Authors: Walter R. Brooks
He squirted the entire contents of the pistol into the man's face.
Freddy the Cowboy
Walter R. Brooks
Illustrated by Kurt Wiese
The Overlook Press
Charles' friends rather enjoyed listening to his speeches when they didn't have anything else to do. If he was supposed to be speaking about patriotism, for instance, it was fun to see how long he could go on without really saying anything about it. But today the other animals felt that he was being a nuisance. For this meeting had been called for a purpose, and listening to this rooster wasn't getting them anywhere.
The chairman of the committee, Freddy, the pig, was sitting in a chair propped against the wall on the shady side of the pig pen. He would have been more comfortable on the ground with the others, for pigs aren't built for chairs. Any more than chairs are built for pigs. Pigs' legs are too short, and chairs' legs are too long. But of course the place for a chairman is
a chair, not lolling in the grass.
Eeny, one of the mice, had spoken first. Life on the Bean farm was getting dull, and, said Eeny: “I like excitement, adventure. What are we going to do to make life more interesting?”
At that Charles had flown up on to the back of Freddy's chair. “Friends and fellow Beanites,” he shouted, “my distinguished colleague, Eeny, has said the word. Excitement, adventure! Those are the words. Interest, excitement, even danger. Yes, my friends, danger. For danger is truly the spice of life.” And he went on for some time in praise of danger, with many instances of the gay and careless manner in which he himself had met the most terrifying situations.
“Danger!” the rooster shouted. “I rise to meet it with laughter on my lips.”
“Ho, hum!” said Jinx, the black cat, and he reached out and hooked a claw around the leg of Freddy's tipped-back chair and yanked hard. There was a squeal from Freddy and a squawk from Charles and a crash from the chair as they all came down together. “There you are, rooster,” said the cat. “There's your catastrophe. Let's see you rise to that with a loud Ha, ha!”
There was a squeal from Freddy and a squawk from Charlesâ¦
Charles rose all right, and with wings spread and beak lowered he went for the cat. “You big bully!” he said. “I'll teach you to play smart-aleck jokes on me!”
But Jinx bounded off and up a tree, and stretched out along a limb above the rooster, who was dancing with rage: “What are you kicking about?” he said. “You claim you love danger and excitement, and then when I give them to you, you get mad. There's just no pleasing some folks.”
Freddy had got up and was rubbing his head, which had got bumped against the wall of the pig pen. “Look here, Jinx,” he said crossly, “this is a committee meeting, not a battle. You know that the thing to do is to let Charles make his speech, and when he's finished we can go on with the meeting.”
“Yeah,” said the cat. “Well, I can figure out plenty of kinds of excitement. But listening to a silly old rooster telling me how brave he is isn't one of them. Heck, I don't have to get a committee together; I can give you all the excitement you want. You want some, hey? OK, leave it to me.” And he dropped from the limb, made a quick pass at Charles, then dodged and dashed off down towards the farmhouse.
“Well,” said Freddy, when he had set up the chair again and climbed back into it, “Now that we've heard Charles, has anyone else any suggestions?”
“But I haven't finished!” the rooster protested.
“You never do finish, Charles,” said Mrs. Wiggins, the cow. “The only time you stop is when your audience walks out on you. So why not let somebody else talk now?”
“You, I suppose?” said Charles sarcastically.
“Land sakes, I'm no speechifier,” the cow said. “But I'd like to make a suggestion. In the first place, we don't want Jinx's kind of excitementâpulling chairs out from under people.”
“If Jinx wants real excitement,” said Quik, “He might try dropping a nice squashy tomato on Mr. Bean when he comes out of the house after dinner.”
The other mice giggled and nudged one another, but Freddy frowned at them, and they were just quieting down when Hank burst into a loud neighing laugh. Hank always had a hard time making up his mind about anything, and it had taken him quite a while to decide if Quik's remark was funny. But when he finally decided, he gave it all he had. He roared with laughter. “Good squashy tomato, hey?” he said. “That wouldn't be excitement, mouse, that would be murder. Cat murder. Caticide would be the word for it, hey, Freddy?”
“Yeah,” said the pig, “Very funny. And now suppose we let Mrs. Wiggins finish what she started to say.”
“Well,” said the cow, “I was just going to say that it's sort of foolish to sit around and moan about how life is so dull, and complain that nothing ever happens. The thing to do is to go out and make things happen. And no committee is going to do that for us; we have to do it ourselves.”
“You mean like when we started the First Animal Bank?” said Freddy. “That was interesting all right. But it goes along so smoothly now that there isn't any excitement in it any more. And by the way, Eeny, you haven't paid back that ten cents you borrowed two months ago.”
As President of the First Animal, Freddy had to keep track of money that was loaned out. The animals were mostly pretty honest, and paid back as soon as they could, but there were a few like Eeny who had to be reminded a good many times.
“Well, you don't need to dun me for it right in front of everybody,” said Eeny crossly.
“That's the only way we can ever get some of you animals to pay up,” said Freddy. “Let everybody know about it, and then you get ashamed and bring the money back. Anyway, you didn't tell the truth about what you wanted the money for. You said it was to go to the movies in Centerboro. But I've found out that you mice always get into the movie free. You get in through the hole beside the cellar window and go up through the partition into the balcony, and so you didn't need the money for a ticket.”
Eeny looked scared. “Well,” he stammered, “IâI didn't think you'd let me have the m-money if I told you why I wanted it. We wanted to give Quik a birthday party and I used it to buy cheese.”
“Why, of course the bank would have let you have it, Eeny,” said the pig, “Butâ”
Mrs. Wiggins interrupted him. “Great grief, Freddy, can't you forget your old ten cents long enough to let me finish what I started to say? What have mice in the movies got to do with this meeting? I wanted to say that the way to make life more interesting isn't to sit around and growl about it, it is to go out and hunt up something. Look for adventures. Suppose we all start out in a different direction. I'll bet you that not one of us would go half a mile off the farm before something interesting would turn up.”
“If it's interesting to be eaten up by a cat or a hawk, I guess you're right,” said Eek. “How far do you think a mouse would get, starting out in search of adventure?”
“You don't have to go alone,” said Freddy. “One of you could go with each of us. My gracious, that's a good idea, Mrs. Wiggins. Suppose we leave this afternoon, and then meet back here in a week's time and tell our adventures. Come on, let's tell the other animals and see who wants to go.”
So that afternoon quite a number of the animals came up to the pig pen, all ready for the road. And they drew lots for the direction they were to start in. Hank, with Eeny on his back, went east; Freddy and Quik went northeast; Mrs. Wiggins went north; Charles and his wife Henrietta went northwest; Jinx went west; Robert the collie, and Cousin Augustus southwest; Bill, the goat, with Eek, went south, and Georgie, the little brown dog, and Mrs. Wurzburger, one of Mrs. Wiggins' sisters, went southeast.
All the animals were in high spirits except Charles. He hadn't wanted Henrietta to go. “Who ever heard of a knight errant starting out in search of adventure and taking his wife along!” he grumbled. “You'd think I was going to a party.”
“You will be if you go running around the country alone,” said the hen. “Only you'll be the one on the platter, and the rest of the guests will be tucking their napkins under their chins. No, sir, either I go or you stay home. There's got to be somebody along to get you out of the scrapes you'll get into.”
Mr. and Mrs. Bean stood on the back porch looking up towards the pig pen as the animals all started out. “What on earth do you suppose they're up to now?” said Mrs. Bean, “Some new game?”
Mr. Bean shook his head. He never interfered with his animals as long as they did the little jobs around the farm that he expected of them. He turned to go in and caught sight of a folded piece of paper lying near the door. He picked it up, looked at it right side up, sideways and upside down, then handed it to Mrs. Bean. “You got your specs on,” he said. “What's it say?”