Old Man Rabbit’s Thanksgiving Dinner
by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Old Man Rabbit sat at the door of his little house eating a nice, ripe, juicy turnip. It was a cold, frosty day, but Old Man Rabbit was all wrapped up, round and round and round, with yards and yards and yards of his best red wool muffler so he didn’t care if the wind whistled through his whiskers and blew his ears up straight. Old Man Rabbit had been exercising, too, and that was another reason why he was so nice and warm.
Early in the morning he had started off, lippity, clippity down the little brown path that lay in front of his house and led to Farmer Dwyer’s corn patch. The path was all covered with shiny red leaves. Old Man Rabbit scuffled through them and he carried a great big bag over his back. In the corn patch he found two or three fat, red ears of corn that Farmer Dwyer had missed so he dropped them into his bag. A little farther along he found some purple turnips and some yellow carrots and quite a few russet apples that Farmer Dwyer had arranged in little piles in the orchard. Old Man Rabbit went in the barn, squeezing under the big front door by making himself very flat, and he filled all the chinks in his bag with potatoes and he took a couple of eggs in his paws, for he thought that he might want to stir up a little pudding for himself before the day was over.
Then Old Man Rabbit started off home again down the little brown path, his mouth watering every time his bag bumped against his back and not meeting any one on the way because it was so very, very early in the morning. When he came to his little house he emptied his bag and arranged all his harvest in piles in his front room; the corn in one pile, and the carrots in one pile, the turnips in another pile, and the apples and potatoes in the last pile. He beat up his eggs and stirred some flour with them and filled it full of currants to make a pudding. And when he had put his pudding in a bag and set it boiling on the stove, he went outside to sit awhile and eat a turnip, thinking all the time what a mighty fine old rabbit he was and so clever, too.
Well, while Old Man Rabbit was sitting there in front of his little house, wrapped up in his red muffler and munching the turnip, he heard a little noise in the leaves. It was Billy Chipmunk traveling home to the stone wall where he lived. He was hurrying and blowing on his paws to keep them warm.
“Good morning, Billy Chipmunk,” said Old Man Rabbit. “Why are you running so fast?”
“Because I am cold, and I am hungry,” answered Billy Chipmunk. “It’s going to be a hard winter, a very hard winter—no apples left. I’ve been looking all the morning for an apple and I couldn’t find one.”
And with that, Billy Chipmunk went chattering by, his fur standing out straight in the wind.
No sooner had he passed than Old Man Rabbit saw Molly Mouse creeping along through the little brown path, her long gray tail rustling the red leaves as she went.
“Good morning, Molly Mouse,” said Old Man Rabbit.
“Good morning,” answered Molly Mouse in a wee little voice.
“You look a little unhappy,” said Old Man Rabbit, taking another bite of his turnip.
“I have been looking and looking for an ear of corn,” said Molly Mouse in a sad little chirping voice. “But the corn has all been harvested. It’s going to be a very hard winter, a very hard winter.”
And Molly Mouse trotted by out of sight.
Pretty soon, Old Man Rabbit heard somebody else coming along by his house. This time it was Tommy Chickadee hopping by and making a great to-do, chattering and scolding as he came.
“Good morning, Tommy Chickadee,” said Old Man Rabbit.
But Tommy Chickadee was too much put out about something to remember his manners. He just chirped and scolded, because he was cold and he couldn’t find a single crumb or a berry or anything at all to eat. Then he flew away, his feathers puffed out with the cold until he looked like a little round ball, and all the way he chattered and scolded more and more.
Old Man Rabbit finished his turnip, eating every single bit of it, even to the leaves. Then he went in his house to poke the fire in his stove and to see how the pudding was cooking. It was doing very well indeed, bumping against the pot as it bubbled and boiled, and smelling very fine indeed. Old Man Rabbit looked around his house at the corn and the carrots and the turnips and the apples and the potatoes and then he had an idea. It was a very funny idea indeed, different from any other idea Old Man Rabbit had ever had before in all his life. It made him scratch his head with his left hind foot, and think and wonder, but it pleased him, too; it was such a very funny idea.
First he took off his muffler and then he put on his gingham apron. He took his best red table-cloth from the drawer and put it on his table and then he set the table with his gold banded china dinner set. By the time he had done all this, the pudding was boiled, so he lifted it, all sweet and steaming, from the kettle and set it in the middle of the table. Around the pudding, Old Man Rabbit piled heaps and heaps of corn and carrots and turnips and apples and potatoes, and then he took down his dinner bell that was all rusty because Old Man Rabbit had very seldom rung it before, and he stood in his front door and he rang it very hard, calling in a loud voice.
“Dinner’s ready! Come to dinner, Billy Chipmunk, and Molly Mouse, and Tommy Chickadee!”
They all came, and they brought their friends with them. Tommy Chickadee brought Rusty Robin who had a broken wing and had not been able to fly South for the winter. Billy Chipmunk brought Chatter-Chee, a lame squirrel, whom he had invited to share his hole for a few months, and Molly Mouse brought a young gentleman Field Mouse, who was very distinguished looking because of his long whiskers. When they all tumbled into Old Man Rabbit’s house and saw the table with the pudding in the center they forgot their manners and began eating as fast as they could, every one of them.
It kept Old Man Rabbit very busy waiting on them. He gave all the currants from the pudding to Tommy Chickadee and Rusty Robin. He selected juicy turnips for Molly Mouse and her friend, and the largest apples for Billy Chipmunk. Old Man Rabbit was so busy that he didn’t have any time to eat a bite of dinner himself, but he didn’t mind that, not one single bit. It made him feel so warm and full inside just to see the others eating.
When the dinner was over and not one single crumb was left on the table, Tommy Chickadee hopped up on the back of his chair and chirped.
“Three cheers for Old Man Rabbit’s Thanksgiving dinner!”
“Hurrah, Hurrah,” they all twittered and chirped and chattered. And Old Man Rabbit was so surprised that he didn’t get over it for a week. You see he had really given a Thanksgiving dinner without knowing that it really and truly was Thanksgiving Day.
Old Man Rabbit collected food from Farmer Dwyer’s garden early in the morning, including corn, carrots, turnips, apples, potatoes, and eggs. He brought it all back to his little house and prepared a pudding. While eating a turnip outside his home, Old Man Rabbit encountered his friends Billy Chipmunk, Molly Mouse, and Tommy Chickadee, who were all complaining of hunger and fearing a difficult winter ahead. Old Man Rabbit then had the idea to invite them all over for a Thanksgiving dinner, even though he didn’t realize it was actually Thanksgiving Day. He decorated his table and prepared all the food. When his friends arrived with guests of their own, Old Man Rabbit served them a wonderful feast but didn’t have any food himself because he was so busy being a good host. After the meal, the animals cheered for Old Man Rabbit’s Thanksgiving dinner and he was very happy to have been able to help his friends.