Friday, December 07, 2007

Baggy Pants and Other Stories


My knitting friend, Miss Betty, loaned me a copy of Baggy Pants and Other Stories, written by her father, Brigadier General William E. Brougher. The title story was written for a Reader's Digest contest and was published in the January, 1956 edition of that magazine.


The story was a true experience of General Brougher while he was a prisoner of war during World War II. He wrote poetry to keep himself busy, but the Japanese guards were quick to confiscate papers and writings of the prisoners, then to punish the prisoners by beating them. One day, some time after one of those episodes of confiscation, one of the more brutal guards approached the General. In his hand were some notebooks in which the General had written some poetry. General Brougher steeled himself for a beating, but what happened next surprised him.


The guard, nicknamed "Baggy Pants" by the prisoners, asked General Brougher if he had written these poems in the notebook. Then "Baggy Pants" said he had read the poems and liked them, some very much. He then recited from memory in halting English this poem by General Brougher:


SUN-UP AT SHIRAKAWA


The sun has slipped the noose of night,

Now pricks the mist with spears of light;

The rays bend high against the sky

And flash the herons drifting by;

Where beams break thru the mountain pass,

The drops of dew are beads of glass;

Arise! O sluggard, bring your cup

For morning's nectar, sun is up!


After telling the General that he liked many more of his poems, especially the ones about family, "Baggy Pants" confessed that he also wrote poetry. General Brougher asked to see one of the poems by the guard, and this is what he read:


BAGGY PANTS' POEM


The moon is high in the autumn sky

The light is like silver snow on the grass

My body is weary with much striving

My soul is at peace.


General Brougher read the poem aloud, and nearly choked up with emotion as he came to the end of it. The guard then gave the General back his notebook of poems, and as he was turning to leave, asked to shake the General's hand.


The rest of the stories in this little volume vary in length and content. I greatly preferred the ones that were about military life, but all were enjoyable.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Wool Winder said...

What a good story. Very touching.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

I ended up here while searching for the story "Baggy Pants". I am a Kenyan residing in the US (Michigan). Sometime back in the early 1980s, in my early teens, I read a big old volume of RD, which also had such stories as "The Unsinkable Titanic", "Your move Hungarian!" "They were their own guinea pigs" "Swedens Super Granpa" among others. I lost that copy of the RD long time and I am trying to get those stories again. I am happy to note that other people are interested in the story "Baggy Pants" which was my favourite.

5:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a neat story, Philip! I hope you can find your RD copy again. Have you looked at some of the online book stores?

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Mycroft said...

Hello Philip,
I too 'ended up here while searching for the story "Baggy Pants"'.
I read the same RD collection as you, but many years earlier, and like you, lost it many years ago.
My main memory from the story was another poem which went something like:

When twilight falls
And silence calls
To evening prayer

Fair forms appear
And hover near
About my chair

Soft hands entwine
Themselves with mine
Lips touch my face

Then miles are not
And time's forgot
As souls embrace.

2:30 PM  
Blogger hopeinbrazil said...

I just finished Brougher's diary of his POW years. Now I'm on the lookout for the book you've reviewed here.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Dr. Louis H. Campbell said...

In 1956 as a ninth grader, I memorized and recited Baggy Pants in a literary contest in Western Colorado. Not remembering the author's name, I am delighted to rediscover this material. As it happened, I won the declamation contest that year.

8:06 AM  

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