FOOL JACK AND THE TALKING CROW
Collected by Richard Chase
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. Typographical errors in the original transcript have been left in this copy, except for some that are typed over or crossed out.
Note that in this tale Jack gets away with crude and outrageous tricks. See notes on this and similar tales at "Jack and the
Bull - and - Jack and the Heifer Hide" in AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales. The middle of the tale, when a woman hides Jack from her jealous husband, is a little like "Jack and the Bean Tree," while the woman's efforts to hide another man in a barrel is reminiscent of medieval fabliaux such as Boccaccio's "Tale of Peronella" in The Decameron (Day 7, Tale 2).
One time thar was three boys, Will and Tom and Jack. Ever'body called Jack, "Fool Jack," 'cause he was considered sorty dull. All the boys had 'em a cow a-piece.
And one day somebody come along with some cow hides and Fool Jack happened to be out at the gate so he asked 'em whar' they 'us goin. They said they 'us goin' to the tan-yard to sell their cow hides. Said hides was bringin' a good price thar.
So Fool Jack went right out and killed his cow and skun her and rolled her hide up and h'isted it up on his shoulder and lit out for the tan-yard. Hit was a long ways, twenty-five or thirty miles. Fool Jack went stoppin right down the road. He 'uld stop along and rest and talk with anybody he met, and directly he met up with a feller carryin' a crow under his arm.
"Howdy, Fool Jack," the feller says, "Whar' ye goin' with your cow hide?"
"Goin' down to the tan yard to sell it and get me a heap of money," says Jack. "What sort of a bird have ye got thar'?
"Why that's a talkin' crow," says the feller, "You can make a whole lot more money with a talkin' crow than ye can sellin' cow hides, Fool Jack. How about swappin' your cow hide fer this talkin' crow?" Says, "If you'll trade, I won't ask ye for no boot, bein' as it's you."
So Fool Jack swapped with him and stuck the crow under his arm and started on back home.
Dark overtuk Jack 'fore he got ver fur and so he stopped and hollered at a house, and a woman come out and axed him who he was and whut did he want. He tol' her he was Fool Jack and that he wanted to stay all night. She said she reckoned she could keep him, so Jack went on in.
"Now" she says, "I'll have to lock ye in the closet thar', 'cause my man ain't home and if he was to come and find you here he 'uld be jealous and he might kill us both. He's an awful jealous-hearted man."
So Fool Jack said, All right, he didn't care about that, and she tuk him and locked him in the closet.
'Twasn't long, till Fool Jack heard somebody come in. He 'lowed hit wus her ol' man, but then he got to listenin and he 'lowed hit wasn't. He heard the ol' woman tellin' that feller she'd kill a shote and they 'uld have 'em a good old time eatin' and drinkin'. So she killed a shote and they roasted it and she brought out her bottle of rum and they wus just about to pour 'em out some drinks when she heard somebody ride up in the yard and she knowed hit wus her ol' man.
That feller jumped in a barr'l of wool rolls she had carded up there by the door and she grabbed the roasted shote and the rum and hid 'em in the safe. Jack had his eye up against the keyhole tryin' to see all he could see, and he saw that feller jump in that barr'l of wool.
Her ol' man come on in and sort of sniffed the airs, says,
"What's that I smell, ol' woman?"
She told him she didn't know, and she tried to change the subject, says,
"Fool Jack come along and wanted to stay all night. I tuk him in, but I wouldn't let him stay out in the house with jest me here, so I locked him in the closet yonder."
"Fetch him on out," says the ol' man, "No use to keep him locked up now."
So she unlocked the closet and Fool Jack come out with his crow under his arm.
"What in the world ye doin' with that crow, Fool Jack?" axed the ol' man.
Jack tol' him how he got hold of it and that hit was a talkin' crow.
"What does it say?, ax d the ol' man.
And Jack squz its neck and it went,
"Why," says Jack, "Hit says there's a roasted shote over there in the safe."
The ol' man went over and looked and shore 'nough thar was the roasted shote. He got it out and put it on the table and told Fool Fool Jack to set down, and about that time Jack squz the crow's neck again---
"Quawk! Quaw-- awk!"
"What does it say now, Fool Jack?"
"Hit says thar's a bottle o' rum in the safe," says Jack.
And the ol' man went and looked and got out the rum bottle.
So him and Fool Jack set down and eat off the roasted shote and drunk out of the rum bottle and Jack got to feelin' pretty good.
"Tell ye what," he says to the ol' man, "This crow can raise the Devil."
The Ol' man said, he'd shore like to see it do that. Tol' Fool Jack that if hit could actually raise the devil he 'uld be willin' to give a thousand dollars fer it. So Jack tol' him to stand in the door with an axe in his hands so he could kill the Devil as he run out.
So when the ol' man went to get his axe, Fool Jack got a splinter and lit it, then he got over behin' that wool-barr'l, and made his crow squawk over it a few times and stooped down and stuck that lighted splinter in the bung hole.
Hit ketched the wool a-fire and blazed up in a hurry. That feller jumped out of thar' with the burnin' wool rolls stickin' all over him. He was just one big ball of fire and he made for the door.
The ol' man was so excited he forgot to hit him with the axe and that feller run right over him and knocked him down and out at the door he went and down the road in a light flame.
So the ol' man give Fool Jack a thousand dollars and next morning Jack went on back home.
Will and Tom wanted to know whar' he got all that money. Fool Jack told 'em he tuk his cow hide down to the tan-yard and had it cut up into greenbacks.
So Will and Tom run out and shot their cows and skun' 'em and lit out for the tan-yard.
When they got thar' they told the men at the tan-yard how they wanted their cow-hides cut up into money, and twenty dollar bills 'uld be all right, -- and the men tuk 'em to be crazy. Laughed at 'em and wouldn't buy their cow hides at all. 'Lowed they'd stole 'em. So Will and Tom had to wag their cow hides on back home.
They 'uz nearly give out by the time they got back and both of 'em good and mad at Fool Jack. And they made it up to kill Jack and git rid of him and git his money. So they set on him and tied him up good and tight and tuk him down to the river bank and got him up against a rock while they went up to the ford to git 'em a drink o' likker.
While they 'uz gone a man come along drivin' a drove of fine sheep. He axed Fool Jack what he was settin' tied up that way for and Jack tol' him the robbers was goin' to throw him in the river. So the man untied him and got to feelin' sorry for him and he give Jack part of his sheep 'fore he left.
So Fool Jack he went up the river drivin' his sheep. Met Will and Tom comin' back, both of 'em about half drunk.
"How did ye get loose, "they axed him, "And whar'n the world did ye git all them sheep?"
Jack tol' 'em he was scramblin' around tryin' to get loose and he rolled in the river and drownded and went to heaven and found the sheep thar' and brought 'em back with him.
Tom and Will said they wanted some of them heavenly sheep too, so they axed Fool Jack would he tie them up hard and tight and set them on the river bank. And Jack did.
So they scrambled around til they rolled in the river and Fool Jack walked on back home.