Fond memories of a loveable old rabbit

Published 1:44 am Saturday, August 29, 2015

Several weeks ago when I wrote about my childhood fascination with author Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry, the work of another writer came to mind. Howard R. Garis, a journalist, created stories of a loveable old rabbit named Uncle Wiggily Longears. They first appeared in a newspaper way back in 1910. I got acquainted with Uncle Wiggily because of my cousin Harold.

Each year, I spent a few weeks of my summer vacation with my aunt and uncle who lived in Panama City, Fla. I was around ten, five years older than their son, Harold, an adventuresome little guy whose interests leaned toward the outdoors. He liked exploring the wooded lot behind the house. To his delight, a gopher tortoise showed up every afternoon for Harold to dowse it with water from a hose and feed it lettuce. Every once in a while, Harold slipped off to wade and fish in a lake which was a block away. Other times, you might find him with his daddy’s hammer and some nails in hand, intent on building something. (Little did we realize that when he grew up, he would make his living building beautiful homes.)

On the other hand, I enjoyed the playhouse a playmate and I had rooted out among the palmettos in the woods. I am thankful Harold and I did share one common interest. I loved to read; he liked having someone to read to him. We discovered an Uncle Wiggly book during a shopping trip to the five and dime one day. What a treasure that turned out to be.

We sat on the couch in my aunt’s living room, reading and turning page after page of the Uncle Wiggily book. When I completed one story, Harold begged for “just one more.” He kept pleading until we finished the book. Every summer for the next few years when I returned, he always brought out Uncle Wiggily for us to enjoy. Even after he learned to read, he still wanted me to read it to him. During visits with each other through the years, I reminded him of that.

Looking back, it really was fun setting out on an adventure together with the cheerful bunny rabbit gentleman. The stories could make us forget the sudden summer showers that chased us inside. Even the pain of a stubbed toe or skinned knee faded as we listened to Uncle Wiggily with some of “his” friends like Dr. Possum and Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy. Today you can listen to a brief reading from an Uncle Wiggily book on the Internet.

I never noticed Uncle Wiggily books on the market during my children’s childhood, but one day I discovered my old friend in a chain bookstore. The book with a beautifully illustrated jacket sat atop a stack of books at a sale table. The pictures and type were similar to Harold’s paperback book. I pulled out my store gift certificate and made the purchase. I just could not resist.