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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Sandburg - ...Jason Squiff & Why He Had a Popcorn... - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I'm an addict. . .
a POPCORN addict.
January 19 is National Popcorn Day and I need to tell both my own story and some related much loved nonsense from Carl Sandburg.

I grew up in St. Louis and my parents lived in the Tivoli Theatre Apartments over the theater and my dad's store was in the building, too.  The apartments were supposed to be for adults only, but, since they already lived there, I was able to be there, too.  Shortly before starting kindergarten they bought a house and we moved out, but my dad's store meant I still was there a lot.  I was the unofficial theater mascot able to see all the areas of the theater, back behind the screen, the projection area, but also, any time I wanted, I was welcome to have all the day-old popcorn I wanted.  I definitely wanted it.  To this day I'm an addict unable to resist the smell.  Remember when Sears stores used to have popcorn machines at the entrance?  I do.  I also remember having the last bit of the flu and smelling it there, wanting it so badly.  That's probably one of the few times I resisted my addiction.  Love it! ! !

Last week I gave a story here that had just become Public Domain, from Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Pigeons.  As I said then, I've loved that particular story for years and have wanted to tell it.  I became so excited I accidentally hit Publish too soon and so the story of "Deep Red Roses..." appeared right away, even though I "edited" it to have the right date.  Today I'm just as excited, but will try to hold my popcorn addiction in check.  Rootabaga Stories squeaked into Public Domain before the shutdown and I recommend following the Sandburg link beyond last week's story and go down to my April 9, 2016 article for more about the reason he was part of the copyright extension.

If you think last week's story had a long title, today's is even a bit longer: The Story of Jason Squiff and Why He Had a Popcorn Hat, Popcorn Mittens and Popcorn Shoes.  Truly a story for popcorn addicts.  It's the middle of a trilogy of stories in the Rootabaga Stories, so I should probably give it a bit of introduction. 
Sandburg makes full use of his "poetic license" in the Rootabaga books with nonsense written for his daughters that deserves to be read aloud for full appreciation.  That first story of Blixie Bimber introduces us to the "gold buckskin whincher" and its strange powers.  "What is a gold buckskin whincher?" your logical mind probably wonders and with good reason for it's found only in Sandburg's tales.  I looked, just in case.  The recent children's production of a musical called "Rootabaga! A MusiCarl" had the reviewer ask that same question and answer it as "a charm with magical powers."  The reviewer admits
The language of the show can also be a challenge, given its nonsensical nature, and at times I had difficulty understanding words and phrases. But, the nonsensical aspect of the play is ideal for younger kids who will find humor in the rhymes and rhythms and not be bothered by the non-linear storyline.
She specifically mentions Blixie and that gold buckskin whincher.  She omits the way the letter "X" is important to the story.  In Blixie's adventure she loses the gold buckskin whincher after it plays havoc with her dating life.  Jason Squiff, on the other hand, has a totally different adventure because of the letter "Q."

The only other thing I probably should explain, for an audience unfamiliar with the concept of a cistern, is it's a waterproof storage area for water, often rainwater.  Remember the musical The Music Man's song "Trouble" about the problem of "your parents are caught with the cistern empty on a Saturday night"?  Jason is a cistern cleaner and would agree.

I admit cistern-flavored popcorn could probably be resisted even by this popcorn addict.  Here's a further bit of personal story about my addiction to popcorn.  A great many years later I saw the refreshment stand in Heman Park still has the sign: Mustard on Popcorn 5 Cents Extra!  Yes, I'm the reason for that sign originating with my own childhood adventures there.

Of course that gold buckskin whincher is on to yet another adventure.
Whether your name has an X, Q, or a K in it or not, may you enjoy discovering the nonsensical side of Carl Sandburg now that we can Keep the Public in Public Domain for his stories.
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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