Editor's note: A Baltimore author writes about a child who ventures out in the middle of the night to see how Harvey Potter grows his wonderful balloons.
Harvey Potter was a very strange fellow indeed. He was a farmer, but he didn't farm like my daddy did. He farmed a genuine, U.S. Government Inspected Balloon Farm.
No one knew exactly how he did it. Some folks say that it wasn't real - that it was magic. But I know what I saw, and those were real, actual balloons growing out of the plain ole ground!
Now, I had quite an interest in Harvey Potter's balloon farm. And I decided I was going to get to know him. He didn't seem to mind. In fact, he let me get to know him right good. I'd bring him lemonade, or sit on his porch and swing in his swing, but he never would confide in me about how he grew those balloons. I didn't pry. After a while, I just liked going around him. He didn't ask you no questions about why you weren't this or that. He just let a person be. He let a person sit and think out loud sometimes, and ... well ... that's a mighty good thing to do.
Still, something in me was a-hankering to know. So I decided I was just going to go out there in the nighttime. That was when he did his field work - I told you he was strange.
To this day, I am indebted to that sycamore tree and to that big ole moon. It was as full as it was wide that night. I saw him the second he opened his door, plain as day.
He stood there on his front porch, hands inside his pockets, looking straight ahead where the fields were. That conjure stick was under his arm. He just stood there, eyes staring straight ahead at something off yonder ways. Then he came down off that porch.
Step, step, step. His steps all seemed so big and so loud - it must have been his heavy field shoes. He walked down to the field and, without a sign of warning, commenced to holler.
The next thing I knew, he started dancing and prancing with that stick held out in front of him, like it was his dancing partner. Then that stick started to glow a nice orangey color and stood up directly on its own. And when it rose up into the air, Harvey Potter rose up straight along with it.
The two of them were making some mighty fine footwork, six feet or so off the ground! They were a-floatin' and a-bobbin'. Why it appeared as if the two of them had turned into glowing balloons themselves! Altogether it was a very strange sight, which got even stranger.
Harvey Potter dropped back down to earth, grabbed hold of that stick, and waved it 'round over his head. He whooped and he hollered and he yelled as he carried on so. "EeeeeeeeeYa-Ya- Yayayayaya, EeeeeeeeeeYaYaYaYa."
I am not ashamed to say I was a-mighty scared. I would've run for home, but my eyes were just plain glued to Harvey Potter. Then Harvey let go of that stick and it started to bounce and float over the field, dropping down here and there in nice neat rows.
That's when Harvey Potter stopped screeching. He turned around and looked directly up at that sycamore tree. I thought for sure he saw me. But I guess not, 'cause he turned back on around and went into his house and didn't come out again.
I climbed down and fell off to sleep waiting. In the morning, when I woke up wet with dew and shivering cold, little-bitty colored mounds were popping up all over the ground. When I came back after suppertime, they had all come up in the glory of that day's sun. I tell you, it was a sight!
Reprinted from the book HARVEY POTTER'S BALLOON FARM by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Mark Buehner. Text copyright (c) 1989, 1994 by Jerdine Nolen Harold. Illustrations copyright (c) 1994 by Mark Buehner. Reprinted by permission of Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, a division of William Morrow & Company, Inc.
! Pub date: 5/20/98