This is another of the many “Jack Tales” that have been collected from the hills and hollows of the southern Appalachians. First brought from the British highlands years ago, primarily by the Scots-Irish settlers, they migrated with the people down the mountain corridors where they survived as oral tales passed from generation to generation, until they were “collected” by early folklorists with their pad and pencil. Although meant to be “told” tales, not read, they offer a glimpse into a long ago life. Jack, known as a “trickster” has many an adventure, and usually comes out on top of the situation, often based on his native wit, often by dumb-luck alone, and often too by a little magic thrown in. Enjoy
Jack was a young fella that lived on a farm with his mama. Jack’s mother got pretty ornery now and then and tended to pester Jack a lot, but other than that they were doing pretty well. They grew some crops and raised some livestock and make a pretty good living. But Jack did a little trapping on the side just to get some extra food to eat once in awhile. One day Jack was out checking his traps. In a little old box trap he found a small bird. It was too tiny to bother with, wouldn’t have hardly made a good bite to eat, so he was going to let it go. But before he did, the bird spoke to him. “Please let me go,” said the little bird. “If you do, I will give you something very good.”
Well like I said, Jack was going to let the bird go anyway, but why look that offer of something good go on by he thought to himself. So Jack told the bird that was a deal. Jack took the bird from the trap and tossed it gently into the air. The bird flew off, and Jack sort of figured that he wasn’t going to get anything good after all, but in only a moment or so, the little bird flew back. The bird was carrying a little bitty bag, and it dropped the bag right on Jack’s shoulder. “Just take the bag,” the little bird spoke again, “and say ‘Two come out.’ Good things will happen. When you’ve had enough, say ’Two go in,” With that the little bird flew away.
Jack didn’t know if he hardly believed what the bird told him, so he decided to try it out. He set that itty bitty bag right in front of him and said real loud, “Two come out.” Quick as a flash a table and two chairs came out of that bag, and in another instant the table was covered with good things to eat. Jack sat down in one of those chairs and proceeded to eat his fill. When he couldn’t eat another speck, and the table was still full of food, he said “Two go in.” Just as quick as it came, the food all disappeared and the table and chairs disappeared right back into that little bitty bag. Jack couldn’t wait to go home and show his mother what the little bird had given him, so he started right off. But on the way he passed a house where an old man and his children lived. Jack couldn’t resist the urge to brag a little about what he had, so he stomped right up on the porch and told the fella about this special little bag. “Two come out,” Jack hollered and just like before the table and chairs and all that food appeared, and they all
ate a whole bunch. Jack didn’t eat quite so much this time. When they had had enough, and all the others had left the table, Jack whispered “Two go in,“ because he didn’t want these folks to know about that. Then the old man told him to come on out in the yard and look at his garden and his barn. Jack set his little bag down on the porch and went on off with the fella. Real quick like, one of the daughters took a look at that bag and hurried in the house and sewed up another one that looked just like it. Before Jack got back she switched bags with his.
Well after a bit, Jack went on home. He was all excited telling his mother all about the bag and the food and all. Of course she didn’t believe a word of it. When Jack said, Two come out,” and nothing happened, she didn’t believe him a whole lot more. She really hollered at Jack for not bringing home anything to eat.
Well Jack got to figuring what had happened, and figured out that that family where he stopped to visit must have stolen his real bag. But he didn’t know quite what to do about it. A few days later, when he was checking his traps again, he spotted that little bird sitting in a tree. So he told the bird all about what had happened. After a bit the bird flew off and brought Jack back another little bitty bag. “Just like the other bag,” the bird told him. “Say ’Two come out’ and ’Two go in’. With that the bird flew away.
Jack couldn’t wait to try out this bag, so he set it down there in front of him and shouted out, “Two come out.” Before the words were hardly out of his mouth, two little men came out of that bag. They were carrying big sticks, and they proceeded to beat Jack up and down and all over. They beat him bumpy.” He was trying so hard to protect himself that he plum forgot to say the words to make them get back in the bag. Finally he hollered out, “Two go in.” Quick as a flash those little men quit beating Jack and got back in the bag.” Jack couldn’t hardly believe those two thugs were really in that itty bitty bag. He rubbed himself and took a few minutes to clear his head, then he headed straight for the house where that old man and his family lived.
Jack didn’t let on he knew they had his other bag. He just told them he had a brand new bag. The old man asked Jack to go take a look at his cows, so Jack he just set the bag down on the porch and went along. Soon as Jack and the old man were out of sight, the two sons took that bag into the house and quickly said, “Two come out.” Well weren’t they surprised when those two little men with the sticks came out and started walloping everyone in sight. They were all getting beat so bad, they forgot all about how to make it stop. Pretty soon the old man heard all the commotion, so he and Jack hurried on back to the house. The old man ran on in and he got beat up pretty good too. “Make them stop, make them stop,” they were all crying out. “Well, maybe I will and maybe I won’t,” answered Jack. “Maybe if you gave me back my other bag I might.”
One of the sons managed to slink off finally and in no time at all he was back with the first little bag. “Two go in,” Jack shouted out loud, and in a flash the two little men disappeared back into the bag. With that, Jack picked up both bags, carefully noting which one was which, and headed on for home. Well he took that bag with the two little men and hid it in the barn. Then he took the other one into the house and told his mother to come take a look.
“Oh what dang fool thing are you going to try now?” she bellowed. “I bet this one won’t do anymore than that other one did.” With that, needless to say she was mighty surprised when Jack set the bag down and said, “Two come out.” Out of that bag came the table and the two chairs, and that table just filled up with all the kinds of food you can imagine. Jack and his mother sat there and ate and ate and marveled at it all. When they were done, Jack whispered, “Two go in,” because he didn’t want his mother to know about that, and the table and chairs and food disappeared from sight.
Well Jack and his mother ate pretty well after that. They didn’t call on that bag all the time, just once in awhile, but it sure was nice. But one day, his mother was out in the barn doing something, and she found that other bag. “Well now,” she said to herself, “that ungrateful son of mine didn’t tell me he had two bags. I guess I’ll see what’s in this one.” With that she put the bag out in the barnyard and said, “Two come out.”
Well she had been surprised when the table and all the food came out of the other bag. She was even more surprised when those two little men with their sticks came out of this one. And she was beyond surprised when those two fellas started in on beating her bumpy, up and down and all around.
Lucky for her Jack was just coming into the other end of the barn and saw her with the bag. “Stop them, stop them,” she hollered to Jack when she saw him. “Well maybe I will, and maybe I won’t,” said Jack. “Maybe if you promise to quit being so ornery and treat me nicer I just might stop them.” “I will, I will,” hollered his mother. “You promise?” asked Jack. “Yes, yes, I promise. Now make them stop.”
“Two go in,” Jack said sort of quiet like, and quick as can be those two little men were back in the bag. As his mother limped off to the house to recuperate, Jack took that bag and hid it again way up high in the hay loft where he knew no one would ever go looking.
Then he went and got that other bag and fixed his mother a real nice supper. Except for once in awhile, the old woman remembered her promise to Jack and was just as nice as can be, and the two of them are getting along right well down there on the farm. At least they were the last time I was down that way.