The Little Boy and His Dogs (African American)

by Joel Chandler Harris

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Uncle Remus's little patron seemed to be so shocked at the burning of the woman [in the previous story, "How a Witch Was Caught"] that the old man plunged at once into a curious story about a little boy and his two dogs.

One time there was a woman living alongside the big road, and this woman, she had one little boy. It seems to me that he must have been just about your size. He might have been a little broader in the shoulders and a little longer in the legs, yet, take him up one side and down the other, he was just about your shape and size.

He was a mighty smart little boy, and his mammy set lots by him. It seems like she had never had any luck except with that boy, because there was a time when she had a little gal, and bless your soul, somebody came along and carried the little gal off, and the little boy didn't have a little sister anymore. This made both of them mighty sorry, but it looked like the little boy was the sorriest, because he showed it the most.

Some days he'd take a notion to go and hunt for his little sister, and then he'd go down the big road and climb a big pine tree, and get clear to the top, and look all around to see if he couldn't see his little sister somewhere in the woods. He couldn't see her, but he'd stay up there in the tree and swing in the wind and allow to himself that maybe he might see her by and by.

One day while he was sitting up there, he saw two mighty fine ladies walking down the road. He climbed down out of the tree, he did, and ran and told his mammy. The she up an asked, "How fine are they, honey?"

"Mighty fine, mammy, mighty fine: puffy-out petticoats and long green veils."

"How do they look, honey?"

"Spick-and-span new, mammy."

"They aren't any of our kin, are they, honey?"

"That they aren't, mammy. They are mighty fine ladies."

The fine ladies, they came on down the road, they did, and stopped by the woman's house, and begged to please give them some water. The little boy, he ran and fetched them a gourd full, and they put the gourd under their veils and drank, and drank, and drank just like they were nearly perished for water. The little boy watched them. Soon he hollered out, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They are lapping the water."

The woman hollered back, "I reckon that's the way quality folks do, honey."

Then the ladies begged for some bread, and the little boy took them a pone. They ate it like they were mighty nigh famished for bread. By and by the little boy hollered out and said, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They've got great long teeth."

The woman, she hollered back, "I reckon all the quality folks have got them, honey."

Then the ladies asked for some water to wash their hands, and the little boy brought them some. He watched them, and by and by he hollered out, "Mammy, mammy! What do you reckon? They've got hairy hands and arms."

The woman, she hollered back, "I reckon all the quality folks have got them, honey."

Then the ladies begged the woman to please let the little boy show them where the big road forks. But the little boy didn't want to go. He hollered out, "Mammy, folks don't have to be shown where the road forks."

But the woman, she allowed, "I reckon the quality folks do, honey."

The little boy, he began to whimper and cry, because he didn't want to go with the ladies, but the woman said he ought to be ashamed of himself for going on that way in front of the quality folks, and more than that, he might run into his little sister and fetch her home.

Now this here little boy had two mighty bad dogs. One of them was named Minnyminny Morack, and the other one was named Follerlinsko, and they were so bad that they had to be tied in the yard day and night, except when they were a-hunting. So the little boy, he went and got a pan of water and set in down in the middle of the floor, and then he went and got himself a willow limb, and he stuck it in the ground.

Then he allowed, "Mammy, when the water in this here pan turns to blood, then you run out and set loose Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko, and when you see that there willow limb a-shaking, you run and sick them on my track."

The woman, she up and said, she'd turn the dogs loose, and then the little boy, he stuck his hands in his pockets and went on down the road a-whistling, just the same as any other little boy, except that he was a lot smarter. He went on down the road, he did, and the fine quality ladies, they came on behind.

The further he went the faster he walked. This made the quality ladies walk fast too, and it wasn't so mighty long before the little boy heard them making a mighty curious fuss, and when he turned around, bless gracious! they were a-panting, because they were so tired and hot. The little boy allowed to himself that it was mighty curious how ladies could pant the same as a wild varmint, but he said he expected that was the way quality ladies do when they get hot and tired, and he made like he couldn't hear them, because he wanted to be nice and polite.

After a while, when the quality ladies thought the little boy wasn't looking at them, he saw one of them drop down on her all fours and trot along just like a varmint, and it wasn't long before the other one dropped down on her all fours. Then the little boy allowed, "Shoo! If that is the way quality ladies rest themselves when they get tired, I reckon a little chap about my size had better be fixing to rest himself."

So he looked around, he did, and he took and picked himself out a great big pine tree by the side of the road, and began to climb it. Then, when they saw that, one of the quality ladies allowed, "My goodness! What in the world are you up to now?"

The little boy, he said, "I'm just a-climbing a tree to rest my bones."

The ladies, they allowed, "Why don't you rest them on the ground?"

The little boy, he said, "Because I want to get up where it is cool and high."

The quality ladies, they took and walked around and around the tree like they were measuring it to see how big it was. By and by, after a while, they said, "Little boy, little boy! You'd better come down from there and show us the way to the forks of the road."

Then the little boy allowed, "Just keep right on, ladies. You'll find the forks of the road. You can't miss them. I'm afraid to come down, because I might fall and hurt one of you all."

The ladies, they said, "You'd better come down before we run and tell your mammy how bad your are."

The little boy allowed, "While you are telling her, please tell her how scared I am."

The quality ladies got mighty mad. They walked around that tree and fairly snorted. They pulled off their bonnets, and their veils, and their dresses, and, lo and behold, the little boy saw that they were two great big panthers. They had great big eyes, and big sharp teeth, and great long tails, and they looked up at the little boy and growled and grinned at him until he mighty nigh had a chill. They tried to climb the tree, but they had trimmed their claws so they could get gloves on, and they couldn't climb any more.

Then one of them sat down in the road and made a curious mark in the sand, and their great long tales turned into axes, and no sooner did the tails turn into axes than they began to cut the tree down. I don't dare tell you how sharp those axes were, because you wouldn't nigh believe me. One of them stood on one side of the tree, and the other one stood on the other side, and they whacked at that tree like they were taking a holiday. They whacked out chips as big as your hat, and it wasn't so mighty long before the tree was ready to fall.

But while the little boy was sitting up there, scared mighty nigh to death, it came into his mind that he had some eggs in his pocket that he had brought with him to eat whenever he got hungry. He took out one of the eggs and broke it, and said, "Place fill up!" And bless your soul, the place sure enough filled up, and the tree looked just exactly like nobody had been a-cutting on it.

But them there panthers, they were very vigorous. They just spit on their hands and cut away. When they got the tree mighty nigh cut down, the little boy, he pulled out another egg and broke it, and said, "Place, fill up!" And by the time he said it, the tree was done made sound again. They kept on this a-way until the little boy began to get scared again. He had broken all his eggs except one, and them there creatures were a-cutting away like they were venomous, which they most surely were.

Just about that time the little boy's mammy happened to stumble over the pan of water that was sitting down on the floor, and there it was, all turned to blood. Then she ran and unloosed Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko. Then when she did that she saw the willow limb a-shaking, and then she put the dogs on the little boy's track, and away they went.

The little boy heard them a-coming, and he hollered out, "Come on, my good dogs. Here, dogs, here."

The panthers, they stopped chopping and listened. One asked the other one what she could hear. The little boy said, "You don't hear anything. Go on with your chopping."

The panthers, they chopped some more, and then they thought they heard the dogs a-coming. Then they tried their best to get away, but it wasn't any use. They didn't have time to change their axes back into tails, and because they couldn't run with axes dragging behind them, the dogs caught them.

The little boy, he allowed, "Shake them and bite them. Drag them around and around, until you drag them two miles." So the dogs dragged them around for two miles.

Then the little boy said, "Shake them and tear them. Drag them around and around, until you drag them ten miles." They dragged them ten miles, and by the time they got back, the panthers were cold and stiff.

Then the little boy climbed down out of the tree and sat down to rest himself. By and by, after a while, he allowed to himself that beings he was having so much fun, he believed he'd take his dogs and go way off into the woods to see if he couldn't find his little sister. He called his dogs, he did, and went off into the woods, and they hadn't gone so mighty far before he saw a house in the woods away off by itself.

The dogs, they went up and smelled around, they did, and came back with their bristles up, but the little boy allowed he'd go up there anyhow and see what the dogs were mad about. So he called the dogs and went towards the house, and when he got close up he saw a little gal toting wood and water. She was a might pretty little gal, because she had milk-white skin and great long yellow hair, but her clothes were all in rags, and she was crying because she had to work so hard. Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko wagged their tales when they saw the little gal, and the little boy knew by that that she was his sister.

So he went up and asked her what her name was, and she said she didn't know what her name was, because she was so scared she forgot. Then he asked her what in the name of goodness she was crying about, and she said she was crying because she had to work so hard. Then he asked her who the house belonged to, and she allowed it belonged to a great big old black bear, and this old bear made her tote wood and water all the time. She said the water was to go into the big wash-pot, and the wood was to make the pot boil, and the pot was to cook folks that the great big old bear brought home to his children.

The little boy didn't tell the little gal that he was her brother, but he allowed that he was going to stay and eat supper with the big old bear.

The little gal cried and allowed he'd better not, but the little boy said he wasn't afraid to eat supper with a bear. So they went into the house, and when the little boy got in there, he saw that the bear had two great big children, and one of them was squatting on the bed, and the other one was squatting down in the hearth. The children were both named Cubs for short, but the little boy wasn't scared of them, because there were his dogs to do away with them if they so much as rolled an eyeball.

The old bear was a mighty long time coming back, so the little gal, she up and fixed supper anyhow, and the little boy, he scrounged from Cubs first on one side and then on the other, and he and the little gal got as much as they wanted. After supper the little boy told the little gal that he'd take and comb her hair just to while away the time. But the little gal's hair hadn't been combed for so long, and it was in such a tangle, that it made the poor creature cry to hear anybody talking about combing it. Then the little boy allowed he wasn't going to hurt her, and he took and warmed some water in a pan and put it on her hair, and then he combed and curled it, just as nice you ever did see.

When the old bear got home he was mighty taken back when he saw he had company, and when he saw them all sitting down like they had come to stay. But he was mighty polite, and he shook hands all around, and sat down by the fire and dried his boots, and asked about the crops, and allowed that the weather would be monstrous fine if they could get a little season of rain.

Then he took and made a great admiration over the little gal's hair, and he asked the little boy how in the whole world he could curl it and fix it so nice. The little one allowed it was easy enough. Then the old bear said he believed he would like to get his hair curled up that way, and the little boy said, "Fill the big pot with water."

The old bear filled the pot with water. Then the little boy said, "Build a fire under the pot and heat the water hot."

When the water got scalding hot, the little boy said, "All ready now. Stick your head in. It's the only way to make your hair curl."

Then the old bear stuck his head in the water, and that was the last of him, bless gracious! The scalding water curled the hair until it came off, and I suspect that is where they got the idea about putting bear grease on folks's hair. The young bears, they cried like everything when they saw how their daddy had been treated, and they wanted to bite and scratch the little boy and his sister, but those dogs -- Minnyminny Morack and Follerlinsko -- they just laid hold of them there bears, and there wasn't enough left of them to feed a kitten.

"What did they do then?" asked the little boy who had been listening to the story.

The old man took off his spectacles and cleaned the glasses on his coattail. "Well, sir," he went on, "the little boy took and carried his sister home, and his mammy said that she never again would set any store by folks with fine clothes, because they were so deceitful. No, never, so long as the Lord might spare her. And then after that they lived together right straight along, and if it hadn't been for the war, they'd be a-living there now. Because war is a mighty dangerous business."

Source: Joel Chandler Harris, Daddy Jake, the Runaway; and, Short Stories Told After Dark by "Uncle Remus" (New York: The Century Company, 1896), pp. 93-107