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> The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat
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The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat

I started writing this essay in order to point out what I suspect is an uncredited influence on Toy Story, namely, the short story War Beneath the Tree. I don't want to say a lot about it—you should just read the story, and all will be clear. There is even a Spaceman, albeit not playing the same role as in Toy Story.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the story. This first one is amusing even out of context.

“ … How is he going to feel when he's grown and can't have transistorized sycophants to spoil him all the time?”

Bertha the robot maid nodded her own almost human head as she put the poker back in its stand. “That's right, Ms. Jackson. That's right for sure.”

This next one probably makes no sense at all out of context, but it is my very favorite.

“The same wonderful thing is going to happen here, in our home.”

Finally, here's a nice one that also leads to some other thoughts.

The Calico Cat was burning, burning.

This reminds me of a couple of things. First, although in context the above is genuinely poetic and moving, I can't help but be reminded of the central element from How To Be a Sensitive Poet:

I sit in my cubbyhole, waiting, waiting.

Second, I wanted to look up where I'd heard of the Calico Cat before, and so referred to my trusty Bartlett's Quotations. It turns out the source is The Duel, by Eugene Field (1850–1895). Bartlett's only gives the second stanza,

The gingham dog went “Bow-wow-wow!”
And the calico cat replied “Mee-ow!”
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico.

but even that is enough to remind me of the whole. Since I remember a tune that goes with it, I think I must know it from a song on a children's record.

The only other reference to “calico” in Bartlett's was an unrelated poem by Edward Lear (1812–1888), whose most famous work is probably The Owl and the Pussycat. Here's how this last begins.

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

There is some nice related material in Stuff and Nonsense.

 

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@ March (2000)