Archives for May 2016

Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man

Author and Illustrator:  Robert McCloskey

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You’d better be ready for a “whale of an adventure” when you read this exciting tale of Burt Dow.  If you don’t know know what a “deep-water man” is, you will soon find out.  Burt’s boat, the Tidely-Idley is the pride and joy of Burt’s life, and between doing odd jobs for people he keeps her painted and patched as best he can.  Which means every time he does a paint job, he brings home the leftover paint and uses it on the Tidely-Idley.

“That pink plank,” he says, “is the color of Ginny Poor’s pantry… and the green one is the color of the floor and doors in Doc Walton’s waiting-room… and there’s the tan porch and trim color from Capt’n Haskell’s house.”

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There is nothing that Burt Dow enjoyed more than heading out to sea.  But being a good “deep-water man,” he knew to study the color of the sky, the color of the water, and the direction of the wind.  He settled on a a fishing spot, baited his hook with clams and lowered it over the side.  It was a long time before something finally tugged on the line, but when it did, it REALLY TUGGED!  For when I told you this was a “whale of an adventure,” it really was for old Burt! He had indeed hooked onto a whale’s tail!

What happened next is something you’ll just have to read for yourself.  But I will tell you that if Burt Dow’s friends and neighbors thought that the Tidely-Idley was painted rather brightly and colorfully, they might have been rather shocked to see some whales that may have appeared soon after encountering old Burt.

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Robert McCloskey has once again delighted us with a story in which we become involved, and illustrations which fill us with wonder.

Dandelions & “Spadluns”

imgres-15 “It may sound silly to you, but I’ve always had a fondness for dandelions.  Even their name just makes me smile.  It has a rhythm to it, unlike “rose.”  Not that I don’t like roses, I do, it’s just that saying “dandelion” is much more fun.  As a kid, I loved our sprawling backyard. Every spring and into summer it was sprinkled with bright, yellow dandelions.  Of course my dad wasn’t too happy about that.  He gave me a pointed garden tool of some kind with directions to “dig those awful weeds up!”

Normally I would have complained, but my dad and I had just shared our favorite snack together – “spadluns.”  Now I suppose that sounds silly to you too!  Dad was always making up crazy things to eat, but this was my favorite.  He just got a scoop of peanut butter, some pancake syrup and stirred them together just right.  Then we would dip bread into it and eat it up! I think I liked it so much because he gave it the silliest name ever – “spadluns”! Anyway, when I was done, I felt I ought to go do what he asked and not gripe.

I usually dug up the ones that had already withered, never the pretty yellow ones.  And, oh joy! If I came upon one that had become a white wish-puff!  I’d sit, close my eyes, think of the most special wish I could, and BLOW! Then, squealing with delight, I’d watch all the wispiness float through the air – until… my father yelled, ”STOP! What are you doing?!”  I got a quick lesson in NOT blowing weed seeds everywhere.  Apparently I was the guilty party who had been spreading these “horrible things” all over our yard.   Tears welling up in my eyes,  I explained that I thought they were beautiful, and that I had been making wishes from the “wish-puffs.”

Daddy took one look at my tears and the sticky syrup left on my chin and all he could say was, “Oh! Is that what you were doing? Well then…” And with that, my daddy bent down, plucked a big old white “wish-puff” and blew as hard as he could! We both burst out laughing as the wispy seeds swirled around us.

Now, living in Florida, I rarely, if ever see dandelions. But on a recent trip I saw a perfectly preserved wish-puff dandelion in a glass paperweight. I just gasped and grabbed it.  My emotions went between laughter at the joy of my childhood memories, and weeping at missing my dad and the gift of silliness he had allowed me.  That paperweight sits on my desk and is a treasure to me, reminding me that wishes and weeds and children with sticky chins are wonderful gifts to enjoy.

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