How Gimme the Ax Found Out About the Zigzag Railroad and Who Made It Zigzag
One day Gimme the Ax said to himself, “Today I go to the
postoffice and around, looking around. Maybe I will hear about
something happening last night when I was sleeping. Maybe a
policeman began laughing and fell in a cistern and came out
with a wheelbarrow full of goldfish wearing new jewelry. How do
I know? Maybe the man in the moon going down a cellar stairs
to get a pitcher of butter-milk for the woman in the moon to drink
and stop crying, maybe he fell down the stairs and broke the
pitcher and laughed and picked up the broken pieces and said
to himself, ‘One, two, three, four, accidents happen in the best
regulated families.’ How do I know?”
So with his mind full of simple and refreshing thoughts, Gimme
the Ax went out into the backyard garden and looked at the different
necktie poppies growing early in the summer. Then he picked one
of the necktie poppies to wear for a necktie scarf going downtown
to the postoffice and around looking around.
“It is a good speculation to look nice around looking around in
a necktie scarf,” said Gimme the Ax. “It is a necktie with a picture
like whiteface pony spots on a green frog swimming in the moonshine.”
So he went downtown. For the first time he saw the Potato Face
Blind Man playing an accordion on the corner next nearest the postoffice.
He asked the Potato Face to tell him why the railroad tracks run
zigzag in the Rootabaga Country.
“Long ago,” said the Potato Face Blind Man, “long before the necktie
poppies began growing in the backyard, long before there was a necktie
scarf like yours with whiteface pony spots on a green frog swimming
in the moonshine, back in the old days when they laid the rails for the
railroad they laid the rails straight.”
“Then the zizzies came. The zizzy is a bug. He runs zigzag on zigzag
legs, eats zigzag with zigzag teeth, and spits zigzag with a zigzag tongue.
“Millions of zizzies came hizzing with little hizzers on their heads and
under their legs. They jumped on the rails with their zigzag legs, and spit
and twisted with their zigzag teeth and tongues till they twisted the
whole railroad and all the rails and tracks into a zigzag railroad with zigzag
rails for the trains, the passenger trains and the freight trains, all to run
“Then the zizzies crept away into the fields where they sleep and cover
themselves with zigzag blankets on special zigzag beds.
“Next day came shovelmen with their shovels, smooth engineers with
smooth blue prints, and water boys with water pails and water dippers for
the shovelmen to drink after shoveling the railroad straight. And I nearly
forgot to say the steam and hoist operating engineers came and began
their steam hoist and operating to make the railroad straight.
“They worked hard. They made the railroad straight again. They looked
at the job and said to themselves and to each other, ‘This is it—we done it.’
“Next morning the zizzies opened their zigzag eyes and looked over to
the railroad and the rails. When they saw the railroad all straight again, and
the rails and the ties and the spikes all straight again, the zizzies didn’t even
eat breakfast that morning.
“They jumped out of their zigzag beds, jumped onto the rails with their
zigzag legs and spit and twisted till they spit and twisted all the rails and
the ties and the spikes back into a zigzag like the letter Z and the letter Z
at the end of the alphabet.
“After that the zizzies went to breakfast. And they said to themselves
and to each other, the same as the shovelmen, the smooth engineers
and the steam hoist and operating engineers, ‘This is it—we done it.’”
“So that is the how of the which—it was the zizzies,” said Gimme the Ax.
“Yes, it was the zizzies,” said the Potato Face Blind Man. “That is the
story told to me.”
“Who told it to you?”
“Two little zizzies. They came to me one cold winter night and slept in my
accordion where the music keeps it warm in winter. In the morning I said,
‘Good morning, zizzies, did you have a good sleep last night and pleasant
dreams?’ And after they had breakfast they told me the story. Both told it
zigzag but it was the same kind of zigzag each had together.”