Little Red Bumbershoot

Once upon a time… have you ever noticed how stories seem to start like this? Well, anyway, once upon a time there was a little girl. She was eight or nine or eleventy-two years old, and she was very tall and very skinny for her age. She was very skinny for any age at all, but of course that wasn’t her fault. She had a voracious appetite, and ate almost anything that wasn’t locked away until meal time.Fruit, nuts, and gummi-stuff were her favorites. Blueberry tapioca and Cherry Swizel soda pop were pretty good too. She was even known to 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 when she was very very displeased. She had been called “Spanker” when she 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 it was most definitely a woods. There were many Mcpickles! Mother and father, four boys, two girls plus Loretta, Crazy Uncle Waldo, and lots of dogs! Oh yes, there was Grandpa Blezdorph. How could one forget him?

The house used to belong to Grandpa and Grandma Blezdorph, who were Loretta’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. She said Grandpa had become a “silly old man”, and that she was not about to put up with any silly old men at her age!

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

But it was Grandma they worried about. She seldom came to visit them, so they would think up reasons to go and visit her. She secretly loved visitors, but wouldn’t think of letting on. She didn’t want any one “making any fuss” over her. One of Bumbershoot’s favorite reasons for visiting was to pick the small sweet strawberries that grew all around Grandma’s house. Of course Grandma had planted them,knowing that Bumbershoot loved strawberries, but of course she wouldn’t let on about that either.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the next part of this tale involves Bumbershoot taking a basket of “goodies” to her Grandma’s house.Since the house is on the other side of the woods, this involves going through the (big) woods. Of course there may be beasties and other such critters living in those woods!

Grandma liked “goodies”–it went with 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 new games for her Nintendo, or mango-scented hand lotion, not to mention shampoo with Pixie-Dust highlights. These were not your basic bare necessities of life, no siree! These were fun options.

Having filled a nice sized basket with Grandma’s stuff, Bumbershoot put on her red duck shoes(it was often muddy in the woods) and her red slicker (honest, she only had a red one) and took her favorite red umbrella from the hall closet(the weatherman had said “partly cloudy”). Then she set off down the path into the woods.

This was not her first trip through these woods. She had come this way at least umpty-three times before, and the path was a familiar one. But before she had gone very far, for some reason that she couldn’t begin to explain, Loretta just knew that this trip was going to be different. Normally the little woodland creatures,the rabbits and squirrels, the bluejays and chickadees, would follow along at a polite distance, hoping always that there might be “goodies” for them too. There seldom were, but yet they always came along.

Today, however, they were noticeably absent, and Bumbershoot had the strangest feeling that someone, or something, was watching her. The woods were quiet, too quiet. Several times she stopped behind a large tree and waited and watched. But she could see nothing unusual. What was unusual though was the path itself. It seemed to be different somehow. In fact she suddenly realized she didn’t know where she was. 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 the tallest tree around and climbed up. She was sure she would be able to see Grandma’s house. Then she would climb back down and hurry off in the right direction.

She didn’t see Grandma’s house though. All she could see was more woods, stretching as far as the eye could see in all directions.Now this was strange – these woods just were not this big. What she could 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 a wolf. Weren’t all wolves bad, even if not big? This one was certainly big, even if not bad! But how could she be sure? The wolf seemed to be looking for something. Could it be her?How could she be sure? Suddenly she was very sure, for she could hear the wolf calling softly, “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” It seemed to be licking its chops.

So here she was, up a tree, with a big, bad, chop-licking wolf down below, 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 still climb down and hurry home. But the wolf didn’t go away. Although it never looked up, and Bumbershoot was sure it didn’t know she was up there, it just sort of hung around the tree. Reaching into the basket,she took out a tea-berry soapball (Grandma’s least favorite flavor) and threw it down the path as far as she could heave it. Hearing the ball 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. She was no longer scared; now she was mad! It was this wolf’s fault that her trip to Grandma’s was not going well. Who did this wolf think it was anyway, moving into her woods like this? Who had invited it? No one, that’s who! There was only one thing to do, and that was to climb down, beat that wolf over the head a time or two, and get 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 slowed her descent enough that she didn’t land too hard. What also helped her 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, Loretta Sue 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 only bruised and battered. With shrieks of pain, the wolf took off into the woods, and was never seen nor heard from again -never, ever, never!

Suddenly, everything seemed all right again. The woods looked familiar, the path looked like it always had. Stopping only to pickup a tea-berry soap ball, Loretta skipped merrily, merrily, merrily gently down 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 how she 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 kind of girl who bragged or exaggerated or made up tall tales. Grandma made her tell the story several times and cross-examined her like a country lawyer. She especially wanted to hear the part about the umbrella(which Grandma always called a “bumbershoot”). Finally she believed. 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 proper recognition to your courageous behavior. Without it, I wouldn’t have all these goodies, and I might not even have you!”

So that’s how Loretta Sue Mcpickle became “Bumbershoot”. At firs tit was only Grandma who called her that. But of course when she did, someone would ask why, and the story would get told again.After a while, everybody knew the tale, and so everybody called her Bumbershoot. She took great pride in it, and was a hero of sorts, especially to Grandmas everywhere. She kept that umbrella with her whenever she ventured into the woods, but she never saw that or any other wolf again. After a while, when she finally got tired of people asking to see her umbrella, she donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D. C. If you go there,to the Museum of American History, you can see it, right next to Dorothy’s red shoes, and not too far from Fonzie’s neat leather jacket.