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 coat 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-coin' 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?"
"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
"You a good hand to plow?"
"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-meets 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 giant killer you been lookin' for. I may not kill all of 'em today, but I'll trot 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 could see, and 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...