The Magic Ruby

                             By Wendy Trotter

In 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, 1988-89.

See also:
Student Activities on Folktales
Index of Student Writing in AppLit
Students Write Jack Tales - with nine Jack Tales written by fourth graders

The 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 else.

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 burning surface.

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 lake.

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