This one is about Jack and Tom and Will—of old Fire Dragon that spit balls of fire. And Jack’s dad had a great bug track of land, owned it. So, he give it to Jack and Tom and Will to clear; give ‘em the land and made ‘em a deed for it, to clear and start clearing it theirselves. And so, they got up a wagon-load of vittles and went where it was at and built ‘em a …notched ‘em up a shanty to stay in. And so, they knowed that the next…that, when they got ready to clear it, that they’d have to leave, uh, leave one till twelve (and he could help, then, after twelve) to cook dinner. So they left Will the first time.
And Jack and Tom cleared, and Will got dinner and rung the dinner…blowed the dinner horn. And, just when he blowed it, up out of a holler come old Fire Dragon, up with his pipe in his mouth, and come in at the door. And just come on in. And Will had the dinner set on the table, and he come in and never said a word to Will. And Will was so scared he hid behind the door. And Fire Dragon eat every bite, sopped the dish, and went back through in by the fireplace and got the biggest chunk of fire that he could find and stuffed down in his pipe and went off.
And Jack and Tom got to the house, come in, and says, (Will shot out from behind the door), says, “Where is the dinner, Will?” Says, “Hain’t you cooked no dinner?” He says, “Gosh,” says, “if you’d a seed what I seed,” said, “you wouldn’t want no dinner!” And they ‘gin to laugh, and Will says, “All right, laughing’s catching,” he says. “Tom,” says, “tomorrow’ll be your turn.” And so they fixed up a little, right quick, extra, then, and eat it, and went back and cleared that evening. And the next day they left Tom to get dinner, clean up, till twelve. And Will and Jack was a-clearing till twelve.
And so Tom got dinner and blowed the horn, and up come old Fire Dragon. And just come in and never said a word—and Tom hid—and eat every bite and sopped the pot. And went through by the fireplace and got the biggest coal of fire he could find and put it in his pipe. And Jack and Will come in, and Tom shot out. And says, “Where’s the dinner, Tom?” He says, “Gosh,” he says, “Tom’s (here, Ray means Will, of course) right;” says, “Jack, don’t laugh!” Says, “Tomorrow’ll be your turn.” Says, “Great…” says, “you won’t want no dinner when you see that.” And he says, “He went in by the fireplace, after he eat up all the eating, and got the biggest coal of fire he could get,” Tom said. And he said, “When he put it in the pipe and puffed it a few puffs,” said, “it looked like a steam engine took off with the blowers on.” Well, they fixed up a little, right quick, and eat ‘em a little bite extra, and all went back that evening and cleared. And said, “Jack, now tomorrow’ll be your turn.”
Well, so, they left Jack the next day and jack fixed dinner and cleaned up and went to setting it on the table, and he blowed the horn. And, while he was scooping out of a kettle a mess of beans, he looked and there come old Fire Dragon, with his arms crossed behind him.
And just as he come to the door, he (Jack) said, “Hello there, Dad!” Says, “Is you hungry?” Said, “Nope.” Said, “Don’t want a bite.” ‘Cause Jack offered it to him, he didn’t want none. Said, “Yeah, Dad,” says, “just get you a seat in there in the fireplace.” And says, “I’m a-setting it on the table now.” Says, “Will and Tom will be in just in a few minutes.” Said, “I blowed the dinner horn.”
Said, “Nope,” said, “I don’t want a bite.” Said, “I just stopped by to light my pipe.” He said he went in and got the biggest chunk, a great big stick of wood, too, Jack said, and stuffed it way down in his pipe. And said that beat any cloud of smoke, when he give that a few puffs, he ever seed in his life. And said he just struck out behind him then; follered him by the smoke down through a wilderness, way down in a holler.
And while he had gone, Jack had…While Jack was gone, Will and Tom come in and said, “Good gracious!” Says, “The dinner’s on the table.” Said, “He’s eat Jack this time.” Said, “Boy, we’ve lost Jack;” said, “he’s eat him.” Said, “The dinner’s on the table.”
Well, so Jack come in, directly. They said, “Where you been?” Says, “We thought he’d eat you up, account of dinner on the table.”
He said, “No.” Says, “I called him ‘Dad’,” and said, “tried to get him to stay and make a seat and get him a chair in the fire-setting room and wait, and was setting it on the table.” And said, “Just got it set on the table when I left.” And he says, “I found out where he went.” Says, “He went down there, way down in the wilderness of that holler.” And said, “He went in a hole in the ground.”
And so they eat then and ‘gin to rig up to find out what was in there. And they eat and fixed ‘em a basket out of splits and took and made ‘em a rope out of hickory bark and went down to the hole. And they let Will down first. And they fixed it…Will…if that Will hit any trouble, he was to shake the rope of the hickory bark. And so, just hadn’t went down but just a few feet till Will shook it and they snaked him back out just as fast as they could and they says, “What did you see, Will?” He said, “I seed a house under there.” And so they put Tom in it then, and let him down, and he was gone down just a little longer and he shook it and they jerked him out and says, “Tom, what did you see?” He said, “I seed a house and barn.” And so they put Jack in then and let him down, and Jack let ‘em let on down till he hit on the top of the roof. And he let it ease on down and he slid of the eaves. And he let it ease on down in the yard.
And so he got out of the basket and went and pecked on the door. And a girl come; the oldest girl, which he didn’t know it, when he pecked. And he says, “Howdy.” And she was so pretty till he just started in talking courting right when he seed her. And she says, “Oh,” says, “don’t do that!” Said, “The second room you come to,” said, “has got one in it prettier than I am.” And so Jack went on in and seed her and she was so much prettier till the first word he spoke was courting, wanting to court. And she says, “Oh, don’t do that!” She said, “The third one, in the third room,” she said, “is a beauty.” Said, “She’s the prettiest one of the bunch.” So Jack went on in and seed her, and he just got to talking about getting married, she was so pretty.
And so, she ‘posed to him and tied a ribbon in her hair, and she put a wishing ring on his finger. And so told him that the Fire Dragon was a-coming back any minute. And said, “Here’s some ointment;” said, “If he hits you with any if them fire-balls,” says, “they burn a streak!” And says, “Here’s a sword,” said, “is all that’ll hurt him is a silver sword.”
Well, so Jack took the ointment and, in just a few minutes, the Fire Dragon come in and seed him and ‘gin to make at him and spit them fire-balls. Said it was a sight to see them sparkle over the floor. And he dodged him around and some would glance him and burn him, and he’d rub that ointment right quick, and try to get a lick with that sword. And said, directly, he got a lick and just swiped his head slick off.
Well, he then fixed up to get the girls out of there. And he put the first one in the basket, that he met when he knocked on the door, and sent her up—or shook the hickory rope and they pulled it up. And Will and Tom got to jarring off of it; said, “This one’s mine!” Directly she says, “Don’t do that.” Says, “The next one is a-coming is prettier yet than I am.” And so they shoved the basket back down in quick as they could, and Jack put the second one in it and shook the hickory rope and they flounced her out, and he heard ‘em a raring over her. And said Will said, “Good gosh, don’t you put your hands on her; that one’s mine.” Tom said, “Don’t you touch her; that one’s mine.” She says, “Oh,” says, “don’t do that.” Says, “The third one, the last one that’s down there, is a beauty.” Said, “She’s the top.”
And so they shoved the basket down as quick as they could, and that was Jack’s—they’d done ‘posed to be married and had the ribbon in her hair. And so Jack out her in the basket. And Will and Tom, she was so much prettier, they got to fighting around over her. And she says, “Don’t fight.” Says, “I’m done supposed to be married to Jack.” They said, “Well,” – just pitched the hickory rope and the basket right down in the hole—and said, “let the rascal stay down in there.” And said, “He’ll not get you.”
And so they took ‘em and went back to the new ground shanty. And Jack stayed in there and eat all the rations up that the Fire Dragon had, he thought. And he stayed a week or two. And, directly, he got to getting weak, and he hunted around and he found a few more bites to eat, a little more. And he got to feeling so weak, till he looked down and…looking at his fingers to see how much he’d fell off, what time he’d been down in there. And he looked, and his fingers was fell off, and the made him notice the ring. Hit was so loose it would fall off his fingers, from the time he’d been in there. And that made him think about the ring, and he said, “I wish I was home with my mother, a-setting in the chimley corner, a-smoking my old ‘kachuckety’ (?) pipe.” And said, just as the words got out of his mouth, there he was a-setting, and his mother a-talking to him. She said, “Jack,” she said, “looks like you ought to be to the new ground a-helping Tom and Will clear.” He says, “Bedad, that’s where I’m started.”
And so he got on up there and they had the three girls and was still a-fighting over them. And so, him and the youngest one, the prettiest one, married—that had put the ring on his finger—and the ribbon was in her hair yet. And her and Jack married, and Tom married the next one to her, and Jack…ah, Will had to take the oldest. And the last time that I was around there, they’d built more shanties and they was a-doing well.
*This version of the story is a transcription from the Folkways Records LP that contains four stories narrated by Ray Hicks. I believe this story, and thus this transcription, to be in the public domain.*