MONDAY, MAY 29, 2017


By James Johnson

Originally printed in the Woodstock Independent
November 26, 2003

In researching Chester Gould’s holiday themes in the museum’s archives, a story was found in which B.O. Plenty and his family faced a bleak Thanksgiving. With help from Dick Tracy, Tess and Junior, however, it turned out happily.

It also showed a writing technique by Chester Gould, whereby he interwove themes from other Dick Tracy plots into his comic strips. In this case, the story introduced a robber pair, Papa Rattner and his daughter Mousey. Their mode of operation was to release white rats to create confusion and allow a quick escape from their stick-ups. Following one robbery, they accidentally struck a boy on a tricycle while driving away. Not seriously injured, the boy was able to get a good look at the occupants of the car.

Dick Tracy and Sam Catchem were assigned to the case and removed headlight fragments and paint scrapings from the hit-and-run accident scene. They later checked local body shops and found the vehicle. Dick Tracy cleverly removed the rear view mirror to recover fingerprints and help identify the driver. With the police close on the pair’s trail, Mousey hijacked a truck and led a police chase into a nearby wooded area. The truck was disabled, but she managed to escape and later obtained a job in a local store to use as a temporary hideout. When the police searched the area near the abandoned truck, they found a mink coat Mousey had stashed in a tree. Expecting her to return, Tracy and Catchem staked out the tree using new television surveillance cameras (one of Chester Gould’s many innovations).

The cameras showed a figure at night near the tree. The detectives caught the person and were surprised to find it was B.O. Plenty. B.O. was coincidentally on the lam after having been accused of the murder of another Gould story character named Talcum Freely. B.O. had since been cleared by a police investigation but was unaware of this. Tracy and Catchem took him into custody as a joke, simply intending to take him home. B.O. then lamented, “Here it is, daylight of Thanksgiving, and I’m a ‘foogitive,’ a wanted man.”

Tess and Junior had meanwhile gone to Sunny Dell Acres to see how Gravel Gertie and Sparkle Plenty were doing and found them cold, penniless and hungry. Tess obtained food for the family, and when Dick Tracy arrived with B.O. Plenty, there was a joyful reunion.

Back in town, by chance, the boy from the tricycle accident happened to see Mousey at the store where she was working and told his mother, who notified Tracy. When Mousey saw the police arrive, she ran away, but was followed by her remaining pet rats who led Tracy and Catchem to her hiding place and her arrest.

Besides being an interesting story (this retelling is very abbreviated), Chester Gould was giving his readers a message. There are penniless and hungry people in the community. They need help, not just at holiday time, but throughout the year. Please contribute to the food banks and social agencies in the area that help those in need.

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“He pictured himself as the world's smartest crook. That is until the police pictured him with those little numbers underneath.”
- Chester Gould
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