Study Guide

Dandelion Wine Chapter 17

By Ray Bradbury

Chapter 17

  • Doug's hanging out with Charlie Woodman and John Huff, pontificating about how the town's full of machines, like the HappinessMachine, and Miss Fern and Miss Roberta's Green Machine.
  • Charlie says he can beat it: He has a time machine. 
  • Here we have the first instance of Bradbury referring to an old person as a time machine. In this case, it's Colonel Freeleigh, an elderly neighbor who's hard of hearing. 
  • They go to Colonel Freeleigh's house so Charlie can prove it to them. After yelling loudly enough that he can hear them, he invites them in and starts telling them stories. 
  • He has some good ones, too. He takes them to Boston, 1910, where the Oriental Magician Ching Ling Soo catches bullets in his teeth. 
  • Or rather, doesn't catch them—turns out someone shot him dead onstage, and Colonel Freeleigh saw it. Oops. 
  • Then there's Pawnee Bill, with whom Colonel Freeleigh was "on the prairie" in 1875, the time they saw a herd of bison thundering past and stirring up great clouds of dust. Colonel Freeleigh calls it a "great vision of strength and violence going by […] midnight at noon." 
  • Then, Grandpa Simpson-style, Colonel Freeleigh passes out in the middle of talking. Charlie says he's "recharging his batteries." 
  • When he wakes up, he tells them about the Civil War—turns out he remembers everything except which side he fought on. He says, "I don't remember anyone winning anywhere anytime." 
  • Antietam, Bull Run, Shiloh, Fort Sumter, though, he's got stories about them all. 
  • The boys tell him he's a time machine, and this delights him. 
  • Doug's grooving on the fact that he can travel twelve years back in time in his own head, and unfortunately this causes him to be the last one over the fence after saying, "Last one over this fence is a girl." 
  • They call him Dora all the way home.

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