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Age Rating 6 to 8.
From Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg
Start of Story
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
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
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
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
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
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."