Pennsylvania Jack

Little Red Bumbershoot

a story by Pennsylvania Jack

(C) Jack Graham, 1995

Once upon a time... have you ever noticed how stories seemto start like this? Well, anyway, once upon a time there was a littlegirl. She was eight or nine or eleventy-two years old, and she was verytall and very skinny for her age. She was very skinny for any ageat all, but of course that wasn't her fault. She had a voraciousappetite, and ate almost anything that wasn't locked away until meal time.Fruit, nuts, and gummi-stuff were her favorites. Blueberry tapiocaand Cherry Swizel soda pop were pretty good too. She was even knownto visit the neighbors' bird feeders and pick out the sunflower seeds.Skinny she was nonetheless.

The girl's name was Loretta Sue Mcpickle, but nobody called her that.Not even Miss Fudge, her favorite teacher. Not even her mother whenshe was very very displeased. She had been called "Spanker" whenshe was little, but more recently she was called "Bumbershoot".There was good reason for that!

The Mcpickles lived in a little house at the edge of the big woods.Actually it was a pretty good size house and only a small patch of trees,hardly big enough to be called a forest. But a woods? Yes itwas most definitely a woods. There were many Mcpickles! Motherand father, four boys, two girls plus Loretta, Crazy Uncle Waldo, and lotsof dogs! Oh yes, there was Grandpa Blezdorph. How could oneforget him?

The house used to belong to Grandpa and Grandma Blezdorph, who wereLoretta's (Bumbershoot's) grandparents on her mother's side of the family.Grandma Blezdorph had moved out quite a few years back, and now lived inher own little (truly) house on the other side of the woods. Shesaid Grandpa had become a "silly old man", and that she was not about toput up with any silly old men at her age!

After that, Bumbershoot's family had moved in to take care ofGrandpa. All the grandchildren loved him, particularly because hewas so silly. He would often put his pants on upside down and takethem all out for ice cream. Or he would teach them silly songs whilehe played on his kazoo. Once he rented eight ponies, and they allrode backwards in the town's Fourth of July parade. Grandpa was fun!

But it was Grandma they worried about. She seldom came tovisit them, so they would think up reasons to go and visit her. Shesecretly loved visitors, but wouldn't think of letting on. She didn'twant any one "making any fuss" over her. One of Bumbershoot's favoritereasons for visiting was to pick the small sweet strawberries that grewall around Grandma's house. Of course Grandma had planted them,knowing that Bumbershoot loved strawberries, but of course she wouldn'tlet on about that either.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the next part of this tale involvesBumbershoot taking a basket of "goodies" to her Grandma's house.Since the house is on the other side of the woods, this involvesgoing through the (big) woods. Of coursethere may be beasties and other such critters living in those woods!

Grandma liked "goodies"--it wentwith the territory. Grandchildren liked to deliver such "goodies" to grandparents.And so Loretta collected the things she would take to her Grandma.Goodies, in this case, did not include victuals and similar fare.Grandma had plenty of those. Not only did she have a huge garden,but she had a pantry large enough to support Mongol hordes for many moons.No, to Grandma, "goodies" meant rhubarb-colored pantyhose, or newgames for her Nintendo, or mango-scented hand lotion, not to mention shampoowith Pixie-Dust highlights. These were not your basic bare necessitiesof life, no siree! These were fun options.

Having filled a nice sized basketwith Grandma's stuff, Bumbershoot put on her red duck shoes(it was often muddy in the woods) and her red slicker (honest, sheonly had a red one) and took her favorite red umbrella from the hall closet(the weatherman had said "partly cloudy"). Then she set off downthe path into the woods.

This was not her first trip through these woods. She hadcome this way at least umpty-three times before, and the path was a familiarone. But before she had gone very far, for somereason that she couldn't begin to explain, Loretta just knew that thistrip was going to be different. Normally the little woodland creatures,the rabbits and squirrels, the bluejays and chickadees, would follow alongat a polite distance, hoping always that there might be "goodies" for themtoo. There seldom were, but yet they always came along.

Today, however, they were noticeably absent, and Bumbershoot had thestrangest feeling that someone, or something, was watching her. The woodswere quiet, too quiet. Several times she stopped behind a largetree and waited and watched. But she could see nothing unusual. Whatwas unusual though was the path itself. It seemed to be differentsomehow. In fact she suddenly realized she didn't know where shewas. She couldn't recall ever having been in this part of the woods before.Had she taken the wrong path, the wrong fork in the trail?

Lots of people would have been frightened, or maybe even scared silly.But Bumbershoot wasn't, not yet anyway.Being the very practical person that she was, she looked for thetallest tree around and climbed up. She was sure she would be ableto see Grandma's house. Then she would climb back down and hurry off inthe right direction.

She didn't see Grandma's house though. All she could see was morewoods, stretching as far as the eye could see in all directions.Now this was strange - these woods just were not this big. What shecould see, and this scared her not just a little bit, was a Big Bad Wolf!

At least Loretta thought it was a wolf. It looked like awolf. Weren't all wolves bad, even if not big? This one was certainlybig, even if not bad! But how could she be sure? Thewolf seemed to be looking for something. Could it be her?How could she be sure? Suddenly she was very sure, for she could hear thewolf calling softly, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." It seemedto be licking its chops.

So here she was, up a tree, with a big, bad, chop-licking wolf downbelow, waiting to sink its chops into her. What was a girl to do?Bumbershoot decided to be very quiet and wait until the wolf went away.Even if she didn't know where it went, she was sure she could stillclimb down and hurry home. But the wolf didn't go away. Althoughit never looked up, and Bumbershoot was sure it didn't know she was upthere, it just sort of hung around the tree. Reaching into the basket,she took out a tea-berry soapball (Grandma's least favorite flavor) andthrew it down the path as far as she could heave it. Hearing theball land, the wolf ran off in that direction. It didn't stay long,though, and was soon right back under the tree.

By this time, Bumbershoot had studied this wolf for quite a while. Shewas no longer scared; now she was mad! It was this wolf's faultthat her trip to Grandma's was not going well. Who did this wolfthink it was anyway, moving into her woods like this? Who had invitedit? No one, that's who! There was only one thing to do, andthat was to climb down, beat that wolf over the head a time or two, andget on to Grandma's house.

That's just what Loretta Sue Mcpickle did! Opening her umbrella,her red umbrella, she jumped off the limb. Being the slender (skinny)kid that she was, her umbrella worked just like a parachute, and slowedher descent enough that she didn't land too hard. What also helpedher landing was the fact that she came down right smack on top of the wolf.Needless to say, it was not expecting anyone to land on its head.Before it could even figure out what had happened, much less recover, LorettaSue had closed her umbrella, and using it like a sword as well as a club,proceeded to whack, and whap, and poke the wolf at a most furious pace.It may have been big and bad on other occasions, but right now it was onlybruised and battered. With shrieks of pain, the wolf took off intothe woods, and was never seen nor heard from again -never, ever, never!

Suddenly, everything seemed all right again. The woods lookedfamiliar, the path looked like it always had. Stopping only to pickup a tea-berry soap ball, Loretta skipped merrily, merrily, merrily gentlydown the stream! No that's not right-- merrily down the path!She soon arrived at her Grandma's welcome little house.

She excitedly told Grandma all about her exciting adventure, and howshe was lucky to be alive, and about how she had handled that big bad wolf.At first Grandma didn't believe her, even though Loretta was not the kindof girl who bragged or exaggerated or made up tall tales. Grandmamade her tell the story several times and cross-examined her like a countrylawyer. She especially wanted to hear the part about the umbrella(which Grandma always called a "bumbershoot"). Finally shebelieved. And then she laughed, and laughed, and laughed.She laughed because Loretta was safe, and because it was a funny story.

"Well then," announced Grandma, "from now on, I am going to call you‘Bumbershoot.' I think it is the least I can do to give properrecognition to your courageous behavior. Without it, I wouldn't haveall these goodies, and I might not even have you!"

So that's how Loretta Sue Mcpickle became "Bumbershoot". At firstit was only Grandma who called her that. But of course whenshe did, someone would ask why, and the story would get told again.After a while, everybody knew the tale, andso everybody called her Bumbershoot. Shetook great pride in it, and was a hero of sorts, especially to Grandmaseverywhere. She kept that umbrella with her whenever she venturedinto the woods, but she never saw that or any other wolf again. Aftera while, when she finally got tired of people asking to seeher umbrella, she donated it to theSmithsonian Institution in Washington D. C. If you go there,to the Museum of American History, you can see it, right next to Dorothy'sred shoes, and not too far from Fonzie's neat leather jacket.