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Roy Blakeley's Bee-line Hike

Percy K. Fitzhugh, Roy Blakeley's Bee-line Hike, Grosset & Dunlap, 1922, illustrations by R. Emmett Owen


Percy Keese Fitzhugh was the author of a series of "boy scout" books such as Tom Slade, Boy Scout, Tom Slade at Temple Camp, and Roy Blakeley. We are informed that this book was published with the approval of the Boy Scouts of America.

In its way this work is a cut above typical boy's books of the times. The characters are real boys doing things that boys (at the time, of course) might do. They aren't disgustingly noble. They aren't engaged in feats of derring-do. It must be admitted that they capture a criminal but the mode of capture is strikingly derring-do-less. If anything the narrator is very much of a wise-ass, e.g:

Our young hero couldn't get that bandit out of his mind. He said, "I bet he's a pretty deperate robber, hey? To fire two shots."

"Sure," Westy said, "if he had only fired one shot it wouldn't have been so bad. And to get away with seven hundred dollars, too."

"If it had been only three or four hundred dollars I wouldn't say anything," I said, "But seven hundred is too much."

"It's grand larceny," the kid said.

"I don't call it so very grand," I told him. "If you think it's grand to steal seven hundred dollars, you've got some funny ideas. I suppose if a man stole about ten thousand dollars you'd call that magnificent larceny."

"You're crazy," Pee-wee shouted. "Grand larceny is a kind of a crime."

I said, "Well I'm a scout, and I don't call larceny grand."

"It's a crime," Pee-wee shouted, "and he can a long sentence for it."

"He ought to get a whole paragraph for a crime like that," I told him.

The plot of this literary gem is simple enough. It is summer. Our heroes are casting about for something to do whilst waiting for camp to begin. (That camp occurs about them constantly is a modern conception; the work is quite chastely silent about conception.) They conceive (scratch that, "They get") the notion of making a bee-line hike which starts from our hero's house, crosses a river valley, and ends at a big tree on the other side of the valley. The game is to go on a bee-line path, going over or through obstacles rather than deviating from the path. They go through two villages, over a house, through another, through an abandoned amusement park, take posession of a bill-board, cross the river, and have a number of small adventures.

We mustn't forget the capture of the criminal who, we hope, got a full paragraph for his crimes. In the course of their hike they run into a ferris wheel in the abandoned amusement park. It seems that the desperado was hiding in one of the boarded up cars. Our heroes jump into an open car and, in the course of so doing, move the car that the desperado is in all the way up to the top. It dawns on them that the desperado is in the car and that they have unwittingly captured him. They tie the ferris wheel in place (well equipped boy scouts have a rope with them when they go on bee-line hikes) and leave him to be picked up (down, really, I suppose) by the local constabulary. The probability of this turn of events is left as an exercise for the reader.

Speaking of well equipped, we mustn't forget Pee-Wee, who equipped himself for the hike with a traveling junk shop of equipment, including the horn for a victrola. What can one say? Pee-Wee is like that.

I regret to say that the unself-conscious racism in the work will strike a jarring note for the modern reader. One of the attractions in the amusement park was a "hit the nigger with a baseball" toss, the "nigger" being a painted figure of a black man. The world of Roy Blakeley is attractive and innocent; it is passages like this that remind one that that world had its seamy side.

All in all, this is an amusing book. It claims that it may be had wherever books are sold. I suspect, though, that it is out of print.


This page was last updated May 24, 1999.

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