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Young author Jackson

The Cloudlanders
The Cloudlanders is a story I wrote at age ten. My previous "books" had been collected bits and pieces; this was a continuous novel, but picaresque--a series of adventures with the same characters. In it, my hero and heroine, with a guide bird named Talka (obviously a talker) get up into the clouds where they discover some are solid, and boast strange countries. When I ran out of what to tell about the situation the kids were in, I'd jump them to the next cloud-country. I was heavily influenced by the Oz books and Alice in Wonderland.

A visiting friend of my parents who edited the a weekly newspaper, saw the story in progress, admired my industry, and started to print it in the Galesburg (Illinois) Post. After a while the printed word caught up to my written copy, and I sweated under a deadline. One week there was a box on the front page, and within it the words, "Jackie Dougan! Authors mustn't let their publishers get ahead of them! Send in the next installment pronto!" It was too much pressure for me; I brought my kids down from the clouds shortly after. But they'd been up there four and a half months, and I was launched as a published author--one, however, who to this day rarely accepts a deadline on an unfinished manuscript.

Click a selection below to read the installments:
Installment 1-3 - Installment 4-6 - Installment 7-9 - Installment 10-12 - Installment 13-15 - Installment 16-18
Installment 19-21 - Installment 22-25 - More about the history of Cloudlanders

The Cloudlanders ©1938/39, Jacqueline Dougan Jackson

Galesburg Post
January 12, 1939

    “That's not the way!” squawked Talka. “Here let me do it!”
    “What do you know about it?” the boy demanded. “No, no, you can't do it at all!”
    “I've got mine folded, but it won't fit into the case. Now what shall I do?”
    “Oh, it won't work!” crowed Talka, dropping the cloth, “the darn –oh, excuse me – things wouldn't open anyway. Why don't you give up? If I were you I would see if this country were inhabited. You know, the king, dictator, president, or whatever he is, might be able to take you home in an airplane!”
    “Oh, all right! It's no use sticking around here any longer! Let's go straight ahead!”
    “Say, Frenchy!” whispered Turkey after five minutes of steady tramping. “Have you noticed how dark it's getting?”
    “Yeah! It isn't even noon yet. But it's getting darker all the time and there isn't a storm coming!”
    “Oh, I know!” howled Talka. “This is ‘ Moon Land .' I read all about it in my geography. It's always night! The only light that there is, is a big huge globe, or moon, on a pole, in the exact center of the land. Also,” his voice faded into a whisper, “There's a dragon that runs 'round and 'round, and devours anyone who goes beyond a certain point. He never sleeps – oh, here he comes now! Fall flat on the ground! We don't want to be eaten!”
     Turkey and Frenchy obeyed at once. A few seconds later, a big dragon thundered by them, and galloped off into the distance.
    “He didn't see us!” said Turkey excitedly. “It was probably too dark!”
    “Yes,” answered Talka, “But every time you see or hear him, lie down on the ground, and don't move a muscle! We'll see him every few minutes till we get past that big hill!”
    The children couldn't see very well in the dark, and kept stumbling over rocks and roots, but Talka flew overhead, giving directions, for he could see very well in the dark.
    “It's about time for the dragon to come around again,” he remarked. “We haven't much farther to go, but we had better be on the safe side. Lie down, both of you. I'll perch up in this tree.”
    “O.K.” coughed Frenchy, falling over another root. “I'll stay just like I am.”
    “Put your ear on the ground, Turkey !” directed Talka, from the tree, “see if you can hear him.”
    “Yes, I can! It sounds like thunder! He must weight a couple of tons, at least!”
    “It's getting louder, too!” whispered Frenchy.
    “All right! That's all I wanted to know. I can see him now. Be very quiet, and don't move!”
    Frenchy smiled inwardly. He never thought that he would ever be taking orders from a bird!
    The noise grew louder and louder, but instead of dying away, it stopped completely.
    Suddenly Talka cried shrilly, “Run! He see's you!”
    Immediately the two children jumped up and started to run toward the top of the hill.
    Glancing over his shoulder, Frenchy saw the dragon's outline against the dark. There was a red glow all about him, probably because he breathed fire.
    “You can stop now! You've crossed the white-washed line! I didn't think you'd make it!”
    It was lucky that they had, because just then Turkey had fallen over a large, sharp rock, and injured her ankle.
    “That was close!” panted Frenchy, rubbing his toe which he had stubbed a few seconds before.” Is your ankle badly hurt, Turkey ?”
    “No.” she replied. “I just turned it. It'll be alright in a minute or so. Has the dragon gone?
    “Yes!: answered Talka, “All I can see is a dim red thing just disappearing behind that hill yonder. Do you think that you can go on, Turkey , or shall I fly to Moon City and get a lantern?”

(Continued next week)

Galesburg Post
January 19 , 1939

    “We don't need a lantern. It's a lot lighter. And my ankle is O.K. now.”
    “That bright spot is the moon,” explained Talka. “The people each have small ones growing in their yards” (Talka knew quite a bit from one geography book.)
    “How far is it to Moon City?” inquired Frenchy, ten minutes later, “We seem to have been walking for hours! It seems a lot longer than a mile!”
    “Look!” called Turkey “Here is the first farm house!”
    “And here is a path leading from it!” discovered Frenchy.
    “Yes, and here's a big sign! It says: CITY LIMITS. MOON CITY . POP 1300.” Remarked Talka, examining it. “What does ‘pop.' stand for, Turkey ?”
    “It means population. Oh! What queer people coming out of those houses!”
    “People!” gasped Frenchy, for the first time noticing them. “Why, they've got pointed feet, and no hands, and they're all coming toward us!”
    "They won't hurt you,” said Talka calmly, “I've heard the inhabitants of Moon City are very kind. Those things in their hands that look like lollipops, are lanterns. I think the Mooneyites are very graceful don't you!”
    “But they haven't any hands!” insisted Frenchy. “All they have are points!”
    “Yes, but the points are their hands. Come, let's go up and speak to them”
    “How do you do?” cried a fat, but shapely Mooneyite with a pleased smile. “Visitors, I presume!”
    “Yes, but what funny visitors!” said a little boy close behind him. “Look, they've got big ‘tables' on their feet!”
    “Denna!” screamed a shocked mother, grabbing the little fellow. “I really ought to put you to bed without any supper! I'm so ashamed of you!”
     Turkey looked uncomfortably at her shoes. Tables!
    More people kept pouring out of the houses and kept pushing the children along the path, which was now a nice, paved street.
    “Give them air!” bawled a short man, however, one of the tallest in the crowd, “give them air!”
    The people immediately stopped pushing and stood back to hear what he had to say.
    “Comrades and fellowmen,” he began, jumping upon a soap box someone had pushed forward, “tonight we are pleased to have with us to visitors, from the land of Table Feet.”
    Everyone snickered, including the children. These little people had a way of making everyone feel at home. Maybe it was their mouths. This was one of the queerest things about them. Their mouths stretched from under one ear, to under the other, and when they smiled, it was just a curving line right across their face.
    The man continued his speech. “I vote that these-er-, children eat at my house, later going to the night club. All in favor signify by saying ‘I'!” 
    A few scattered ‘I's' were heard, but they were very feeble.
    “Opposed?”
    “I!” bawled nearly every one. “Well, I say 'I', so 'I' it remains.” And he pushed his way through the mob, the children elbowing along behind him.
    Once out of the crowd, the children looked around in amazement. Indeed, if the people were queer, to town was, also. All the houses were in the shape of big oranges, with the curved windows and doors, also. In the front yard of one home, a chubby little boy was changing the lamp, which was over-ripe and was changing colors. In the back yard five or six moon and star flowers were shining brightly, ready to be picked.
    But what held the children's interest most of all, was a huge moon-like globe, perched on top of a long brass pole. This big moon cast a vivid glow all over Moon Valley , flooding it with light.
    At the very bottom of the pole was a little round house. It was to this house that the little smiling Mooneyite was headed.
    “I live here,” he explained. “All the people respect me, because in the a little room, built right around the pole, are all the control of the lamp. I can make it dim or bright, turn it on or off at a moment's notice! You see, if I grow angry with them, I could turn off the electricity, and they would have no light except for the moon flowers growing in their gardens. They look like lollipops, but give about 1 candlepower. Most of them blink different colors if they're over-ripe but when they are ripe, they let off a pure white light. In this way, the people light up their homes. Of course, when the flowers are young, they don't shine at all.”

(Continued next week)

 

Galesburg Post
February 2, 1939

    “Of course, of course!” said Talka gently. “But I see no sign of any food. Is there no food in this country?”
    “Surely!” cried the little man, sensing what Talka was leading up to. My maid, Isabelle, will have dinner on the table at once!”
    Opening the door and stepping inside he called, “Isabelle! Oh, Isabelle! Put on dinner for four! And fill the empty pepper shaker with bird seed!” Turning to the children, “Won't you come in? Make yourselves comfortable in the living room, to the right. I will be with you in a moment. Dinner will be ready soon.”
    “Thank you,” replied Turkey , politely, and seating herself on a sofa, picked up a copy of “The Moon City Post.”
    Frenchy amused himself by watching a silver fish swim around in a brightly lighted bowl. The pebbles on the bottom were bits of mirror, and reflected the light of the big chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
    Talka had made the acquaintance of a very sociable bird, the maid's pet, named Flopaletta. Both were squawking so loudly that neither of them heard the dinner bell ring.
    “I hope we have steak!” Turkey put down the paper and jumped up. “I got sort of sick of ice cream all the time!”
    “So did I!” Frenchy trotted toward the big French doors leading into the dining room. “Boy, am I hungry!”
    “Now you sit here, Miss Tukwoise!” said the fat colored maid, ushering them into the dining room. “Mist' Frenchy, you kin sit over hea by Talka an' Flopaletta, if dey eba quit talkin'.”
    “How do you know our names?” asked Turkey sitting down in the chair offered.
    “Mist' Masters, he done tol' me.”
    “But how did he know?”
    “Oh, Mist' Masters, he just got a under ground radio phone from de dragon. De dragon, he eats people. We all have to obey him. De dragon, he knows everything! As soon as you crost de line, he radio-phoned Mist' Masters. Dat dragon, he got a sendin' and receivin' set in one ob his big ears!”
    The children were very glad, now, that the dragon had not caught them.
    Just then the door opened and Mr. Masters came in. He had on a clean white shirt, and had scrubbed his face till it was pinker than the inside of a bunny's ear.
    “Um, I smell something good, Isabelle! What is it?” he said, sniffing the air.
    “Just you wait an' see, suh!” Isabelle disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a large silver platter.
    “Oh!” cried Frenchy. “A turkey!”
    Indeed, the turkey was a beautiful sight to behold. He was a golden brown and roasted to a turn. Around the edges were baked potatoes with butter and parsley.
    “Um!” Turkey smacked her lips as the maid returned to the kitchen for another load. This time it was a bowl of cranberry relish, and a big dish of broccoli with sauce.
    “Why, Isabelle!” Mr. Masters whistled with surprise. “I thought we were having hash!”
    “We was, suh, but the folks nex do'or was havin' comp'ny, and' they had two turkeys already in de oven an' half cooked. But not as many people came as dey expected so dey on'y needed one. So when Ah learned dat we was habin' comp'ny, I ran nova, quick, an' bought one fo' one hunnert drops of watah. Den I brought it ova hea, finished cookin' it, and brought it in, ready to serve! It's a big ten pounder, too!”
    “Why, that's fine, Isabelle, but where did you get the money?”
    “I charged it to you, suh. I knew you wanted to have a good dinner!”
    Mr. Masters felt gingerly in his pocket. The water mark on his bottle came up to thirty-nine drops.

(Continued next week)