I’ve been blogging for over seven years, but the posts from the first six years have been lost due to hard drive failures and an improvident lack of a back-up strategy. Ah, well, I have an up-beat nature; I consider those old posts to be rough drafts and the stories live on in my head. Joan Ryan saved most of the photos on a series of CDs and I am profoundly grateful for that. The upshot is that I’ll be retelling some of those stories — surely my writing skills have improved during the past seven years!
I have a vague memory of writing a post years ago about the Freddy the Pig series of children’s books written by Walter R. Brooks during the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. Brooks died in 1958. Rather than re-write a description of the series, I recommend that you read the concise and accurate Wikipedia entry:
Go ahead, follow the link! It’ll just be five minutes out of your life. Reading the entry will make reading the remainder of this post more comprehensible and interesting.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s my family lived in a suburban neighborhood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Once a week a Bookmobile would park for a few hours not far from our house. I loved Bookmobile Days and always carried home an armload of books. It wasn’t long before I discovered a good selection of the Freddy books. By this time the books had fallen out of favor and were all out of print, but I didn’t care. The books had strongly moral plots, talking farm animal analogies of common human dilemmas and conflicts, along with much humor and drama. The copious pen-and-ink illustrations by Kurt Wiese were masterfully drawn. I loved those books.
Many years later I had two young kids of my own. I had mentioned to a friend my memories of reading the Freddy books. One day my friend presented me with a copy of one of the early books in the series, Freddy the Detective. I read the book aloud to my kids and they were excited by the story.
“Daddy,are there any more books like this?”
I checked out internet used book vendors such as abe.com. Before long I had accumulated about a dozen more Freddy books. Many were discarded library copies from all over the country. Walter R. Brooks’ creations had certainly fallen out of favor if libraries were culling them!
I have fond memories of reading those books aloud to my kids. We even named a pet rat we had at the time after one of the villains in the series, Simon the Rat.
The Freddy books belong to that rare literary category, children’s books which are entertaining and absorbing for adults as well as for children.
Freddy was certainly a smart and versatile pig. At various times he was a detective, a cowboy, a pilot, and a politician.
He also wrote poetry at times; here’s an example:
Thoughts On Teeth
The teeth are thirty-two in number.
You’d think so many would encumber
The mouth, but they fit neatly in
Below the nose, above the chin,
Behind the lips, a double row,
So strong and sharp, and white as snow.
To keep them shining, clean and bright,
Your scrub them morning, noon and night.
The teeth are used in chewing steaks
And pickled pears and angel cakes-
A list of all the things they chew
Would reach from here to Timbuctoo.
Think of all the tons of food
Which in your life your teeth have chewed!
Though birds lack teeth and cannot chew
Their victuals up like me and you,
Gizzards, it’s generally conceded,
Do all the chewing that is needed.
A gizzard no cause for discontent is:
Birds never need to see the dentist.
The use of toothpicks is thought rude
And should in public be eschewed.
To animals, both pigs and men,
Teeth only seem important when
They’re not around. If you have not
Got ’em, you miss them quite a lot.
So keep your teeth, don’t let them go;
Replacements cost a lot of dough.
from “Freddy and Simon the Dictator”
One more porcine poem, this one untitled:
While I croon a verse
Of the universe.
The universe is quite good-sized,
And is, I think, well organized,
Containing as it does, a slew
Of stars and planets. Comets too
Occasionally whiz about
And dodge and circle in and out
Among the clustered nebulae.
They scare the dickens out of me,
But I suppose they know their stuff
And are expert and quick enough
To keep from bumping or colliding
With other worlds. But I’m residing
At present on the planet, earth,
And it does not arouse my mirth
To see these reckless comets fly
Around as if they owned the sky.
It’s much too dangerous in a crowd,
And really shouldn’t be allowed.
Yet tho there’s nothing to prevent
Bad manners in the firmament,
The heavenly bodies, generally,
Are well behaved and courteously
Avoid all quarrels and disputes-
Tho when they have them, they are beauts.
As to the universe’s size,
It’s rather large than otherwise,
Containing stars and galaxies
And satellites of all degrees.
And some are dim and some are bright,
But all are lighted up at night,-
Mostly along the Milky Way-
A quite remarkable display.
Some scientific fellows hope
By peering thru a telescope
To chart the heavens and name each star
Of all the billions that there are.
More sensible I think it is
Just to sit back and let them whiz
Along on their accustomed track
Around and round the zodiac.
For since they are not bothering me
I think it’s best to let them be.
And that is all I have to say
About the universe today.
from Freddy and the Spaceship
In recent years there has been a resurgence in the popularity of the Freddy books. They have been re-issued by Overlook Press and there are even web-sites devoted to Freddy:
I think the Freddy books were a crucial factor in my spotty (at the time) moral development.