“Old Black-Oak Knows Best” and Ozark folk tale from “Stiff as a Poker” by Vance Randolph. This story, like “Strawberries are Easy Witched”, features the character of Gram French. This folk tale was collected from Mr. Frank Payne of Galena, MO, November, 1932. This tale bears resemblance to other European folk tales like “The Prayer for a Husband” which can be found in many forms from Germany to Britain.
“Once upon a time there was a pretty girl named Josie, and her folks was well fixed but they had trouble with the law, so the town boys didn’t come around much. There was a young farmer name of Pete wanted to go with her, but Josie wouldn’t do it because she figured them high-collar town boys was better. She give old Gram French two dollars for a charm, but it didn’t do no good. Finally Gram told her to hang the charm on the old black-oak at midnight, and then say a little rhyme.
“When Josie come to the old black-oak she done just like Gram told her, and then set down to see what happened. Pretty soon she heard a voice away up in the air a-mumbling. Josie was kind of scared, but she stood still a minute and listened. There was some more mumbling, and then the voice says, ‘You got to marry Pete.’ Josie run for home when she heard that and never told the folks nothing.
“The next night she went back to the old black-oak and done just like Gram told her, and then set down to see what happened. Pretty soon she hears some more mumbling up in the air, and then the voice says, ‘You got to marry Pete.’ Josie went home and thought about it a long time.
“The third night she went back to the old black-oak and done just like Gram told her, and then she set down to see what happened. Pretty soon she heard something a-mumbling up in the air, and then the voice says, ‘You got to marry Pete.’ Josie went home just like she done before, and never slept a wink all night.
“Next day she went and told Gram French what happened. ‘If you heerd the same thing three nights a-runnin’, you better go ahead an’ marry Pete,’ says Gram. ‘What’s the use to marry a fellow like that?’ says Josie. ‘Why he ain’t got a pot to cook in, or a window to throw it out!’ Gram just set and looked at her awaile. ‘Old black-oak knows best,’ she says. ‘It takes more’n pots an’ windows to make a good husband.’ Gram didn’t say no more, and Josie didn’t return no answer.
“Josie told the folks she knowed all the time it was Pete a-talking out of the old black-oak, and she says Gram French must have put him up to it. But Pete just grinned, and he never did admit nothing. Him and her got hitched in the dark of the moon, all right. But the neighbors say they done about as good as any other married folks.”
“The Woman Sucked His Blood” an Ozark folk tale from “Who Blowed Up the Church House?” by Vance Randolph. This folk tale was collected from Elbert Short of Crane, MO, June, 1933. It is related to the ballad “Sir Hugh” which is featured in local varieties in Vance Randolph’s “Ozark Folksongs I.”
“One time there was some little boys playing ball in the road, and one boy knocked the ball over a high stone fence. They could not climb over because the fence was too high, and they was afraid to go in anyhow, because there was a old witch lived in the house. They figured she might kill them, and it was better to let the ball go, and not take no chances. So the little boys all run away, but there was one big boy there, and he walked right in the gate.
“The old witch kept herself hid, but there was a pretty blond-headed girl come out to see if she could toll the big boy into the house. When the boy seen her he says, ‘Where’s the old woman?’ The girl says, ‘The old woman don’t live here no more, and I am all by myself. I am lonesome, because there is nobody for me to play with, and if you come in the house I will give you a big red apple.’ He went in and eat the apple, and then she give him some fine red cherries, and he eat them too.
“Pretty soon the blond-headed girl says, ‘If you come in the other room, I will give you a gold ring, and then we will play games.’ So he went in, and she give him a gold ring. Pretty soon him and her got to tickling each other and rassling around like young folks do. And while they was a-romping on the floor, the blond-headed girl out with a little sharp knife and cut his throat. Then she began to suck blood like a mink, and the old witch come in, and she sucked some blood too. And while the boy was a-dying, they put a wash-basin under his head to catch the rest of the blood. Then after it got dark they took him down back of the house and throwed him in the river.
“About a week after that the folks found him lying in the water with his throat cut and the blood all gone out of him. Everybody knowed who killed that boy, but they couldn’t prove nothing. The old witch and her blond-headed girl had lots of money. They paid off the lawyers and took care of them courthouse rats, so nobody ever done anything about it.”