Some months ago, my wife and I were reading Eleanor Estes’ charming book Rufus M. We were amazed at one story where Rufus (the youngest of the Moffats and the title character) found some money frozen in the ice. While the rest of his family were busy trying to manage a frozen pipe under the house, Rufus managed to chisel two quarters, three dimes, and a couple nickels out of the ice. He used this money (quite a bit it seems for the time) to pay for a plumber to fix the troublesome pipe, then he went to the store and ” … laid all his money on the counter. He bought two packages of kindling wood … He bought a small sackful of good, hard nut coal … He bought some apples, some oranges, some eggs, and some potatoes, and he went home feeling like Santa Claus.”
Rufus sensed his place in the family unit and desired to contribute. After reading this, my wife and I felt so proud for Rufus and had such pleasure at our feelings of admiration that we wondered, “Why aren’t there a million stories like this?”
I don’t know the answer. Perhaps it has something to do with the rockstar status of the misfit/outcast archetype in children’s literature. There is a strong trend in fiction for young people that consists of jettisoning of one’s God-given family and cobbling together a new one on a road trip. Also, there’s no better way for an author to make friends with their reader than to say, ‘parents are dumb because they don’t understand you.’
Anyway, there ought to be a million stories like Rufus’ but I can’t seem to find them. However, I did find a poem where a kid takes delight in providing the food for a meal. I found it pleasing. Perhaps you will too.
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James Witmer says
This poem makes me smile. And I love how the first rhyme (Father/rather) only works if you read the poem with a British accent.
Zach Franzen says
Yes, I wondered if she was British, and I can’t find out definitely, but it seems that she was an American author. Still, the Father/Rather rhyme might be the type of “society” accent that rich folks had in old movies. One possibility I rah-ther like is that it is the pretense of a boy putting on airs, because by catching dinner he did a very grown-up thing.
Loren Eaton says
Zach, have you ever read Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River? It has a chapter that reads very similarly to Rufus’ escapade.
Zach Franzen says
Love that book. I hadn’t thought of the connection, but I see what you mean.
Peace Like a River and Rufus M. suggest adventures in the context of their respective families. I encounter this type of story less frequently. It might have an innocent explanation–something to do with the fantasy that kids have of testing their mettle outside the safety net of parents, or it might be the more nefarious cultural trend that one finds one’s self through the shedding of obligations.