Some things in the series bother me now though. The books obviously have a strong Baptist/Calvinist influence, speaking of salvation in a sudden and simplified manner, and it turns out that Hutchens was an ordained Baptist minister.
Also it's interesting to notice the evolution of the series. I have the first ten books, paperbacks published in 1970 by Moody Press, but was fortunate to obtain an earlier hardcover copy of the second book, published in 1949 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. The title of the earlier edition is We Killed a Bear! and the title of the later edition is The Killer Bear. I presume the title was changed to sound more acceptable to animal lovers.
In reading the 1970 edition of The Killer Bear, the fourth paragraph of Chapter 6 says:
"All of us boys were learning to carry New Testaments so that when we grew up we'd have one in our pockets instead of a package of stinking old cigarettes. Poetry's dad figured it up one day and he actually saved two hundred dollars a year by not smoking, so he sent two hundred dollars every year to help support a national missionary in Africa. Just think of all the saved people that'll be in heaven because of that."
But the fourth paragraph of Chapter 6 in the earlier 1949 edition of We Killed a Bear! says:
"All of us boys were learning to carry New Testaments so that when we grew up we'd have one in our pockets instead of a package of stinking old cigarettes. Say, Poetry's Pop figured it up one day and he actually saved fifty dollars a year by not smoking, so he sent fifty dollars every year to support a native missionary in Africa, which is all it costs for a whole year to support one. Just think of all the saved black people that'll be in heaven on account of that -- only they won't be black then, I reckon. They'll be washed white like the Bible says."
Needless to explain the evolution of the editing here. By the way, times were indeed different in 1949, which was the year I was born. As a kid I remember being told not to look down on "colored" people because they can't help the way they were born.
In both the 1949 and 1970 editions, Bill introduces the rest of the gang and then mentions his little sister, Charlotte Ann, "who really ought to belong to our gang too, 'cause she's so grand, and can't on account of her being too little and especially because she's a girl; and girls can't belong to a gang of boys. No boy would stand for that." Well, no feminists would stand for this, and nowadays there's a whole new Sugar Creek Gang -- a six book series written by Pauline Hutchens Wilson, daughter of the original author, and Sandy Dengler. The new gang consists of five members -- Bits, Tiny, Les, Lynn, and Mike -- three boys and two girls. No more Bill, Dragon-fly, Big Jim, Little Jim, Poetry, and Circus.
So the editing of the Sugar Creek Gang has caved through the years to animal rights, civil rights, and feminism, and expresses what I believe to be an incomplete Christianity, yet, despite it all, I still enjoy the stories of their adventures, and, afterwards, these books do make me more conscious of God in my daily life. They entertain and hopefully bring the reader closer to God despite their evolution and weaknesses, and so achieve their purpose.
For the complete contents of the Butter Rum Cartoon, click here.