How Pink Peony Sent Spuds, the Ballplayer, Up to Pick Four Moons From; "Rootabaga Pigeons" By Carl Sandburg

Early one summer evening the moon was hanging in the treetops. There was a lisp of leaves. And the soft shine of the moon sifting down seemed to have something to say to the lisp of the leaves.

The girl named Blixie Bimber came that particular summer evening to the corner where the Potato Face Blind Man sat with his accordion. She came walking slow and thoughtful to where he was sitting in the evening shadows. And she told him about the summer moon in the treetops, the lisp of the leaves, and the shine of the moon trying to tell something to the lisp of the leaves.

The old man leaned back, fumbled the keys of his accordion, and said it loosened up things he remembered far back.

“On an evening like this, every tree has a moon all of its own for itself—if you climb up in a thousand trees this evening you can pick a thousand moons,” the old man murmured. “You remind me tonight about secrets swimming deep in me.”

And after hesitating a little—and thinking a little—and then hesitating some more—the old man started and told this story:

***

There was a girl I used to know, one time, named Pink Peony. She was a girl with cheeks and lips the peonies talked about.

When she passed a bush of peonies, some of the flowers would whisper, “She is lovelier than we are.” And the other peonies would answer in a whisper, “It must be so, it . . . must . . . be … so.”

Now there was a ballplayer named Spuds, came one night to take her riding, out to a valley where the peacocks always cry before it rains, where the frogs always gamble with the golden dice after midnight.

And out in that valley they came to a tall tree shooting spraggly to the sky. And high up in the spraggly shoots, where the lisp of the leaves whispers, there a moon had drifted down and was caught in the branches.

“Spuds, climb up and pick that moon for me,” Pink Peony sang reckless. And the ballplayer jumped out of the car, climbed up the tall tree, up and up till he was high and far in the spraggly branches where the moon had drifted down and was caught.

Climbing down, he handed the girl a silver hat full of peach-color pearls. She laid it on the back seat of the car where it would be safe. And they drove on.

They came to another tall tree shooting spraggly to the sky. And high up the moon was caught.

“Pick that one, Spuds,” Peony sang reckless again. And when he came climbing down he handed her a circle of gold with a blood-color autumn leaf. And they put it on the back seat of the car where it would be safe. Then they drove on.

“Spuds, you are good to me,” said Pink Peony, when he climbed another tree shooting spraggly high in the sky, and came down with a brass pansy sprinkled with two rainbows, for her. She put it on the back seat where it would be safe. And they drove on.

One time more Spuds climbed up and came down with what he picked, up where the moon was caught in the high spraggly branches. “An Egyptian collar frozen in diamond cobwebs, for you,” he said. “You are a dear, Spuds,” she said, reckless, with a look into his eyes. She laid the Egyptian collar frozen in diamond cobwebs on the back seat of the car where it would be safe—and they drove on.

They listened a while, they stopped the car and listened a longer while, to the frogs gambling with golden dice after midnight.

And when at last they heard the peacocks crying, they knew it was going to rain. So they drove home.

And while the peacocks were crying, and just before they started home, they looked in the back seat of the car at the silver hat full of peach-color pearls, the circle of gold with a blood-color autumn leaf, the brass pansy sprinkled with two rainbows, the Egyptian collar frozen in diamond cobwebs.

Driving home, the spray of a violet dawn was on the east sky. And it was nearly daylight when they drove up to the front door of Pink Peony’s home. She ran into the house to get a basket to carry the presents in. She came running out of the house with a basket to carry the presents in.

She looked in the back seat; she felt with her hands and fingers all over the back seat.

In the back seat she could find only four oranges. They opened the oranges and in each orange they found a yellow silk handkerchief.

Today, if you go to the house where Pink Peony and Spuds are living, you will find four children playing there, each with a yellow silk handkerchief tied around the neck in a mystic slip knot.

Each child has a moon face and a moon name. And sometimes their father and mother pile them all into a car and they ride out to the valley where the peacocks always cry before it rains—and where the frogs always gamble with golden dice after midnight.

And what they look longest at is a summer moon hanging in the treetops, when there is a lisp of leaves, and the shine of the moon and the lisp of the leaves seem to be telling each other something.

So the Potato Face came to a finish with his story. Blixie Bimber kissed him good-night on the nose, saying, “You loosened up beautiful tonight.”

Note:

The book “Rootabaga Pigeons” has just this year come into the public domain.
Although the internet archive has a copy, the scan is very peculiar and does not do the illustrations justice, and I will be scanning my own copy and digitising the book myself. Stay tuned!

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