Charlotte’s Web is a book I loved as a child and still love revisiting it as an adult. And it’s quite the weeper! It’s a simple barnyard fable of a piglet who is the runt of the litter saved by a girl named Fern and named Wilbur. As Wilbur grows and thrives he is faced with the reality that he will be butchered for pork. His life is saved by his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte who weaves words like “Some Pig” and “Terrific” into her webs. Wilbur grows to become a celebrity pig which saves him from the butchering block.
The natural response to this story is that Wilbur actually does nothing and it is Charlotte who should be recognized as a remarkable spider. The farmer’s wife, Mrs. Zuckerman, says as much in the story. What I never noticed about this story as a child is how it is a social satire of how gullible humans are to the messages of advertising. But it’s also a story of friendship and how Charlotte dedicates her naturally short life to preventing the unnatural end of Wilbur’s life. As a result, Charlotte’s legacy is ensured with Wilbur telling her story to generations of her descendants.
The book also features Templeton, a funny rat, who I loved as a child and who still cracks me up now. Charlotte’s Web is a well-regarded classic and I can’t help but throw my praise onto it’s heap of plaudits. Have you read Charlotte’s Web, and if you have what are your thoughts?
“…A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary pig.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “it seems to me that you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary spider.”
Final Lines: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”
Last night we returned to Drumlin Farm for the Friday Evening Hayride. Farmer Caroline drove the tractor out to through the fields. Along the way Drumlin Farm educator Debbie taught us that we were in fact taking a strawride and that Drumlin Farm has been under cultivation for 250 years. Of course, around these parts I wondered “only 250 years?”
We stopped by a campfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Then we sang “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Drumlin” for Farmer Caroline and a song about a farm called “Muscle and Arm.” Then we heard a native American story about our special evening visitor, a screech owl!
When I was a kid I liked to visit farm museums where I could see all sorts of farm animals and a different way of life from my suburban upbringing. I’ve written about a couple of these magical places before – The Stamford Museum and Nature Center and Old MacDonald’s Farm. As an adult I’ve found it difficult to recapture the magic when visiting farm attractions as they’re either dismally small and depressing or so over-commercialized and packed with stuff that really have nothing to do with a farm.
So it was with great delight that I visited the MassAudobon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA. It helps that I went accompanied by a toddler so everything was doubly fun. It’s a place where one can commune with sheep, pigs, goats, cows, deer, owls, and chickens. The tractor is vintage and it pulls a no-frills hayride around the farm. Not only that, but better than any of the places I visited as a child this is a functioning farm, growing produce for sale and divvied up among CSA shares. Drumlin Farm is a beautiful, educational, and magical place.