Little Joe’s Pets

Daddy John Stories


Little Joe’s Pets

from Stories from the Land of Make Believe

by Daddy John (Fussner)

edited by his daughter Mary Frances (Fussner) Garrett

Little Joe lived with his daddy and mommy in a nice warm log house in a little clearing beside a clear, murmuring stream, deep in a forest of the Ozarks.  Little Joe had many pets.  Do you want to hear what they were?

Well, there was Chatty the squirrel.  Chatty lived in a hole in a big oak tree on the bank of the stream.  No, Little Joe didn’t keep Chatty in a cage.  He didn’t keep any of his pets in a cage.  He kept them in something far better and stronger than any cage man can build.  It was something God gave him and his daddy and mommy added to.  What was it?  It was a circle of love.

When Little Joe was at the age when little boys learn their ABC’s, his mommy told him that the letter O is the best letter of all.  It is a complete circle.  The wheel, the sun, the full moon, the lovely ripple from a rock thrown in a quiet pool of water, and the circle of ripples moving out ever further until it reaches the shore are all the letter O.  The circle of love that Little Joe had for his forest friends was like that, rippling ever further on.

Little Joe would go out to fish in the little stream with a can of worms and a pocketful of walnuts for Chatty.  Soon after Little Joe sat down, baiting his hook, and leaned back against the big sturdy oak tree, Chatty would appear on the branch above.  Slowly, scolding every inch of the way, he would make his way down the tree.  Soon he would be down beside Little Joe, sniffing for the treat he knew was waiting.


Little Joe would just keep on fishing.  If Chatty was to get his treat, he had to earn it.  Little Joe didn’t give handouts.  It was up to Chatty to find which pocket the walnuts were in and get them as best he could.  Chatty knew his job well, and soon he would have a walnut out of Little Joe’s pocket.  Sitting on Little Joe’s lap, he would hold the walnut between his front paws, eating away at the nut and dropping the shells in Little Joe’s lap.  Yes, Chatty was held firmly in Little Joe’s circle of love.


Little Joe had other friends, too.  Nearby was a nest of robins.  As Little Joe fished, he watched his friend, R.B.  Yes, that was the name Little Joe had given him, R.B. for Robin Red Breast.  Joey had found R.B. when R.B. was a young bird.  It was late fall, on a cold, windy, wet day.  Little Joe was walking along the stream, idly kicking the fallen leaves, thinking about the big Thanksgiving dinner still too many days away.  “Why,” he thought, “does it take so long for the special days to get here?”  He didn’t like to wait so long, but he couldn’t think of any way to speed it up.

Suddenly he saw something move in the leaves just as he was about to kick. Stopping his kick, he dropped to his knees, as his hands rapidly searched in the leaves and soon found the crippled robin.  R.B. looked as if he had been in very deep trouble, as if he had been caught but had gotten away.  Little Joe carefully, tenderly carried R.B. home.  With his mommy and daddy’s help, he gave R.B. first aid and placed him in a shoe box.  Slowly, R.B. regained his health and became a household pet.

Daddy build a small platform, complete with perch, water, and food container.  Mommy put it on a book shelf in Little Joe’s room.  R.B. spent all that winter with them, flying from room to room, watching Mommy do her housework and sitting on Daddy’s head or shoulder, reading the paper with him.  Best of all, he liked to play hide-and-seek with Little Joe.  With the first warm days of spring, Little Joe and R.B. started taking walks in the woods, but they still played hide-and-seek in the house on cold or rainy days.

One day R.B. saw a pretty little girl robin.  Yes, from then on R.B. slept in a tree at night.  By day he helped to build a nest, and after that, R.B. was a busy little bird, feeding a nest of young.  Whenever he saw Little Joe fishing, he knew that his pal would help out by giving him a couple of worms.  R.B. was also very good at helping himself to Little Joe’s worms.  He would slip up beside Little Joe, and quick as a wink, he would pluck a worm from Little Joe’s bait can and scurry back to his nest full of hungry babies.  R.B. was caught fast and held tight in Little Joe’s circle of love.


The largest of Little Joe’s pets was a full-grown deer.  Yes, it was a full-grown, dainty-stepping, graceful doe.  Little Joe called her Ruby.  He said she was a cousin of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and well she could have been.  Se was trapped in Little Joe’s circle of love last January.  A cold blizzard had howled for three nights and two days, dumping a foot of snow, and Ruby and her fawn couldn’t find enough to eat.

One day, just about sundown, she saw Little Joe and his daddy hauling a load of hay out to the cattle that Little Joe’s daddy kept in a pasture behind the barn.  Ruby and her fawn lost no time in jumping the fence and making themselves at home with the cattle.  Each day she got a little less afraid.  Soon she was waiting with the cattle when Little Joe and his daddy arrived with the wagon load of hay.  A few of the cows were Little Joe’s pets.  Every day he brought them a treat: an apple, an ear of corn, or a lump of sugar.  Soon he had Ruby and her fawn eating out of his hand, and Ruby was held firm in his circle of love.

Another of Little Joe’s pets was a big, beautiful black crow.  His name was Blackie.  Little Joe’s neighbors, brothers, and sisters said that Blackie was a thief.  Little Joe said that Blackie was a collector of pretty things, and that’s what Blackie was.  He didn’t steal, because he didn’t know that anyone owned the things he took.   Blackie collected coins: nickels, dimes, and quarters; jewelry, such as rings, necklaces, bracelets,and cuff links; bits of colored glass; ribbon; string; paper; and anything else bright enough to attract his attention and small enough for him to carry.

Blackie kept his treasures in a big hollow tree in Little Joe’s back yard.  About once a week, Little Joe would lean a ladder against the tree and empty Blackie’s treasure chest.  Blackie would scream and scold, but he couldn’t stop Little Joe.  After emptying the hollow tree, Little Joe would put the coins in his pockets to pay Blackie’s fine for stealing, and he would return the rings and other articles to their rightful owners.  Then Little Joe would spread what ws left out on the table in the yard so that Blackie would be kept busy carrying it back to his tree.

Little Joe and Blackie were great pals.  Blackie would follow Little Joe to school and meet him when school was out, flying overhead or riding on Little Joe’s shoulder, hoping for a tasty bit of left-over lunch.  Little Joe and his pets had many happy times together.  Now let’s go to bed for our sleep and a pleasant trip to Dreamland.  Remember to go to sleep with your left eye first, and you will go right through Dreamland and into the Land of Make Believe.


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