Told by Mrs. Nell Hughes in Buckner, AR, April 12, 1951. Collected for Mary Celestia Parler by Irene Carlisle.
Well, in the olden days, ‘way back in the hills, there was a poor little old woman, and she went around wearin’ a little black dress, and a white apron, and a red dust-cap. And she was a good woman, only she was kinda selfish, which caused her downfall in the end.
Well, one day she decided that she’d bake a cake; and she had a little pat of dough, and she rolled it out, and rolled it flat, and made the little cake; and there was a scrap left over. And so she decided that she’d make a cake for the poor old man that lived down the road a piece. So after her first cake was done, she rolled out this little pat, and made the tiny little cake to give away.
But it looked so good that she felt that “That’s just too nice a cake to give away, so I’ll just keep that one, and I’ll make up a little more dough, and give it to the old man.” So she went to the flour-barrel, and got some more flour, and mixed it up in a bowl, and made another little cake, and made it up, and rolled it out, and baked it; and it looked so good that she couldn’t bear to give that one away.
Well, she thought, “That’ll never do; that poor old man’s bound to be hungry; so I’ll just fix another little batch of dough, and make him another cake.” Well, she done this, and she made another cake, and still it looked too good to give away; and she kep’ on, and on, and on, till she’d used the last dust of flour in the barrel.
And in the meantime, she’s been putting more wood in the fire, and the oven was getting hotter and hotter, and the draft was strong in the firebox, and the kitchen was as hot as a furnace. So the last cake she had, she put in the oven, and she thought, “Surely I’ll give this to the poor old man”; and she made it up, and baked it, and it looked, seemed to her, the nicest cake of all; and she thought, “Well, I just can’t give these cakes away!” And she had the whole table just piled full, but still she couldn’t bear to give any of ’em away.
So, when the last cake was ready, and she put it in the oven, the fire was so hot and the draft was so strong that it just sucked her into the oven, and the door slammed shut, and baked her.
And after ‘while, when the fire died down, the oven door fell open, and out popped a little old woodpecker!
And that was that poor little old woman, turned into a woodpecker; and that’s how come the woodpecker’s in the world today, they say back in the hills, because of this poor little old selfish woman.
So that should he a lesson to ever’body about selfishness.