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   Chapter 3 Three Stories About the Gold Buckskin Whincher

Rootabaga Stories By Carl Sandburg Characters: 17760

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


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.

His hat was popcorn, his mittens popcorn and his

shoes popcorn

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.

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