239: Jack’s Hunting Trip

This is probably one of my favorite Jack tales. There are many variations on the story. One version, found here, was recorded by Alan Lomax while in the Appalachian Mountains. This is my own version of the story of one of Jack’s famous hunting trips.

One time, years ago, Jack set out all alone up the mountain on a hunting trip. The first thing he spied across a wide holler was the biggest buck deer his eyes had ever seen. It’s antlers must have been six foot apart with at least twenty points on each of the set. The buck snorted and as he rubbed up on a big ole oak tree Jack could hear a gobbling coming out of the top of that tree. Jack looked up higher and spotted a big branch full of wild turkeys all asleep in a row. Jack thought and thought to himself, “Now how can I shoot that deer and them turkeys too?” Then he made himself a plan.

Jack took a straight sassafras sapling and shaved off two sides until it was flat on the top and flat on the bottom. Then he stuck that branch down into his muzzleloader and packed in a ball on top of the branch, and a ball on the bottom. Then Jack took aim and POW! he shot out one bullet that went and killed that big buck, and the other ball flew up towards the tree but missed the line of birds, which is what Jack was aiming for, and instead split that branch in half with a CRACK! and all them turkeys nearly fell to the ground but that split branch snapped back together around their legs with a WHACK! and all the turkeys were left squawking and gobbling, trying to fly away but they couldn’t.

Jack went up to the buck and admired his prize. Only then did he see the buck was a strange critter indeed with three eyes, four sets of antlers all twisted up together, and big ole fangs that hung down out of his mouth. “Bless my soul,” Jack said with a big smile, “what a prize!”

Then Jack started looking around for the bullet since it had gone straight through the buck’s heart. And he looked and looked then there in the bushes he found a rabbit lying dead, the bullet had gone straight through him. So Jack looked and looked trying to find that damned bullet and he saw it had hit a possum, two raccoons, and a pheasant before hitting the side of a tree. Jack threw all his prizes over onto a pile then looked at the spot where the bullet had hit the tree. Some strange liquid was oozing out of the side of the tree. Jack dipped a finger in a tasted it and as sure as I’m standing here that ole tree was full of honey!

Jack hopped up and saw to those turkeys squawking up in the tree. He climbed up high and took out his knife and started cutting on that branch to try and make it fall to the ground. But just then the branch he was sitting on went crack! CRACK! and that boy would have fell to his death if he hadn’t grabbed a hold of the turkey branch which went SNAP! and broke off too! Well the turkeys took flight and poor Jack was carried high up in the air. And what a shame, he even dropped his knife too.

Well Jack was high in the air by now and wondering what on earth he was going to do about this situation. He thought and thought then made a plan. He kicked up his legs and wrapped them around the branch so he could hang down like a bat for a moment. Then he took out his only length of rope and tied one end around the branch then made a lasso out of the other end. And he hung there until the birds started to get tired, cause you know turkeys can’t fly for very long, and they started to slow down and fall towards the ground. Jack made a quick move and lassoed the branch to an old sapling growing out of the side of a bluff. The boy knew that he needed to get off this ride quick, so he jumped and headed straight for an old hollow stump while those birds flew another four feet before that rope pulled tight and brought them all to the ground.

Jack did a dive unto that hollow stump and instead of hitting ground he kept going and a-going until he landed in a sort of cave underneath the ground. Luckily Jack had some matches on him and he lit one and looked around in the dark. The cave was small, round, with a high ceiling which is where he must have fallen down, a tunnel that led out into the dark, and three big brown, fuzzy lumps in one corner. Jack lit another match as the lumps started moving around. Jack moved closer to investigate just about the time three baby bears started crawling around the little cave. They were friendly enough to Jack, but he figured their mama wouldn’t be so kind so he thought up a plan quick.

Jack reached for his knife but remembered he had dropped it when the turkeys flew off with him. So he searched his pockets while the baby bears pawed at his face and rolled around on the floor of the cave. Pretty soon Jack heard a thump! THUMP! coming through the woods and he knew it was that mama bear coming back to her young-uns. All Jack had on him was an old metal fork he carried in case he might need an old metal fork. So without a thought he took that fork to the dark tunnel and waited for the mama bear to back her big ole be-hind into the cave. Jack waited and waited and soon enough that bear started wiggling back into the tunnel and Jack just stuck out the fork and that bear ran right up on it! The bear made the most terrible shout and hopped out of the tunnel, ran down the hill, and fell right off a bluff. Jack crawled on his belly out of the cave and went over to the edge of the cliff. He looked down and sure enough, that bear had broken it’s neck.

Well by this time it was starting to get dark and Jack figured he best be heading home. So he started back in the direction of the cabin, smiling all the while at the thought of telling everyone back home the story of all the animals he had bagged.

Pretty soon Jack got to the old pond and looked out and saw about twenty fat ducks sitting on top of the water. Even though it was almost dark Jack just had to figure out a way to get all them ducks. So he thought and thought and came up with a plan. He didn’t have any rope left, but there was a string coming off his shirt, so he took that string and dived into the water underneath the ducks. If he couldn’t shoot em he’d just tie em up for later! So Jack carefully and quietly tied all the ducks’ legs together under the water then attached the last of the string to an old log at the bottom of the pond. When Jack got back to land those ducks were all flapping around trying to fly off but they could only just float there on the water.

So Jack finally headed back home, shirtless, wet, and cold, but the happiest he’d ever been before. And when he got back to the cabin he told his story to the family and everyone just laughed and laughed knowing he was telling one of his lies again. “Well if you’re gonna be like that,” Jack said, “then just you come up the mountain with me tomorrow!” And that’s exactly what they did.

The next morning Jack’s pa and two brothers went up the mountain with him to find all his kills. The first thing they seen was that big ole buck dead on the ground and a pile of animals next to it. “I told you I never lie!” Jack said with a smile. His pa and brothers couldn’t believe their eyes. One of Jack’s brothers started carrying the animals back to the cabin while his other brother and pa followed Jack over to the honey tree. They filled ten barrels of honey that they rolled back to the cabin and still had more they could have taken.

Next they found the wild turkeys all stuck in that branch and tied to a bluff. Jack’s pa led held hard on to the rope and led the turkeys back to the house. All the ways back folks complimented him on his excellent kite flying.

After that Jack called the neighbor boys to come help them move the mama bear back to the cabin. It took seven of them to move that bear and even then they were plumb worn out by the end of it. Jack took the three baby bears back home and raised them like fox hounds for a while but eventually gave them over to a traveling circus on their way out of town.

Last thing on the list were those ducks Jack had tied together down on the pond. Jack dived under the water, took the string off of the old log he’d tied it to, then swam back to shore. The ducks all flew up into the air and nearly took Jack with them, but luckily his brothers were there to grab onto him and keep him on the ground.

Jack and his family ate like royalty on the turkeys and ducks all Fall and Winter and made coats out of the fine bear skin for when it got cold. They mounted the buck head on the wall with it’s three eyes, four sets of antlers, and fangs that hung down out of its mouth, and it’s still passed through the family as an heirloom to this day. Jack went on many more hunting trips, but that’s for another time.

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