The Boy Who Wanted Gold

Collected by Richard Chase

Damascus, Virginia.

October 24, 1941.

Reprinted in AppLit with permission from the James Taylor Adams Collection
University of Virginia's College at Wise/Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College

NOTE:  This text was recopied directly from a typewritten copy in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute. James Taylor Adams (1892-1954) kept typed copies of the oral folktales he and others collected during the last thirty years of his life, while he lived in Wise County, VA.

In the original transcript, some typographical errors are crossed out, many characters are blurry, and spacing between words is sometimes irregular, but the copy below seems to be complete and accurate. One apparent typographical correction has been inserted in square brackets in this copy.

This tale is retold in Appalachian Folk Tales. Ed. Loyal Jones. Illus. Jim Marsh. Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2010.

One time there was a little boy and his mother who lived alone all by themselves. Somebody told the little boy that away back in the mountains was an old woman who knew where there was a pot of gold buried and that if anybody caught hold of her and kept hold of her and didn't let her get our of sight till she told, she would tell you where the pot of gold was hid. So the little boy told his mother she [he?] was goin' to look for that old woman.

          His mother told him she was likely a witch and he better watch out. But he said he'd just like the best in the world to have him a pot of gold so he wouldn't have to work. His mother laughed and told him that he would have more luck gettin' told by workin than he would by runnin' off in the mountains to hunt for it.

          But he wouldn't listen to his mother, and one day he struck out to look for the old woman. He went on and went on, through the woods and along the creeks and up through the gaps and along the ridges and all over the mountains, every day, till one day there she was sittin' at the mouth of a cave carding wool. He went up and spoke to her but she just nodded to him and went on carding. She he jumped and grabbed her.

          The old woman says, "Oh!"

          "Where's that pot of of gold!" says the boy.

          "Why son," she says, "If you want gold why don't you work for it?"

         "No," he says. "If I had that pot of gold I wouldn't have to work."

          "Well," she says. "Just help me find that roll of wool I dropped and maybe I'll tell you."

          And she started lookin' around under her chair.

          So the little boy let go of her and got down to help her look, but when he looked there wasn't no chair, nor no wool, nor no cards, nor no old woman there any more.

          He started in huntin' again and one day he found her standin' by a little green spring spinning on a big wheel. So he went and spoke to her but she just gave him a nod and kept on spinning, and then he grabbed her.

          The old woman says, "Oh!"

          "Where's that pot of gold?" says the little boy.

          "Why little boy," she says, "Why don't you work to get yourself some gold?"

          "No," says the boy, "If I had me a pot of gold I wouldn't have to work."

          "Well," says the old woman, "Jest let me take a dip of snuff and maybe I'll tell you where my pot of gold is."

          The little boy kept hold on her arm while she got out her snuff but when she got it out she blew a pinch in the little boy's face and he sneezed so hard he had to shut his eyes. So he let her out of his sight and when he opened his eyes again, the old woman and the wheel were both gone.

          But he started out huntin' for the old woman again the very next day, and he hunted and he hunted and finally he found her under a big oak tree weaving on a loom.

          He slipped up and grabbed her.

          "Oh!" she says.

          "Where's that pot of gold?" says the little boy, "And I'm not goin' to let go of you for nothin' this time, till you tell me where it is!"

          "All right," says the old woman, "I'll tell you. It's right under that oak tree."

          "Well, now I'll have to go get me a spade to dig it up," says the little boy. "How can I remember which tree it is?"

          "Just hang your cap on the tree, on that little snag there," says the old woman." 

          "I'm afraid you'll take it off when I'm gone," says the boy.

          "No," says the old lady. "I'll promise you not to take it off."

          "Cross your heart?" says the little boy.

          "Cross my heart," says the old lady.

          So she crossed her heart and the little boy let go of her-- and she and that big loom went---swoosh! --- and were gone.

          Then the little boy went home and got him a spade, and come running back to dig up his pot of gold. But when he got to where the old woman had been, every tree in the woods had a cap exactly like his hangin' on it.

          Well, he thought it would be a lot of trouble to try to dig under every tree so he decided it would be best to get him a job and work for his gold anyway.

Oral version from 3rd grade reader??
through Bethel Lee Sexton Adams ( Mrs. James Taylor Adams, Jr.)
and Lenore Corone A. Kilgore (Mrs. Winfred Jos. Kilgore)


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