1988-89 Wendy was a fourth-grade student at East Side Elementary in
Elizabethton, TN, and her media arts teacher was Anne Kitchens. Reprinted
in AppLit with permission, from Journey Through Fantasy Literature: A
Resource Guide for Teachers. Vol. I, p. 173. Ed. Roberta
T. Herrin. Developed during a Teachers Institute sponsored by East
Tennessee State University and the National Endowment for the Humanities,
Index of Student
Writing in AppLit
Jack Tales - with nine Jack Tales written by fourth graders
war had just ended. Everybody was welcoming the brave Gifford men
home. Young Jackfoot Gaffe was coming home. He had just sat down to
a nice warm pancake when a rude knock came from the door. Jackfoot
jumped to his feet and ran to the door as fast as he could. He was
steaming mad when he came to the door. It was fat old Hubert. He was
huffing and blowing. Finally he said, "The dam is going to break!"
Now Jackfoot did not like to leave his supper, but he knew that if
the dam broke, the town would flood and no one would survive.
As quick as he could, he got his coat on. He ran outside. When he
got to the dam, everybody was trying to get the lever open to let
the water out. He was about to help when he saw something red. He
walked toward it and looked down. It was a beautiful ruby! He quickly
picked it up and slipped it into his pocket and turned back to help
the others. But nobody was there!
He began to run as fast as he could toward his home. He found that
young Tan was trying to get into his house. Suddenly Tan yelled. He
had been picked up by Jackfoot, who demanded, "What are you doing?"
The shivering Tan was speechless for a minute. "I was just trying
to see what you were doing," he finally said.
Setting Tan gently down, Jackfoot made him promise not to tell anyone
about the ruby he had found. Tan quickly promised and ran home. When
Tan got home, he told his father about the strange happenings and
also about the ruby. He made his father promise not to tell anyone
One day, some time later, a strange man came to Gifford asking for
Jackfoot Gaffe. When Jackfoot got the word about the stranger, he
came running to the bar. He found the stranger and demanded to know
what he wanted. The stranger said he only wanted to come to his house
to talk to Jackfoot about something important. They went to the house.
After they arrived, Jackfoot offered him a cup of coffee and asked
him to state his business.
The stranger told Jackfoot about a jewel and asked him if he had found
it. Angrily, Jackfoot asked, "How did you find out about the
ruby? What's it to you?"
The stranger brushed off Jackfoot's angry words and went on to tell
him of the danger of owning the jewel. If Jackfoot held on to it too
long, it would eventually kill him. As soon as he heard this, Jackfoot
wanted to destroy the ruby, so the stranger said, "Let's set
out in the morning."
They started their journey at sunrise the next day. It would be a
short hike of about fifteen miles to the place where they would throw
the jewel into the burning lake called the Fire of the Dead. As they
traveled, Jackfoot constantly complained about his aching legs, even
though the hike was not hard. When they got to the Fire of the Dead,
Jackfoot was so weary, he could not throw the ruby in the burning
lake, so the stranger took it from him and heaved it far into the
To this day in Gifford, they tell a story about Jackfoot and the stranger
and their journey to the Fire of the Dead. They say that on a clear
night, you can see the red of the ruby under the surface of the burning
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