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Where Next, Johnny Boy?

A musical comedy sequel to On to Oregon!

Characters:
John Sager
Catherine Sager
Francis Sager
Louisa Sager
Elizabeth Sager
Matilda Sager
Henrietta Sager
Young man in swimsuit
Man with Spanish accent at hotel in Los Angeles
Middle-aged man in business suit
Singing voice while John is sleeping in his tent
Ten men from the California Gold Rush country (store owners and lucky miners)
Mayor of St. Louis, Missouri
Narrator (lines in parentheses)

Lines to be sung are in italics.

Scene 1:  Mission of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman - Early fall, 1849
                John Sagerís bedroom.

 (The room is dark.  John is sleeping.  A young man in a
 swimsuit enters the room as the lights come up slightly.
 The man speaks to John in a dream)

Man in swimsuit:     John?

John:                     Yes?

Man in swimsuit:         You are no longer needed here.  You must go on a
                                     mission.  You must take the rest of your family to
                                     California.  There you mustÖ (rest is inaudible)

 (Man in swimsuit leaves the room.  Room darkens.)

Scene 2:  The following morning at a room in the Whitman mission

John:         (to the rest of the Sager children)  We have to leave here.  I
                canít tell you why right now, but we must leave.  (He bursts into song)

                We gotta get out of this place
                  if it's the last thing we ever do,
                  we gotta get out of this place
                'cause girl, there's a better life for me and you

Francis:         Whatís this girl bit?  Am I going, too?

John:             Yes, weíre all going.

Louisa:             But why? (almost tearfully)  I like it here!

Catherine:         And I have a really bad crush on Rides Like Wind (an Indian
                         boy staying at the Whitmanís mission).

John:               Iím sorry about all that, but we must leave tomorrow morning.

Elizabeth:             But where are we going?

John:                 California.  I canít tell you more now.  We must stop the
                         discussion and begin packing.  And before we leave
                         tomorrow, we must take some of the wagons, horses, and
                         oxen from the mission.

Catherine:         But why?

John:                 I canít tell you that either, right now.  But trust me, our
                         mission is more important than that of the Whitmans.

Scene 3:              On a trail in Northern California - Early winter, 1849
                         John Sagerís tent

                     (John is sleeping.  Again he begins to dream.)

Singing voice:             (from outside Johnís tent)

                     All the leaves are brown
                      And the sky is gray
                    I've been for a walk
                    On a winter's day
                    I'd be safe and warm
                   If was in L.A.
                    California dreaminí
                   On such a winter's day

             (John smiles in his sleep, and the dream ends.)
 

Scene 4:  Redwood forest, Northern California - early spring, 1850

John:             We must stop here and cut down some of these trees.

Matilda:         Why?

John:             We will need them when we get to Southern California.
                    They donít have big trees there.  Once the trees are cut,
                     weíll cut them into slices about four inches thick so we
                     can handle them.  That will be a good working size for
                     what weíll need them for in Los Angeles.

Francis:          But why ARE we going to Los Angeles, and what will we
                     use the trees FOR?

John:             I canít tell you now.  The guy in my dream said not to say
                 anything until we got there.

Catherine:         Let me get this straight.  We left a perfectly fine mission in
                     Oregon to haul slabs of wood half the length of California,
                     all because of what some half-naked guy told you in a
                     dream.  You must be crazy!  We must all be crazy!!

John:             The dream seemed so real.  I know we have an important
                     mission.  We will be using the wood to make lots of money,
                     but Iím not sure what weíll need all the money for.  The guy
                     in my dream wouldnít tell me.

Louisa:             I hope this is all for the best.

John:                 Me, too.  Letís get to work cutting down some of these trees.

                 (They begin cutting down a tree)

Scene 5:  Los Angeles, California, outside a hotel - late spring, 1850

John:         Well, here we are!

            (A man with a Spanish accent comes out of the hotel entrance and greets them)

Man from hotel:         Welcome to the Hotel California
                                    Such a lovely place
                                    Such a lovely place
                                        Plenty of room at the Hotel California
                                        Any time of year
                                         You can find it here

Francis:                 Now that weíre here, what are we going to do?  Will you tell
                             us NOW what weíre going to do with all of this wood?

John:                     Yes, mostly.  Once we get settled into the hotel, weíll go out
                             back, take a slab of wood, and Iíll show you.

Scene 6:  The next morning, on the beach a short distance from the hotel

John: Watch what I can do with this smooth piece of wood we
 spent half the night carving out of that slab of redwood.

 (John swims out into the surf, gets on the smooth piece of
 wood, and rides a wave back to shore)

Louisa: Let me try that!  That looks like fun!

 (She takes the board out into the surf and rides a wave in)

Francis: My turn!

Louisa: No!  This is too much fun!  Make your own board to play
 in the surf with!

John: We all worked on the surf-riding board last night, and we   all get to ride it.

Henrietta: Even me?

John: Yes, Henrietta.  Even you.  Iíll have to help you, though.

Catherine: This surfing-riding board, or surfboard, or whatever, is fun,
 but how many of these are we going to make.

John: Hundreds of them.  Weíll sell most of them, and make a ton
 of money.

Francis: But these people in Los Angeles are mostly missionaries and
 poor farmers.  They wonít be able to spend much on
 surfboards.

John: Youíre right, but thereís more to my plan.  I know where there
 are people with money.  Gold has been discovered in
 Northern California, near Sutterís Mill.  Catherine and I will go
 there, and the rest of you will stay at the hotel and make
 surfboards.  We will bring rich folks back here from the gold
 fields, charge them a fortune for surfing lessons and
 surfboards, and just let the money stack up.

Catherine: But why?  I still donít know why we need all this money.

John: Iím sure itís part of our mission.  I hope the half-naked guy
 comes to me in a dream soon and lets me know what the
 rest of our mission is.

Scene 7:  In a wagon on the way back from Sutterís Mill - summer, 1850

 (In the wagon are John, Catherine, and ten rich men
 from the Gold Rush country)

Catherine: (to the rich men in the wagon)  Youíre going to have the
 time of your lives!

 (everyone in the wagon breaks out in song)

 Let's go surfin' now
                           Everybody's learning how
                  Come on and safari with me
Surfin' Safari, Surfin' Safari
  Surfin' Safari, Surfin' SafariÖ

Scene 8:  Johnís room in the Hotel California - fall, 1850

(The room is dark.  John is sleeping.  A middle-aged man in a gray business enters the room as the lights come up slightly.  He comes to John in a dream.)

Man in suit: John?

John: Yes?

Man in suit: Iíve come to tell you the rest of your mission.

John: Youíve certainly aged in the last year.  And I see you can
 afford nicer clothes now.

Man in suit: That was another guy.  He knew nothing of the rest of your
 mission.  Hereís what you must do now.  You must (rest is
 inaudible).

 (Man in suit leaves the room and lights go back down)

Scene 9:  Next morning on the beach near the Hotel California

John: (to the rest of the Sager children)  Last night I was visited by
 a man in my dreams.

Catherine: The half-naked guy again?

John: No, and older man, and he told me the rest of our mission.

Louisa: What is it?

John: I canít tell you all of it yet.  I can hardly believe it myself.
 What I can tell you, though, it that we must use all of our
 money to buy oxen, horses, and wagons.  Weíll be spending
 the rest of this fall here and leaving early next spring.

Matilda: Where will be going?

John: I can tell you no more right now.

Louisa: Will I be able to surf where weíre going?

John: I doubt it, but you can bring ONE surfboard along, just in
 case.  The rest we will need to sell.

Catherine: But I CANíT go!  I have such a crush on Pablo (the pool guy
 at the Hotel California)!

John: Iím sorry, but weíre all needed for the mission.

Francis: ButÖ

John: Iím sorry.  I like it here too, but we must begin our
 preparations.

 (With drooping heads, they leave the beach and head back
 to the hotel.  Even John seems sad.)

Scene 10:  On the California Trail, near the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains
- early spring, 1851

John: This is so beautiful!  Why itís

 Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin' like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West Virginia,  mountain momma
Take me home, Country Roads

Catherine: Okay.  First of all, I see no river.  Everythingís covered with
 snow!  If we didnít have thousands of oxen to break trail, we
 would never have gotten this far.  Second, these are not the
 Blue Ridge Mountains, theyíre the Sierras.  Third, how can
we be going home to West Virginia?  Weíve never even been to West Virginia!

John: Lighten up, Catherine.  Iím just using poetic license.

Francis: Youíre such a bad poet, no one would ever give you a
 license.

Elizabeth: You canít even sing worth a darn!  Henrietta can sing better
 than you can!

Louisa: Heck, even Olí Betsy could sing better than you can!
 (Sager children, except John, break out into laughter.)

John: Never mind that (grumpily).  What we need to find is a place
 to spend the night.

Francis: Wait!  Thereís a sign (pointing to a sign at the side of the
 trail).  It says "Donner Bed and Breakfast."

Catherine: But look, someone wrote "Closed" on it.

John: Probably wouldnít matter anyway.  In a beautiful place like
 this, they probably would have charged an arm and a leg to
 let us stay here.

 (Sager children continue on the trail.)

Scene 11:  California Trail, central Nevada - late spring, 1851

John: Look, a river!  Half a mile back it was just a dry river bed.
 After days without water, the sight of this beautiful river
] makes me feel like singing!

Rest of Sager children:
 Oh, no!!  (They cover their ears.)

John: Ol' man river.
                               That ol' man river.
                               He don't say nothin'
                               But he must know somethin'
                               Cause he just keeps rollin'
                               He keeps rollin' along.
                               Rollin' along.

Catherine: I could still hear him!  I wish he didnít sing so LOUD!

Matilda: I will never, ever sing with him, heís so bad.  Heíll always
 have to sing solo, as far as Iím concerned.

Elizabeth: I wish heíd sing SOLO I couldnít hear him!

 (Most Sager children groan.)

Francis: That oneís so old it stinks worse than Johnís so-called
 singing.

Matilda: But not as bad as his feet!

Catherine: Or his breath!

Henrietta: Or hisÖ

John: Enough of this!

Catherine: John, that trapper we met last week said weíd be coming to
 the HUMBOLDT River.  Youíre singing about the
 Mississippi.

John: Oh well.

 (Laughter slowly subsides and the group continues on.)

Scene 12:  Sager campsite near South Pass in the Rockies - early summer, 1851

 (The Sagers are sitting around a campfire shortly after
 sunset.)

John: That was really a spectacular thunderstorm we had today!

Catherine: Sure was!

John: In fact, it makes me feel like singing!

Rest of Sager children:
 Aaaah!!!!!!

John: It's a Colorado Rocky Mountain high
I've seen it rain' fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody's high
Rocky Mountain high

Francis: This is NOT Colorado!  There is no place yet called
 Colorado.

John: But it looks like what I imagine a Colorado looking like!

Louisa: And speak for yourself, John.  (sarcastically)  Iím not high,
except for the natural high I have from enduring blistered feet and the bitter cold.

Catherine: Yeah, John.  For all the money we had, you could have
spent some of it on clothes and shoes that didnít say "Made in Mexico"!

John: You know we needed to spend all the money on horses
 and oxen and wagons.  The mission, you know.  And you
know what else?  Iím tired of being criticized for my singing!

Matilda: Weíre tired of HEARING your singing!

Francis: At least he doesnít still think weíre in the Appalachians!

Catherine: Weíre all tired.  In fact, Iím so tired I feel like singing!

Sager children, except John and Catherine:
 Oh no!  Her TOO!!

Catherine: It's been a hard day's night, and I been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I'll find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright

Matilda: (to Catherine) You canít sing any better than HE can!

John: Oh come on, everybody, letís get some sleep.

 (Following a brief period of grumbling, everyone heads
 for their tents.)

Scene 13:  South Platte River - mid-summer, 1851

Catherine: Look, the South Platte River!  Isnít it beautiful?

 (A big smile appears on Johnís face.  Elizabeth notices
 the smile.)

Elizabeth: Oh no!  I bet heís going to sing again!!

John: O Shenandoah! I long to hear you,
     Way-aye, you rolling river
     Across that wide and rolling river.
      Away, we're bound away
       'cross the wide Missouri!

Matilda: John, whatís this thing youíve got for the Shenandoah
 River?  Youíve never even seen it.  And this isnít even
 the Missouri!

John: Iíve heard the Shenandoah is beautiful.  A man can fantasize  if he wants to, canít he!

Francis: I think this whole "mission" thing is a fantasy.  It surprises me
 sometimes that we still stay with you.  It also surprises me
 that, with your knowledge of geography, we arenít in
 Canada by now!

Louisa: This has been a heavy burden for us.  YOU (to John) have
 been a heavy burden to us.

Catherine: Itís okay, though, because  (all but John begin to sing)

 The road is long,
      with many a winding turn,
    that leads us to who knows where,
      who knows where.

      But I'm strong,
      strong enough to carry him.
      He ain't heavy,
      he's my brother.

John: I really appreciate that.  There are times when we each
 need help through difficult times.  I know you find it hard
 to keep going when you donít know what our mission is.
 So, Iíll tell you more now.  (brief pause) Youíve probably
 wondered why we have all these empty wagons.

Louisa: That has crossed my mind!

John: Well, theyíre for hauling buffalo chips.  From now on, weíll be
 picking up all the buffalo chips we can find and filling the
 wagons with them.

Henrietta: How awful!

John: You know, you shouldnít really be complaining.  You really
 havenít had to do much on this trip since we left California.
 Youíve been able to ride in wagons all the way so far.

Catherine: Youíre right, John.  I think I speak for all of us when I say that
 Iíll see this mission through with you.  You know, I love you
 like a brother.

Francis: (whispering to Louisa)  Doesnít she know he IS her brother?

Catherine: Iíll never leave you.  In fact, there

 Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wild enough
To keep me from you

John: So itís settled then, we start loading wagons with buffalo
 chips.  If we collect all the buffalo chips we see on the rest
 of our journey, weíll have plenty to do what we need to do.

Elizabeth: What was that, again, that we have to do with all these
 buffalo chips?

John: Good try!, but I was told not to tell you until we got to our
 destination.

 (They all begin collecting buffalo chips and loading them into
 a wagon)

Scene 13:  A campsite in what would someday be Kansas - late summer, 1851

 (The Sagers have reached a high point with a panoramic
 view of the prairie)

John: Itís a cold say for August, but such a beautiful place!  It
 makes me feel like singing!

 (Rest of Sager children scatter in all directions)

 Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.

(Rest of Sager children return after John stops singing.)

Louisa: John, this is not Oklahoma.  Thereís a place south of here
 that people call Oklahoma, but it isnít even a territory yet.
 Weíre in a place some people call Kansas.

John: Close enough, Dorothy, I mean Louisa.  Why did I say
 Dorothy?

Matilda: I have NO idea.

John: I think itís going to be a really cold night tonight, for summer.
 Letís build a shelter to keep warm in, something that will
 keep us warmer than our tents would.

Francis: But what will we use to make the shelter?

John: Iíve got it!  Buffalo dung!  Weíve got lots of it, and I bet it
 makes a good insulator.  We can stack it like Eskimos stack
 blocks of hard snow, and build sort of an igloo.

Catherine: Somehow the idea of sleeping inside a poop dome doesnít
 appeal to me.

John: But you know that when itís dry, it hardly smells at all.

Catherine: Okay.  We can give it a try.  It should be nice and warm.

 (The Sager children begin collecting and stacking buffalo
 chips.)

Scene 14:  At the campsite, a couple of hours later

 (The Sagers are sitting around a campfire trying to keep
 warm.  The night is clear and cold, with a full moon.  John
 has seemed restless.  He gets up, walks away from the
 campfire, and stares at the moon.  Suddenly he bursts into
 song.)

John: Buffalo Gals, won't you come out tonight,
                        Come out tonight, come out tonight.
                     Buffalo Gals, won't you come out tonight
And dance by the light of the moon.

 (Back at the campfire, some of the other children begin
 to whisper)

Elizabeth: Iím really starting to worry about John and his fantasies.

Louisa: Me, too.

Francis: I hate to admit it, but he may just be a couple shovelfuls
 shy of a full wagon of buffalo chips.

Catherine: Then again, maybe he just needs a girlfriend!  Letís bear
 with him.  Itís not that far to Missouri.

 (John returns and they all go into the shelter to sleep.)

Scene 15:  In the shelter early the next morning

 (There is the sound of heavy rain beating on the roof of the
 shelter.)

Matilda: Whatís that smell?

Francis: Itís awful!

Catherine: Rain is pouring through the top of the shelter.  Itís dripping
 wet buffalo poop all over us.  I KNEW we should have slept
 in tents!

 (Catherine bolts from the shelter, followed immediately by
 all the other children.  They stand in the pouring rain to wash
 themselves off.  John begins to sing.)

John: I'm singing in the rain,
      Just singing in the rain;
      What a glorious feeling,
      I'm happy again!
      I'm laughing at clouds
      So dark up above.
      The sun's in my heart,
      And I'm ready for love.

Catherine: Just promise weíll never have to sleep under a roof of
 buffalo chips again.

John: Okay, I promise.

Scene 16:  Outside the office of the mayor of St. Louis, two weeks later

John: (To the rest of the Sager children)  When we go inside, let
 me do all the talking.

Louisa: What are you going to tell him?

John: This is the final stop of our journey.  It all has to do with the
 buffalo chips.  Trust me, the man in my dream said I needed
 to do this.

Matilda: Whatever (In a quiet, gruff voice).

 (John knocks on the door.)

Mayor: Come in.

 (The Sager children enter his office.)

John: Hi.  Iím John Sager, and these are my sisters and brother,
 Catherine, Francis, Louisa, Elizabeth, Matilda, and
 Henrietta.

Mayor: Good morning, John.  Iím Mayor Stevens.  What can I do for
 you?

John: Iím here to make you a proposal.  As you know, for several
 years now, pioneers from the east have been moving west,
 many of them through your fair city.

Mayor: Yes.

John: Wouldnít it be great if your city could greet those emigrants in
 some spectacular way?

Mayor: I suppose so.

John: Hereís my idea.  Many of those pioneers cross the Ohio
 River by ferry and land just east of your downtown, donít
 they?

 (Catherine whispers something inaudible in Johnís ear, as
 the mayor looks confused.)

 I mean the Mississippi River, of course.

Mayor: Yes.

John: Picture this.  A great arch, over 600 feet high, between the
 ferry landing and downtown, through which all of those
 pioneers would pass.

Mayor: But we have nothing here to build that arch with.

John: But now you do!  Parked just outside the courthouse are
 thousands of wagons full of buffalo chips.  We brought them
 from the prairie.

Mayor: Is that what I smell?  I thought the sewers had backed up
 again.

John: The chips could be stacked up to form the arch.  Wouldnít
 buffalo chips be an appropriate material from which to build
 an arch that would welcome people to the prairie?

Mayor: ButÖ

John: And, some of the chips are really big and wedge-shaped.
 They would make perfect keystones.  Here, want to see
 one?  I brought one for you to look at.

 (John starts to take something out from under his coat.)

Mayor: Not really.  (Slight pause.  John puts the buffalo chip back
 under his coat.)  John, I think you have a novel idea here, but do you realize how hot and rainy it is in Saint Louis in
 the summer?  If it rained and the wind came out of the east,
 weíd have to evacuate the city!

John: But the man in my dream saidÖ

Mayor: Iím sorry, John.  I just donít think the idea would work.  I
 like the idea of the arch, but I just donít think buffalo dung
 is the best material to build it from.

John: Thanks for your time, your honor.

 (John, sullen, leaves the mayorís office, followed by the
 other Sager children.)

Scene 17:  Saint Louis, on the banks of the Mississippi, at around sunset that
 same day

 (The Sager children have been sitting there most of the
 day, hardly saying a word.  John has hardly lifted his glance
 from the water below them.  In despair, John begins to sing.)

John: I've got the Bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuues
                  Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh I'm as blue as I can be
                  I've got the Saint Louis Blues
                  I'm as blue as I can be

Catherine: We all feel sorry for you.  Maybe it was just a silly dream you
 had after all.  Weíve all had dreams that are so vivid they
 seem real.

Francis: Things arenít really all that bad.  We have lots of wagons we
 can sell to people going west.

Matilda: Even though they smell like buffalo poop!

Louisa: Heck, maybe thereís a market for buffalo chips.  We could
 catch fish from the river, open a restaurant, and sell fish and
 Ö

Henrietta: I donít think we have the right kind of chips!

John: I guess not (laughing).  You know, maybe things will turn out
 okay after all.

 (The Sager children exchange a group hug, and the final
 curtain falls).

  The End
 
 



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Last update:  March 4, 2001