A Tribute to My Mother
The story below was written for my elderly mother. I had been reading books out loud to her- classic children’s literature ranging from Raggedy Ann, her favorite, to the Wizard of Oz and Winnie the Pooh- and decided to try my hand at writing some original stories just for her. I created a cast of characters, lead by a plucky, magical girl from Nova Scotia named Little Lu and crafted the stories to include Betty’s favorite places in the world. On top of that list was Rhinelander WI, where her family had a beautiful lakefront summer home, so the very first chapter in the Little Lu series was set in Rhinelander. Here Little Lu meets a fearsome creature named the Hodag- a legendary monster of the Great North Woods. Or is he really a monster? I publish this story in loving memory of my beautiful mother, Betty.
Little Lu Goes to Wisconsin
The first trip Little Lu took after picking up her Special Train Car in The Busy City of Chicago was to The Land of Wisconsin to see The Great North Woods. It was the middle of summer and she yearned for the shade of the trees and the cool water of the blue lakes she knew were there.
Little Lu’s Special Train Car was hooked to an Engine that didn’t need to run on a track, which allowed her to go anywhere, on any road or path. The pretty green countryside of The Land of Wisconsin passed pleasantly by Little Lu’s window as she left The Busy City of Chicago behind.
The Special Train Car finally pulled to a stop in The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander, located in the farthest northern reaches of that green, green, green country. But when Little Lu disembarked, she found that The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander was quite deserted- or so it seemed.
Little Lu strode into a store selling hand bags and bubble gum, but at first she saw no one there. “Hello,” she said and a Store Clerk peaked up from behind the counter and shyly answered, “Oh, hello.”
The Store Clerk was scared, Little Lu saw at once, “And everyone else in town is scared too,” The Store Clerk said. “There is a terrible beast in the woods with big horns on its head and all along its back and it roars The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was.”
The Store Clerk continued, “Our big town festival is today but no one wants to celebrate because of the awful beast.” Little Lu listened and the silver in her gold eyes started to sparkle as she said, “Just point me in the right direction and I will see about this beast!”
The Store Clerk timidly opened the door and pointed down the path in the woods where the beast was known to lurk, then he ran back inside and hid again. Little Lu did not waste any time and strode forward.
But it wasn’t long after she set out along the path that Little Lu stopped short because she heard The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was. But she was not afraid as she took The Grandfather Clock out of her pocket and saw that the time was growing late.
So Little Lu strode onward even though The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was continued. Then suddenly, a Man With A Stovepipe Hat, which was steaming from the top, jumped in front of her on the pathway and declared, “Beware, little girl, the woods are not safe!”
Little Lu stopped and said, “I am Lu. How do you do?” and she bowed deeply. Then she smiled and said, “I am not afraid and, in fact, I am seeking the beast that has scared The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander!”
“I am Flintlock Freddy” The Man With The Stovepipe Hat said dramatically, “And I have only barely escaped the jaws of the beast myself. It is a Hodag, an awesome creature, big and terrible!”
Little Lu was not afraid and even though she had never heard of a Hodag before, she simply nodded to Flintlock Freddy and proceeded down the pathway. “Oh no,” Flintlock Freddy said, “The Hodag may be right around the corner!”
Sure enough, when Little Lu turned the next corner, there was The Hodag, with big horns on its head and back. It glared at her and roared The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was, then it scraped the ground in front of it and started to charge toward Little Lu.
Suddenly, from out of the woods, someone shouted, “I will help you little girl!” and Little Lu heard the sound of chop, chop, chopping. Trees flew in the air and when they came down, they made a perfect pen to corral The Hodag.
“I am Lumberto Jack! I can chop, chop, chop anything,” said a Man With a Shiny, Sharp Ax On His Shoulder as he came out of the woods. He asked, “Now that The Hodag has been captured what do you think we should do with it?”
“Thank you for helping me!” Little Lu said as she bowed deeply to Lumberto. “But please do not hurt the creature and allow me to talk to it!”
Lumberto hesitated, but then chop, chop, chopped a gateway into The Hodag’s corral, then stood aside, ready to help Little Lu. The Hodag roared The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was twice as loud and snarled and spit and shook its big head, his horns wildly swinging everywhere.
Little Lu was not afraid and strode right up to The Hodag, raised her parasol and bonked him right on the head with it. The Hodag suddenly stopped roaring The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was and Little Lu said, “I am Lu. How do you do?”
This was the first time anyone had ever tried to talk to The Hodag because most of the time, people ran the other way. He looked at the girl with gold and silver eyes and began crying buckets of tears.
“I am not well at all, Little Lu,” The Hodag said. “I have chains on my feet because I am the prisoner of Flintlock Freddy!” Little Lu saw the chains locked on his feet and quickly took a key from the band of her magic hat and freed The Hodag.
The Hodag cried, “The horns on my back are fake and they hurt horribly- that’s why I roar The Most Terrible Roar There Ever Was!” Little Lu saw that this was true and she carefully pulled off the fake horns and The Hodag sighed with relief.
But the horns on The Hodag’s head were real and Little Lu discovered that The Hodag wasn’t a Hodag at all, but really an Old Bull. “I am Gramps the Bull,” he said, “And when I am not a prisoner and made to look like a Hodag, I can pull, pull, pull anything!”
Little Lu was happy she had helped Gramps and now they were friends. But when she turned her gold and silver eyes towards Flintlock Freddy, they were momentarily full of fire and, seeing this, Flintlock Freddy began to run.
But quickly, Lumberto chop, chop, chopped and the trees that went flying made a corral to capture Flintlock Freddy. Little Lu strode up to Flintlock Freddy’s corral and said, “You have done a mean thing, imprisoning Gramps and making him scare the people of The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander, but if you will tell me why, I will help you.”
Flintlock Freddy cried, “I am so sorry for what I have done. I have lived alone in the woods for so long, I wanted the people of The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander to pay attention to me, so I turned Gramps into a Hodag.”
“But you made people run the other way!” Little Lu exclaimed. “Still, you did not mean to hurt anyone. Let us work together to make things right in The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander so that they can have their festival.”
“I have an idea,” Lumberto said as he freed Flintlock Freddy from his corral. “Gramps, you are no longer a Hodag and for what I intend to do, I need a bull that can pull, pull, pull.”
Lumberto and Gramps then worked together to pull, pull, pull all of the trees that Lumberto had chop, chop chopped into The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander. There, they took the logs and made a brand new outdoor arena with lots and lots of seats.
Then all of the people from The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander came out of their houses and shops and started the festival right away. Everybody danced to the music of The Town of Rhinelander Polka Band and ate fresh, hot, vegetable pies called “past-ies,” while in the new arena, Little Lu, Lumberto and Gramps all told the tale of what had happened.
But the busiest person at the festival was Flintlock Freddy, who helped all the old people to the best seats in the arena and made sure the young ones had good seats too. Everyone was surprised at how friendly Flintlock Freddy was and kept shaking his hand and slapping his back.
As Flintlock Freddy grinned broadly at all of his new friends, Lumberto said to Little Lu, “Little Lu, I am a lumberjack without a crew and I am wondering if could travel with you so I can chop, chop, chop any time you need me to.”
Little Lu bowed deeply to Lumberto, then said, “Of course you can, my man.” Then Gramps said, “And I wish to go along too, so I can pull, pull, pull any time you need me to.”
And so, that is how Little Lu became friends with Lumberto Jack, the first and most loyal member of Her Crew, and Gramps the Bull, who was once a terrible Hodag, but now was a willing friend. The three boarded Little Lu’s Special Train Car and left The Beautiful Town of Rhinelander behind.
Lumberto and Gramps settled in quickly and felt very comfortable riding in The Special Train Car, but then Lumberto asked Little Lu, “Where are we going?” And Little Lu just winked her gold and silver eye and said, “To find the crest of the sky.”