The Sugar Creek Gang Goes North
THE SUGAR CREEK GANG
THE SUGAR CREEK GANG
434 South Wabash Ave.
Chicago 5, Ill.
The Sugar Creek Gang Goes North
Copyright, 1947, by
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Printed in the United States of America
I GUESS I never did get tired thinking about all the interesting andexciting things which had happened to the Sugar Creek Gang when we’dgone camping far up in the North. One of the happiest memories was ofthe time when Poetry, who is the barrel-shaped member of our gang,and I were lost out in the forest, and while we were trying to getunlost we met a very cute little brown-faced Indian boy whose name wasSnow-in-the-face, and his big Indian brother whose name was Eagle Eye.
Little Snow-in-the-face was really the cutest little Indian boy I hadever seen; in fact, he was the first one I’d ever really seen up realclose. I kept thinking about him and wishing that the whole Sugar CreekGang could go again up into that wonderful country which everybodycalls the Paul Bunyan Playground and see how Little Snow-in-the-facewas getting along, and how his big brother’s Indian Sunday school wasgrowing, which, as you know, they were having every Sunday in an oldrailroad coach, which they’d taken out into the forest and fixed upinto a church. Say, I never had any idea that we would get to go backso soon, in fact, the very next summer after we’d been there the summerbefore.
But here I go telling you about how we happened to get to go, and howquick we started, and all the exciting things that happened on the wayand after we4 got there, and especially after we got there. Boy ohboy! it was real fun, and also very exciting—especially that nightwhen we ran kersmack into a kidnapper mystery, and some of us who weremixed up in it were almost half scared half to death. Imagine a verydark night with only moonlight enough to make things look spooky, andqueer screaming sounds echoing through the forest and over the lake,and then finding the kidnapped girl all wrapped in an Indian blanketwith a stuffed into her mouth and—butthat’s getting ahead of the story, and I’d better not tell you how ithappened until I get to it, ’cause it might spoil the story for you,and I hope you won’t start turning the pages of this book real fast andread the mystery first, ’cause that wouldn’t be fair.... Don’t you dareskip even one page. You just keep reading along until you get there.
Anyway, this is how we were going to get to go. Some of the Sugar CreekGang of us were lying in the long mashed-down grass, in a level placeat the top of the steep incline not very far from where the hill goesdown real steep to the spring at the bottom where my pop is alwayssending me to get a pail of real cold fresh water for us to drink atour house. We were all of us lying in different directions, talkingand laughing and yawning and pretending to be sleepy, also some of uswere tumbling around a little and making a nuisance of ourselves toeach other. Most of us had long stems of blue grass in our mouths andwere chewing on the ends, and all of us were feeling swell. I had mybinoculars in my hand and up to my eyes looking around at differentthings.
5First, I watched a red squirrel, high up in a big sugar tree, lyingflat and lazy on the top of a gray branch like he was taking atwo-o’clock-in-the-afternoon sun bath, which was what time of day itwas that Saturday afternoon. I had been lying on my back, looking upat the squirrel, then I rolled over and got onto my knees and focusedthe binoculars on Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek’s face was very lazy, onaccount of that being a wide part of the creek, and the water movedvery slowly, hardly moving, and was as quiet as Pass Lake had been upin Minnesota in the Paul Bunyan country, on a very quiet day. Therewere little whitish patches of different shaped specks of white foamfloating along on the kinda brownish blue water. While I was lookingat Sugar Creek with its big wide quiet face, and dreaming about a bigblue-watered lake up North, I saw some V-shaped waves coming out acrossthe creek from the opposite shore. The sharp-pointed end of the V wascoming straight toward the spring and bringing the rest of the V alongwith it. I knew right away it was a muskrat and it was swimming rightstraight toward our side of the creek. Looking at the brownish muskratwith the binoculars made it seem like it was very close, and I couldsee its pretty chestnut brown fur. Its head was broad and kinda blunt,and I knew if I could have seen its tail it would have been about halfas long as the muskrat, and deeper than it was wide, and that it wouldhave scales on it, and only a few scattered hairs. I quick grabbed abig rock and quick threw that rock as straight as I could and as hard,right straight toward the acute angle of6 the long moving V which wasstill coming across the creek toward us.
And would you believe it? I’m not always such a good shot with a rock,but this time that rock went straight toward where the muskrat washeaded for, and by the time the rock and the muskrat got to the sameplace at the same time, the rock went kerswishety-splash right on thebroad blunt head of the musquash, which is another and kinda fancyname for a muskrat.
Circus, the acrobat in our gang, was the only one of the gang who sawme do what I had done. He yelled out to me in a voice that sounded likea circus-barker’s voice, “Atta boy, Bill! Boy oh boy, that was a swellshot! I couldn’t have done any better myself!”
“Better than what?” nearly all the rest of the gang woke up and askedhim at the same time.
“Bill killed an Ondatra zibethica,” Circus said, which is the Latinname for a muskrat,—Circus’ pop being a trapper, and Circus having agood animal book in his library. “Socked it in the head with a rock.”
Everybody looked out toward Sugar Creek to the place where the rock hadsocked the Ondatra in the head, and where the two forks of the V weregetting wider and wider, almost disappearing into nothing like waves dowhen they get old enough.
“Look at those waves!” Poetry said, meaning the new waves my big rockhad started. There was a widening circle going out from where it hadbeen struck.
“Reminds me of the waves of Pass Lake, where we spent our vacation lastsummer,” Poetry said. “Remember the ones we had the tilt-a-whirl rideon, when Eagle Eye’s boat upset, and we got separated from it,7 and ifwe hadn’t had our life vests on we’d have been drowned ’cause it wastoo far from the shore to swim!”
“Sure,” Dragonfly piped up and said, “and that’s the reason why everyboy in the world who is in a boat or a canoe on a lake or a riverought to wear a life vest, or else there ought to be plenty of lifepreservers in the boat or the canoe, just in case.”
“Hey!” Little Jim piped up and squeaked in his mouse-like voice. “YourOn-onda-something or other has come to life away down the creek!” Andsure enough, it had, for away down the creek, maybe fifty feet further,there was another V moving along toward the Sugar Creek bridge, whichmeant I hadn’t killed the musquash at all, but only scared it, andmaybe my rock hadn’t even hit it at all, and it had ducked and swumunder water like Ondatra zibethicas do in Sugar Creek and like loonsdo in Pass Lake in northern Minnesota.
“I’m thirsty,” Circus said, and jumped up from where he had been lyingon his back with his feet propped up on a big hollow stump. That hollowstump was the same one, I thought, where his pop had slipped downinside once and had gotten bit by a black widow spider which had hadher web inside.
Right away we were all of us scurrying down the steep hill to thespring and getting a drink apiece of water, either stooping down anddrinking like cows or else using the paper cups which we had in alittle container on the leaning tree that leaned over the spring andwhich we’d put there, instead of the old tin cup which we’d batteredinto a flat piece of tin and thrown into Sugar Creek.
8All of a sudden, we heard a strange noise up at the top of the hill,and it sounded like somebody moving along through last year’s deadleaves and at the same time talking or mumbling to himself aboutsomething.
“Sh!” Dragonfly said, shushing us, he being the one who nearly alwaysheard or saw something before any of the rest of us did.
We all hushed, and sure enough I heard it. It was a man’s voice, and hewas talking to himself or something up there at the top of the hill.
“Sh!” I said to different ones of us, and we all stopped whatever wehad been doing or saying, and didn’t move, all except Little Jim wholost his balance, and to keep from falling the wrong direction whichwas in a puddle of cold clean water on the other side of the spring,he had to step awkwardly in several places, jumping from one rock toanother and using his pretty stick-candy-looking stick to help him.
We kept hushed for a jiffy and the sound up at the top of the hillkept right on—leaves rasping and rustling, and a man’s voice mumblingsomething like he was talking to himself.
All of us had our eyes on Big Jim, our leader. I was looking at hisfuzzy mustache, which was like the down on a baby pigeon, and waswondering who was up at the top of the hill, and thinking about howI wished I could get a little fuzz on my upper lip, and wondering ifI could make mine grow if I used some kind of cold cream on it, orsomething like girls do when they want to look more like older girlsthan they are.
Big Jim looked around at the irregular circle of9 us and nodded tome and motioned with his thumb for me to follow him up the hill. Hestopped all the rest of the gang from following. In a jiffy, I wascreeping quietly up that steep incline behind Big Jim, and also LittleJim came along, ’cause right at the last second Big Jim motioned to himthat he could, on account of he had a hurt look in his eyes like maybenobody thought he was important ’cause he was so little.
I had a trembling feeling all inside of me ’cause I just knew there wasgoing to be a surprise at the top of that hill, and maybe a mystery.Also, I felt proud that Big Jim had picked me out to go up with him,on account of he nearly always picks Circus who is next biggest in thegang. I didn’t need to feel proud though, ’cause when I heard a littleslithering noise behind me while I was on the way up, I knew why Circusdidn’t get invited, and it was ’cause he was already half way up asmall sapling which grew near the spring. He was already almost highenough to see what was going on at