Pennsylvania Jack


a story by Pennsylvania Jack

(C) Jack Graham, 2007

One time there was an old woman who lived way out in the hollow in a log cabin. She was so old she had outlived three husbands. All of them had been pretty well off, so she was what you might call a rich widow. They didn't have any banks out there in those days, so she kept her money in an old crock up on the fireboard (mantlepiece). Hanging up on the wall above the fireboard was a big old fish that had been smoked to preserve it for eating. The old woman was in the habit of sitting by the fire before she turned in for the night and working on her wool carding, or her spinning, or her knitting or some such. She would work until she "gapped" (yawned) three times. Then she would take up the big sharp knife she kept by her chair and hack off a piece of that dried fish for a bedtime snack. The fish hung on the wall so's you could only see one side, and so the old woman called it "Old one eye."

One fall three roguish robbers came to town. The leader of this bunch had lost an eye in a brawl, and he wore a big black eye-patch where his right eye used to be. These rogues sort of laid low, listening to see if they could find out who had something worth stealing. By and by they heard about the rich widow who lived up the hollow. One evening, just before dark, the leader told one of his men to find out where that woman lived, and get on up there and spy on her and find out where she kept her riches.

The old boy pulled out and made his way up the hollow. He found the old woman's cabin, and slipped on up along side the chimney. There was a little chunk of the chinking missing from between two of the logs and he could peep inside to watch. Since it was now dark outside, the old lady couldn't see out. She was busy working. After a bit she let out one big old gap. "That's one come," she said out loud. Two more come and I'll get out my knife."

Well the robber in the corner was sure she had seen him and was talking about him. So he hightailed it back down the hollow to the place where the other two were staying. "That old lady is a witch," he exclaimed to his partners. "Dark as it was she knew I was there. She plans to kill us all."

The leader of the group didn't believe him, he thought the man was just afraid. So he told the second robber to go on up there and see what he could find out. There was a little bit of moonlight to help the man find his way up the hollow. He too found the old woman's cabin and found that place by the chimney where he could watch. He hadn't been there long when the old woman let out her second great big gap. "That's the second one come," she said out loud. "One more come and I'll get out my knife."

Just like the first robber, this one too thought she was talking about him. He didn't know how she knew he was there. He too took off back out of there in a hurry. "He's right," he told their boss. The old woman must be a witch. How else would she know I was there. She plans to kill us all."

"If you want something done, you have to do it yourself," the one-eyed bandit exclaimed to his two men. With that he set off up the hollow to see what he could find out. In no time, he found that corner by the chimney and peeped in. He wasn't there long before the old woman let out that third big gap. She knew it was time to turn in. She picked up her big sharp knife and said, "Now old one-eye, here I come!" Needless to say that one-eyed bandit peeking into her cabin thought for sure she was coming after him, so he fled on back down the hollow. He told the other two, "We're getting out of here. You were right. That old lady must be a witch." They took off down the road and were never seen in those parts again.

Not knowing anything about the three thieves who had been peeking in on her, the old woman cut her off a chunk of the dried fish, ate it up, and went to bed. She slept real good too."