Read the delightful story, “A Woodchuck’s Dream,” an unattributed short story published in one of the earliest Chewonki Chronicles, circa 1928. In the story, a Woodchuck group (the moniker for our youngest campers at the time) is enchanted away from their cabin in the middle of the night by a stupendous discovery. But, their wonder quickly turns to terror as they confront a monstrous foe in the woods.
A Woodchuck's Dream
It was midnight on a moonlight night in Woodchuck Den when the strangest adventure of the year befell the Woodchucks. It was Dicky Whidden who made the startling discovery which began the whole affair. Waking unexpectedly at midnight, he reached out half-sleepily towards a moonbeam which feel clear and white across his blankets. To his amazement it lay in his hand like a ribbon, soft and silky to touch, with yards and yards of it stretching away into the trees outside. “Oh Golly,” exclaimed Dicky. “A real moonbeam! – Look! Look” – and he leaped from bed to wake the other woodchucks.
“What is it? What is it?” they exclaimed while Dicky held up a glowing strip of moonbeam.
“A Moonbeam! – a real moonbeam!” squeeled Dicky, and each Woodchuck, unable to believe his own eyes, leaped from bed and reached for the nearest moonbeam, to gather the white silky stuff into his hands.
From inside came the sonorous snores of the two sleeping counselors. “Sh-sh-sh-sh!” whispered Buckie Keene, now wide awake to the amazing discovery. “Don’t wake Mr. Morgan!
We’ll slip out and gather more.”
“Quick!” said Ray Remick, holding open the door, and five Woodchucks tiptoed out and ran down the nearest trail towards the woods. No one thought of being afraid and all were soon absorbed in gathering moonbeams which broke off quite easily and could be rolled up like silk. Ray Remick got the longest strip as he had picked up Pinkie Gregory’s sword when leaving the Woodchuck house and could reach higher than anyone else to cut off moonbeams.
The little party moved farther into the woods, running from moonbeam to moonbeam, until their arms were full of glowing light. The woods grew dark and moonbeams fewer.
“We’d better go back now,” said Joe, looking into the darkness. But when they looked, they could find no trail and no one knew the way.
“Oh I wish Mr. Morgan were here,” said Dicky.
“I know!” said Bucky, “we’ll yell for him–he’ll surely hear us!”
No sooner said than done. At a signal they yelled all together– “Mr. Mor–gan! Mr. M o r – gan!” But only a mocking echo came back! Then suddenly the deathlike silence of the woods was broken by a commotion in the trees overhead, and the terrified boys looked up. A flock of the largest and most horrible mosquitoes they had ever seen was descending upon them. They were as large as Mr. Allen and far more terrifying–and their wings hummed like airplane motors! They were old and grey and bearded, and they gnashed their teeth hungrily. The leader was bigger than the others and spoke English perfectly. “I get that one,” he said in a deep voice to his band, as he pointed out Joe Paine– “he is the juiciest boy there!” and the ugly beast started out for his victim.
“No you don’t!” yelled Ray Remick, who was the first to collect his wits; he leaped forward, brandishing Pinkie’s sword, and struck with all his might at the onrushing mosquito… “Whack! The good blade passed right through the stinger, shaving it off close to the mosquito’s face. The proboscis fell to the ground with a thud!
“Oh my nose, my nose” screamed the leader, “I’m killed, I’m killed” and rolled over on the ground groaning horribly, and died.
The boys, following Ray’s example, seized sticks and clubs and met the down-rushing mosquitoes with smashing blows. The woods were filled with the sound of breaking mosquito legs, splintering wings, and screaming mosquitoes, as the boys beat back the attackers. Only one boy nearly lost his life. Dicky Whidden was knocked down and pounced upon by a big mosquito. Another minute and Dicky would have been a “gonner,” but fortunately the faint odor of citronella rubbed on his neck by Mr. Aldrich still lingered there. The mosquito turned deathly pale and fell over in a dead faint, where Ray quickly killed him. The few remaining mosquitoes flew away, battered and wounded, screaming as they went.
The boys leaned on their sticks, hot and panting. “We won!” cried Ray, “and, Oh Gosh, what a fight!”
“I want to go home” whimpered Dicky who had had a bad fright.
“We don’t know the way,” groaned Bucky.
“Oh, that’s easy,” said a voice right behind them, and they turned to see a squirrel sitting on a branch in the moonlight.
“Golly,” said Joe, “do squirrels talk too! But the squirrel paid no attention and only went on working at something in his hands.
“What is he doing” asked Bob Lowell who had an eye for natural history.
“Making my web, of course,” said the squirrel.
“But squirrels don’t have webs–only spiders do!”
“Nonsense!” replied the squirrel – “how do you suppose we catch the nuts without webs?” The boys moved up and saw a large close-spun net stretched between two branches. The squirrel gathered up a loose end, drew the net taut, and took two half-hitches around the limb. “In the fall,” he said, “nuts fall into it” and he looked up hungrily into the branches of the beech tree.
“And now” said the squirrel, “it’s time you were back in bed. I saw your fight with the mosquitoes – you have beaten the toughest band of pirate mosquitoes in the woods and all the little animals on Chewonki Neck are grateful to you. I am going to show you the way home.” – And the squirrel came down and led the way rapidly back the trail within sight of Woodchuck. Den. “Now,” he said, “I must leave you, but with this advice! – Never go into the woods at midnight when the moon is full! All things are different then! Goodnight!” – And the squirrel was gone.
The boys scrambled the stone wall and hurried on. “Oh, I’ve lost my moonbeams!” said Bucky, stopping short. Indeed, all the boys had dropped them at the fight and forgotten to pick them up. They looked about them, but the moonlight had faded and the grey light of dawn had come. They tiptoed into the Den and back to bed. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Aldrich still snored.
Clarence Allen, Chewonki founder, started writing the Chewonki Chronicle in 1928. The monthly bulletin was hand-typed and meant to give families an impression of their child’s camp experience. The publication featured reports from Allen along with lists of jokes, itineraries, short writings, and other tid-bits submitted by campers and counselors.
We continue to publish the Chewonki Chronicle on a yearly basis.