Thursday, December 13, 2012

Burgess Bedtime Stories 1954

The Stories

January 1 to February 1. (continued from 1953) Too-Smart must drive away a handsome rival (a silver fox) to pair with Soft-Eyes. Then Two-Smart learns not to mess with Prickly Porky, watches otters having fun, and tries to catch Jumper the Hare.

February 2. Farmer Brown's boy tests Johnny Chuck's power to predict the future.

February 3 to February 17. Farmer Brown's boy's prize racing pigeon, Homer, wins a series of races but then gets lost when he runs into a storm.

February 18 to March 6. A snow storm makes life difficult for many animals, particularly Blacky the Crow. A gang of crows mobs Hooty the Owl (already nesting) with familiar tragic consequences.

March 8 to April 7. Prickles, a young albino porcupine, hangs out with a young beaver and helps destroy a cabin.

April 8 to April 13. Jumper the Hare learns how Flathorns the Moose gets food during the winter.

April 14 to May 14. It is nesting time in the Old Orchard. Bluebirds and tree swallows compete for nesting boxes and Farmer Brown's boy provides feathers and mud for swallow nests. Meanwhile the bank swallows must be careful where they position their nest holes. 

May 15 to June 9. Young kingfishers learn to fish and dive to escape Falco the Duck Hawk. One unlucky kingfisher gets a mussel caught on his bill. Then young Touselhead defeats a bully to win his own fishing territory. 

June 10 to June 21. Bob White must work hard to keep his new family safe.

June 22 to July 9. Bob White Junior learns about turkey vultures.

July 10 to September 16. Buster the young Chuck must learn to live on his own. After foxes kill two of his siblings, he goes house-hunting and finds a place near a garden. The gardener tries to trap him and drown him out but Buster's backdoor allows him to escape. Later, while lost in the Green Forest he has a dangerous encounters with the other Buster, Buster Bear and becomes neighbors with Trader the Wood Rat. 

September 17 to September 25. Yowler the Bobcat tries unsuccessfully to get Buster the Chuck.

September 27 to October 15. The new deer twins must learn to use their noses to keep safe. Lightfoot fights a rival and leads a hunting dog away from the twins.

October 16 to October 22. A hunter, complaining about foxes preying on game birds, learns to see the value of foxes (and sanctuaries) when Farmer Brown's boy informs him about meadow mice population numbers. 

October 23 to November 5. Young Bob White can't fly after he is winged by hunters. Farmer Brown's boy finds him and nurses him back to health.

November 6 to November 20. Peter Rabbit is discontented after Johnny Chuck goes to sleep and Jerry Muskrat is too busy to talk. He visits Jumper the Hare and they watch beavers eat a tree.

November 22 to December 13. Peter Rabbit watches the beavers build a canal and warns them about an approaching coyote. Old Man Coyote and Paddy eventually grapple and Paddy defeats him (as he had Glutton the Wolverine) by trying to drown him. 

December 14 to December 27. Reddy Fox, desperate with hunger after a snow storm, hunts meadow mice and steals a fish from an eagle.

December 28. Tommy Tit is full of cheer despite the bad weather.

December 29 to December 31. Mrs Grouse warns her children to beware of ice crusts. (continued in 1955). 


1954 was a very familiar year for Burgess stories. Burgess continued to provide long elaborate tales stringing together many of his favorite stock scenarios. The extended set of swallow stories, e.g., was almost a direct replay of his swallow stories a few years previously. Only the stories featuring Farmer Brown's boy's pet pigeon, Homer, and Buster Chuck's dangerous encounter with an angry gardener offered much that was new. 

1954 also saw Farmer Brown's boy try a new tactic in his campaign to convince hunters that foxes, hawks, and owls should be respected and not treated as vermin.
"Do you know how many children a pair of meadow mice can have in a year?" 
The gunner shook his head. "I haven't the least idea," said he. 
Once more Farmer Brown's boy chuckled. "[A] naturalist...kept a pair of meadow mice for over a year. In twelve months they had 81 babies. He figured that a pair of meadow mice having that many children in a year, and nothing happening to any of the children, or the children's children, might result in 1,000,000 mice in twelve months. Think that over, and you won't need to ask what good foxes and hawks and owls do," said he. 
Gunner had become interested now. He gave a low whistle. "Is that really true?," he asked. "How did you learn all this? 
"From a bulletin on meadow mice that the government sends out. It is a bulletin that every hunter who likes to go shooting should read."
The hunter takes the government's word for it and changes his mind. 

Finally, there is a curious moment in an episode involving Peter Rabbit and Paddy the Beaver. Peter spots a stranger who he first mistakes for Gray Fox and then suspects might be a dog. Because of his past experience with foxes, he thumps a warning and Paddy is alerted of the danger. The stranger who Peter Rabbit didn't know? Old Man Coyote.  Clearly strict continuity should not be expected in the 50 years of Burgess stories. At the same time, it is disturbing when a history of encounters between two characters is suddenly erased. 

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