Jack and the Robbers
 

THIS HERE'S another tale about Jack when he was still a small-like boy. He was about twelve, I reckon, and his daddy started tryin' to make him help with the work around the place. But Jack he didn't like workin much. He would piddle around a little and then he'd go back to the house, til one day his daddy whipped him. He just tanned jack good. Jack didn't cry none, but he didn't like it a bit. So early the next mornin' he slipped off without tellin' his mother and struck out down the public road. Thought he'd go and tryhis fortune somewhere off from home. 

He got down the road a few miles and there was an old ox standin' in a field by a rail fence, a-bellowin' like it was troubled over somethin'- 

"Um-m-muh! Um-m-m - muh-h-h!" 

"Hello!" says jack. "What's the matter?" 

"I'll just tell you," says the old ox. "I'm getting' too old to plow and I heard the men talkin' about how they'd have to kill me tomorrow and get shet of me." 

"Come on down here to the gap," says Jack, "and you can slip off with me." 

So the old ox followed the fence to where the gap was at and jack let the bars down and the old ox got out in front of jack, and they went on down the public road. 

jakc and the ox traveled on, and pretty soon they cam where there was an old donkey standin' with his head hangin' down over the a-goin' - 

"Wahn-n-n-eth! Wahn-n-n-eth! Wahn-n-n-eth!" 

"Hello," says jack. "What's troublin' you?" 

"Law me!" says the old donkey. "The boys took me out to haul in wood this mornin' and I'm getting' so old and weak I couldn't do no good. I head 'em say they were goin' to kill me tmorrow, get shet of me." 

"Come on and go with us," says Jack. 

So he let the old donkey out and they pulled on down the public road. The old donkey told jack to get up on his back and ride. 

They went on a piece, came to an old hound dog settin' in a man's yard. Hit would bark awhile and then howl awhile - 

"A -woo! Woo! Woo! A-oo-oo-oo!" 

sounded awful lonesome. 

"Hello," says Jack. "What you a-howlin' so for?" 

"Oh, law me!" says the old dog. "The boys took me coon-huntin' last night, cut a tree where the coon had got up in it. I got hold on the coon all right, but my teeth are all gone and hit got loose from me. They said they were goin' to kill me today, get shet of me." 

"Come on, go with us," says Jack. 

So the old dog scrouged under the gate. 

The old donkey says to him, "Get up on my back and ride, if you want to." 

Jack holp the old dog up behind him, and they went on down the public road. 

Came to a old tomcat climbin' along the fence. Hit was a-squallin' and meowin', stop ever' now and then, sit down on the top rail - 

"Meow-ow! Meow-ow-ow!" 

-- sounded right painful. 

"Hello!" says Jack. "What's the matter you squallin' so?" 

"Oh, law me!" says the old dog. "I caught a rat out in the barn this mornin', but my teeth are getting' so old and bad I let him go. I head 'em talkin' about killin' me to get shet of me, 'cause I ain't no good to catch rats no more." 

"Come one and go with us," says Jack. 

So the old cat jumped down off the fence. 

The old donkey says, "Hop up there on my back and you can ride." 

The old cat jumped up, got behind the dog, and they went on downthe public road. 

Came to where they saw an old rooster settin' on a fence post, crowin' like it was midnight, makin' the awfulest lonesome racket - 

"Uk rook-a-roo! Ur-r-r rook-a-roo-oo-oo!" 

"Hello!" says jack. "What's troublin' you?" 

"Law me!" says the old rooster. "Company's comin' today and I head 'em say theywere goin' to kill me, put me in a pie." 

"Come on with us," says Jack. 

Old rooster flew on down, got behing the cat, says, "All right, boys. Let's go!" 

So they went right on down the highway. That was about all could get on the old donkey's back. The old rooster was right on top its tail and a-havin' a sort of hard time stayin' on. They traveled on, traveled on, till hit got plumb dark. 

"Well," says Jack, "we got to get off the road an find us a place to stay tonight." 

Directly they came to a little path leadin' off in the woods, decided to take that, see could they find 'em a stayin place in there. Went on a right smart piece further, and 'way along up late in the night they cane to a little house, didn't have no clearin' around it. Jack hollered at the fence, but there didn't nobody answer. 

"Come on," says the old donkey. "Let's go in-vestigate that place." 

Well, there wasn't nobody ever came to the door and there wasn't nobody around back of the house, so directly they went on in. Found a right smart lot of good somethin' to eat in there. 

Jack says, "Now, who in the world do you reckon could be a-livin' out here in such a wilder-ness of a place as this?" 

"Well," says the old donkey, "hit's my o-pinion that a gang of highway robbers lives out here." 

So Jack says, "The hit looks to me we might as well take up and stay here. If they've done stole all these vitles, we got a much right to 'em as they have." 

"Yes," says the old dog, "that's exactly what I think, too. But if we stay, I believe we better get fixed for a fight. I expect they'll be comin' back in here about midnight." 

"That's just what I was goin' to say," says the old cat. "I bet it's pretty close to midnight right now." 

"Hit lacks about an hour,: says the old rooster. 

"Come on, then," says Jack. "Let's all of us get set to fight 'em." 

The ox said he'd stay out in the yard. The old donkey said he'd take up his stand on the porch just outside the door. The dog said he'd get in behind the door and fight from there. The old tomcat got down in the fireplace, and the old rooster flew up on the comb of the roof, says, "If you boys need any help now, just call on me, call on me-e-e!" 

They all waited awhile. Heard somebody comin' directly; hit was seven highway robbers. They came on till they got pretty close to the house, then they told one of 'em to go on in and start up a fire so's they could have a light to see to get in and so they could divide out the money they'd stole that day. 

One man went on in the house, the other six waited outside the gate. 

That man went to the fireplace, got down on his knees to blow up the fire. The cat had his head right down on the hearth-rock and that man thought its eyes was coals of fire. Time he blowed in that old cat's eyes, it reached out its claws right wuick and scratched him down both cheeks. The robber hollered and headed out for the door. The dog ran out and bit him in the leg. He shook it off and ran on the porch and the old donkey raised up and kicked him on out in the yard. The ox caught him up on its horns and ran to the fence and threw him out in the bresh. About that time the old rooster settin' up there on top of the house started in to crowin' right big. 

The other robbers, time they heard all that racket, they put out form there just as fast as they could run. The one they'd sent in the house finally got up and started runnin' like a strea, caught up with 'em in no time. They cais to him, says, "What in the world was that in there?' 

"Oh, I'm killed! I'm killed!" says the man. "I won't live over fiteen minutes!" 

The others said, "Well, 'fore ye die, tellus what it was caused all that racket back yonder." 

"Law me! That house is plumb full of men, and they've even got one on the roof. I went to blow up the fire and a man in the fireplace raked me all over the face with an awl. Started to run and a man behind the door took me in the leg with a butcher knife. Time I got out the door, a man out there hit me with a knot-maul, knocked me clean off the porch. A man standin' in the yeard caught me on a pitchfork and threw me over the fence. And than that man up on the roff hollered out, 

'Chunk him on up here! Chunck him up on here!' 

Ain't no use in us goin' back there with all them men in the house. Let's leave here quick 'fore they come after us." 

So them highway robbers ran for their life, and kept on runnin' till they were plumb out the country. 

Jack and the ox and the old donkey and the dog and the cat and the rooster, they took possession of that house, and just had 'em a big time. 

But the last time I was down that way, Jack had gone on back home to his folks. He was out in the yard-a-cuttin his mother a big pile of stovewood.


The Jack Tales, by Richard Chase. Copyright 1971.