Freddy the Cowboy
by Walter R. Brooks

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

illustrated by Kurt Wiese

Knopf: New York, 1950
233 pages

Overlook Press: New York, 2002

233 pages

October 2008


In Freddy the Cowboy, Freddy (the pig) becomes a cowboy by the simple expedient of intervening (reminiscent of Nietzsche in Turin) to stop a dude-ranch rodeo horse from being beaten by its owner, and buys the horse to rescue it. The horse, Cyclone, or Cy to his friends, teaches Freddy how to ride: not merely dude-sedately but how to stay on during fast-and-fancy maneuvers. This will come in handy later. Of course Freddy buys cowboy clothes to suit his new hobby.

Freddy the Cowboy is one of Walter R. Brooks' greatly enjoyable Freddy the Pig series of children's novels. It's the seventeenth chronologically, published in 1950, so has plenty of characters already met; but can be read independently. See the series discussion at Troynovant for some background material.

There's a lot of good adventure in this book, human-animal confrontation. We have Jinx the black cat and Old Whibley the owl in cynical but most helpful roles, as well as Banister, Mr. Camphor's excellent butler. Many denizens of the Bean Farm and surrounding woods, and of the town of Centerboro, are in support. Almost at the beginning, we must confront the mysterious and frightening Horrible Ten. A suspenseful and enjoyable novel.

Here's a sample of Brooks' style, characterizing Mrs. Wiggins (the most intelligent of the cows, and Freddy's partner in the detective agency), and suggesting an intriguing idea. Mrs. Wiggins is talking to Sidney the bat:

"I'm sorry to keep you awake when you want to go to sleep," said the cow, "but I have to be sure of your answer, and good land, I can't tell whether you mean it or not when you're looking at me upside down."

"'T'isn't upside down to me," said the bat.

"Maybe not. But when you're talking to people, their expression is just as important as what they say, and you talk to anybody upside down and their expressions don't mean anything. Your mouth is at the top of your head and if you smile the corners turn down instead of up, and your eyes look funny too. You —

"Look," Sidney interrupted her. "I said I'd do it. Now just never mind criticizing my features and go on let me sleep, will you."

So Mrs. Wiggins went away. "There's one thing that bat taught me," she said to Freddy later. "I've never been a good liar. Folks can always tell by my face when I'm lying. Well, next time I want to tell a lie and get away with it, I'm going to stand on my head. Nobody can tell anything by my face then."

Rereading this scene as an adult, I'm reminded irresistibly of Paul Ekman's work on emotion as revealed in facial expression, in Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage and other works. But be wary if talking with a hanging bat, or a cow standing on her head.


© 2008 Robert Wilfred Franson

Annotated list of Walter R. Brooks'
Freddy the Pig series

Juvenile at Troynovant
for a younger audience


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