THE THREE GOLD NUTS

Collected by James Taylor Adams

Big Laurel, VA

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 typewritten copies of the folktales he and others collected during the last thirty years of his life, while he lived in Wise County, VA. There appear to be a few typographical errors in the typescript, but it is readable and no changes have been made in this copy. Note that this version of the tale contains some crude language. For more details on other variants of this tale, see "Whitebear Whittington."

An edited version of this tale is published in Appalachian Folk Tales. Ed. Loyal Jones. Illus. Jim Marsh. Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2010.


     Told me on August 13, 1940, by Mrs. Dicy Adams. She heard her mother tell it. I heard my own father and mother tell this tale forty-four years ago.  

       One time there was a man and he had three grown girls. One day he was a-fixin' to go to the store and the oldest girl said "Daddy, I want you to bring me enough cloth to make me a dress the color of the sky." And the next oldest run out and said, "Daddy, you bring me enough cloth to make me a dress the color of the rainbow." The baby girl didn't ask for anything, so he called her and said, "You haven't asked for anything. I want to bring you something from the store, too, so what do you want?" She told as her sisters had asked for so much she guessed he wouldn't have enough money to get much more, so all she would ask for was that if he seed any roses along the road to stop as he come back and pick her a basketfull. He promised her he would and went on.

       It was a long way to the store and it took him all day to go there and back. As he was coming back that evening he saw a big fine house by the road and it didn't seem that anybody lived there. In the yard was some of the prettiest roses he ever seed. He went in and started picking some of them when he heard a voice say, "You pick them and I'll pick you." He stopped and started to go on home, but he thought I must have been mistaken and I must get some of them roses for my little girl. So he went back and started picking some more. Again he heard the voice, "If you pick them I'll pick you." He quit again and started to leave and the voice said, "You can pick all the rosies you want if you will give me the first thing that meets you when you get home tonight." He thought a minute and he decided he would do that for he had an old dog that wasn't worth a cent that always run out and met him. So he said all right, he'd do that. And he went ahead and just filled his basket with the prettiest rosies he could find.

       He went on home, pleased that he had got his baby girl such a pretty bunch of rosies. When he got in sight of home he saw his baby girl just flying to meet him. He tried to get her to stop, but she wasn't paying any attention to what he said and come right on just as hard as she could come and grabbed the basket of rosies.

       He began to cry. She asked him what was the matter and he wouldn't tell her. All the time they was a-getting supper he just set around and looked like he was in deep trouble. All the girls tried to get him to tell what it was the matter with him, but he wouldn't tell.

       While they was a-eating' supper they heard something out at the gate saying, "Bring me out here my pay." Then he told them about what he had heard as he was picking the rosies and what he had promised. They all just laughed and said, "Oh, just send it out the old dog, it won't know the difference." So they sent out the old dog and it come a-running back just a yelping and hollering like it was about to die and run under the floor and they couldn't much it out anymore. Then they sent out the old sow and she come running back just a squealing and grunting like she was about to die and run in the stable and they couldn't get her out any more.

       Then the oldest girl said, "I'll go out and see if it will have me. I was the cause of it all by asking you to bring me a dress the color of the sky." So she went out and they heard an awful racket at the gate and here she come back just as hard as she could come, a-crying and taking on, saying something was out there that she couldn't see and it had jumped on her and nearly beat her to death before she could get away. And she crawled in the bed and they couldn't get her out any more.

       Then the second oldest girl said, "Daddy, I guess if I hadn't asked for a dress the color of the rainbow it wouldn't a-happened, and it is all my fault. I'm going out and let it take me." So she went out and they heard her screaming and taking on and back into the house she popped nearly beat to death and she went to bed and they couldn't get her out any more.

       Then it hollered lowder than ever, "Bring me out here my pay." The youngest girl began crying and her father began crying. She said, "I'll have to go, Daddy." and she went out to the the gate and there stood a big white bear. It said, "get up on my back." And she crawled up on its back and away it went. It went on and on and on till at last they come to the finest house she had ever seen and the bear went in and told her to get off. Then it said, "This house and all that is here belongs to you. And I will be a man of a night and sleep with you and a bear of a day and lay under the bed, or I'll be a bear of a night and lay under the bed and a man of a day and talk to you. Which had you rather I would be?"

       She thought a while and she didn't like the idea of a bear laying under the bed of a night so she told him she had rather he'd be a man of a night and sleep with her. So that was the way he was. He was a bear of a day and laid under the bed and first one place and another around the house.

       So it went on till it had been about a year and she had a baby. When the baby was about six months old she told her husband one night she would like to go back to her father's and see him and her sisters. He told all right they would go, but he would have to be a bear all the time they were there and she must promise him that she would not tell about him being a man part of the time. And he said, "If you ever tell, I cannot ever change myself again and you will see me going up a mountain with three drops of blood in my shirt and you will never see me any more after that." So she promised him she would never tell. And they went to see her folks. He let her and the baby off his back out at the gate and he crawled out in the bushes and she went on in.

       They were proud to see her and made a sight over the baby and wanted to know who its father was and where she had been and what she had been a-doin'. She told them she couldn't tell. But they just kept right on and at last they said they would neither one of them ever eat a bite or drink a drop till she told them. She wouldn't tell, but next morning they wouldn't eat and she told them and just as she finished telling, she looked out through the window and saw her husband going over the mountain with a white shirt on and three drops of blood in the bosom of it.

       She left her baby with her sisters and she started out to hunt for him. She went on and on and on. She would stop to stay all night at a house and would find that he had stayed there the night before. But she could never catch up with him.

       At last one day she was going along just about to give up all hope when she met an old woman. The old woman asked her what was the matter and she told her what had happened. So the old woman gave her three little gold nuts and told her not to crack them until she was in the most trouble she ever was in her life.

       So she took the nuts and went on and on and on. Every night the folks where she stayed would tell her a handsome young man with three drops of blood in his shirt stayed there the night before. Several times she thought she would crack one of the nuts, but she decided to wait awhile.

       Then one day she was going along and she seed a whole heap of people, mostly young women, gathered up at a wash place and there stood her husband. She run up to him but she seed he didn't know her at all. And the women was all trying to wash the three drops of blood out of his shirt. She asked them about it and they told her that he had said he was rich and would marry the woman who would wash the three drops of blood out of his shirt.

       They was almost fighting over who would wash next, and they would rub and rub and rub, but the drops of blood wouldn't come out. They seemed to get plainer all the time; the more they washed. Then she remembered that the night she had rode away from home on his back when he was a bear that she had cried and that her nose had bled and three drops of blood had fell on the bear. She asked the women if she could try and they told her after they had all had a try she could. So after a while she got the shirt and she just give it one rub and out come the blood and the shirt was just as clean as the dribins of snow, but before she could show it to him another girl standing by her snatched it out of her hand and run to him with it and said, "Look! Look! I've washed them out!"

        So him and the girl married that evening and invited everybody to stay all night at her parents' house. His real wife knew now she was in the most trouble she ever was in her life and she went to stay all night there too, and that night she cracked one of her gold nuts. And it had a gold wheel in it and she began spinning and it spun gold thread. Oh, she was just filling the room with gold threads when the woman who had married her husband come in. "Oh, I must have that," she said, "what'll you take for it?" She told her she didn't want to part with it, but she would give it to her if she would let her sleep with her old man that night. She said, "Well, I think you're just as sorry as can be, but I'm going to take you up." So she give him a sleepy dram that night and put a sleepy pillow under his head. They went to bed, and all night long she lay there by him saying, "Once you was a bear and I could have you, but now you are a man and I can't have you." But he was sound asleep and never heard a word she said.

       The next night she cracked another one of her gold nuts and it had a gold reel in it and she just began reeling up all the gold thread that the wheel was spinning. The other woman saw it and asked her what she would take for it. She said she didn't want to part with it, but she would give it to her for another night's lodging with her old man. She said, "You are just as sorry as a person can be, but I'm going to trade with you. I've just got to have that gold reel."

       So she fixed the bed and give her husband another sleepy dram and put a sleepy pillow under his head and he went off sound asleep and never heard a thing, but all night long his wife kept saying, Once you was a bear and I could have you and now you are a man and I can't have you."

       The next day his father-in-law, or the father of the girl he had married there, told him he wanted to have a word with him. So they walked out and he said, "There's something strange goes on in your room of a night. Just like someone saying the same thing right over and over, and it never stops. Don't you hear it?" He told him he slept sound and didn't hear anything. "Well now," the old man said, "I want you to lay awake to night and listen and see what it is."

       So that night she cracked the last one of the three gold nuts and it had a gold loom in it. It just started weaving up all the thread in the house and the other woman run in and said, "Oh, I must have that! What'll you take for it?" She told her she didn't want to part with it, but she would give it to her for another night's lodging with her old man. "I know what you are," she said, "you're nothing but a low-down bitch, but I'm going to do it. Go on and sleep with him tonight, but it's going to be the last night."

     So she fixed the bed for them and give her husband a sleepy dram and put a sleepy pillow under his head. But he was supisious and he spit out the liquor and throwed the pillow out from under his head. And that night he heard his wife and found out who she was. So the next morning he told the old man he wanted a word with him and took him out and said, "I just wanted to ask you something. It's this: If you had a lock and key and they key fitted the lock perfect and you lost the key and got another, and then later you found the old key and it fitted the lock better than the new key, which key would you keep?" The old man said, "Why I would keep the old key, of course." Well, said the other man, "you can have back your daughter. I've found my old wife and she suits me better than your daughter."

       And they went back home and he was never a bear again and they were happy.

Record Copy Made by Blue Ridge Institute to Replace Unstable Original 
April, 1991

[JTA-125] 


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