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Monologue by Michael "Mike" Ian Farley

Farley, Mike
Farley, Cindy
Date of Interview: 
stories and storytellers
Michael Farley retells Dr. Seuss' The Butter Battle.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Cindy Farley interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
MF (Michael "Mike" Ian Farley): The story I'm going to talk about is The Butter Battle Book written by Dr. Seuss. The, uh, first time I read this story was probably in 1984 or 1985 when I was in, uh, third, fourth or fifth grade. I was about 10 years old and the, uh, story The Butter Battle Book, it tells the story of two different populations. One is the Ukes and the other is the Zukes. And the two populations are separated by a, a large stone wall and the only difference between the populations is that one butters their bread on the top and the other population butters their bread on the bottom. Uh, The Butter Battle Book is told, it's a story, uh, a dialogue between a grandson and a grandfather. And the grandfather is talking to his young grandson about the differences between the Ukes and the Zukes. Um, and he's telling them that, that the Zukes do a horrible and a terrible thing because they butter their bread on the bottom side of the bread instead of the top. So he goes on telling him that buttering your bread on the top side is the honest way and the right way and that he is, uh, setting up a border patrol, the grandfather is setting up a border patrol, so he can watch for Zukes along the border to make sure that, uh, none of them come across. So the grandfather is the border patrol guard and he walks back and forth and he has a thatchet in his hand and he is telling his grandson back in history that if any Zuke or Uke, whatever the other side was, if the other side came too close, he could always take [clears throat] his thatchet and he could, uh, smack them on the head so that they wouldn't come any closer. And then one day, uh, the other side comes back with a slingshot, kind of escalating the conflict and they take the slingshot and they shoot the thatchet that border patrol guard has, so they have to go back and get, uh, a new kind of weapon to enforce the border. So obviously, from the very beginning, it's pretty clear that in 1984 America was pretty much close to the height of the Cold War and it's talking about, uh, the confrontation between the Americans and the Soviets. You have a wall separating the two populations and you know it could be the figurative Iron Curtain or also the Berlin Wall. So, the, uh, the grandfather goes back to tell his story to his chief, uh, that his thatchet has been broken by the slingshot and the chief of the, of the population says that it's no problem because they've had their guys in the back office working on brand new weapons that he can use to enforce the border a little bit better. So they give him a fancier slingshot and the, uh, chief, the grandfather, gets a much fancier uniform and he gets to go back, uh, very prideful, to the wall. So when he goes back to the wall, and obviously now one side is further advanced than the other, and the side with just the mere slingshot, as opposed to this new fancy slingshot, the other side, uh, takes off to go back home to develop a new weapon. Uh, so, now the one comes back and he has a weapon that's able to catch all the slingshots the one-side fires and he can throw them back over the wall again. So they have the dialogue about their wonderful weapons, uh, and they have, obviously Dr. Seuss creates different names and it says, "It doesn't matter what you do to us, we're not going to take anymore nonsense," uh, "We're not going to take anything from you people who eat the butter on the wrong side of the bread." So this whole escalation is about enforcing the border patrol to maintain dominance over the other side. So the, grandfather, uh, comes back to the chief, yet again, to report his failure and he says that their slingshots have failed, uh, because they're not modern enough, the enemy has a more modern weapon. So what they need is some kind of a, a new weapon. And the chief has said that that's again no problem because his boys in the back have been working on a new weapon the whole time and they have this one and they're going to send him right back to the wall. So this new one is kind of like a little laser, uh, mounted on the back of a dog and it shoots all sorts of crazy things out across the wall, if need be. Uh, and they all go away, when the grandfather heads back to the wall, chanting, "Fight, fight, fight, fight for the butter side up," uh, something along, along those lines. And then when, when the grandfather gets to the wall, he's amazed to see that the other side has a similar weapon but this one's not mounted on the back of a little dog, it's mounted on the back of two elephants and it's obviously much larger than the one they carried to the wall. So again, he, uh, heads back in defeat to the chief and this time the chief sends him out with a brand new uniform and, uh, they have a butter-up band to promote the butter-up side of the bread and they carry flags and they have a marching band [clears throat] to promote, uh, the buttering up within, uh, within their side of the country even though their weapon has failed they're trying to promote that their side is right through obviously a little more popular means. This time the chief promotes the grandfather to General and he has the fanciest suit of all and he has a nice, big, red hat to make him stand out more and, uh, he says that yet again those boys in the back have finally found out how they can, uh, stop those people who butter-down, who butter their bread on the down-side of the bread. So they send him back with this newfangled weapon, uh, that can run over the ground really fast and it can shoot this blue goo over the top and the idea is that, uh, they'll be able to contain their enemies by, uh, stopping them from eating their butter on the wrong side of the bread by shooting blue goo all over their bread and they won't be able to chew their bread anymore, so they can't have that. And naturally, as you can expect, by the time that they get to the wall, the other side has the exact same, uh, weapon. And their blue-gooer, uh, that they call it, uh, is rendered pointless, since the other side has the same thing. So they come back, the grandfather comes back, and the whole countryside is very despondent and the marching band isn't marching anymore, they're all just sitting on the hill, uh, very sad. And the grandfather walks back to report to the chief that he's failed yet again, and the chief has a very small, little bubble gum sized, uh, bubble gum ball sized putty, that he gives to the chief, uh, gives to the grandfather on the border patrol. And when the grandfather goes and picks it up, all the top-secret guys who are working on the weapons are hiding behind the door, and the chief is not even touching the little bomb that, um, [coughs] that he's holding. He's, uh, he has a big, long stick with a hand on the end that he gives to the border patrol guard and he tells these guys, tells the, the chief tells the grandfather, that he's to go back and drop this little thing on the other side of the wall and that'll destroy everything that has to do with buttering the bread on the wrong side. As the grandfather is racing back to the wall to go ahead and drop his bomb, he notices that all the people in his country are marching in a single file line, they're not carrying a flag or banners or anything anymore. They're marching underground because, uh, it's a very grim command that the chief has given them. They all have to hide underground and fight for their country, to dig a hole and live there while the other side is destroyed so they can protect themselves. And then the little boy, uh, the grandson, runs into his grandfather and the grandfather tells the grandson that he should stay in the hole, he should get there right now, uh, he shouldn't waste any time. And he said, "You know this is going to ruin everything now but perhaps it's going to be for the better some day," and the grandfather is proud that he's going to run off and make history. Uh, when the grandfather gets to the wall, his grandson is still watching and we find out that the other side, the enemy, has the exact same little gumball sized bomb that they're going to drop. And the grandson is asking, "What's going to happen? What's going to happen?" And the grandfather screams, "Here's the end of that terrible town!" And then all of a sudden, the other guy comes up and has the bomb in his hand. So they're each facing each other's territory, um, with a little bomb hanging over the side of the wall. And the grandson asks, "Now what's going to happen?" And the grandfather says, "I don't know who's going to drop it. Will he or will I?" He said, "We'll just have to be patient. We'll see, we'll see." And, uh, that's how the story ends, kind of in a, a technological build up, of all those little things that they've had and they've been for naught because the other side has been doing the same thing. So, of course, the story tells, uh, the story in a much smaller sense of the Cold War where we had a big military build-up and it is all for naught and, uh, both sides were just standing kind of on the brink of extinction.