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Jack in the Giants’ Newground One time away back years ago there was a boy named Jack. He and his folks lived off in the mountains somewhere and they were awful poor, just didn’t have a thing. Jack had two brothers, Will and Tom, and they are in some of the Jack Tales, but this one I’m fixin’ to tell you now, there’s mostly just Jack in it. Jack was awful lazy sometimes, just wouldn’t do ary lick of work. His mother and his daddy kept tryin’ to get him to help, but they couldn’t do a thing with him when he took a lazy spell. Well, Jack decided one time he’d pull out from there and try his luck in some other section of the country. So his mother fixed him up a little snack of dinner, and he put on his old raggedy hat and lit out. Jack walked on, walked on. He eat his snack ’fore he’d gone very far. Sun commenced to get awful hot. He traveled on, traveled on, till he was plumb out of the settle-ment what he knowed. Hit got to be about twelve, sun just a-beatin’ down, and Jack started gettin’ hungry again. He came to a fine smooth road directly, decided he’d take that, see where it went, what kind of folks lived on it. He went on, went on, and pretty soon he came to a big fine stone house up above the road. Jack stopped. He never had seen such a big house as that before. Then he looked at the gate and saw it was made out of gold. Well, Jack ’lowed some well-doin’ folks must live there, wondered whether or no they’d give him his dinner. Stepped back from the gate, hollered, “Hello!” A man came to the door, says, “Hello, stranger. What’ll ye have?” “I’m a-lookin’ for a job of work.” “Don’t know as I need to hire anybody right now. What’s your name?” “Name’s Jack.” “Come on up, Jack, and sit a spell. Ain’t it pretty hot walkin’?” “Pretty hot,” says Jack. “Come on up on the porch and cool off. You’re not in no hurry, are ye?” Jack says, “Well, I’ll stop a little while, I reckon.” Shoved back that gold gate and marched on in. The man reached in the door and pulled out a couple of chairs. Jack took one and they leaned back, commenced smokin’. Directly Jack says to that man, “What did you say your name was, mister?” “Why, Jack, I’m the King.” “Well, now, King,” says Jack, “hit looks like you’d be a-needin’ somebody with all your land. I bet you got a heap of land to work.” “Are ye a hard worker, Jack?” “Oh, I’m the workin’est one of all back home yonder.” “You a good hand to plow?” “Yes sir!” “Can ye clear newground?” “Why, that’s all I ever done back home.” “Can ye kill giants?” “Huh?” says Jack, and he dropped his pipe. Picked it up, says, “Well, I reckon I could try.” The old King sort of looked at Jack and how little he was, says, “Well, now, Jack, I have got a little piece of newground I been tryin’ for the longest to get cleared. The trouble is there’s a gang of giants live over in the next holler, been disputin’ with me about the claim. They kill ever’ Englishman goes up there, kill ’em and eat ’em. I reckon I’ve done hired about a dozen men claimed to be giantkillers, but the giants killed them, ever’ last one.” “Are these here giants very big ’uns?” says Jack. “Well, they’re all about six times the size of a natural man, and there’s five of ’em. The old man has got four heads and his old woman has got two. The oldest boy has got two heads, and there’s a set of twins has got three heads a-piece.” Jack didn’t say nothin’, just kept studyin’ about how hungry he was. King says, “Think ye can clear that patch, Jack?” “Why, sure!” says Jack. “All I can do is get killed, or kill them, one.” “All right, son. We’ll make arrange-ments about the work after we eat. I expect my old woman’s about got dinner ready now. Let’s us go on in to the table.” “Thank ye, King,” says Jack. “I hope it won’t put ye out none.” “Why, no,” says the King. “Hit ain’t much, but you’re welcome to what we got.” Well, Jack eat about all the dinner he could hold, but the King’s old woman kept on pilin’ up his plate till he was plumb foundered. His dish set there stacked up with chicken and cornbread and beans and greens and pie and cake, and the Queen had done poured him milk for the third time. The old King kept right on, and Jack didn’t want them to think he couldn’t eat as much as anybody else, so directly he reached down and took hold on the old leather apron he had on and doubled that up under his coat. Then he’d make like he was takin’ a bite, but he’d slip it down in that leather apron. He poured about four glasses of milk down there, too. Had to fasten his belt down on it so’s it ’uld hold. Well, directly the King pushed his chair back, and then he and Jack went on out and sat down again, leaned back against the house and lit their pipes. King says to Jack, says, “If you get that patch cleared, Jack, I’ll pay ye a thousand dollars a-piece for ever’ giant’s head you bring down, and pay ye good wages for gettin’ that patch cleared: ten cents a hour.” Jack said that suited him all right, and he got the King to point him out which ridge it was. Then Jack says to the King, “You say them giants live over in the other holler?” King said they did. Jack says, “Can they hear ye when ye start hackin’?” “They sure can,” says the King. Jack didn’t say nothin’. The King says to him, “You don’t feel uneasy now, do ye, Jack?” “Why, no, bedads!” says Jack. “Why, I may be the very giantkiller you been lookin’ for. I may not kill all of ’em today, but I’ll try to get a start anyhow.” So the King told him maybe he’d better go on to work. Said for him to go on out past the woodpile and get him a axe, says, “You might get in a lick or two ’fore them giants come. You’ll find a tree up there where them other men have knocked a couple of chips out’n. You can just start in on that same tree.” So Jack started on out to the woodpile. The King watched him, saw him lean over and pick up a little old Tommy hatchet, says, “Hey, Jack! You’ll need the axe, won’t ye?” “Why, no,” says Jack, “This here’ll do me all right.” He started on off, turned around, says, “I’ll be back about time for supper.” The old King just grinned and let him go on. When Jack fin’ly got up on that ridge, he was scared to death. He sat down on a log and studied awhile. He knowed if he started in cuttin’, them giants would come up there; and he knowed if he didn’t, the King ’uld know he hadn’t done no work and he’d likely get fired and wouldn’t get no supper. So Jack thought about it some more, then he picked out the tallest poplar he could see, and cloomb up in it, started in choppin’ on the limbs way up at the very top . . . Hack! Hack! Hack! Heard a racket directly, sounded like a horse comin’ up through the bresh. Jack looked down the holler, saw a man about thirty foot high comin’ a-stompin’ up the mountain, steppin’ right over the laurel bushes and the rock-clifts. Jack was so scared he like to slipped his hold. The old giant came on up, looked around till he fin’ly saw where Jack was settin’, came over there under him, says, “Hello, stranger.” “Howdy do, daddy.” “What in the world you a-doin’ up there?” “I’m a-clearin’ newground for that man lives back down yonder.” “Clearin’ land? Well, I never seen such a fool business, start in clearin’ newground in the top of a tree! Ain’t ye got no sense?” “Why, that’s allus the way we start in clearin’ back home.” “What’s your name, son?” “My name’s Jack.” “Well, you look-a-here, Jack. This patch of land is ours and we don’t aim to have it cleared. We done told the King so.” “Oh, well, then,” says Jack, “I didn’t know that. If I’d ’a knowed that I’d ’a not started.” “Come on down, Jack. I’ll take ye home for supper.” Didn’t think Jack ’uld know what he meant. Jack hollered back, says, “All right, daddy. I’ll be right down.” Jack cloomb down a ways, got on a limb right over the old giant’s head, started in talkin’ to him, says, “Daddy, they tell me giants are awful stout. Is that so?” “Well, some,” says the old giant. “I can carry a thousand men before me.” “Well, now, daddy, I bet I can do somethin’ you can’t do.” “What’s that, Jack?” “Squeeze milk out’n a flint rock.” “I don’t believe ye.” “You throw me up a flint rock here and I’ll show ye.” So while the old giant hunted him up a flint rock, Jack took his knife and punched a little hole in that old leather apron. The giant chunked the rock up to him and Jack squeezed down on it, pushed up against his apron, and the milk commenced to dreen out . . . Dreep, dreep, dreep. “Do it again, Jack!” So Jack pushed right hard that time, and hit just went like milkin’ a cow. The old giant hollered up to Jack, says, “Throw me down that rock.” He took the rock and squeezed and squeezed till fin’ly he got so mad he mashed down on it and they tell me he crumbled that flint rock plumb to powder. Then Jack hollered down to him again, says, “I can do somethin’ else you can’t do.” “What’s that, Jack?” “I can cut myself wide open and sew it back up. And it won’t hurt me none.” “Aw, shucks, Jack. I know you’re lyin’ now.” “You want to see me do it?” “Go ahead.” Jack took his knife and ripped open that leather apron, took a piece of string he had, punched some holes, and sewed it back up, says, “See, daddy? I’m just as good as I ever was.” Well, the old giant just couldn’t stand to let Jack out-do him, so he hollered up, says, “Hand here the knife, Jack.” Took Jack’s knife and cut himself wide open, staggered around a little and fin’ly queried over on the ground dead. Well, Jack, he scaled down the tree and cut off the old giant’s heads with that little Tommy hatchet, took ’em on back to the King’s house. II The King paid Jack two thousand dollars like he said he would. Jack eat him a big supper and stayed the night. Next mornin’, after he eat his breakfast, Jack told the King he reckoned he’d have to be a-gettin’ on back home. Said his daddy would be a-needin’ him settin’ out tobacco. But the King says, “Oh, no, Jack. Why, you’re the best giant-killer I ever hired. There’s some more of that giant gang yet, and I’d like awful well to get shet of the whole crowd of’em.” Jack didn’t want to do it. He figgered he’d done made him enough money to last him awhile, and he didn’t want to get mixed up with them giants any more’n he could help. But the King kept on after him till Jack saw he couldn’t get out of it very handy. So he went and got the Tommy hatchet, started on up to the newground again. Jack hadn’t hardly got up there that time ’fore he heard somethin’ comin’ up the holler stompin’ and breakin’ bresh, makin’ the awfulest racket. He started to climb him a tree like he done before, but the racket was gettin’ closer and closer, and Jack looked and saw it was them twin giants that had three heads a-piece. Jack looked up, saw them six heads a-comin’ over the tree tops, says, “Law me! I can’t stand that! I’ll hide!” He saw a big holler log down the hill a ways, grabbed him up a shirt-tail full of rocks and shot in that log like a ground squirrel. Hit was pretty big inside there. Jack could turn right around in it. The old giants fin’ly got there. Jack heard one of’em say to the other’n, “Law! Look a-yonder! Somebody’s done killed brother.” “Law, yes! Now, who you reckon could ’a done that? Why, he could ’a carried a thousand Englishmen before him, single-handed. I didn’t hear no racket up here yesterday, did you?” “Why, no, and the ground ain’t trompled none, neither. Who in the world you reckon could ’a done it?” Well, they mourned over him awhile, then they ’lowed they’d have to take him on down and fix up a buryin’. So they got hold on him, one by the hands and the other by the feet, started on down. “Poor brother!” says one of’em. “If we knowed who it was killed him, we’d sure fix them!” The other’n stopped all at once, says, “Hold on a minute. There ain’t a stick of wood to the house. Mother sent us up here after wood; we sure better not forget that. We’ll have to have plenty of wood too, settin’ up with brother tonight.” “We better get about the handiest thing we can find,” says the other’n. “Look yonder at that holler log. Suppose’n we take that down.” Well, they laid the old dead giant down across the top of that log and shouldered it up. Jack got shook around right considerable inside the log, but after he got settled again, he looked and saw the old giant in front had the log restin’ right betwixt his shoulders. And directly Jack happened to recollect he had all them rocks. So after they’d done gone down the holler a little piece, Jack he picked him out a rock and cut-drive at the giant in front—fumped him right in the back of the head. Old giant stumbled, and stopped and hollered back at his brother, says, “You look-a-here! What you a-throwin’ rocks at me for?” “I never so throwed no rocks at you.” “You did so! You nearly knocked me down!” “Why, I never done it!” They argued awhile, fin’ly started on down again. Jack waited a minute or two, then he cut loose with another good-sized rock. Wham! “You con-founded thing! You’ve done hit me again!” “I never done no such a thing!” “You did too!” “I never teched ye!” “You’re the very one. You needn’t try to lie out of it neither. You can see as good as I can there ain’t nobody else around here to throw no rocks. You just hit me one other time now, and I’ll come back there and smack the fire out-a you!” They jawed and cussed a right smart while till fin’ly they quit and got started on down again. Well, this time Jack picked out the sharpest-edged rock he had, drew back and clipped him again right in the same place. Pow! The old giant in front hollered so loud you could ’a heard him five miles, throwed that log off’n his shoulder and just made for the other’n, says, “That makes three times you’ve done rocked me! And you’ll just take a beatin’ from me now or know I can’t do it!” Them twin giants started in to fightin’ like horses kickin’. Beat any fightin’ ever was seen: pinchin’ and bitin’ and kickin’ and maulin’ one another; made a noise like splittin’ rails. They fit and scratched and scratched and fit till they couldn’t stand up no more. Got to tumblin’ around on the ground, knockin’ down trees and a-kickin’ up rocks and dirt. They were clinched so tight couldn’t neither one break loose from the other’n, and directly they were so wore out they just lay there all tangled up in a pile, both of ’em pantin’ for breath. So when Jack saw there wasn’t no danger in ’em, he crawled out from that log and chopped off their heads, put ’em in a sack and pulled on back to the King’s house. III Well, the old King paid Jack six thousand dollars for that load of heads. Then Jack said he just had to get on in home. Said his folks would be uneasy about him, and besides that they couldn’t get the work done up unless he was there. But the King says to him, says, “Why, Jack, there ain’t but two more of ’em now. You kill them for me and that’ll wind ’em up. Then we won’t have no trouble at all about that newground.” Jack said he’d see what he could do: went on back that same evenin’. This time Jack didn’t climb no tree or nothin’. Went to work makin’ him a bresh pile, made all the racket he could. The old four-headed giant come a-tearin’ up there in no time. Looked around, saw the other giants lyin’ there dead, came over to where Jack was, says, “Hello, stranger.” “Hello, yourself.” “What’s your name, buddy?” “My name’s Jack—Mister Jack.” “Well, Mister Jack, can you tell me how come all my boys layin’ here dead?” “Yes, bedads, I can tell ye,” says Jack. “They came up here cussin’ and ’busin’ me, and I had to haul off and kill ’em. You just try and sass me ary bit now, and I’ll kill you too!” “Oh pray, Jack, don’t do that! There’s only me and the old woman left now, and she’s got to have somebody to get in her stovewood and tote up water.” “You better be careful what ye say then. I ain’t goin’ to take nothin’ off nobody.” “Well, now, I don’t want to have no racket with ye at all, Mister Jack. You come on down and stay the night with us, help set up with our dead folks, and we’ll get fixed to have a buryin’ tomorrow.” “Well, I’ll go,” says Jack, “but you sure better watch out what you say.” “Oh, I’ll not say nothin’,” says the old giant. Says, “Law, Jack, you must be the awfulest man!” So the old giant stuck the dead ’uns under his arm and he and Jack started on down. When they got close to the house, the giant stopped, says to Jack, “Now, Jack, you better wait till I go and tell the old lady you’ve come down for supper. She might cut a shine. She’ll be mad enough already about her boys bein’ killed.” He went on in and shut the door. Jack slipped up and laid his ear to the keyhole so’s he could hear what they said. Heard him tell his old lady, says, “I’ve got Jack here, claims to be a giantkiller. I found the boys up yonder at the newground with their heads cut off, and this here Jack says he’s the one done it.” The old woman just carried on. Fin’ly the old giant got her hushed, says, “He don’t look to me like he’s so stout as all that. We’ll have to test him out a little, and see whe’er he’s as bad as he claims he is.” Directly Jack heard him a-comin’ to the door rattlin’ buckets. So he stepped back from the house and made like he was just comin’ up. The old giant came on out, says, “There ain’t a bit of water up, Jack. The old woman wants you and me to tote her some from the creek.” Jack saw he had four piggins big as wash tubs, had rope bails fixed on ’em, had ’em slung on one arm. So they went on down to the creek and the old giant set the piggins down. Stove his two in, got ’em full and started on back. Jack knowed he couldn’t even tip one of them things over and hit empty. So he left his two piggins a-layin’ there, waded out in the creek and started rollin’ up his sleeves. The old giant stopped and looked back, saw Jack spit in his hands and start feelin’ around under the water. “What in the world ye fixin’ to do, Jack?” “Well, daddy,” says Jack, “just as soon as I can find a place to ketch a hold, I’m a-goin’ to take the creek back up there closer to the house where your old woman can get her water everwhen she wants it.” “Oh, no, Jack! Not take the creek back. Hit’ll ruin my cornfield. And besides that, my old lady’s gettin’ sort-a shaky on her feet; she might fall in and get drownded.” “Well, then,” says Jack, “I can’t be a-wastin’ my time takin’ back them two little bitty bucketfulls. Why, I’d not want to be seen totin’ such little buckets as them.” “Just leave ’em there, then, Jack. Come on, let’s go back to the house. Mind, now, you come on here and leave the creek there where it’s at.” When they got back, he told his old woman what Jack had said. Says, “Why, Law me! I had a time gettin’ him to leave that creek alone.” He came on out again, told Jack supper wasn’t ready yet, said for him to come on and they’d play pitch-crowbar till it was time to eat. They went on down to the level field, the old giant picked up a crowbar from the fence corner. Hit must ’a weighed about a thousand pounds. Says, “Now, Jack, we’ll see who can pitch this crowbar the furthest. That’s a game me and the boys used to play.” So he heaved it up, pitched it about a hundred yards, says, “You run get it now, Jack. See can you pitch it back here to where I’m at.” Jack ran to where it fell, reached down and took hold on it. Looked up ’way past the old giant, put his hand up to his mouth, hollers, “Hey, Uncle! Hey, Uncle!” The old giant looked all around, says, “What you callin’ me Uncle for?” “I ain’t callin’ you.—Hey! Uncle!” “Who are ye hollerin’ at, Jack?” “Why, I got a uncle over in Virginia,” says Jack. “He’s a blacksmith and this old crowbar would be the very thing for him to make up into horseshoes. Iron’s mighty scarce over there. I thought I’d just pitch this out there to him.—Hey! UNCLE!” “Oh, no, Jack. I need that crowbar. Pray don’t pitch it over in Virginia.” “Well, now,” says Jack, “I can’t be bothered with pitchin’ it back there just to where you are. If I can’t pitch it where I want, I’ll not pitch it at all.” “Leave it layin’ then, Jack. Come on, let’s go back to the house.—You turn loose of my crowbar now.” They got back, the giant went in and told his old woman he couldn’t find out nothin’ about Jack. Said for her to test him awhile herself. Says, “I’ll go after firewood. You see can’t you get him in the oven against I get back, so’s we can eat.” Went on out, says to Jack, “I got to go get a turn of wood, Jack. You can go on in the house and get ready for supper.” Jack went on in, looked around, didn’t see a thing cookin’, and there set a big old-fashioned clay oven with red-hot coals all across it, and the lid layin’ to one side. The old giant lady came at him, had a wash rag in one hand and a comb in the other’n, says, “Come here now, Jacky. Let me wash ye and comb ye for supper.” “You’re no need to bother,” says Jack. “I can wash.” “Aw, Jack. I allus did wash my own boys before supper. I just want to treat ye like one of my boys.” “Thank ye, m’am, but I gen’ally wash and comb myself.” “Aw, please, Jack. You let me wash ye a little now, and comb your head. Come on, Jacky, set up here on this shelf so’s I won’t have to stoop over.” Jack looked and saw that shelf was right on one side of the big dirt oven. He cloomb on up on the scaffle, rockled and reeled this-a-way and that-a-way. The old woman kept tryin’ to get at him with the rag and comb, but Jack kept on teeterin’ around till he slipped off on the wrong side. He cloomb back up and he’d rockle and reel some more. The old woman told him, says, “Sit straight now, Jack. Lean over this way a little. Sakes alive! Don’t ye know how to sit up on a shelf?” “I never tried sittin’ on such a board before,” says Jack. “I don’t know how you mean.” “You get down from there a minute. I reckon I’ll have to show ye.” She started to climb up there on the scaffle, says, “You put your shoulder under it, Jack. I’m mighty heavy and I’m liable to break it down.” Jack put his shoulder under the far end, and when the old woman went to turn around and sit, Jack shoved up right quick, fetched her spang in the oven. Grabbed him up a hand-spike and prized the lid on. Then he went and hid behind the door. Old giant came in directly. Heard somethin’ in the oven just a-crackin’ and a-poppin’. “Old woman! Hey, old woman! Jack’s a-burnin’.” When she didn’t answer, the old giant fin’ly lifted the lid off and there was his old lady just about baked done, says, “Well, I’ll be confounded! That’s not Jack!” Jack stepped out from behind the door, says, “No, hit sure ain’t. And you better mind out or I’ll put you in there too.” “Oh, pray, Jack, don’t put me in there. You got us licked, Jack. I’m the only one left now, and I reckon I better just leave this country for good. Now, you help me get out of here, Jack, and I’ll go off to some other place and I’ll promise not to never come back here no more.” “I’d sure like to help ye, daddy, but I don’t think we got time now. Hit’s too late.” “Too late? Why, how come, Jack?” “The King told me he was goin’ to send a army of two thousand men down here to kill ye this very day. They ought to be here any minute now.” “Two thousand! That many will kill me sure. Law, what’ll I do? Pray, Jack, hide me somewhere.” Jack saw a big chest there in the house, told the old giant to jump in that. Time he got in it and Jack fastened the lid down on him, Jack ran to the window and made-out like that army was a-comin’ down the holler, says, “Yonder they come, daddy. Looks to me like about three thousand. I’ll try to keep ’em off, though. You keep right still now and I’ll do my best not to let ’em get ye.” Jack ran outside the house and commenced makin’ a terrible racket, bangin’ a stick on the walls, rattlin’ the windows, shoutin’ and a-hollerin’, a-makin’-out like he was a whole army. Fin’ly he ran back in the house, knocked over the table and two or three chairs, says, “You quit that now and get on out of here! I done killed that old giant! No use in you a-breakin’ up them chairs. He ain’t here I tell ye!” Then Jack ’uld tumble over some more chairs and throw the dishes around considerable, says, “You all leave them things alone now, ’fore I have to knock some of ye down.” Then he’d run by that chest and beat on it, says, “He ain’t in there. You all leave that chest alone. He’s dead just like I told ye. Now you men march right on back to the King and tell him I done got shet of them giants and there ain’t ary one left.” Well, Jack fin’ly made like he’d done run the army off. Let the old giant out the chest. He was just a-shakin’, says, “Jack, I sure do thank ye for not lettin’ all them men find out where I was at.” So Jack took the old giant on down to the depot, put him on a freight train, and they hauled him off to China. *** The King paid Jack two thousand dollars for bakin’ the old giant lady, but he said he couldn’t allow him nothin’ on the old giant because the trade they’d made was that Jack had to bring in the heads. Jack didn’t care none about that, ’cause his overhall pockets were just a-bulgin’ with money when he got back home. He didn’t have to clear that newground for the King, neither. He paid his two brothers, Will and Tom, to do it for him. And the last time I went down to see Jack he was a-doin’ real well.