even after Farmer Brown's boy tries to drive him off. Striped Chipmunk, it turns out, can take care of himself.

August 11 to September 5. Little Stripes the Chipmunk runs away and falls in with Little Two-Stripes the Skunk. They visit with Thunderer the Grouse. Then Little Stripes has adventures with Reddy Fox and Black Pussy and Little Two-Stripes is killed by a car.

September 6 to September 21. Peter Rabbit learns about hummingbirds. Farmer Brown's boy rescues Mrs. Hummer when she gets burrs caught on her wing. 

September 22 to October 6. Old Mr. Toad mentors a young toad on how to eat a worm correctly and escape from snakes. Farmer Brown's boy rescues the young toad from Jimmy Skunk by hooting like an owl.

October 8 to October 10. Farmer Brown's boy helps Aunt Sally celebrate her 90th birthday along with the woodchucks, "Little Gentleman" and "Fat Johnny." Alas, Goldie is missing. 

October 11 to October 17. Peter Rabbit comforts a tree swallow with a hurt wing who is afraid he's been left behind. 

October 18 to October 20. Johnny Chuck [AKA Fat Johnny] delays hibernation because he's getting fed so well at Aunt Sally's but the arrival of Reddy Fox at her door convinces him to retire for the winter. 

October 22 to November 2. Thunderer and Mrs. Grouse know a few tricks when it comes to hunters. Meanwhile Peter Rabbit comforts a young grouse until Farmer Brown's boy comes along, surveying his sanctuary for wounded animals.

November 3 to November 26. Mrs. Lightfoot frets about the condition of her yard and the twins learn to fear humans. Then they watch as Buster Bear contests with Bobby Coon and Flathorns the Moose. 

November 27 to December 1. Old Man Coyote is sure he is going to get young beaver this time. He is almost crushed by a falling tree instead.

December 3 to December 15. A very sleepy Nimbleheels the Jumping Mouse must find a safe place to stay over the winter.

December 17 to December 22. Peter Rabbit (once again) tries to predict the severity of the coming winter by reading the bands on Wooly Bear. Then Sammy Jay tries to eat the caterpillar but finds him too hairy.

December 24 to December 25. Buster Bear decides to retire for the winter. 

December 26 to December 31. Drummer the Woodpecker gets trapped in a hole after an ice storm. (Continued in 1952). 


Farmer Brown's boy was back at the center of things in 1951, going on an extended trip to Trinidad where he learned about local animals. (Trinidad was Thornton Burgess's winter home.) The New England animals noticed his absence, fearing that his land was no longer a safety zone, and were very glad to see him when he returned (Burgess had Reddy Fox bark a "hello.") Later Farmer Brown's boy's role as the animal's' guardian was reinforced as he made the rounds during hunting season looking for wounded animals.

1951 also featured one of Burgess's more shocking scenes, involving the sudden death of a named character, Little Two-Stripes the Skunk, the bold companion of Little Stripes the (scared) Chipmunk.
They met a small dog. Little Stripes ran for the nearest hiding place. The small Skunk didn't run at all. He stamped his feet at the small dog and threatened to make him sorry if the dog dared touch him...Two Stripes started along just as if nothing had happened. The Little Chipmunk hurried to catch up with him.  "I wish," said he, "that I had a little scent gun and was not afraid." 
That was a foolish wish. A few minutes later they came to a road. Far down the road was a strange and terrible thing rushing toward them. The little Chipmunk ran back out of the road as fast as his small legs could take him He was scared almost out of his wits. The little Skunk simply turned and faced the monster coming so fast. He wasn't afraid. He stamped his feet. The terrible monster rushed on. It was an automobile. Not being afraid cost the little Skunk his life. The little Chipmunk who had wished that he was not afraid was still alive because he was afraid.
While the scene reinforced an old Burgess theme--the danger of ignorant boldness--it does seem to violate an implicit Burgess rule about not killing off characters with names (that is, characters not named "little too smart" or the like). 1951 also marked the end of "Little Golden Coat," whose demise was not depicted on stage but whose "disappearance" was mentioned by Aunt Sally. While Johnny Chuck was an apparent immortal, "real-life" animals had more realistic life expectancies.

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