Author of Grampa in Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Phildelphia Public Ledger, November 17, 1918.
Once upon a time the little people in the woods decide to go to war. They had been reading the papers that the two-legged folk left about when they came picnicking, and, as Grandfather Rabbit explained, “It was the thing to do!”
“But whom shall we fight?” asked little Tommy Squirrel. “You can’t have a war without an enemy!”
This puzzled old man Rabbit for a long time, but he never let on. “That comes later. Didn’t George Washington himself say, ‘In times of peace prepare for war’?” he announced sternly.
“This’ll bring us into trouble,” Johnny Owl closed one eye and shook his head backward and forward. “We have nothing to do with the ways of men!”
But old Grandfather Rabbit stood on a tree stump and talked so long and loudly about the glories of battle that no one listened to Johnny Owl, and they were all for war at the earliest possible moment.
“The first thing to do is to choose a general!” he concluded, “and, as this war was my idea, I think I ought to be it!”
Loud cheers greeted this modest remark, and Tommy Squirrel jumped up and made a fervent speech unanimously electing Jonathan T. Rabbit as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of Good-Wood Fellows.
“With such a brave soul at our head victory is already assured!” he shouted, waving his paws as he had seen the pictured human creatures in the newspapers do.
Jonathan swelled out his chest and looked off between the trees, then all at once something occurred to him.
Tommy was launching into another patriotic outburst when old man Rabbit touched him gently on the arm.
“Not at the head,” he whispered earnestly, “change it to tail. That’s old stuff having generals at the head. Nowadays they do it the other way.”
“With this brave soul at our tail,” Tommy corrected hastily, “who will dare to face us!”
Jonathan smiled in a pleased fashion and closed his eyes as Tommy proceeded with his speech.
Several others of the company did the same, but they all woke up at the end, clapped loudly and war was declared on the spot.
Next day training began in earnest. All the little rabbits were set to digging trenches all the way around that particular little wood.
Jonathan had some good ideas, you must admit, and sitting upon his tree stump with a quill behind his ear directed the whole proceeding.
The Squirrels were all decorated with maple leaves and dubbed majors in the observation corps.
They scanned the country for signs of the enemy from their treetops and reported every few minutes to General Jonathan.
All the birds who had not flown South at once enlisted in the aviation section; even Johnny Owl agreed, with his family, to attend to the night watch.
The Woodpeckers being expert drillers were all made drill masters, and all the Rabbits who refused to dig trenches were placed in the signal corps.
You have no idea how convenient long ears are for wigwagging, and Jonathan worked out the most satisfactory code.
The Tortoises being armored, were immediately impressed into the infantry, and, as they were more protected behind than before, Jonathan insisted upon their marching backward. It was a little awkward at first, but they persevered and soon got the hang of it.
The Skunks were, of course, placed in the gas division; the Porcupines in the artillery, and with a satisfied sigh General Jonathan declared his army in readiness.
They were so delighted, all the little wood soldiers, that they forgot all about not having any enemy.
And bless my heart and heels! One night about 5 o’clock the enemy came, sure enough – three of him.
The majors in the observation corps sighted him first and chattered the news from tree to tree till it reached old General Jonathan Rabbit, who immediately wigwagged the news to all the rest of the army.
The tortoise infantry fell in backward, the gas corps went at the very head and after them, bristling with bravery, came the Porcupine artillery, and last of all, peering cautiously to the left and the right, the commander-in-chief himself.
Overhead the aviation circled making such a to-do that the enemy looked up and before he could save himself had tumbled headlong into the trenches.
There really were three – but in a war you always speak of the enemy as him. You understand?
Before he could pick himself up the gas division got busy. Ugh! Then the artillery let fly and the tortoises advanced backward.
It wasn’t much of a battle, ‘cause the enemy was so choked and taken aback that he retreated faster than the army could advance.
General Jonathan got out of breath, so he called halt, and they did.
It was a glorious victory, and that’s a fact, and those three robber foxes never did come back. It took them a whole hour to pull the porcupine quills out o’ their hides, and they’re still feeling the effects of the poison gas!
The Puzzle Corner
I guess the Forgetful Poet has returned, for these riddles came in this week:
The men who at all times -----
Their equanimity deserve
The ----- of toil, they’ve done their part.
But woe to them whose speech is -----,
Who scowl and scold, complain and grumble,
All life for them will be a -----.
I took ----- ----- for a ride
Upon a ----- bald steed,
It shook her to a -----
And she’s very cross indeed.
He evidently is saying it with desserts this week and as you are all fond of them I know it will not be long before every blank is filled in. Besides, he wants to know:
Did you ever hear a fence rail,
Or ever see one paling,
Were you ever at a goat tea,
Did you see a bee bewailing?
(I never did.)
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2014 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.