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"Jo Ann and the Joop" from American Girl

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from American Girl
Jo Ann and the Joop
by Ellis Parker Butler

There was a gap in the hedge between Jo Ann's yard and Tommy Bassick's yard and the Bassick yard was ten feet higher than Jo Ann's so that a ten-foot terrace slanted down to the hedge that divided the two places. It was a steep terrace.

Jo Ann had arrived for the Christmas vacation in a drizzle of rain, a drizzle that froze as it fell, covering the four inches of snow with a glaze that was like glass itself, it was so glistening and smooth.

The next morning when she slipped from her bed and looked out of the window she saw a sight that aroused all her tomboy ire. "The red-headed nerve!" she exclaimed. "Will you look at that carroty kid! And I told him never to come in my yard again!"

Wicky -- who was, of course, Julia Wickham, Jo Ann's roommate and dearest friend at Wilmot School -- got from under the covers and went to the window. What she saw was two boys on skis. They were having a glorious time. Starting at the top of the terrace in Tommy Bassick's yard they coasted down the terrace, through the gap in the hedge and across the lawn of Jo Ann's house until they brought up against the iron fence at the far side.

"My!" cried Wicky. "I'd be afraid to do that!"

"Do what that kid can do?" scoffed Jo Ann, although "that kid" was not a day younger than herself. "If I couldn't do what he can do!"

Here, you red-head, better keep out of my yard!

The two boys glided back across the yard to the gap in the hedge, and it then became apparent how they negotiated the steep slant of the terrace. In the Bassick yard, near the top of the terrace, was a small tree, and to this they had tied a rope. By this rope, pulling hand over hand, they got themselves up the terrace. As they reached the top, Jo Ann drew her window curtains together to hide all but her face.

"Here, you redhead!" she shouted. "I told you to keep out of my yard!"

For answer, Tommy Bassick turned and made a face in the general direction of the window. "Blah, you poor joop!" he called. "Come down and stop me!"

Jo Ann turned from the window and began dressing hurriedly. She was not going to stand any such language as that. She was not going to stand anything whatever from Tommy Bassick. The feud between them was of long standing.

Bah, you poor joop! Come down and stop me!

"But what was that he called you?" Wicky asked, as she, too, drew on stockings.

"He called me a poor joop," Jo Ann said grimly, "but he'll be sorry for it. Jupe, you know -- French for petticoat. As if I wore petticoats! As if I couldn't do anything he can do, and do it better! Oh, lemons! There's no use hurrying -- Mother won't let us go out until we've had breakfast; she's so fussy about breakfast. He's that Tommy Bassick I told you about. Many a time I have taken him by that red hair and thrown him down that terrace into the hedge. And kept him there. All afternoon. Where's my other garter? Coming into my yard! Well!"

But by the time breakfast was over Tommy Bassick and his friend had tired of shooting the terrace on skis and seemed to have disappeared. Jo Ann and Wicky sat on the veranda steps and adjusted their own ski lashings, and Wicky tried the glassy surface cautiously. Jo Ann glided away from her with the sweeping stride of one who is sure of herself.

"Come on, Wicky," she said. "If they can come into my yard we can go into his," and she made for the gap in the hedge.

"Oh! You're not going to come down that steep terrace, are you?" Wicky asked. "I wouldn't dare do it! It's so slippery. You'll fall."

"He did it," said Jo Ann, as if that were proof enough that she could do it, and she drew herself up the terrace, using the rope as she had seen Tommy use it. At the top she turned, balanced to the edge of the terrace and let herself go, but she had not noticed that the rope lay across the gap in the hedge. She came down the incline in a glorious sweep, but when her skis struck the rope something happened. For an instant she pawed the air and then she went over ignominiously upon her side and skidded across the yard, sprawled and clutching, until she struck the fence with a bump that shook it. Instantly a window went up in the second floor of the Bassick house and a voice she knew well smote her ears.

"Yah, you poor joop!" it shouted. "Go play with dolls!"

It was the ultimate insult. It was heaping injury upon abasement, and for once Jo Ann had nothing to say. She was too deeply humiliated. She got upon her hands and knees, and so, by clinging to the fence, upon her feet.

"Let's go in the house," she said. "I've got to put arnica on me. He thinks he's smart, doesn't he?"

"I think he's rude," said Wicky loyally. "I think he's the rudest boy I ever knew. Shouting at you like that!"

"And I couldn't think of anything to shout back," said Jo Ann sadly. "Mostly I can; I suppose it was because I bumped me so hard. I guess I'm all black and blue in stripes. I don't think he's a gentleman."

"The other boy seemed rather nice," Wicky ventured.

"Nobody that comes to visit Tommy Bassick can be nice," Jo Ann said vindictively, "so you needn't think he is. But I'm glad of one thing -- I didn't invite either of them to the party."

The party was to be the next day and was to be quite an affair. Jo Ann's mother felt that the time had come when Jo Ann should put aside her tomboy ways and begin to be a young lady, and she had planned the party with that in view. Jo Ann's parties up to this time had inclined to be rough -- Jo Ann usually led the party out of the house and up trees or into rough and tumble games on the lawn -- and the ruin to party gowns was something disheartening to mothers.

For this party Jo Ann's mother had taken every precaution. She had engaged an orchestra of three pieces so that there might be plenty of dancing to keep the party in the house, and she had hired a sleight-of-hand entertainer to take rabbits out of hats and otherwise hold the party indoors. She had even made a cobweb game, unwinding miles and miles of various colored twines, running it upstairs and down, with a prize at the end of each string. She had made this most complicated and counted on it to keep the boys and girls busy at least half an hour. And then there would be the refreshments. She did hope it would be a gentle and lady-like party and that Jo Ann would not begin throwing sofa cushions.

And so it might have been had the weather not taken a notion to produce a splendid snowstorm. The snow began falling soon after Jo Ann had rubbed the arnica where it would do the most good. It came down in huge white plastery flakes -- the snow, of course, not the arnica -- and stuck to the window panes, a beautiful snow for snowballs. All night the snow fell and by the morning of the party it was several inches deep on top of the sleet crust.

"Drat the party!" Jo Ann cried in vexation, for her mother insisted that Jo Ann help her with the final preparations. Jo Ann wanted to be out in the snow. She almost had to be out in the snow, for Tommy Bassick and his visitor were busy with shovels, rolling huge snowballs as big as barrels, lining them up, filling in the spaces between them, smoothing them down. They were making a fort, and the fort was a silent but clearly speaking defiance to Jo Ann. It was a dare. And a dare was something Jo Ann never overlooked -- especially when it was from Tommy Bassick.

Every ten minutes that morning Jo Ann went to the window and looked at the snow fort. Tommy Bassick and his friend -- whose name was Ted Spence, if anyone cares to know it -- were leaving no question that the fort was a defiance to Jo Ann. They were building it at the top of the terrace in Tommy's yard, and near the street, but facing defiantly toward Jo Ann's. The front faced directly toward Jo Ann's and the piles of snowball ammunition were piled on the front toward Jo Ann's. At each end the fort had wings, of course, but they were merely wings. They were quite evidently there only to prevent a flank fire of snowballs -- the fort was aimed at Jo Ann, it was pointed at Jo Ann. It stood up there on the terrace above Jo Ann's yard and it seemed to say, "Bah to you, Jo Ann!"

"What are they doing now?" Wicky asked.

For Tommy Bassick and his visitor, the fort having been completed, and a plentiful supply of ammunition accumulated, seemed to have decided to build a tower on the parapet of the fort. They rolled a goodly snowball and boosted it to the parapet, and then another and another, and presently they began shaping these. Gradually the figure took the rough form of a woman -- a fat one with her legs unseen beneath the snow skirt that reached down to the parapet of the fort.

"That's me," said Jo Ann, with a sure knowledge of Tommy Bassick's methods of thought. "You'll see!"

"But what is he making you for?" Wicky asked.

"To make me mad," Jo Ann said.

"But, goodness!" exclaimed Wicky. "You won't get mad at that, will you? Why should you let that worry you?"

"Yes," said Jo Ann, positively. "I will. I'm mad now, and I'm getting madder every minute, madder and madder."

The eyes of the snow woman were easily made with bits of coal and so, too, was the especially undignified nose. The hat must have been dug out of the attic.

"It's not so!" Jo Ann declared. "I never wore a hat like that in my life!"

But the crowning insult was the rag doll. Tommy Bassick placed it on the folded arms of the snow figure, a final insulting suggestion that Jo Ann was, after all, only a girl and fit only to play with dolls. And then Tommy Bassick planted the sign beside the snow figure -- planted it so that everyone coming to the party or looking from one of Jo Ann's windows must see it --


"Dear me!" said Jo Ann's mother. "I do hope that doesn't break up the party!" for she knew Jo Ann quite well.

Having completed the fort and the joop. Tommy Bassick made more snowball ammunition. They piled this on the corner of the veranda of the Bassick house where a stone parapet made another fort, and Jo Ann saw the meaning of this. If, by any chance, Jo Ann did attack, and did drive Tommy Bassick and his chum from the fort, the defeated could fall back to the veranda. From this point they could rake the fort, in and out, with snowballs. They piled fifty snowballs on the veranda -- one hundred snowballs; they were still making snowballs when they were called into the house for lunch.

Jo Ann and Wicky were making sandwiches at the kitchen table, helping the maid and Jo Ann's mother, and when Jo Ann's mother returned from the pantry Jo Ann was gone.

"Why, where's Jo Ann?" she asked Wicky.

"She said she would be back in a minute," Wicky said. Jo Ann's mother looked out of the window but she could not see Jo Ann. Ten minutes later she did see her. A clump of bush honeysuckle, now leafless, hid the gap in the hedge from the kitchen window, but as Jo Ann came from behind the bushes Jo Ann's mother saw her. She was coming on her stomach, digging her elbows into the snow, wiggling like a worm.

"What were you doing, Jo Ann?" her mother asked. "I am surprised! Will you never learn to act like a young lady?"

"Mother," said Jo Ann, ignoring her question to ask another, "did you ever wear a petticoat?"

"Of course, dear," her mother said. "Everyone wore them in the old days."

"Not red woolen ones?"

"Yes, indeed -- in the winter."

"Did you throw them all away?"

"No, there are a couple in the trunk in the attic -- the trunk with the broken lock. I saw them only a day or so ago and wondered what could be done with them -- there is so little one can do with red woolen these days."

"I think I'll go up and get ready for the party," said Jo Ann cheerfully. "Come on, Wicky, let's go!" and when they were in Jo Ann's room again she said, "I don't think it's much use trying to get the party to take that fort. I ought to take it and it makes me furious to think I can't, but I guess it's no use. Girls just don't learn the things that they should learn. I guess I'm almost the only girl in town that can sock a snowball the way it ought to be socked if it is going to be of any use in a fight."

"I can throw them," said Wicky, "but they don't seem to hit what I aim at. They never fly the right way."

"No, they wouldn't," agreed Jo Ann. "Your education has been all wrong. If one of your snowballs did sock someone in the eye it would never make a black eye of it. The party won't be of much use; the girls might as well throw confetti as snowballs, and all the boys that are any good will go over and help Tommy -- you'll see! They always do. As soon as the fight starts they'll go over to Bassick's."

"Is there going to be a fight?" asked Wicky.

"Of course there's going to be a fight!" said Jo Ann. "You don't think I'd let that red-head make a statue of me and call me a poor joop and not have a fight over it, do you? But we've got to do it mostly ourselves, Wicky -- we girls. Jacky Sloane will stay on our side, and Will McKinnon, and Clarence Dorr -- but they aren't much use. The other boys will go right over to Bassick's -- you'll see! Go down and ask Mother something about the cobweb strings in the front hall -- I have to go out to the garage."

When she went to the garage she carried a bundle done up in a bath towel, but she did not have it when she came in again, and by that time the musicians and the magician had arrived. And presently the party came -- singly and by twos and threes. To all of them Jo Ann introduced Wicky in the same way, and it made everybody loyal to Jo Ann.

"This is Wicky, my roommate at Wilmot," she said. "She's been wondering if everybody in town is a rude as Red-head Bassick."

Close up, you girls! You can't hit a barn door from over there! Lam it into them!

"Isn't he just awful?" most of the girls said then. "What does joop mean, Jo Ann?"

"You tell her, Wicky," Jo Ann would say, moving on to greet her next guest.

"It's a term of reproach, Wicky said then. "Jupe is French for petticoat. It means Jo Ann is a sissy-girl."

The response to this was, surprisingly, almost always the same. Sometimes it began with "Golly!" and sometimes with "Whew!" and sometimes with "Oh, crickets!" but the words that followed were practically the same words each time: "Whew! Has she paid him back yet, or are we going to help?"

"I think she is going to let us help," Wicky said pleasantly to each new acquaintance and, as you may guess, Jo Ann's party became an interesting party from the very beginning.

The party began with dancing because, as Jo Ann said, what was the sense of paying for music if no one danced. They danced three very proper dances and then Jo Ann said, reasonably enough, "I think we are too hot. I think we ought to go out in the yard awhile and cool off a little."

"I think so, too," said Wicky loyally.

"But I'm afraid," Jo Ann said, "that Tommy Bassick and that smarty kid that's visiting him will try to show off. I'm afraid they'll try to snowball us and scare us off."

"I just know they will, the mean things," said Wicky. "They'll drive us into the house again."

"They won't drive me into the house," declared Jo Ann. "I'm not afraid."

"I think it is just dreadful if a party can't go out in the yard to get cool when it wants to," said Wicky, remembering as well as she could what Jo Ann had told her to say. "In my town it would not be stood."

"Come on!" said Will McKinnon. "Let's go out and take their fort. Who wants to dance, anyway?"

"The orchestra could come out on the veranda and play a battle hymn," suggested Jo Ann. "There'll be a Hot Time or Tipperary. Will you be our General, Will?"

Will McKinnon said he would.

"All the best snowball throwers will go with Will," Jo Ann said. "The girls who can't throw very well will go with Wicky; they'll hide behind the honeysuckle bushes and make snowballs. You can go out and begin and I'll ask the orchestra to come out." But she was no sooner gone than the desertions she had feared took place.

Eight of them went. There are always big rough boys who behave so. They "beat it" then and there and a minute later they were behind Tommy's fort, snowballs in hand, ready for any assault. The orchestra, grinning, took a sheltered spot on the veranda, safe from all snowballs and, with a rush, Jo Ann's army poured from the house, shouting.

"Come on now -- get busy, get busy!" Will McKinnon shouted. "Lam it into them!" and snowballs and cheers and catcalls greeted them from the fort. Will took a snowball on the ear, but he ran forward. "Close up!" he shouted. "You girls -- you can't hit a barn door from there; come closer. Jo Ann --"

But Jo Ann was not there; for the first time of which anyone had ever heard Jo Ann was not in front of the foremost boy in a battle. She was nowhere.

"Rats!" exclaimed Will McKinnon. "She's a nice one! Gone in to dish up ice cream, most likely!"

He had the most warriors. He had twenty to the eight in the fort up there on the terrace, but sixteen of his twenty were girls and their snowballs hardly reached the fort, most of them hitting the terrace or going wild. If one had hit anyone it would have been a mere love-pat. It was against Will McKinnon and the boys that those in the fort concentrated their fire, making them dodge and duck and protect their faces with their elbows. Six snowballs struck Will at one time. Now and then a volley of balls went into the mass of girls, driving them back. The boys in the fort yelled like Indians and the air was full of snowballs -- so full that before ten minutes had passed the snowballs in the fort were exhausted.

Joe Dayton was the first to run across from the end of the fort to the veranda of Tommy's house, returning with an armful of the snowballs stacked there. One snowball hit with a sudden smash the board that bore the words, "Jo Ann, the Poor Joop." It was just at that moment that Tommy Bassick made his run from the fort to the veranda for more snowballs. He saw Jo Ann clinging to the top of the terrace near the veranda.

"They're trying to surround us!" he shouted and gathered an armful of balls. He started for the fort. "There!" he cried, turning to point to Jo Ann, but his next exclamation was "Ugk!" for he went down with a thud and his snowballs flew in all directions. Something had him by one foot, for Jo Ann had shouted "Now!" and she was sliding down the terrace crying, "Pull! Pull!"

She reached the girls who had been hidden behind the honeysuckle bush before they had run ten feet, and she took hold of the rope with them. Tommy Bassick, grasping at the air and kicking with his free leg, skidded down the terrace and through the gap in the hedge, and the girl team dragged him over the snow toward the garage as if he were a human toboggan. The noose Jo Ann had planted under the snow at noon had worked perfectly; the rope Tommy and his chum had used in climbing the terrace on skis was strong. Jo Ann had captured her enemy.

The rush Tommy Bassick's army made was a fine sight -- but by the time Tommy's forces reached the garage, Tommy had been whisked inside and the garage door had been barred.

The girls did not allow Tommy to get to his feet. They fell upon him and held him down and Jo Ann drew an ancient red woolen petticoat up over his legs. She drew the band around his waist.

"Give me that needle, Wicky," she ordered, and she showed that even a tomboy can sew when she has to, although the stitches may be man-size. She sewed the belt thoroughly. She sewed it to his coat and to his knickers and, from the remarks he made, one stitch must have sewed the petticoat to Tommy Bassick himself. Then they opened the door and pushed him out.

He stood a moment uncertain what to do, and then the valiant nine of his army screamed with merriment. To the veranda came the whole party, Jo Ann's mother, the three orchestra gentlemen and the magician. Tommy Bassick's face turned as red as the petticoat and, gathering up the long red folds that might have tripped him, he scuttered for home at a brisk and undignified lope. Jo Ann ran after him. As he scrambled up the slippery terrace, she threw one snowball. It hit him fair and square on the back of the neck.

"Tommy, the joop!" she shouted.

Then she brushed the snow off her stockings and went in to enjoy the party. And she did. Girls like parties.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:13:24am USA Central
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