About the Author
Kurt Wiese (1887-1974) illustrated over 300 children’s books and wrote and illustrated another 20 books. He received two Newbury Awards and two Caldecott Honor Book Awards.
Walter R. Brooks (1886-1958) is the beloved author of 26 books about Freddy the Pig. He edited for magazines, including The New Yorker. In addition to the Freddy books, Brooks created the character Mr. Ed the Talking Horse.
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Freddy and the Men from Mars
By Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese
The Overlook PressCopyright © 1954 Walter R. Brooks
All rights reserved.
If you went up from the barnyard through the pasture, and past the duck pond, following the brook up into the woods, you came to a road. And if you crossed the road, which was the northern boundary of the Bean farm, pretty soon you were walking among the charred stumps where last year's forest fire had burned over nearly half of the Big Woods. And then right in the middle of the burned area you would have seen a strange thing—a big rocket nearly thirty feet tall, standing on three legs and pointing at the sky.
The rocket looked like pictures you have seen of space ships, built for taking trips to the moon and to other planets, and indeed that is exactly what it was. It had been built by Mr. Bean's Uncle Ben, who was a fine mechanic; and in it last summer he had tried to reach Mars. The trip, the story of which is told elsewhere, had not been entirely successful. But the ship had got back safely, and now Uncle Ben was getting it ready to take another cruise out into space.
Freddy, the pig, and his friend Jinx, the black cat, on their way up to the ship, were picking their path among the black stubs. Pretty soon they had to cross the brook. The water was high, so instead of just jumping over as they usually did, they went along to where they could get across on some stepping-stones that Uncle Ben had placed in the water, to be used when he had to carry pieces of equipment up to the ship. Jinx dashed across; then he turned and looked back. "Look out for that second stone, Freddy," he said. "It's prob'ly wobbly."
"Prob'ly wobbly, hey?" said Freddy. "That's a good one. Well, I'll be careful. I bet that water's rilly chilly."
"Swallow a lot of it and it'll cause ya nausea," Jinx replied, and then laughed so hard at his own joke that he slipped off the bank into the edge of the stream.
The cat had only got his feet wet, but he was so mad that Freddy thought he'd better not laugh very hard. He picked his way carefully across the prob'ly-wobbly stone and the two walked on together without saying anything more.
There was hammering going on inside the ship. An iron ladder led up to a door in the upper part of the rocket, and the two animals climbed up and looked in. Uncle Ben and his assistant, old Mrs. Peppercorn, were working at the instrument panel. Mrs. Peppercorn said:
"I'll clip these red wires together, so's't'
They can be hitched to this here post."
Jinx looked at Freddy and winked. Mrs. Peppercorn was about the most unlikely co-pilot you could imagine on a space ship. She was a little old lady who lived in Centerboro. She had rather forced Uncle Ben to take her as passenger on the first trip into outer space. But she had been such a good sport, and, once she had had the working of the ship explained to her, had shown so much mechanical skill, that Uncle Ben had agreed to take her in as partner. The only troublesome thing about her was the habit, which was certainly growing on her, of making up bad poetry, and even using it in her everyday conversation. Uncle Ben drove into Centerboro and got her every morning and took her home every night.
Uncle Ben nodded and said something which sounded like "Mpfh," which was really saying quite a lot for him, for he almost never spoke a sentence longer than two syllables. He wasn't much of a talker.
"Hi, Uncle Ben," said Freddy, "we've got something to show you." He had on an old coat of Mr. Bean's so that he would have pockets to carry things in. Animals that don't talk much can carry things in their mouths, but Freddy did a good deal of talking, which meant that every time he said anything he'd have to drop whatever he was carrying and then pick it up again. For talking with your mouth full is impolite, and besides, nobody can understand you. So now Freddy pulled a newspaper out of his pocket and handed it to Uncle Ben.
Mrs. Peppercorn read the item out loud over Uncle Ben's shoulder.
MARTIANS CAPTURED Crew of Flying Saucer Trapped by Former Centerboro, N.Y. Man
Lanksburg, VA. MAY 4. Early this morning Mr. Herbert Garble of St. Petersburg, Fla., passing through Lanksburg on his way north, captured the only Martians believed ever to have visited the earth. Mr. Garble was driving north to visit his sister at whose palatial residence in Centerboro, N.Y., he formerly resided. Having driven all night, he had drawn up by the roadside on the outskirts of Lanksburg to rest, when a loud buzzing aroused him, and a large saucer-shaped object passed over his head and landed in a near-by field. Mr. Garble started to investigate, but his movements evidently alarmed the occupants of the saucer, which gave out a brilliant flash of light and made off at tremendous speed.
However, Mr. Garble pursued his investigations, and on arriving at the spot he found six small creatures who had evidently been left behind. They are described as about eight inches tall, dressed in red, with short legs, long noses, and luxuriant red whiskers. Mr. Garble captured the creatures, who stated that they were inhabitants of the planet Mars and—Mrs. Peppercorn stopped. "Stated?" she exclaimed. "Can the critters speak English?"
"It tells about that farther down," said Freddy. "They claim they've been here many times, and have learned the language."
"Well, I suppose if they've come here once, they could have come before," said Mrs. Peppercorn.
"Mr. Boom," said Uncle Ben suddenly.
"Just what I was thinking," Freddy said. "Lanksburg is where Mr. Boomschmidt's circus has been spending the winter. That's what seems so funny about it. Here's Mr. Garble, who's from Centerboro and certainly no friend to us animals on Mr. Bean's farm, and here's Mr. Boom, who's a great friend of ours, and both of 'em in Lanksburg. And then—see what it says down here?—they've gone into partnership. Mr. Garble captured the Martians, and then he got to thinking that there'd be a lot of money in exhibiting them. So he remembered that Mr. Boom was wintering in Lanksburg, and he went to see him. And he's going to travel with the circus this summer and exhibit 'em."
"Money," said Uncle Ben.
"You bet," said Jinx. "Have a side show with real live Martians—I bet people'd pay fifty cents just to look at 'em."
"If your Mr. Boom is fool enough to join up with that good-for-nothing Garble he won't have much circus left by fall," said Mrs. Peppercorn. "Martians or no Martians. If he ties up with Garble," she added, "his fate will be har'ble."
"Ouch!" said Jinx.
Mrs. Peppercorn glared at him. "All right," she said, "let's hear you make a better rhyme."
"If with Garble he joins, he'll be full of aches and poins," said Jinx, and ducked down the ladder as she made a swipe at him with a screwdriver.
But Freddy was thoughtful. "We've had a lot of trouble with Mr. Garble one time and another," he said. "I wish Mr. Boom hadn't taken him into the circus."
Mrs. Peppercorn, who had been continuing to read the newspaper article, said: "We've got to see these Martians. Be a big help to find out what the folks on Mars are like before we get there, though I can tell you right now I don't approve of 'em."
Jinx said: "The paper says old Boom was so excited about having Martians in his show that he started right away getting ready for the road. How soon can we expect them in Centerboro, Freddy?"
"Depends on how many shows they give on the way north," Freddy said. "Usually Mr. Boom comes straight to Centerboro and opens his season with two or three days there, on account of having so many friends in the neighborhood. That takes about a week. But he'll probably think he ought to give at least one show in Washington, because I suppose the President will want to see them, and all the senators will want to ask them questions and find out if they are Republicans or Democrats—"
"It says here they wear red clothes," said Mrs. Peppercorn. "There ain't any doubt in my mind what they are."
"Why, they're Martians," said Jinx.
"Nonsense!" said the old lady. "Communists, that's what they are! They ought to be sent right back to Rooshia, where they came from! Garble oughtn't to introduce ya to anyone from Rooshia."
"Oh, now, wait a minute!" said Freddy. "What's Russia got to do with it? A Martian wouldn't even know that there was a Russia, much less a Communist."
"Then what do they wear red suits for?" she retorted. "And good land, don't they always call Mars the Red Planet?"
"That's because it looks sort of red in the sky," Freddy said. "My goodness, Santa Claus wears a red suit—you don't call him a Communist, do you?"
"I wouldn't put it past him," Mrs. Peppercorn said. "Seems like you can't trust anybody these days. And he lives right up there at the North Pole, handy to Rooshia."
"I shouldn't think you'd want to go to Mars," said Jinx, "if it's all inhabited by little Communists eight inches high, in red suits."
"I want to go more than ever now," said the old lady. "They ought to be investigated, hadn't they? Well, if there won't anybody else do it, I'll do it myself. And when I've investigated I'll have 'em arrestigated," she added.
Uncle Ben hadn't been paying much attention to an argument which he evidently thought rather silly. But now he folded up the paper and said: "Must see Martians. Who's going?" He looked around at them, and then started down the ladder to the ground.
The others looked at one another for a moment. "Where's he off to now?" said Mrs. Peppercorn.
"Golly, I guess to Lanksburg to look at the Martians," Freddy said. "Come on, he won't wait for us." And they scrambled down the ladder and hurried after Uncle Ben. They didn't catch up with him until they reached the barnyard where he was just climbing into his old station wagon. They piled in after him.
Mrs. Bean was sitting on the back porch in her rocking chair. Now she leaned forward. "If you stop at the grocery, Uncle Ben, bring me back—here, I'll make you a list; you'll forget half of 'em if I don't." She started to get up, but Freddy ran across and explained quickly where they were going.
"Good grief!" she exclaimed. "Martians! Mr. B.!" she called. And as Mr. Bean came to the door: "Here's Uncle Ben going down to Virginia to see some folks from Mars. Don't you want to go along?"
But after a little talk, both Mr. and Mrs. Bean decided that they'd wait until the circus came to Centerboro to see the Martians. "You go along," Mr. Bean said. "Have a good time and don't forget to send us some postcards."
So they got into the station wagon and hung on tight to their seats. And Uncle Ben started the engine. It was an engine he had put in himself, the Benjamin Bean Atomic Engine—the small economy size, not the large battleship size—and it had so much power that when it started, with a whoosh and a roar, you had to have a good grip on the seats or you were likely to be left behind. It almost seemed to gather its wheels under it and jump, it started so fast. In three seconds it was out of the gate and streaking up the road.
Back on the porch Mrs. Bean smiled placidly. "I do like to see our animals having so much fun, Mr. B.," she said.
"By cracky," said Mr. Bean, "if ridin' with Uncle Ben's fun, I guess I'd as soon be sick abed. Why that start, it like to snapped old Mrs. Peppercorn's head right smack off her shoulders."CHAPTER 2
Forty-eight hours after the capture of the Martians by Mr. Herbert Garble, Boomschmidt's Stupendous & Unexcelled Circus was on the road. Mr. Boomschmidt and Mademoiselle Rose, the bareback rider (who was Mrs. Boomschmidt in private life), came first, in a big red limousine with the Boomschmidt coat of arms in gold on the doors. Then came the red-and-gold wagons in which the dangerous wild animals lived. Only, instead of being in the cages, the lions and tigers were usually sitting up beside the driver, or even driving the horses themselves. For, as Mr. Boomschmidt explained when people expressed surprise at this arrangement: "Animals aren't really wild except when they're shut up. My goodness," he said, "you'd be wild yourself if you had to live in a cage."
And indeed his animals were always polite and well behaved, and in the towns where they had given shows summer after summer they had hosts of friends. On Sundays, when no shows were given, you could hardly ever find a single animal on the circus grounds—they would all be invited out to Sunday dinner by people in the town.
After the wild-animal wagons came the elephants and zebras and old Uncle Bill, the buffalo, and a lot of other animals, and then the little houses on wheels in which the circus people lived. There weren't as many of these as there had been in the early days, for more and more of the circus work was done by animals instead of humans. Elephants can put up a tent as quickly as men can, and almost any animal can be trained to sell tickets, or drive cars, or do clerical work. It had always been Mr. Boom's ambition to have an allanimal circus, and now all his performers in the main tent were animals except Mademoiselle Rose.
In the side shows, of course, there were some people. There was Madame Delphine, the gypsy fortune-teller, whose real name was Annie Carraway. She was Mlle. Rose's mother. And there was a new side show this year—the strong man. He was Mr. Boomschmidt's brother, Mr. Hercules Boomschmidt, and he looked exactly like Mr. Boomschmidt except that he was twice as tall and twice as wide. He looked like Mr. Boomschmidt seen through a large magnifying glass. He did a weight-lifting act, and sometimes in the big tent he sang in a quartet made up, besides himself, of the lion, a hippopotamus named Andrew, and Uncle Bill, the buffalo. It was really something to hear them render "Asleep in the Deep," or "Down by the Old Mill Stream." For they all had deep bass voices; Mr. Hercules, who was the tenor, sounded, even when he hit a high one, like the bass viol in the orchestra; and when Andrew really got down to work, it was like nothing but a thunderstorm coming up on the other side of the mountain.
And of course now there were the Martians. There hadn't been time to give them much of a build-up, but Mr. Boomschmidt didn't think they needed it. He had some signs painted: "Men from Mars. They have come a million miles to visit you." And there were pictures of little red men climbing out of a flying saucer, with planets and comets zipping around. He had the carpenter build some little chairs and tables and other furniture, and fit up one of the wagons like a room that was supposed to be from a Martian house. And then the Martians were to sit around in the room and just talk and have their meals and do whatever they did at home on Mars, while the people filed past at fifty cents a head and stared at them. Mr. Garble would be standing by to answer questions.
It was plain before they started out that the show could stay right in Lanksburg all summer and make more money than it ever had before. For as soon as news that the Martians were with the circus came out in the newspapers, people from near-by towns came crowding into the city in the hope of catching sight of them. Mr. Garble wanted to stay right there. "Folks'll drive here from all over the country," he had said. "Instead of giving your regular show, we'll buy a couple hundred cots and put 'em up in the big tent and rent 'em out at five dollars a night. We'll turn the Martian side show into the main show and up the price to two dollars a night. There's seven dollars a head we'll make out of everybody that spends the night, and then there's all the people that'll just stop long enough to see the Martians and then drive on. I bet we can clear seven or eight thousand dollars a day."
Mr. Boomschmidt had replied that that was fine, only it wasn't going to be that way. "My goodness me," he said, "what do you suppose all those people up in New York and Pennsylvania and Connecticut and a dozen other states are going to say when they hear we're not coming this year? They're all my friends, and friends of my animals, and good gracious, you don't think I'd disappoint them, do you? And there's my animals—how do you think they'd like it to sit around and watch the crowd all going in to look at half a dozen stupid little peewees in red suits that can't even turn a somersault?"
"But think of the money," said Mr. Garble.
Excerpted from Freddy and the Men from Mars by Walter R. Brooks, Kurt Wiese. Copyright © 1954 Walter R. Brooks. Excerpted by permission of The Overlook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I was a child, there were girls books and boys books. Girl books had talking animals among other things. Boy books were about sport and outer space and other icky stuff. I think mostly girls read the Freddy books, but it wasn't because Brooks thought either side of this silliness should be catered to. I'm so glad the books are being reprinted now so everyone can enjoy them.
Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!