Stubby the tractor warns animal pals: move out now, Stubby’s ready to plow

1963 Whitman Tell-a-tale book by Marion Borden, illustrated by Art SeidenMy new favorite children’s book is a 1963 story by Marion Borden, about a little red tractor named Stubby who delays plowing the meadow until all of his wild animal friends have resettled to safety. It’s a comprehensive list, considering the reading level, of the biodiversity displaced by agriculture. How unwitting is the portrayal of man’s clueless arrogance? It’s suggested by the story’s presentation of farming as inherently natural as Manifest Destiny.

“Listen, all! Move out now! Stubby’s here, ready to plow!”

Mr. Rabbit poped out of his burrow. “Thank you, Stubby. I’ll tell my family,” he said.

And Mr. Rabbit, and his wife and four bunnies, seek another meadow in which to burrow.

The gentle relocation is joined by a woodchuck, a pair of song sparrows, a butterfly, two meadow mice, a chipmunk, a grass snake, grasshoppers, crickets, a grass spider, a long parade of ants, a box turtle, and a toad. But when Mrs. Meadowlark tells Stubby that her four babies have yet to learn to fly, the tractor delays his duties until they do.

Naturally Farmer Turnipseed fails to understand Stubby’s hesitation. He has the tractor checked for malfunctions. Fortunately the little meadowlarks grow strong enough to fly before the farmer becomes angry, and work resumes on the farm.

You wonder if children asked in 1963 whether all farmers have tractors as considerate as Stubby. Or whether man need depend on technology to show a requisite respect for nature.

3 thoughts on “Stubby the tractor warns animal pals: move out now, Stubby’s ready to plow

  1. But the best laid schemes
    of mice, and men
    gang aft agley…

    I heard this explanation once as to the story of elephants being afraid of mice… sounds as reasonable as any other.
    It seems they can hear and smell the mice, know there’s other animals there… but they can’t see them and avoid stepping on them.

    Farmers tend to look on rabbits, mice, wild birds, deer etc as being somehow thieves. They eat the crops.
    It’s sort of like the term chicken hawk, no telling how many native raptors got shot down just for appearing in the sky anywhere near the henhouse.

  2. Too, the wild vegetation is every bit as important as the animals.
    We literally starve the bees with our bazillion acre one-crop superfarms.
    Since they’re the ones doing the work perhaps that’s not a good policy.

    They need the “weeds” for a balanced diet, and they know instinctively what we’ve never learned, the actual nutritional requirements for bees.

  3. I remember reading this book as a child. Yes, I am older than dirt. It is a great little children’s book.

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