Long ago on slow winter afternoons on the north coast when the sun glinted off the crusted snowbanks and made its sudden journey west under the trees and the wind whispered hard off the lake they called Erie, Daddy Boid spun Baby Bear tales about Freddie Fox and Buhddy Bear and their life in the woods down the road behind the hospital — which in days long ago was at the far edge of town.
In those days long ago the day was divided by the Tu Tu Twains that wrattled the houses and shook the frozen ground two miles or more from the tracks. Their comings and goings at every time of the day and year were a mystery for Baby Bear. Though he was pretty sure he had ridden one once, he did not know where they came from or where they went. They were almost as mysterious as the hobos that knocked on their back door from time to time. His mother always gave them a pint of milk and a sandwich and then after dining on the back steps they would disappear as magically as they’d come.
But almost as magical as the hobos and the living Tu Tus sliding back and forth on their burnished iron rails with cow-catchers gobbling up the timber and gravel were the woods and the critter people that lived secret lives under bushes and in trees and hid under stumps and in the marsh and cricks.
There was Waymond Bunny Wabbit, Franny Frog and a Mr Turtle, and all sorts of mysterious nameless bugs — but especially the rare Walking Sticks which really were tree twigs come magically to life. And there were tadpoles galore and an occasional minnow that swum in the cricks that slowly edged their way down to the lake they called Erie.
But the two folks Baby Bear remembered best were Freddie Fox and Buhddy Bear — who had the same last name and maybe was a shirt-tail cousin or something. And Freddie — so smart he could trick Sam the Snake or even Charlie Wolf. And Baby Bear would say to Daddy Boid, “Tell me a story about Freddie Fox.”
“Well,” Daddy Boid began, “On one Sunday morning in late March Freddie slept to almost noon. He was dreaming of breakfast — a big bowl of oatmeal with butter and brown sugar because his tummy was very empty. The oatmeal smelled so good he could almost taste it. He blinked awake and the breakfast he was dreaming about vanished. ‘It was only a dream,’ Freddie thought. He stuck his needle nose thru a pile of leaves and he peeked out of his home under the log by the stump. He could still see patches of snow but the sun was warming things up. Little buds were already popping out on some of the Elm and Sycamore trees.
Freddie crawled out of his home and stretched. He looked around in every direction and sniffed the air. It was like he was still dreaming because he was certain he could smell warm oatmeal with brown sugar. He blinked and shook his head and sniffed again. Yup, for sure it was oatmeal with butter and brown sugar.
He saw his old pal Charlie Wolf near the woods a short distance away and Charlie appeared headed toward town. Charlie was very old and he often complained to Charlie about having arthur-itis. Freddie wasn’t exactly sure what that was but he thought maybe it was why Charlie kind of limped. Also, Charlie’s few teeth were loose and so an ancient wolf with a limp and missing teeth wasn’t a very scary wolf.
Freddie thought he would follow Charlie and see where he was going. He seemed headed toward the last farmhouse at the very edge of town where the hound Nipper lived. Freddie and Charlie hopped a little ditch and crossed the Tu Tu twacks. They slowed down as they got closer. Neither Nipper nor the farmer he served were very friendly. He had yelled at Freddie a few times and once he had a stick that went boom and scared Freddie half to death. The farmer also had chickens that looked quite scrumptious and he had two hives of captive bees that made honey. Freddie and Charlie had helped themselves before to little morsels on the farmer’s property.
As Charlie and Freddie crept closer — getting down very low so as not to be noticed, they saw the farmer sitting on a bench by his little dilapidated red barn. He held a cup in one hand and next to him on the bench was a bowl. Nipper was nowhere to be seen, and Freddie was sure there was oatmeal with brown sugar in the bowl.
The farmer suddenly stood up and started walking towards his house’s kitchen door. Charlie thought, ‘Now’s my chance.’ He scampered thru the barnyard and grabbed the edge of the bowl in his jaws. He and Charlie made a beeline toward the woods. He had some oatmeal on his needle nose but that was okay. He would find a safe spot to hide and maybe he’d share some with Charlie.
They hopped the ditch again and as they were about to cross the twacks they heard a kapow and something like sleet rustled the limbs over their head. Freddie was so startled that he dropped the bowl of warm oatmeal on the twacks. He and Charlie made it to the woods before they turned and looked back. In the distance he heard the farmer yelling –and also he heard a steady chug chug chug getting gradually louder. Charlie thought, ‘Oh no, its the Tu Tu!’
Before he could think of what to do the twain’s cow catcher gobbled up the bowl of oatmeal like magic. And as the Tu Tu majestically rolled by headed clickety clacking to who knows where Freddie thought he could almost taste the warm oatmeal with butter and brown sugar. And of course, being a good fox, he would have let his friend Charlie have a bite –maybe even two.”
And Baby Bear with a wide-eyed look thought, “That was a good story” and he could hardly wait till Daddy Boid would tell him another.