BY CARL SANDBURG
Author of "Slabs of the Sunburnt West," "Smoke and Steel," "Chicago Poems," "Cornhuskers"
ILLUSTRATIONS AND DECORATIONS BY MAUD AND MISKA PETERSHAM
NEW YORK HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY, INC.
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A. BY THE QUINN & BODEN COMPANY RAHWAY, N J
TO SPINK AND SKABOOTCH
Three Stories About the Finding of the Zigzag Railroad, the Pigs with Bibs On, the Circus Clown Ovens, the Village of Liver-and-Onions, the Village of Cream Puffs.
How They Broke Away to Go to the Rootabaga Country 3
How They Bring Back the Village of Cream Puffs When the Wind Blows It Away 19
How the Five Rusty Rats Helped Find a New Village 29
Five Stories About the Potato Face Blind Man
The Potato Face Blind Man Who Lost the Diamond Rabbit on His Gold Accordion 41
How the Potato Face Blind Man Enjoyed Himself on a Fine Spring Morning 45
Poker Face the Baboon and Hot Dog the Tiger 53
The Toboggan-to-the-Moon Dream of the Potato Face Blind Man 59
How Gimme the Ax Found Out About the Zigzag Railroad and Who Made It Zigzag 65
Three Stories About the Gold Buckskin Whincher
The Story of Blixie Bimber and the Power of the Gold Buckskin Whincher 73
The Story of Jason Squiff and Why He Had a Popcorn Hat, Popcorn Mittens and Popcorn Shoes 79
The Story of Rags Habakuk, the Two Blue Rats, and the Circus Man Who Came with Spot Cash Money 89
Four Stories About the Deep Doom of Dark Doorways
The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It 99
How the Hat Ashes Shovel Helped Snoo Foo 105
Three Boys With Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions 109
How Bimbo the Snip's Thumb Stuck to His Nose When the Wind Changed 123
Three Stories About Three Ways the Wind Went Winding
The Two Skyscrapers Who Decided to Have a Child 133
The Dollar Watch and the Five Jack Rabbits 141
The Wooden Indian and the Shaghorn Buffalo 151
Four Stories About Dear, Dear Eyes
The White Horse Girl and the Blue Wind Boy 159
What Six Girls with Balloons Told the Gray Man on Horseback 167
How Henry Hagglyhoagly Played the Guitar with His Mittens On 175
One Story—"Only the Fire-Born Understand Blue"
Never Kick a Slipper at the Moon 185
Sand Flat Shadows 191
Two Stories About Corn Fairies, Blue Foxes, Flongboos and Happenings That Happened in the United States and Canada
How to Tell Corn Fairies If You See 'Em 205
How the Animals Lost Their Tails and Got Them Back Traveling From Philadelphia to Medicine Hat 213
The balloons floated and filled the sky Frontispiece
He opened the ragbag and took out all the spot cash money 7
Then the uncles asked her the first question first 21
They held on to the long curved tails of the rusty rats 33
"I am sure many people will stop and remember the Potato Face Blind Man" 47
His hat was popcorn, his mittens popcorn and his shoes popcorn 83
They stepped into the molasses with their bare feet 113
The monkey took the place of the traffic policeman 129
So they stood looking 153
It seemed to him as though the sky came down close to his nose 177
Away off where the sun was coming up, there were people and animals 195
There on a high stool in a high tower, on a high hill sits the Head Spotter of the Weather Makers 215
1. Three Stories About the Finding of the Zigzag Railroad, the Pigs with Bibs On, the Circus Clown Ovens, the Village of Liver-and-Onions, the Village of Cream Puffs.
People: Gimme the Ax Please Gimme Ax Me No Questions The Ticket Agent Wing Tip the Spick The Four Uncles The Rat in a Blizzard The Five Rusty Rats
More People: Balloon Pickers Baked Clowns Polka Dot Pigs
How They Broke Away to Go to the Rootabaga Country
Gimme the Ax lived in a house where everything is the same as it always was.
"The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out," said Gimme the Ax. "The doorknobs open the doors. The windows are always either open or shut. We are always either upstairs or downstairs in this house. Everything is the same as it always was."
So he decided to let his children name themselves.
"The first words they speak as soon as they learn to make words shall be their names," he said. "They shall name themselves."
When the first boy came to the house of Gimme the Ax, he was named Please Gimme. When the first girl came she was named Ax Me No Questions.
And both of the children had the shadows of valleys by night in their eyes and the lights of early morning, when the sun is coming up, on their foreheads.
And the hair on top of their heads was a dark wild grass. And they loved to turn the doorknobs, open the doors, and run out to have the wind comb their hair and touch their eyes and put its six soft fingers on their foreheads.
And then because no more boys came and no more girls came, Gimme the Ax said to himself, "My first boy is my last and my last girl is my first and they picked their names themselves."
Please Gimme grew up and his ears got longer. Ax Me No Questions grew up and her ears got longer. And they kept on living in the house where everything is the same as it always was. They learned to say just as their father said, "The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out, the doorknobs open the doors, the windows are always either open or shut, we are always either upstairs or downstairs—everything is the same as it always was."
After a while they began asking each other in the cool of the evening after they had eggs for breakfast in the morning, "Who's who? How much? And what's the answer?"
"It is too much to be too long anywhere," said the tough old man, Gimme the Ax.
And Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions, the tough son and the tough daughter of Gimme the Ax, answered their father, "It is too much to be too long anywhere."
So they sold everything they had, pigs, pastures, pepper pickers, pitchforks, everything except their ragbags and a few extras.
When their neighbors saw them selling everything they had, the different neighbors said, "They are going to Kansas, to Kokomo, to Canada, to Kankakee, to Kalamazoo, to Kamchatka, to the Chattahoochee."
One little sniffer with his eyes half shut and a mitten on his nose, laughed in his hat five ways and said, "They are going to the moon and when they get there they will find everything is the same as it always was."
All the spot cash money he got for selling everything, pigs, pastures, pepper pickers, pitchforks, Gimme the Ax put in a ragbag and slung on his back like a rag picker going home.
Then he took Please Gimme, his oldest and youngest and only son, and Ax Me No Questions, his oldest and youngest and only daughter, and went to the railroad station.
The ticket agent was sitting at the window selling railroad tickets the same as always.
"Do you wish a ticket to go away and come back or do you wish a ticket to go away and never come back?" the ticket agent asked wiping sleep out of his eyes.
"We wish a ticket to ride where the railroad tracks run off into the sky and never come back—send us far as the railroad rails go and then forty ways farther yet," was the reply of Gimme the Ax.
"So far? So early? So soon?" asked the ticket agent wiping more sleep out his eyes. "Then I will give you a new ticket. It blew in. It is a long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it."
Gimme the Ax thanked the ticket agent once, thanked the ticket agent twice, and then instead of thanking the ticket agent three times he opened the ragbag and took out all the spot cash money he got for selling everything, pigs, pastures, pepper pickers, pitchforks, and paid the spot cash money to the ticket agent.
Before he put it in his pocket he looked once, twice, three times at the long yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it.
Then with Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions he got on the railroad train, showed the conductor his ticket and they started to ride to where the railroad tracks run off into the blue sky and then forty ways farther yet.
The train ran on and on. It came to the place where the railroad tracks run off into the blue sky. And it ran on and on chick chick-a-chick chick-a-chick chick-a-chick.
Sometimes the engineer hooted and tooted the whistle. Sometimes the fireman rang the bell. Sometimes the open-and-shut of the steam hog's nose choked and spit pfisty-pfoost, pfisty-pfoost, pfisty-pfoost. But no matter what happened to the whistle and the bell and the steam hog, the train ran on and on to where the railroad tracks run off into the blue sky. And then it ran on and on more and more.
Sometimes Gimme the Ax looked in his pocket, put his fingers in and took out the long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it.
"Not even the Kings of Egypt with all their climbing camels, and all their speedy, spotted, lucky lizards, ever had a ride like this," he said to his children.
Then something happened. They met another train running on the same track. One train was going one way. The other was going the other way. They met. They passed each other.
"What was it—what happened?" the children asked their father.
"One train went over, the other train went under," he answered. "This is the Over and Under country. Nobody gets out of the way of anybody else. They either go over or under."
Next they came to the country of the balloon pickers. Hanging down from the sky strung on strings so fine the eye could not see them at first, was the balloon crop of that summer. The sky was thick with balloons. Red, blue, yellow balloons, white, purple and orange balloons—peach, watermelon and potato balloons—rye loaf and wheat loaf balloons—link sausage and pork chop balloons—they floated and filled the sky.
The balloon pickers were walking on high stilts picking balloons. Each picker had his own stilts, long or short. For picking balloons near the ground he had short stilts. If he wanted to pick far and high he walked on a far and high pair of stilts.
Baby pickers on baby stilts were picking baby balloons. When they fell off the stilts the handful of balloons they were holding kept them in the air till they got their feet into the stilts again.
"Who is that away up there in the sky climbing like a bird in the morning?" Ax Me No Questions asked her father.
"He was singing too happy," replied the father. "The songs came out of his neck and made him so light the balloons pulled him off his stilts."
"Will he ever come down again back to his own people?"
"Yes, his heart will get heavy when his songs are all gone. Then he will drop down to his stilts again."
The train was running on and on. The engineer hooted and tooted the whistle when he felt like it. The fireman rang the bell when he felt that way. And sometimes the open-and-shut of the steam hog had to go pfisty-pfoost, pfisty-pfoost.
"Next is the country where the circus clowns come from," said Gimme the Ax to his son and daughter. "Keep your eyes open."
They did keep their eyes open. They saw cities with ovens, long and short ovens, fat stubby ovens, lean lank ovens, all for baking either long or short clowns, or fat and stubby or lean and lank clowns.
After each clown was baked in the oven it was taken out into the sunshine and put up to stand like a big white doll with a red mouth leaning against the fence.
Two men came along to each baked clown standing still like a doll. One man threw a bucket of white fire over it. The second man pumped a wind pump with a living red wind through the red mouth.
The clown rubbed his eyes, opened his mouth, twisted his neck, wiggled his ears, wriggled his toes, jumped away from the fence and began turning handsprings, cartwheels, somersaults and flipflops in the sawdust ring near the fence.
"The next we come to is the Rootabaga Country where the big city is the Village of Liver-and-Onions," said Gimme the Ax, looking again in his pocket to be sure he had the long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it.
The train ran on and on till it stopped running straight and began running in zigzags like one letter Z put next to another Z and the next and the next.
The tracks and the rails and the ties and the spikes under the train all stopped being straight and changed to zigzags like one letter Z and another letter Z put next after the other.
"It seems like we go half way and then back up," said Ax Me No Questions.
"Look out of the window and see if the pigs have bibs on," said Gimme the Ax. "If the pigs are wearing bibs then this is the Rootabaga country."
And they looked out of the zigzagging windows of the zigzagging cars and the first pigs they saw had bibs on. And the next pigs and the next pigs they saw all had bibs on.
The checker pigs had checker bibs on, the striped pigs had striped bibs on. And the polka dot pigs had polka dot bibs on.
"Who fixes it for the pigs to have bibs on?" Please Gimme asked his father.
"The fathers and mothers fix it," answered Gimme the Ax. "The checker pigs have checker fathers and mothers. The striped pigs have striped fathers and mothers. And the polka dot pigs have polka dot fathers and mothers."
And the train went zigzagging on and on running on the tracks and the rails and the spikes and the ties which were all zigzag like the letter Z and the letter Z.
And after a while the train zigzagged on into the Village of Liver-and-Onions, known as the biggest city in the big, big Rootabaga country.
And so if you are going to the Rootabaga country you will know when you get there because the railroad tracks change from straight to zigzag, the pigs have bibs on and it is the fathers and mothers who fix it.
And if you start to go to that country remember first you must sell everything you have, pigs, pastures, pepper pickers, pitchforks, put the spot cash money in a ragbag and go to the railroad station and ask the ticket agent for a long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it.
And you mustn't be surprised if the ticket agent wipes sleep from his eyes and asks, "So far? So early? So soon?"
How They Bring Back the Village of Cream Puffs When the Wind Blows It Away
A girl named Wing Tip the Spick came to the Village of Liver-and-Onions to visit her uncle and her uncle's uncle on her mother's side and her uncle and her uncle's uncle on her father's side.
It was the first time the four uncles had a chance to see their little relation, their niece. Each one of the four uncles was proud of the blue eyes of Wing Tip the Spick.
The two uncles on her mother's side took a long deep look into her blue eyes and said, "Her eyes are so blue, such a clear light blue, they are the same as cornflowers with blue raindrops shining and dancing on silver leaves after a sun shower in any of the summer months."
And the two uncles on her father's side, after taking a long deep look into the eyes of Wing Tip the Spick, said, "Her eyes are so blue, such a clear light shining blue, they are the same as cornflowers with blue raindrops shining and dancing on the silver leaves after a sun shower in any of the summer months."
And though Wing Tip the Spick didn't listen and didn't hear what the uncles said about her blue eyes, she did say to herself when they were not listening, "I know these are sweet uncles and I am going to have a sweet time visiting my relations."
The four uncles said to her, "Will you let us ask you two questions, first the first question and second the second question?"
"I will let you ask me fifty questions this morning, fifty questions to-morrow morning, and fifty questions any morning. I like to listen to questions. They slip in one ear and slip out of the other."
Then the uncles asked her the first question first, "Where do you come from?" and the second question second, "Why do you have two freckles on your chin?"
"Answering your first question first," said Wing Tip the Spick, "I come from the Village of Cream Puffs, a little light village on the upland corn prairie. From a long ways off it looks like a little hat you could wear on the end of your thumb to keep the rain off your thumb."
"Tell us more," said one uncle. "Tell us much," said another uncle. "Tell it without stopping," added another uncle. "Interruptions nix nix," murmured the last of the uncles.
"It is a light little village on the upland corn prairie many miles past the sunset in the west," went on Wing Tip the Spick. "It is light the same as a cream puff is light. It sits all by itself on the big long prairie where the prairie goes up in a slope. There on the slope the winds play around the village. They sing it wind songs, summer wind songs in summer, winter wind songs in winter."
"And sometimes like an accident, the wind gets rough. And when the wind gets rough it picks up the little Village of Cream Puffs and blows it away off in the sky—all by itself."
"O-o-h-h," said one uncle. "Um-m-m-m," said the other three uncles.
"Now the people in the village all understand the winds with their wind songs in summer and winter. And they understand the rough wind who comes sometimes and picks up the village and blows it away off high in the sky all by itself.
"If you go to the public square in the middle of the village you will see a big roundhouse. If you take the top off the roundhouse you will see a big spool with a long string winding up around the spool.
"Now whenever the rough wind comes and picks up the village and blows it away off high in the sky all by itself then the string winds loose of the spool, because the village is fastened to the string. So the rough wind blows and blows and the string on the spool winds looser and looser the farther the village goes blowing away off into the sky all by itself.
"Then at last when the rough wind, so forgetful, so careless, has had all the fun it wants, then the people of the village all come together and begin to wind up the spool and bring back the village where it was before."
"O-o-h-h," said one uncle. "Um-m-m-m," said the other three uncles.
"And sometimes when you come to the village to see your little relation, your niece who has four such sweet uncles, maybe she will lead you through the middle of the city to the public square and show you the roundhouse. They call it the Roundhouse of the Big Spool. And they are proud because it was thought up and is there to show when visitors come."
"And now will you answer the second question second—why do you have two freckles on your chin?" interrupted the uncle who had said before, "Interruptions nix nix."
"The freckles are put on," answered Wing Tip the Spick. "When a girl goes away from the Village of Cream Puffs her mother puts on two freckles, on the chin. Each freckle must be the same as a little burnt cream puff kept in the oven too long. After the two freckles looking like two little burnt cream puffs are put on her chin, they remind the girl every morning when she combs her hair and looks in the looking glass. They remind her where she came from and she mustn't stay away too long."
"O-h-h-h," said one uncle. "Um-m-m-m," said the other three uncles. And they talked among each other afterward, the four uncles by themselves, saying:
"She has a gift. It is her eyes. They are so blue, such a clear light blue, the same as cornflowers with blue raindrops shining and dancing on silver leaves after a sun shower in any of the summer months."
At the same time Wing Tip the Spick was saying to herself, "I know for sure now these are sweet uncles and I am going to have a sweet time visiting my relations."
How the Five Rusty Rats Helped Find a New Village
One day while Wing Tip the Spick was visiting her four uncles in the Village of Liver-and-Onions, a blizzard came up. Snow filled the sky and the wind blew and made a noise like heavy wagon axles grinding and crying.
And on this day a gray rat came to the house of the four uncles, a rat with gray skin and gray hair, gray as the gray gravy on a beefsteak. The rat had a basket. In the basket was a catfish. And the rat said, "Please let me have a little fire and a little salt as I wish to make a little bowl of hot catfish soup to keep me warm through the blizzard."
And the four uncles all said together, "This is no time for rats to be around—and we would like to ask you where you got the catfish in the basket."
"Oh, oh, oh, please—in the name of the five rusty rats, the five lucky rats of the Village of Cream Puffs, please don't," was the exclamation of Wing Tip the Spick.
The uncles stopped. They looked long and deep into the eyes of Wing Tip the Spick and thought, as they had thought before, how her eyes were clear light blue the same as cornflowers with blue raindrops shining on the silver leaves in a summer sun shower.
And the four uncles opened the door and let the gray rat come in with the basket and the catfish. They showed the gray rat the way to the kitchen and the fire and the salt. And they watched the rat and kept him company while he fixed himself a catfish soup to keep him warm traveling through the blizzard with the sky full of snow.
After they opened the front door and let the rat out and said good-by, they turned to Wing Tip the Spick and asked her to tell them about the five rusty lucky rats of the Village of Cream Puffs where she lived with her father and her mother and her folks.
"When I was a little girl growing up, before I learned all I learned since I got older, my grandfather gave me a birthday present because I was nine years old. I remember how he said to me, 'You will never be nine years old again after this birthday, so I give you this box for a birthday present.'
"In the box was a pair of red slippers with a gold clock on each slipper. One of the clocks ran fast. The other clock ran slow. And he told me if I wished to be early anywhere I should go by the clock that ran fast. And if I wished to be late anywhere I should go by the clock that ran slow.
"And that same birthday he took me down through the middle of the Village of Cream Puffs to the public square near the Roundhouse of the Big Spool. There he pointed his finger at the statue of the five rusty rats, the five lucky rats. And as near as I can remember his words, he said:
"'Many years ago, long before the snow birds began to wear funny little slip-on hats and funny little slip-on shoes, and away back long before the snow birds learned how to slip off their slip-on hats and how to slip off their slip-on shoes, long ago in the faraway Village of Liver-and-Onions, the people who ate cream puffs came together and met in the streets and picked up their baggage and put their belongings on their shoulders and marched out of the Village of Liver-and-Onions saying, "We shall find a new place for a village and the name of it shall be the Village of Cream Puffs.
"'They marched out on the prairie with their baggage and belongings in sacks on their shoulders. And a blizzard came up. Snow filled the sky. The wind blew and blew and made a noise like heavy wagon axles grinding and crying.
"'The snow came on. The wind twisted all day and all night and all the next day. The wind changed black and twisted and spit icicles in their faces. They got lost in the blizzard. They expected to die and be buried in the snow for the wolves to come and eat them.
"'Then the five lucky rats came, the five rusty rats, rust on their skin and hair, rust on their feet and noses, rust all over, and especially, most especially of all, rust on their long curved tails. They dug their noses down into the snow and their long curved tails stuck up far above the snow where the people who were lost in the blizzard could take hold of the tails like handles.
"'And so, while the wind and the snow blew and the blizzard beat its icicles in their faces, they held on to the long curved tails of the rusty rats till they came to the place where the Village of Cream Puffs now stands. It was the rusty rats who saved their lives and showed them where to put their new village. That is why this statue now stands in the public square, this statue of the shapes of the five rusty rats, the five lucky rats with their noses down in the snow and their long curved tails lifted high out of the snow.'
"That is the story as my grandfather told it to me. And he said it happened long ago, long before the snow birds began to wear slip-on hats and slip-on shoes, long before they learned how to slip off the slip-on hats and to slip off the slip-on shoes."
"O-h-h-h," said one of the uncles. "Um-m-m-m," said the other three uncles.
"And sometime," added Wing Tip the Spick, "when you go away from the Village of Liver-and-Onions and cross the Shampoo River and ride many miles across the upland prairie till you come to the Village of Cream Puffs, you will find a girl there who loves four uncles very much.
"And if you ask her politely, she will show you the red slippers with gold clocks on them, one clock to be early by, the other to be late by. And if you are still more polite she will take you through the middle of the town to the public square and show you the statue of the five rusty lucky rats with their long curved tails sticking up in the air like handles. And the tails are curved so long and so nice you will feel like going up and taking hold of them to see what will happen to you."
2. Five Stories About the Potato Face Blind Man
People: The Potato Face Blind Man Any Ice Today Pick Ups Lizzie Lazarus Poker Face the Baboon Hot Dog the Tiger Whitson Whimble A Man Shoveling Money A Watermelon Moon White Gold Boys Blue Silver Girls Big White Moon Spiders Zizzies Gimme the Ax Again
The Potato Face Blind Man Who Lost the Diamond Rabbit on His Gold Accordion
There was a Potato Face Blind Man used to play an accordion on the Main Street corner nearest the postoffice in the Village of Liver-and-Onions.
Any Ice Today came along and said, "It looks like it used to be an 18 carat gold accordion with rich pawnshop diamonds in it; it looks like it used to be a grand accordion once and not so grand now."
"Oh, yes, oh, yes, it was gold all over on the outside," said the Potato Face Blind Man, "and there was a diamond rabbit next to the handles on each side, two diamond rabbits."
"How do you mean diamond rabbits?" Any Ice Today asked.
"Ears, legs, head, feet, ribs, tail, all fixed out in diamonds to make a nice rabbit with his diamond chin on his diamond toenails. When I play good pieces so people cry hearing my accordion music, then I put my fingers over and feel of the rabbit's diamond chin on his diamond toenails, 'Attaboy, li'l bunny, attaboy, li'l bunny.'"
"Yes I hear you talking but it is like dream talking. I wonder why your accordion looks like somebody stole it and took it to a pawnshop and took it out and somebody stole it again and took it to a pawnshop and took it out and somebody stole it again. And they kept on stealing it and taking it out of the pawnshop and stealing it again till the gold wore off so it looks like a used-to-be-yesterday."
"Oh, yes, o-h, y-e-s, you are right. It is not like the accordion it used to be. It knows more knowledge than it used to know just the same as this Potato Face Blind Man knows more knowledge than he used to know."
"Tell me about it," said Any Ice Today.
"It is simple. If a blind man plays an accordion on the street to make people cry it makes them sad and when they are sad the gold goes away off the accordion. And if a blind man goes to sleep because his music is full of sleepy songs like the long wind in a sleepy valley, then while the blind man is sleeping the diamonds in the diamond rabbit all go away. I play a sleepy song and go to sleep and I wake up and the diamond ear of the diamond rabbit is gone. I play another sleepy song and go to sleep and wake up and the diamond tail of the diamond rabbit is gone. After a while all the diamond rabbits are gone, even the diamond chin sitting on the diamond toenails of the rabbits next to the handles of the accordion, even those are gone."
"Is there anything I can do?" asked Any Ice Today.
"I do it myself," said the Potato Face Blind Man. "If I am too sorry I just play the sleepy song of the long wind going up the sleepy valleys. And that carries me away where I have time and money to dream about the new wonderful accordions and postoffices where everybody that gets a letter and everybody that don't get a letter stops and remembers the Potato Face Blind Man."
How the Potato Face Blind Man Enjoyed Himself on a Fine Spring Morning
On a Friday morning when the flummywisters were yodeling yisters high in the elm trees, the Potato Face Blind Man came down to his work sitting at the corner nearest the postoffice in the Village of Liver-and-Onions and playing his gold-that-used-to-be accordion for the pleasure of the ears of the people going into the postoffice to see if they got any letters for themselves or their families.
"It is a good day, a lucky day," said the Potato Face Blind Man, "because for a beginning I have heard high in the elm trees the flummywisters yodeling their yisters in the long branches of the lingering leaves. So—so—I am going to listen to myself playing on my accordion the same yisters, the same yodels, drawing them like long glad breathings out of my glad accordion, long breathings of the branches of the lingering leaves."
And he sat down in his chair. On the sleeve of his coat he tied a sign, "I Am Blind Too." On the top button of his coat he hung a little thimble. On the bottom button of his coat he hung a tin copper cup. On the middle button he hung a wooden mug. By the side of him on the left side on the sidewalk he put a galvanized iron washtub, and on the right side an aluminum dishpan.
"It is a good day, a lucky day, and I am sure many people will stop and remember the Potato Face Blind Man," he sang to himself like a little song as he began running his fingers up and down the keys of the accordion like the yisters of the lingering leaves in the elm trees.
Then came Pick Ups. Always it happened Pick Ups asked questions and wished to know. And so this is how the questions and answers ran when the Potato Face filled the ears of Pick Ups with explanations.
"What is the piece you are playing on the keys of your accordion so fast sometimes, so slow sometimes, so sad some of the moments, so glad some of the moments?"
"It is the song the mama flummywisters sing when they button loose the winter underwear of the baby flummywisters and sing:
"Fly, you little flummies, Sing, you little wisters."
"And why do you have a little thimble on the top button of your coat?"
"That is for the dimes to be put in. Some people see it and say, 'Oh, I must put in a whole thimbleful of dimes.'"
"And the tin copper cup?"
"That is for the base ball players to stand off ten feet and throw in nickels and pennies. The one who throws the most into the cup will be the most lucky."
"And the wooden mug?"
"There is a hole in the bottom of it. The hole is as big as the bottom. The nickel goes in and comes out again. It is for the very poor people who wish to give me a nickel and yet get the nickel back."
"The aluminum dishpan and the galvanized iron washtub—what are they doing by the side of you on both sides on the sidewalk?"
"Sometime maybe it will happen everybody who goes into the postoffice and comes out will stop and pour out all their money, because they might get afraid their money is no good any more. If such a happening ever happens then it will be nice for the people to have some place to pour their money. Such is the explanation why you see the aluminum dishpan and galvanized iron tub."
"Explain your sign—why is it, 'I Am Blind Too.'"
"Oh, I am sorry to explain to you, Pick Ups, why this is so which. Some of the people who pass by here going into the postoffice and coming out, they have eyes—but they see nothing with their eyes. They look where they are going and they get where they wish to get, but they forget why they came and they do not know how to come away. They are my blind brothers. It is for them I have the sign that reads, 'I Am Blind Too.'"
"I have my ears full of explanations and I thank you," said Pick Ups.
"Good-by," said the Potato Face Blind Man as he began drawing long breathings like lingering leaves out of the accordion—along with the song the mama flummywisters sing when they button loose the winter underwear of the baby flummywisters.
Poker Face the Baboon and Hot Dog the Tiger
When the moon has a green rim with red meat inside and black seeds on the red meat, then in the Rootabaga Country they call it a Watermelon Moon and look for anything to happen.
It was a night when a Watermelon Moon was shining. Lizzie Lazarus came to the upstairs room of the Potato Face Blind Man. Poker Face the Baboon and Hot Dog the Tiger were with her. She was leading them with a pink string.
"You see they are wearing pajamas," she said. "They sleep with you to-night and to-morrow they go to work with you like mascots."
"How like mascots?" asked the Potato Face Blind Man.
"They are luck bringers. They keep your good luck if it is good. They change your bad luck if it is bad."
"I hear you and my ears get your explanations."
So the next morning when the Potato Face Blind Man sat down to play his accordion on the corner nearest the postoffice in the Village of Liver-and-Onions, next to him on the right hand side sitting on the sidewalk was Poker Face the Baboon and on the left hand side sitting next to him was Hot Dog the Tiger.
They looked like dummies—they were so quiet. They looked as if they were made of wood and paper and then painted. In the eyes of Poker Face was something faraway. In the eyes of Hot Dog was something hungry. Whitson Whimble, the patent clothes wringer manufacturer, came by in his big limousine automobile car without horses to pull it. He was sitting back on the leather upholstered seat cushions.
"Stop here," he commanded the chauffeur driving the car.
Then Whitson Whimble sat looking. First he looked into the eyes of Poker Face the Baboon and saw something faraway. Then he looked into the eyes of Hot Dog the Tiger and saw something hungry. Then he read the sign painted by the Potato Face Blind Man saying, "You look at 'em and see 'em; I look at 'em and I don't. You watch what their eyes say; I can only feel their hair." Then Whitson Whimble commanded the chauffeur driving the car, "Go on."
Fifteen minutes later a man in overalls came down Main Street with a wheelbarrow. He stopped in front of the Potato Face Blind Man, Poker Face the Baboon, and Hot Dog the Tiger.
"Where is the aluminum dishpan?" he asked.
"On my left side on the sidewalk," answered the Potato Face Blind Man.
"Where is the galvanized iron washtub?"
"On my right side on the sidewalk."
Then the man in overalls took a shovel and began shoveling silver dollars out of the wheelbarrow into the aluminum dishpan and the galvanized iron washtub. He shoveled out of the wheelbarrow till the dishpan was full, till the washtub was full. Then he put the shovel into the wheelbarrow and went up Main Street.
Six o'clock that night Pick Ups came along. The Potato Face Blind Man said to him, "I have to carry home a heavy load of money to-night, an aluminum dishpan full of silver dollars and a galvanized iron washtub full of silver dollars. So I ask you, will you take care of Poker Face the Baboon and Hot Dog the Tiger?"
"Yes," said Pick Ups, "I will." And he did. He tied a pink string to their legs and took them home and put them in the woodshed.
Poker Face the Baboon went to sleep on the soft coal at the north end of the woodshed and when he was asleep his face had something faraway in it and he was so quiet he looked like a dummy with brown hair of the jungle painted on his black skin and a black nose painted on his brown face. Hot Dog the Tiger went to sleep on the hard coal at the south end of the woodshed and when he was asleep his eyelashes had something hungry in them and he looked like a painted dummy with black stripes painted over his yellow belly and a black spot painted away at the end of his long yellow tail.
In the morning the woodshed was empty. Pick Ups told the Potato Face Blind Man, "They left a note in their own handwriting on perfumed pink paper. It said, 'Mascots never stay long.'"
And that is why for many years the Potato Face Blind Man had silver dollars to spend—and that is why many people in the Rootabaga Country keep their eyes open for a Watermelon Moon in the sky with a green rim and red meat inside and black seeds making spots on the red meat.
The Toboggan-to-the-Moon Dream of the Potato Face Blind Man
One morning in October the Potato Face Blind Man sat on the corner nearest the postoffice.
Any Ice Today came along and said, "This is the sad time of the year."
"Sad?" asked the Potato Face Blind Man, changing his accordion from his right knee to his left knee, and singing softly to the tune he was fumbling on the accordion keys, "Be Happy in the Morning When the Birds Bring the Beans."
"Yes," said Any Ice Today, "is it not sad every year when the leaves change from green to yellow, when the leaves dry on the branches and fall into the air, and the wind blows them and they make a song saying, 'Hush baby, hush baby,' and the wind fills the sky with them and they are like a sky full of birds who forget they know any songs."
"It is sad and not sad," was the blind man's word.
"Listen," said the Potato Face. "For me this is the time of the year when the dream of the white moon toboggan comes back. Five weeks before the first snow flurry this dream always comes back to me. It says, 'The black leaves are falling now and they fill the sky but five weeks go by and then for every black leaf there will be a thousand snow crystals shining white.'"
"What was your dream of the white moon toboggan?" asked Any Ice Today.
"It came to me first when I was a boy, when I had my eyes, before my luck changed. I saw the big white spiders of the moon working, rushing around climbing up, climbing down, snizzling and sniffering. I looked a long while before I saw what the big white spiders on the moon were doing. I saw after a while they were weaving a long toboggan, a white toboggan, white and soft as snow. And after a long while of snizzling and sniffering, climbing up and climbing down, at last the toboggan was done, a snow white toboggan running from the moon down to the Rootabaga Country.
"And sliding, sliding down from the moon on this toboggan were the White Gold Boys and the Blue Silver Girls. They tumbled down at my feet because, you see, the toboggan ended right at my feet. I could lean over and pick up the White Gold Boys and the Blue Silver Girls as they slid out of the toboggan at my feet. I could pick up a whole handful of them and hold them in my hand and talk with them. Yet, you understand, whenever I tried to shut my hand and keep any of them they would snizzle and sniffer and jump out of the cracks between my fingers. Once there was a little gold and silver dust on my left hand thumb, dust they snizzled out while slipping away from me.
"Once I heard a White Gold Boy and a Blue Silver Girl whispering. They were standing on the tip of my right hand little finger, whispering. One said, 'I got pumpkins—what did you get?' The other said, 'I got hazel nuts.' I listened more and I found out there are millions of pumpkins and millions of hazel nuts so small you and I can not see them. These children from the moon, however, they can see them and whenever they slide down on the moon toboggan they take back their pockets full of things so little we have never seen them."
"They are wonderful children," said Any Ice Today. "And will you tell me how they get back to the moon after they slide down the toboggan?"
"Oh, that is easy," said Potato Face. "It is just as easy for them to slide up to the moon as to slide down. Sliding up and sliding down is the same for them. The big white spiders fixed it that way when they snizzled and sniffered and made the toboggan."
How Gimme the Ax Found Out About the Zigzag Railroad and Who Made It Zigzag
One day Gimme the Ax said to himself, "Today I go to the postoffice and around, looking around. Maybe I will hear about something happening last night when I was sleeping. Maybe a policeman began laughing and fell in a cistern and came out with a wheelbarrow full of goldfish wearing new jewelry. How do I know? Maybe the man in the moon going down a cellar stairs to get a pitcher of butter-milk for the woman in the moon to drink and stop crying, maybe he fell down the stairs and broke the pitcher and laughed and picked up the broken pieces and said to himself, 'One, two, three, four, accidents happen in the best regulated families.' How do I know?"
So with his mind full of simple and refreshing thoughts, Gimme the Ax went out into the backyard garden and looked at the different necktie poppies growing early in the summer. Then he picked one of the necktie poppies to wear for a necktie scarf going downtown to the postoffice and around looking around.
"It is a good speculation to look nice around looking around in a necktie scarf," said Gimme the Ax. "It is a necktie with a picture like whiteface pony spots on a green frog swimming in the moonshine."
So he went downtown. For the first time he saw the Potato Face Blind Man playing an accordion on the corner next nearest the postoffice. He asked the Potato Face to tell him why the railroad tracks run zigzag in the Rootabaga Country.
"Long ago," said the Potato Face Blind Man, "long before the necktie poppies began growing in the backyard, long before there was a necktie scarf like yours with whiteface pony spots on a green frog swimming in the moonshine, back in the old days when they laid the rails for the railroad they laid the rails straight."
"Then the zizzies came. The zizzy is a bug. He runs zigzag on zigzag legs, eats zigzag with zigzag teeth, and spits zigzag with a zigzag tongue.
"Millions of zizzies came hizzing with little hizzers on their heads and under their legs. They jumped on the rails with their zigzag legs, and spit and twisted with their zigzag teeth and tongues till they twisted the whole railroad and all the rails and tracks into a zigzag railroad with zigzag rails for the trains, the passenger trains and the freight trains, all to run zigzag on.
"Then the zizzies crept away into the fields where they sleep and cover themselves with zigzag blankets on special zigzag beds.
"Next day came shovelmen with their shovels, smooth engineers with smooth blue prints, and water boys with water pails and water dippers for the shovelmen to drink after shoveling the railroad straight. And I nearly forgot to say the steam and hoist operating engineers came and began their steam hoist and operating to make the railroad straight.
"They worked hard. They made the railroad straight again. They looked at the job and said to themselves and to each other, 'This is it—we done it.'
"Next morning the zizzies opened their zigzag eyes and looked over to the railroad and the rails. When they saw the railroad all straight again, and the rails and the ties and the spikes all straight again, the zizzies didn't even eat breakfast that morning.
"They jumped out of their zigzag beds, jumped onto the rails with their zigzag legs and spit and twisted till they spit and twisted all the rails and the ties and the spikes back into a zigzag like the letter Z and the letter Z at the end of the alphabet.
"After that the zizzies went to breakfast. And they said to themselves and to each other, the same as the shovelmen, the smooth engineers and the steam hoist and operating engineers, 'This is it—we done it.'"
"So that is the how of the which—it was the zizzies," said Gimme the Ax.
"Yes, it was the zizzies," said the Potato Face Blind Man. "That is the story told to me."
"Who told it to you?"
"Two little zizzies. They came to me one cold winter night and slept in my accordion where the music keeps it warm in winter. In the morning I said, 'Good morning, zizzies, did you have a good sleep last night and pleasant dreams?' And after they had breakfast they told me the story. Both told it zigzag but it was the same kind of zigzag each had together."
3. Three Stories About the Gold Buckskin Whincher
People: Blixie Bimber Peter Potato Blossom Wishes Jimmie the Flea Silas Baxby Fritz Axenbax James Sixbixdix Jason Squiff, the Cistern Cleaner Rags Habakuk, the Rag Man Two Daughters of the Rag Man Two Blue Rats A Circus Man With Spot Cash A Moving Picture Actor A Taxicab Driver
The Story of Blixie Bimber and the Power of the Gold Buckskin Whincher
Blixie Bimber grew up looking for luck. If she found a horseshoe she took it home and put it on the wall of her room with a ribbon tied to it. She would look at the moon through her fingers, under her arms, over her right shoulder but never—never over her left shoulder. She listened and picked up everything anybody said about the ground hog and whether the ground hog saw his shadow when he came out the second of February.
If she dreamed of onions she knew the next day she would find a silver spoon. If she dreamed of fishes she knew the next day she would meet a strange man who would call her by her first name. She grew up looking for luck.
She was sixteen years old and quite a girl, with her skirts down to her shoe tops, when something happened. She was going to the postoffice to see if there was a letter for her from Peter Potato Blossom Wishes, her best chum, or a letter from Jimmy the Flea, her best friend she kept steady company with.
Jimmy the Flea was a climber. He climbed skyscrapers and flagpoles and smokestacks and was a famous steeplejack. Blixie Bimber liked him because he was a steeplejack, a little, but more because he was a whistler.
Every time Blixie said to Jimmy, "I got the blues—whistle the blues out of me," Jimmy would just naturally whistle till the blues just naturally went away from Blixie.
On the way to the postoffice, Blixie found a gold buckskin whincher. There it lay in the middle of the sidewalk. How and why it came to be there she never knew and nobody ever told her. "It's luck," she said to herself as she picked it up quick.
And so—she took it home and fixed it on a little chain and wore it around her neck.
She did not know and nobody ever told her a gold buckskin whincher is different from just a plain common whincher. It has a power. And if a thing has a power over you then you just naturally can't help yourself.
So—around her neck fixed on a little chain Blixie Bimber wore the gold buckskin whincher and never knew it had a power and all the time the power was working.
"The first man you meet with an X in his name you must fall head over heels in love with him," said the silent power in the gold buckskin whincher.
And that was why Blixie Bimber stopped at the postoffice and went back again asking the clerk at the postoffice window if he was sure there wasn't a letter for her. The name of the clerk was Silas Baxby. For six weeks he kept steady company with Blixie Bimber. They went to dances, hayrack rides, picnics and high jinks together.
All the time the power in the gold buckskin whincher was working. It was hanging by a little chain around her neck and always working. It was saying, "The next man you meet with two X's in his name you must leave all and fall head over heels in love with him."
She met the high school principal. His name was Fritz Axenbax. Blixie dropped her eyes before him and threw smiles at him. And for six weeks he kept steady company with Blixie Bimber. They went to dances, hayrack rides, picnics and high jinks together.
"Why do you go with him for steady company?" her relatives asked.
"It's a power he's got," Blixie answered, "I just can't help it—it's a power."
"One of his feet is bigger than the other—how can you keep steady company with him?" they asked again.
All she would answer was, "It's a power."
All the time, of course, the gold buckskin whincher on the little chain around her neck was working. It was saying, "If she meets a man with three X's in his name she must fall head over heels in love with him."
At a band concert in the public square one night she met James Sixbixdix. There was no helping it. She dropped her eyes and threw her smiles at him. And for six weeks they kept steady company going to band concerts, dances, hayrack rides, picnics and high jinks together.
"Why do you keep steady company with him? He's a musical soup eater," her relatives said to her. And she answered, "It's a power—I can't help myself."
Leaning down with her head in a rain water cistern one day, listening to the echoes against the strange wooden walls of the cistern, the gold buckskin whincher on the little chain around her neck slipped off and fell down into the rain water.
"My luck is gone," said Blixie. Then she went into the house and made two telephone calls. One was to James Sixbixdix telling him she couldn't keep the date with him that night. The other was to Jimmy the Flea, the climber, the steeplejack.
"Come on over—I got the blues and I want you to whistle 'em away," was what she telephoned Jimmy the Flea.
And so—if you ever come across a gold buckskin whincher, be careful. It's got a power. It'll make you fall head over heels in love with the next man you meet with an X in his name. Or it will do other strange things because different whinchers have different powers.
The Story of Jason Squiff and Why He Had a Popcorn Hat, Popcorn Mittens and Popcorn Shoes
Jason Squiff was a cistern cleaner. He had greenish yellowish hair. If you looked down into a cistern when he was lifting buckets of slush and mud you could tell where he was, you could pick him out down in the dark cistern, by the lights of his greenish yellowish hair.
Sometimes the buckets of slush and mud tipped over and ran down on the top of his head. This covered his greenish yellowish hair. And then it was hard to tell where he was and it was not easy to pick him out down in the dark where he was cleaning the cistern.
One day Jason Squiff came to the Bimber house and knocked on the door.
"Did I understand," he said, speaking to Mrs. Bimber, Blixie Bimber's mother, "do I understand you sent for me to clean the cistern in your back yard?"
"You understand exactly such," said Mrs. Bimber, "and you are welcome as the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la-la."
"Then I will go to work and clean the cistern, tra-la-la," he answered, speaking to Mrs. Bimber. "I'm the guy, tra-la-la," he said further, running his excellent fingers through his greenish yellowish hair which was shining brightly.
He began cleaning the cistern. Blixie Bimber came out in the back yard. She looked down in the cistern. It was all dark. It looked like nothing but all dark down there. By and by she saw something greenish yellowish. She watched it. Soon she saw it was Jason Squiff's head and hair. And then she knew the cistern was being cleaned and Jason Squiff was on the job. So she sang tra-la-la and went back into the house and told her mother Jason Squiff was on the job.
The last bucketful of slush and mud came at last for Jason Squiff. He squinted at the bottom. Something was shining. He reached his fingers down through the slush and mud and took out what was shining.
It was the gold buckskin whincher Blixie Bimber lost from the gold chain around her neck the week before when she was looking down into the cistern to see what she could see. It was exactly the same gold buckskin whincher shining and glittering like a sign of happiness.
"It's luck," said Jason Squiff, wiping his fingers on his greenish yellowish hair. Then he put the gold buckskin whincher in his vest pocket and spoke to himself again, "It's luck."
A little after six o'clock that night Jason Squiff stepped into his house and home and said hello to his wife and daughters. They all began to laugh. Their laughter was a ticklish laughter.
"Something funny is happening," he said.
"And you are it," they all laughed at him again with ticklish laughter.
Then they showed him. His hat was popcorn, his mittens popcorn and his shoes popcorn. He didn't know the gold buckskin whincher had a power and was working all the time. He didn't know the whincher in his vest pocket was saying, "You have a letter Q in your name and because you have the pleasure and happiness of having a Q in your name you must have a popcorn hat, popcorn mittens and popcorn shoes."
The next morning he put on another hat, another pair of mittens and another pair of shoes. And the minute he put them on they changed to popcorn.
So he tried on all his hats, mittens and shoes. Always they changed to popcorn the minute he had them on.
He went downtown to the stores. He bought a new hat, mittens and shoes. And the minute he had them on they changed to popcorn.
So he decided he would go to work and clean cisterns with his popcorn hat, popcorn mittens and popcorn shoes on.
The people of the Village of Cream Puffs enjoyed watching him walk up the street, going to clean cisterns. People five and six blocks away could see him coming and going with his popcorn hat, popcorn mittens and popcorn shoes.
When he was down in a cistern the children enjoyed looking down into the cistern to see him work. When none of the slush and mud fell on his hat and mittens he was easy to find. The light of the shining popcorn lit up the whole inside of the cistern.
Sometimes, of course, the white popcorn got full of black slush and black mud. And then when Jason Squiff came up and walked home he was not quite so dazzling to look at.
It was a funny winter for Jason Squiff.
"It's a crime, a dirty crime," he said to himself. "Now I can never be alone with my thoughts. Everybody looks at me when I go up the street."
"If I meet a funeral even the pall bearers begin to laugh at my popcorn hat. If I meet people going to a wedding they throw all the rice at me as if I am a bride and a groom all together.
"The horses try to eat my hat wherever I go. Three hats I have fed to horses this winter.
"And if I accidentally drop one of my mittens the chickens eat it."
Then Jason Squiff began to change. He became proud.
"I always wanted a white beautiful hat like this white popcorn hat," he said to himself. "And I always wanted white beautiful mittens and white beautiful shoes like these white popcorn mittens and shoes."
When the boys yelled, "Snow man! yah-de-dah-de-dah, Snow man!" he just waved his hand to them with an upward gesture of his arm to show he was proud of how he looked.
"They all watch for me," he said to himself, "I am distinquished—am I not?" he asked himself.
And he put his right hand into his left hand and shook hands with himself and said, "You certainly look fixed up."
One day he decided to throw away his vest. In the vest pocket was the gold buckskin whincher, with the power working, the power saying, "You have a letter Q in your name and because you have the pleasure and happiness of having a Q in your name you must have a popcorn hat, popcorn mittens and popcorn shoes."
Yes, he threw away the vest. He forgot all about the gold buckskin whincher being in the vest.
He just handed the vest to a rag man. And the rag man put the vest with the gold buckskin whincher in a bag on his back and walked away.
After that Jason Squiff was like other people. His hats would never change to popcorn nor his mittens to popcorn nor his shoes to popcorn.
And when anybody looked at him down in a cistern cleaning the cistern or when anybody saw him walking along the street they knew him by his greenish yellowish hair which was always full of bright lights.
And so—if you have a Q in your name, be careful if you ever come across a gold buckskin whincher. Remember different whinchers have different powers.
The Story of Rags Habakuk, the Two Blue Rats, and the Circus Man Who Came with Spot Cash Money
Rags Habakuk was going home. His day's work was done. The sun was down. Street lamps began shining. Burglars were starting on their night's work. It was no time for an honest ragman to be knocking on people's back doors, saying, "Any rags?" or else saying, "Any rags? any bottles? any bones?" or else saying "Any rags? any bottles? any bones? any old iron? any copper, brass, old shoes all run down and no good to anybody to-day? any old clothes, old coats, pants, vests? I take any old clothes you got."
Yes, Rags Habakuk was going home. In the gunnysack bag on his back, humped up on top of the rag humps in the bag, was an old vest. It was the same old vest Jason Squiff threw out of a door at Rags Habakuk. In the pocket of the vest was the gold buckskin whincher with a power in it.
Well, Rags Habakuk got home just like always, sat down to supper and smacked his mouth and had a big supper of fish, just like always. Then he went out to a shanty in the back yard and opened up the gunnysack rag bag and fixed things out classified just like every day when he came home he opened the gunnysack bag and fixed things out classified.
The last thing of all he fixed out classified was the vest with the gold buckskin whincher in the pocket. "Put it on—it's a glad rag," he said, looking at the vest. "It's a lucky vest." So he put his right arm in the right armhole and his left arm in the left armhole. And there he was with his arms in the armholes of the old vest all fixed out classified new.
Next morning Rags Habakuk kissed his wife g'by and his eighteen year old girl g'by and his nineteen year old girl g'by. He kissed them just like he always kissed them—in a hurry—and as he kissed each one he said, "I will be back soon if not sooner and when I come back I will return."
Yes, up the street went Rags Habakuk. And soon as he left home something happened. Standing on his right shoulder was a blue rat and standing on his left shoulder was a blue rat. The only way he knew they were there was by looking at them.
There they were, close to his ears. He could feel the far edge of their whiskers against his ears.
"This never happened to me before all the time I been picking rags," he said. "Two blue rats stand by my ears and never say anything even if they know I am listening to anything they tell me."
So Rags Habakuk walked on two blocks, three blocks, four blocks, squinting with his right eye slanting at the blue rat on his right shoulder and squinting with his left eye slanting at the blue rat on his left shoulder.
"If I stood on somebody's shoulder with my whiskers right up in somebody's ear I would say something for somebody to listen to," he muttered.
Of course, he did not understand it was the gold buckskin whincher and the power working. Down in the pocket of the vest he had on, the gold buckskin whincher power was saying, "Because you have two K's in your name you must have two blue rats on your shoulders, one blue rat for your right ear, one blue rat for your left ear."
It was good business. Never before did Rags Habakuk get so much old rags.
"Come again—you and your lucky blue rats," people said to him. They dug into their cellars and garrets and brought him bottles and bones and copper and brass and old shoes and old clothes, coats, pants, vests.
Every morning when he went up the street with the two blue rats on his shoulders, blinking their eyes straight ahead and chewing their whiskers so they sometimes tickled the ears of old Rags Habakuk, sometimes women came running out on the front porch to look at him and say, "Well, if he isn't a queer old mysterious ragman and if those ain't queer old mysterious blue rats!"
All the time the gold buckskin whincher and the power was working. It was saying, "So long as old Rags Habakuk keeps the two blue rats he shall have good luck—but if he ever sells one of the blue rats then one of his daughters shall marry a taxicab driver—and if he ever sells the other blue rat then his other daughter shall marry a moving-picture hero actor."
Then terrible things happened. A circus man came. "I give you one thousand dollars spot cash money for one of the blue rats," he expostulated with his mouth. "And I give you two thousand dollars spot cash money for the two of the blue rats both of them together."
"Show me how much spot cash money two thousand dollars is all counted out in one pile for one man to carry away home in his gunnysack rag bag," was the answer of Rags Habakuk.
The circus man went to the bank and came back with spot cash greenbacks money.
"This spot cash greenbacks money is made from the finest silk rags printed by the national government for the national republic to make business rich and prosperous," said the circus man, expostulating with his mouth.
"T-h-e f-i-n-e-s-t s-i-l-k r-a-g-s," he expostulated again holding two fingers under the nose of Rags Habakuk.
"I take it," said Rags Habakuk, "I take it. It is a whole gunnysack bag full of spot cash greenbacks money. I tell my wife it is printed by the national government for the national republic to make business rich and prosperous."
Then he kissed the blue rats, one on the right ear, the other on the left ear, and handed them over to the circus man.
And that was why the next month his eighteen year old daughter married a taxicab driver who was so polite all the time to his customers that he never had time to be polite to his wife.
And that was why his nineteen year old daughter married a moving-picture hero actor who worked so hard being nice and kind in the moving pictures that he never had enough left over for his wife when he got home after the day's work.
And the lucky vest with the gold buckskin whincher was stolen from Rags Habakuk by the taxicab driver.
4. Four Stories About the Deep Doom of Dark Doorways
People: The Rag Doll The Broom Handle Spoon Lickers Chocolate Chins Dirty Bibs Tin Pan Bangers Clean Ears Easy Ticklers Musical Soup Eaters Chubby Chubs Sleepy Heads
Snoo Foo Blink, Swink and Jink Blunk, Swunk and Junk Missus Sniggers
Eeta Peeca Pie Meeny Miney Miney Mo A Potato Bug Millionaire
Bimbo the Snip Bevo the Hike A Ward Alderman A Barn Boss A Weather Man A Traffic Policeman A Monkey A Widow Woman An Umbrella Handle Maker
The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It
The Rag Doll had many friends. The Whisk Broom, the Furnace Shovel, the Coffee Pot, they all liked the Rag Doll very much.
But when the Rag Doll married, it was the Broom Handle she picked because the Broom Handle fixed her eyes.
A proud child, proud but careless, banged the head of the Rag Doll against a door one day and knocked off both the glass eyes sewed on long ago. It was then the Broom Handle found two black California prunes, and fastened the two California prunes just where the eyes belonged. So then the Rag Doll had two fine black eyes brand new. She was even nicknamed Black Eyes by some people.
There was a wedding when the Rag Doll married the Broom Handle. It was a grand wedding with one of the grandest processions ever seen at a rag doll wedding. And we are sure no broom handle ever had a grander wedding procession when he got married.
Who marched in the procession? Well, first came the Spoon Lickers. Every one of them had a tea spoon, or a soup spoon, though most of them had a big table spoon. On the spoons, what did they have? Oh, some had butter scotch, some had gravy, some had marshmallow fudge. Every one had something slickery sweet or fat to eat on the spoon. And as they marched in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle, they licked their spoons and looked around and licked their spoons again.
Next came the Tin Pan Bangers. Some had dishpans, some had frying pans, some had potato peeling pans. All the pans were tin with tight tin bottoms. And the Tin Pan Bangers banged with knives and forks and iron and wooden bangers on the bottoms of the tin pans. And as they marched in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle they banged their pans and looked around and banged again.
Then came the Chocolate Chins. They were all eating chocolates. And the chocolate was slippery and slickered all over their chins. Some of them spattered the ends of their noses with black chocolate. Some of them spread the brown chocolate nearly up to their ears. And then as they marched in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle they stuck their chins in the air and looked around and stuck their chins in the air again.
Then came the Dirty Bibs. They wore plain white bibs, checker bibs, stripe bibs, blue bibs and bibs with butterflies. But all the bibs were dirty. The plain white bibs were dirty, the checker bibs were dirty, the stripe bibs, the blue bibs and the bibs with butterflies on them, they were all dirty. And so in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle, the Dirty Bibs marched with their dirty fingers on the bibs and they looked around and laughed and looked around and laughed again.
Next came the Clean Ears. They were proud. How they got into the procession nobody knows. Their ears were all clean. They were clean not only on the outside but they were clean on the inside. There was not a speck of dirt or dust or muss or mess on the inside nor the outside of their ears. And so in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle, they wiggled their ears and looked around and wiggled their ears again.
The Easy Ticklers were next in the procession. Their faces were shining. Their cheeks were like bars of new soap. Their ribs were strong and the meat and the fat was thick on their ribs. It was plain to see they were saying, "Don't tickle me because I tickle so easy." And as they marched in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle, they tickled themselves and laughed and looked around and tickled themselves again.
The music was furnished mostly by the Musical Soup Eaters. They marched with big bowls of soup in front of them and big spoons for eating the soup. They whistled and chuzzled and snozzled the soup and the noise they made could be heard far up at the head of the procession where the Spoon Lickers were marching. So they dipped their soup and looked around and dipped their soup again.
The Chubby Chubs were next. They were roly poly, round faced smackers and snoozers. They were not fat babies—oh no, oh no—not fat but just chubby and easy to squeeze. They marched on their chubby legs and chubby feet and chubbed their chubbs and looked around and chubbed their chubbs again.
The last of all in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle were the Sleepyheads. They were smiling and glad to be marching but their heads were slimpsing down and their smiles were half fading away and their eyes were half shut or a little more than half shut. They staggered just a little as though their feet were not sure where they were going. They were the Sleepyheads, the last of all, in the wedding procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and the Sleepyheads they never looked around at all.
It was a grand procession, don't you think so?
How the Hat Ashes Shovel Helped Snoo Foo
If you want to remember the names of all six of the Sniggers children, remember that the three biggest were named Blink, Swink and Jink but the three littlest ones were named Blunk, Swunk and Junk. One day last January the three biggest had a fuss with the three littlest. The fuss was about a new hat for Snoo Foo, the snow man, about what kind of a hat he should wear and how he should wear it. Blink, Swink and Jink said, "He wants a crooked hat put on straight." Blunk, Swunk and Junk said, "He wants a straight hat put on crooked." They fussed and fussed. Blink fussed with Blunk, Swink fussed with Swunk, and Jink fussed with Junk. The first ones to make up after the fuss were Jink and Junk. They decided the best way to settle the fuss. "Let's put a crooked hat on crooked," said Jink. "No, let's put a straight hat on straight," said Junk. Then they stood looking and looking into each other's shiny laughing eyes and then both of them exploded to each other at the same time, "Let's put on two hats, a crooked hat crooked and a straight hat straight."
Well, they looked around for hats. But there were not any hats anywhere, that is, no hats big enough for a snow man with a big head like Snoo Foo. So they went in the house and asked their mother for the hat ashes shovel. Of course, in most any other house, the mother would be all worried if six children came tramping and clomping in, banging the door and all six ejaculating to their mother at once, "Where is the hat ashes shovel?" But Missus Sniggers wasn't worried at all. She rubbed her chin with her finger and said softly, "Oh lah de dah, oh lah de dah, where is that hat ashes shovel, last week I had it when I was making a hat for Mister Sniggers; I remember I had that hat ashes shovel right up here over the clock, oh lah de dah, oh lah de dah. Go out and ring the front door bell," she said to Jink Sniggers. Jink ran away to the front door. And Missus Sniggers and the five children waited. Bling-bling the bell began ringing and—listen—the door of the clock opened and the hat ashes shovel fell out. "Oh lah de dah, get out of here in a hurry," said Missus Sniggers.
Well, the children ran out and dug a big pail of hat ashes with the hat ashes shovel. And they made two hats for Snoo Foo. One was a crooked hat. The other was a straight hat. And they put the crooked hat on crooked and the straight hat on straight. And there stood Snoo Foo in the front yard and everybody who came by on the street, he would take off his hat to them, the crooked hat with his arm crooked and the straight hat with his arm straight. That was the end of the fuss between the Sniggers children and it was Jink, the littlest one of the biggest, and Junk, the littlest one of the littlest, who settled the fuss by looking clean into each other's eyes and laughing. If you ever get into a fuss try this way of settling it.
Three Boys With Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions
In the Village of Liver-and-Onions, if one boy goes to the grocery for a jug of molasses it is just like always. And if two boys go to the grocery for a jug of molasses together it is just like always. But if three boys go to the grocery for a jug of molasses each and all together then it is not like always at all, at all.
Eeta Peeca Pie grew up with wishes and wishes working inside him. And for every wish inside him he had a freckle outside on his face. Whenever he smiled the smile ran way back into the far side of his face and got lost in the wishing freckles.
Meeny Miney grew up with suspicions and suspicions working inside him. And after a while some of the suspicions got fastened on his eyes and some of the suspicions got fastened on his mouth. So when he looked at other people straight in the face they used to say, "Meeny Miney looks so sad-like I wonder if he'll get by."
Miney Mo was different. He wasn't sad-like and suspicious like Meeny Miney. Nor was he full of wishes inside and freckles outside like Eeta Peeca Pie. He was all mixed up inside with wishes and suspicions. So he had a few freckles and a few suspicions on his face. When he looked other people straight in the face they used to say, "I don't know whether to laugh or cry."
So here we have 'em, three boys growing up with wishes, suspicions and mixed-up wishes and suspicions. They all looked different from each other. Each one, however, had a secret ambition. And all three had the same secret ambition.
An ambition is a little creeper that creeps and creeps in your heart night and day, singing a little song, "Come and find me, come and find me."
The secret ambition in the heart of Eeta Peeca Pie, Meeney Miney, and Miney Mo was an ambition to go railroading, to ride on railroad cars night and day, year after year. The whistles and the wheels of railroad trains were music to them.
Whenever the secret ambition crept in their hearts and made them too sad, so sad it was hard to live and stand for it, they would all three put their hands on each other's shoulder and sing the song of Joe. The chorus was like this:
Joe, Joe, broke his toe, On the way to Mexico. Came back, broke his back, Sliding on the railroad track.
One fine summer morning all three mothers of all three boys gave each one a jug and said, "Go to the grocery and get a jug of molasses." All three got to the grocery at the same time. And all three went out of the door of the grocery together, each with a jug of molasses together and each with his secret ambition creeping around in his heart, all three together.
Two blocks from the grocery they stopped under a slippery elm tree. Eeta Peeca Pie was stretching his neck looking straight up into the slippery elm tree. He said it was always good for his freckles and it helped his wishes to stand under a slippery elm and look up.
While he was looking up his left hand let go the jug handle of the jug of molasses. And the jug went ka-flump, ka-flumpety-flump down on the stone sidewalk, cracked to pieces and let the molasses go running out over the sidewalk.
If you have never seen it, let me tell you molasses running out of a broken jug, over a stone sidewalk under a slippery elm tree, looks peculiar and mysterious.
Eeta Peeca Pie stepped into the molasses with his bare feet. "It's a lotta fun," he said. "It tickles all over." So Meeney Miney and Miney Mo both stepped into the molasses with their bare feet.
Then what happened just happened. One got littler. Another got littler. All three got littler.
"You look to me only big as a potato bug," said Eeta Peeca Pie to Meeney Miney and Miney Mo. "It's the same like you look to us," said Meeney Miney and Miney Mo to Eeta Peeca Pie. And then because their secret ambition began to hurt them they all stood with hands on each other's shoulders and sang the Mexico Joe song.
Off the sidewalk they strolled, across a field of grass. They passed many houses of spiders and ants. In front of one house they saw Mrs. Spider over a tub washing clothes for Mr. Spider.
"Why do you wear that frying pan on your head?" they asked her.
"In this country all ladies wear the frying pan on their head when they want a hat."
"But what if you want a hat when you are frying with the frying pan?" asked Eeta Peeca Pie.
"That never happens to any respectable lady in this country."
"Don't you never have no new style hats?" asked Meeney Miney.
"No, but we always have new style frying pans every spring and fall."
Hidden in the roots of a pink grass clump, they came to a city of twisted-nose spiders. On the main street was a store with a show window full of pink parasols. They walked in and said to the clerk, "We want to buy parasols."
"We don't sell parasols here," said the spider clerk.
"Well, lend us a parasol apiece," said all three.
"Gladly, most gladly," said the clerk.
"How do you do it?" asked Eeta.
"I don't have to," answered the spider clerk.
"How did it begin?"
"It never was otherwise."
"Don't you never get tired?"
"Every parasol is a joy."
"What do you do when the parasols are gone?"
"They always come back. These are the famous twisted-nose parasols made from the famous pink grass. You will lose them all, all three. Then they will all walk back to me here in this store on main street. I can not sell you something I know you will surely lose. Neither can I ask you to pay, for something you will forget, somewhere sometime, and when you forget it, it will walk back here to me again. Look—look!"
As he said "Look," the door opened and five pink parasols came waltzing in and waltzed up into the show window.
"They always come back. Everybody forgets. Take your parasols and go. You will forget them and they will come back to me."
"He looks like he had wishes inside him," said Eeta Peeca Pie.
"He looks like he had suspicions," said Meeney Miney.
"He looks like he was all mixed up wishes and suspicions," said Miney Mo.
And once more because they all felt lonesome and their secret ambitions were creeping and eating, they put their hands on their shoulders and sang the Mexico Joe song.
Then came happiness. They entered the Potato Bug Country. And they had luck first of all the first hour they were in the Potato Bug Country. They met a Potato Bug millionaire.
"How are you a millionaire?" they asked him.
"Because I got a million," he answered.
"A million what?"
"A million fleems."
"Who wants fleems?"
"You want fleems if you're going to live here."
"Because fleems is our money. In the Potato Bug Country, if you got no fleems you can't buy nothing nor anything. But if you got a million fleems you're a Potato Bug millionaire."
Then he surprised them.
"I like you because you got wishes and freckles," he said to Eeta Peeca Pie, filling the pockets of Eeta with fleems.
"And I like you because you got suspicions and you're sad-like," he said to Meeney Miney filling Meeney Miney's pockets full of fleems.
"And I like you because you got some wishes and some suspicions and you look mixed up," he said to Miney Mo, sticking handfuls and handfuls of fleems into the pockets of Miney Mo.
Wishes do come true. And suspicions do come true. Here they had been wishing all their lives, and had suspicions of what was going to happen, and now it all came true.
With their pockets filled with fleems they rode on all the railroad trains of the Potato Bug Country. They went to the railroad stations and bought tickets for the fast trains and the slow trains and even the trains that back up and run backward instead of where they start to go.
On the dining cars of the railroads of the Potato Bug Country they ate wonder ham from the famous Potato Bug Pigs, eggs from the Potato Bug Hens, et cetera.
It seemed to them they stayed a long while in the Potato Bug Country, years and years. Yes, the time came when all their fleems were gone. Then whenever they wanted a railroad ride or something to eat or a place to sleep, they put their hands on each other's shoulders and sang the Mexico Joe song. In the Potato Bug Country they all said the Mexico Joe song was wonderful.
One morning while they were waiting to take an express train on the Early Ohio & Southwestern they sat near the roots of a big potato plant under the big green leaves. And far above them they saw a dim black cloud and they heard a shaking and a rustling and a spattering. They did not know it was a man of the Village of Liver-and-Onions. They did not know it was Mr. Sniggers putting paris green on the potato plants.
A big drop of paris green spattered down and fell onto the heads and shoulders of all three, Eeta Peeca Pie, Meeny Miney and Miney Mo.
Then what happened just happened. They got bigger and bigger—one, two, three. And when they jumped up and ran out of the potato rows, Mr. Sniggers thought they were boys playing tricks.
When they got home to their mothers and told all about the jug of molasses breaking on the stone sidewalk under the slippery elm tree, their mothers said it was careless. The boys said it was lucky because it helped them get their secret ambitions.
And a secret ambition is a little creeper that creeps and creeps in your heart night and day, singing a little song, "Come and find me, come and find me."
How Bimbo the Snip's Thumb Stuck to His Nose When the Wind Changed
Once there was a boy in the Village of Liver-and-Onions whose name was Bimbo the Snip. He forgot nearly everything his father and mother told him to do and told him not to do.
One day his father, Bevo the Hike, came home and found Bimbo the Snip sitting on the front steps with his thumb fastened to his nose and the fingers wiggling.
"I can't take my thumb away," said Bimbo the Snip, "because when I put my thumb to my nose and wiggled my fingers at the iceman the wind changed. And just like mother always said, if the wind changed the thumb would stay fastened to my nose and not come off."
Bevo the Hike took hold of the thumb and pulled. He tied a clothes line rope around it and pulled. He pushed with his foot and heel against it. And all the time the thumb stuck fast and the fingers wiggled from the end of the nose of Bimbo the Snip.
Bevo the Hike sent for the ward alderman. The ward alderman sent for the barn boss of the street cleaning department. The barn boss of the street cleaning department sent for the head vaccinator of the vaccination bureau of the health department. The head vaccinator of the vaccination bureau of the health department sent for the big main fixer of the weather bureau where they understand the tricks of the wind and the wind changing.
And the big main fixer of the weather bureau said, "If you hit the thumb six times with the end of a traffic policeman's club, the thumb will come loose."
So Bevo the Hike went to a traffic policeman standing on a street corner with a whistle telling the wagons and cars which way to go.
He told the traffic policeman, "The wind changed and Bimbo the Snip's thumb is fastened to his nose and will not come loose till it is hit six times with the end of a traffic policeman's club."
"I can't help you unless you find a monkey to take my place standing on the corner telling the wagons and cars which way to go," answered the traffic policeman.
So Bevo the Hike went to the zoo and said to a monkey, "The wind changed and Bimbo the Snip's thumb is fastened to his nose and will not come loose till it is hit with the end of a traffic policeman's club six times and the traffic policeman cannot leave his place on the street corner telling the traffic which way to go unless a monkey comes and takes his place."
The monkey answered, "Get me a ladder with a whistle so I can climb up and whistle and tell the traffic which way to go."
So Bevo the Hike hunted and hunted over the city and looked and looked and asked and asked till his feet and his eyes and his head and his heart were tired from top to bottom.
Then he met an old widow woman whose husband had been killed in a sewer explosion when he was digging sewer ditches. And the old woman was carrying a bundle of picked-up kindling wood in a bag on her back because she did not have money enough to buy coal.
Bevo the Hike told her, "You have troubles. So have I. You are carrying a load on your back people can see. I am carrying a load and nobody sees it."
"Tell me your troubles," said the old widow woman. He told her. And she said, "In the next block is an old umbrella handle maker. He has a ladder with a whistle. He climbs on the ladder when he makes long long umbrella handles. And he has the whistle on the ladder to be whistling."
Bevo the Hike went to the next block, found the house of the umbrella handle maker and said to him, "The wind changed and Bimbo the Snip's thumb is fastened to his nose and will not come loose till it is hit with the end of a traffic policeman's club six times and the traffic policeman cannot leave the corner where he is telling the traffic which way to go unless a monkey takes his place and the monkey cannot take his place unless he has a ladder with a whistle to stand on and whistle the wagons and cars which way to go."
Then the umbrella handle maker said, "To-night I have a special job because I must work on a long, long umbrella handle and I will need the ladder to climb up and the whistle to be whistling. But if you promise to have the ladder back by to-night you can take it."
Bevo the Hike promised. Then he took the ladder with a whistle to the monkey, the monkey took the place of the traffic policeman while the traffic policeman went to the home of Bevo the Hike where Bimbo the Snip was sitting on the front steps with his thumb fastened to his nose wiggling his fingers at everybody passing by on the street.
The traffic policeman hit Bimbo the Snip's thumb five times with the club. And the thumb stuck fast. But the sixth time it was hit with the end of the traffic policeman's thumb club, it came loose.
Then Bevo thanked the policeman, thanked the monkey, and took the ladder with the whistle back to the umbrella handle maker's house and thanked him.
When Bevo the Hike got home that night Bimbo the Snip was in bed and all tickled. He said to his father, "I will be careful how I stick my thumb to my nose and wiggle my fingers the next time the wind changes."
5. Three Stories About Three Ways the Wind Went Winding
People: Two Skyscrapers The Northwest Wind The Golden Spike Limited Train A Tin Brass Goat A Tin Brass Goose Newsies
Young Leather Red Slippers A Man to be Hanged Five Jackrabbits
The Wooden Indian The Shaghorn Buffalo The Night Policeman
The Two Skyscrapers Who Decided to Have a Child
Two skyscrapers stood across the street from each other in the Village of Liver-and-Onions. In the daylight when the streets poured full of people buying and selling, these two skyscrapers talked with each other the same as mountains talk.
In the night time when all the people buying and selling were gone home and there were only policemen and taxicab drivers on the streets, in the night when a mist crept up the streets and threw a purple and gray wrapper over everything, in the night when the stars and the sky shook out sheets of purple and gray mist down over the town, then the two skyscrapers leaned toward each other and whispered.
Whether they whispered secrets to each other or whether they whispered simple things that you and I know and everybody knows, that is their secret. One thing is sure: they often were seen leaning toward each other and whispering in the night the same as mountains lean and whisper in the night.
High on the roof of one of the skyscrapers was a tin brass goat looking out across prairies, and silver blue lakes shining like blue porcelain breakfast plates, and out across silver snakes of winding rivers in the morning sun. And high on the roof of the other skyscraper was a tin brass goose looking out across prairies, and silver blue lakes shining like blue porcelain breakfast plates, and out across silver snakes of winding rivers in the morning sun.
Now the Northwest Wind was a friend of the two skyscrapers. Coming so far, coming five hundred miles in a few hours, coming so fast always while the skyscrapers were standing still, standing always on the same old street corners always, the Northwest Wind was a bringer of news.
"Well, I see the city is here yet," the Northwest Wind would whistle to the skyscrapers.
And they would answer, "Yes, and are the mountains standing yet way out yonder where you come from, Wind?"
"Yes, the mountains are there yonder, and farther yonder is the sea, and the railroads are still going, still running across the prairie to the mountains, to the sea," the Northwest Wind would answer.
And now there was a pledge made by the Northwest Wind to the two skyscrapers. Often the Northwest Wind shook the tin brass goat and shook the tin brass goose on top of the skyscrapers.
"Are you going to blow loose the tin brass goat on my roof?" one asked.
"Are you going to blow loose the tin brass goose on my roof?" the other asked.
"Oh, no," the Northwest Wind laughed, first to one and then to the other, "if I ever blow loose your tin brass goat and if I ever blow loose your tin brass goose, it will be when I am sorry for you because you are up against hard luck and there is somebody's funeral."
So time passed on and the two skyscrapers stood with their feet among the policemen and the taxicabs, the people buying and selling,—the customers with parcels, packages and bundles—while away high on their roofs stood the goat and the goose looking out on silver blue lakes like blue porcelain breakfast plates and silver snakes of rivers winding in the morning sun.
So time passed on and the Northwest Wind kept coming, telling the news and making promises.
So time passed on. And the two skyscrapers decided to have a child.
And they decided when their child came it should be a free child.
"It must be a free child," they said to each other. "It must not be a child standing still all its life on a street corner. Yes, if we have a child she must be free to run across the prairie, to the mountains, to the sea. Yes, it must be a free child."
So time passed on. Their child came. It was a railroad train, the Golden Spike Limited, the fastest long distance train in the Rootabaga Country. It ran across the prairie, to the mountains, to the sea.
They were glad, the two skyscrapers were, glad to have a free child running away from the big city, far away to the mountains, far away to the sea, running as far as the farthest mountains and sea coasts touched by the Northwest Wind.
They were glad their child was useful, the two skyscrapers were, glad their child was carrying a thousand people a thousand miles a day, so when people spoke of the Golden Spike Limited, they spoke of it as a strong, lovely child.
Then time passed on. There came a day when the newsies yelled as though they were crazy. "Yah yah, blah blah, yoh yoh," was what it sounded like to the two skyscrapers who never bothered much about what the newsies were yelling.
"Yah yah, blah blah, yoh yoh," was the cry of the newsies that came up again to the tops of the skyscrapers.
At last the yelling of the newsies came so strong the skyscrapers listened and heard the newsies yammering, "All about the great train wreck! All about the Golden Spike disaster! Many lives lost! Many lives lost!"
And the Northwest Wind came howling a slow sad song. And late that afternoon a crowd of policemen, taxicab drivers, newsies and customers with bundles, all stood around talking and wondering about two things next to each other on the street car track in the middle of the street. One was a tin brass goat. The other was a tin brass goose. And they lay next to each other.
The Dollar Watch and the Five Jack Rabbits
Long ago, long before the waylacks lost the wonderful stripes of oat straw gold and the spots of timothy hay green in their marvelous curving tail feathers, long before the doo-doo-jangers whistled among the honeysuckle blossoms and the bitter-basters cried their last and dying wrangling cries, long before the sad happenings that came later, it was then, some years earlier than the year Fifty Fifty, that Young Leather and Red Slippers crossed the Rootabaga Country.
To begin with, they were walking across the Rootabaga Country. And they were walking because it made their feet glad to feel the dirt of the earth under their shoes and they were close to the smells of the earth. They learned the ways of birds and bugs, why birds have wings, why bugs have legs, why the gladdywhingers have spotted eggs in a basket nest in a booblow tree, and why the chizzywhizzies scrape off little fiddle songs all summer long while the summer nights last.
Early one morning they were walking across the corn belt of the Rootabaga Country singing, "Deep Down Among the Dagger Dancers." They had just had a breakfast of coffee and hot hankypank cakes covered with cow's butter. Young Leather said to Red Slippers, "What is the best secret we have come across this summer?"
"That is easy to answer," Red Slippers said with a long flish of her long black eyelashes. "The best secret we have come across is a rope of gold hanging from every star in the sky and when we want to go up we go up."
Walking on they came to a town where they met a man with a sorry face. "Why?" they asked him. And he answered, "My brother is in jail."
"What for?" they asked him again. And he answered again, "My brother put on a straw hat in the middle of the winter and went out on the streets laughing; my brother had his hair cut pompompadour and went out on the streets bareheaded in the summertime laughing; and these things were against the law. Worst of all he sneezed at the wrong time and he sneezed before the wrong persons; he sneezed when it was not wise to sneeze. So he will be hanged to-morrow morning. The gallows made of lumber and the rope made of hemp—they are waiting for him to-morrow morning. They will tie around his neck the hangman's necktie and hoist him high."
The man with a sorry face looked more sorry than ever. It made Young Leather feel reckless and it made Red Slippers feel reckless. They whispered to each other. Then Young Leather said, "Take this dollar watch. Give it to your brother. Tell him when they are leading him to the gallows he must take this dollar watch in his hand, wind it up and push on the stem winder. The rest will be easy."
So the next morning when they were leading the man to be hanged to the gallows made of lumber and the rope made of hemp, where they were going to hoist him high because he sneezed in the wrong place before the wrong people, he used his fingers winding up the watch and pushing on the stem winder. There was a snapping and a slatching like a gas engine slipping into a big pair of dragon fly wings. The dollar watch changed into a dragon fly ship. The man who was going to be hanged jumped into the dragon fly ship and flew whonging away before anybody could stop him.
Young Leather and Red Slippers were walking out of the town laughing and singing again, "Deep Down Among the Dagger Dancers." The man with a sorry face, not so sorry now any more, came running after them. Behind the man and running after him were five long-legged spider jack-rabbits.
"These are for you," was his exclamation. And they all sat down on the stump of a booblow tree. He opened his sorry face and told the secrets of the five long-legged spider jack-rabbits to Young Leather and Red Slippers. They waved good-by and went on up the road leading the five new jack-rabbits.
In the next town they came to was a skyscraper higher than all the other skyscrapers. A rich man dying wanted to be remembered and left in his last will and testament a command they should build a building so high it would scrape the thunder clouds and stand higher than all other skyscrapers with his name carved in stone letters on the top of it, and an electric sign at night with his name on it, and a clock on the tower with his name on it.
"I am hungry to be remembered and have my name spoken by many people after I am dead," the rich man told his friends. "I command you, therefore, to throw the building high in the air because the higher it goes the longer I will be remembered and the longer the years men will mention my name after I am dead."
So there it was. Young Leather and Red Slippers laughed when they first saw the skyscraper, when they were far off along a country road singing their old song, "Deep Down Among the Dagger Dancers."
"We got a show and we give a performance and we want the whole town to see it," was what Young Leather and Red Slippers said to the mayor of the town when they called on him at the city hall. "We want a license and a permit to give this free show in the public square."
"What do you do?" asked the mayor.
"We jump five jack-rabbits, five long-legged spider jack-rabbits over the highest skyscraper you got in your city," they answered him.
"If it's free and you don't sell anything nor take any money away from us while it is daylight and you are giving your performance, then here is your license permit," said the mayor speaking in the manner of a politician who has studied politics.
Thousands of people came to see the show on the public square. They wished to know how it would look to see five long-legged, spider jack-rabbits jump over the highest skyscraper in the city.
Four of the jack-rabbits had stripes. The fifth had stripes—and spots. Before they started the show Young Leather and Red Slippers held the jack-rabbits one by one in their arms and petted them, rubbed the feet and rubbed the long ears and ran their fingers along the long legs of the jumpers.
"Zingo," they yelled to the first jack-rabbit. He got all ready. "And now zingo!" they yelled again. And the jack-rabbit took a run, lifted off his feet and went on and on and up and up till he went over the roof of the skyscraper and then went down and down till he lit on his feet and came running on his long legs back to the public square where he started from, back where Young Leather and Red Slippers petted him and rubbed his long ears and said, "That's the boy."
Then three jack-rabbits made the jump over the skyscraper. "Zingo," they heard and got ready. "And now zingo," they heard and all three together in a row, their long ears touching each other, they lifted off their feet and went on and on and up and up till they cleared the roof of the skyscraper. Then they came down and down till they lit on their feet and came running to the hands of Young Leather and Red Slippers to have their long legs and their long ears rubbed and petted.
Then came the turn of the fifth jack-rabbit, the beautiful one with stripes and spots. "Ah, we're sorry to see you go, Ah-h, we're sorry," they said, rubbing his long ears and feeling of his long legs.