The Legend of Hungry Jack
It happn’t back in the winter o’ fifty-two. Ole Jim wuz pannin’ for gold up on that thar western arm o’ the Truckee River and fell inta a slush pit all the way up ta hiz stomach. Try as he might, he just a cut’n break free o’ the mud’s holdt on him. So thar he stood for days and days jus a tryin’ ta git out o’ that thar slush pit. Ole Jim dit’n knowt how many days he’d a been thar unable ta wres’le hizzelf free, but he hadt a protect hizzelf from the sun beatin’ a down on him like a mountain o’ fire ants chewin’ on hiz forehead. So’z he tore off hiz shirt and tied it over hiz head like a bandaner. The only thinkin’ Ole Jim wuz a-thinkin’ wuz of hiz gold dust and hiz nuggets and them thar tools.
Well, pert near a week gone by and still Ole Jim wuz locked in that thar mud pit. Then ‘bout high noon, thiz here mount’n dog come a-sniffin’ round and a-starin’ at Ole Jim from a hunnert feet away and Ole Jim’s just a-starin’ right back – neither one sayin’ nuttin’. So’z Ole Jim goes t’figurin’ that the dog’s master iz close by, so’z Ole Jim went a hollerin’. “Help, Help!” “Here I iz, yore dog iz over here! Hey, I’z stuck, I needz help. Hey! Anyone thar?!” But see noone iz answerin’ back, the dog uz just a-wanderin’ all lone. And Ole Jim lookz at the dog wit diz a-look in hiz eyes and spitz. An’ the dog looks back at Ole Jim and haz that look in hiz eyes, y’know, like he’z a-sayin’, “you’d better ta ‘pologize ta me or I ain’t a helpin ya.” And so’z Ole Jim, he just a-starin’ mean-like, like he ain’t gonna ax no dog for no help. An’ so’z the dog runs off.
Well, Ole Jim iz thar just a-swearin’ and a-cussin’ and a-hollerin’ at the top o’ hiz lungs. But dernt iff’n that thar dog dit’n come back the next day wif a branch the size of a Texas toothpick. Ole Jim wuz so excited ta get out of that thar hole, he started a smilin’. But’n he wuz mad as hell that that thar dog left him thar for a whole udder day. Ole Jim dit’n say thank you or pat the dog or nuttin’. That’s how ole Jim wuz.
But that thar dog. Dern’d he wuz somethin’.
Ole Hungry Jack, that’s the dogs name, it iz, stayed along watchin’ out for Ole Jungle Jim from that day on and he never run’t off unless’n he wuz gettin’ help or sump’n.
I a-member a time when Hungry Jack and Ole Jungle Jim went ta rescuin’ these here two boys up in them thar hills arount the Tahoe pond. Hungry Jack and Ole Jim, they wuz heroes.
See, these here two boys wuz in the woods alone and their daddy wuz back at the hotel nappin’ or somethin’. Well, these two boys wuz ta hikin’ round ole Salmon Creek when they dissappear’t. They never came a back and they daddy, he called the prez-a-dent and told him hiz boys wuz a-missin’. See their daddy, wuz ole “Corky” Anderson, that thar sena-ter from Wyomin’. Next thin’ ya know, them Texas Rangers and all o’ California wuz out lookin’ for them thar boys. For pert near three weeks they searched them thar woods and closed down the whole dern’t mountain. The town wuz all tatalkin’ bout how someone wuz mad at ole Corky and how he hadt it a-comin’ for he hadt run off them settlers by Laramie and let them thar city folk from the east have the land.
Newsie-papers made fun a ole Corky and how he couldn’t a keep hiz own house wut fer a givin’ it away, and how the government wuz startin’ a smell like a old drunk. Hey barkeep, how ‘bout another shot o’ that thar whiskey? Much oblig’d.
Well bout that thar time, ole Jack and Ole Jim hadt been out a-fishin’ in the Truckee when Ole Jim saw all these here people buzzin’ round like vultures hoverin’ over a dead bull. Ole Jim went a thinkin’ that maybe somebody done seen a likkar farm out thar in them thar woods and that the Rangers wuz huntin’ ‘em down or wuz a-roundin’ ‘em up. Bein’ that Ole Jim never care’t for no whiskey, he never paid it no mind et all, he and Jack jus a kept a fishin’.
That thar evenin’ when Jack and Ole Jim went a back ta their ole camp, they foun’t that racoons or bears had done destroy’t their camp. Pots and pans wuz all over the place, blankets wuz all torn up. Even Ole Jim’s cabin wuz busted up and all. And the fire pit had been ruin’t; not one stone lay a-top ‘nother. Ole Jim he’s a churnin’ like a Okeehomee tornado. He looked ta Jack, an’ he could see in the dog’s eyes that Ole Hungry Jack wuz sad. Cuz ole Hungry Jack helped built that thar camp. And ole Hungry Jack, he a saw Ole Jim just a mad as he ever’t seen ‘em. Ole Jim, he done shoved a fist up ta the sky and cried up ta them thar clouds, “WHAT THE HELL DID WE EVER DO TA YOU??!” Well, ole Hungry Jack, he just a-moseyed on up and nudged on Ole Jim’s leg, but Ole Jim wat’n in no pettin’ mood.
If Hungry Jack could a talk, he’d a tole ole Jim, “Hey Jim, let’s get ta fixin’ this here place.” See, ole Jack help’t ta build that camp. He dug holes wif hiz bare paws, diggin’ through slag and flint and bedrock. He climb’t trees and chew’d off branches the size of fence posts. He carried boulders as big as watermelons on a sled behind him and timber all the way from the Hampsterd Mine, up ta the creek where they hadt thar camp sitchy-ated.. Why he even help’t pound them thar timbers inta the ground – takin’ a boulder in hiz mouth and liftin’ it high up in the air and then lettin’ it fall like a sledgehammer down onta the post.
Now when Jack and Ole Jim thunk bout it a while, they decided ta go ta the Hampster’d Mine and get some more timbers ta fix ole Jim’s cabin. So uz next mornin’ they hitched ole Jack up ta that thar sled and went ta walkin ta that old mine. When they got thar, ole Jack started in on a-howlin’an’ a-shakin’ hiz head an’ shufflin’ hiz feet and hollerin’ like a hungry ole child. Ole Jim dit’n know’t what the hell wuz goin’ on. He axed ol Jack, he did, he said, “What’s the matter there Jack?”, but the dog just kept a-howlin’ and a-jumpin and he look’t in ole Jacks eyes and he could see that Jack was a fer ta doin’ sumpin’ portant. Finally, Ole Jim just a went and let the dog loose. Heh, ole Jack, he done shot out after that thar mine like a piece o’ wood riding on the Mississippi flood waters. Ole Jim, he hollert ta ole Jack, he did, and then went a-runnin’ in that thar mine lookin ‘ after him.
Ole Jim heard Hungry Jack a-barkin’ but he dit’n know’t where he wuz. “Jack, Jack. Come on dog, where the hell are ya?!” An ole Hungry Jack, he got a-quiet and that’s when Ole Jim heard some voices comin’ from out by the western spur. That shaft wuz closed off back in the eighties a fer tait bein’ wrecked and thar bein’ a sixty-foot hole hidden hind a dark turn in da path. Well, Ole Jim, he pert near ta fell down that thar shaft hizzelf if’n it hattn’a been for ole Jack bein’ in front of him ta stop him from goin’ over the edge. Jack turn’t the corner and stopped dead in hiz tracks, and Ole Jim just about tripped over the ole dog tryin’ ta stop hisself. Hee, hee, hee, hee. That ole boy’s face a turnt whiter en snow until he figured he wuz alive! Hey, barkeep, gimme nuther shot.
Well, Ole Jim, he wuz a-hearin’ these voices and ole Jack wuz lookin down in that thar pit, whimperin like a baby wif hiz hand stuck in the cookie jar. Ole Jim listen’t reel close and yelled down in that thar hole, “Hey, who iz that down thar?! Whatcha doin in thiz here mine?” And all he hear’d wuz these wailin’ cries. An’ so he axed agin. “Hey who that be down thar?!” An’ them boys tried a tell wut through them tears they could tell.
Well ole Jim turn’t ta Jack and tole ole Hungry Jack ta go git Ranger Tom an’ brin’ him back fer ta help. So’z ole Jack went ta looking fer ole Ranger Tom and while’t he was gone, ole Jim went and tied hizzelf together what little rope they brought on the sled and tried ta reach them thar boys.
Ole Hungry Jack wuz gone for pert near four hours and Ole Jim wuzn’t a havin no luck gittin ta them thar boys. He just sat up on the edge of that thar pit and waited and talked wif them boys like he wuz a-talkin’ ta you an’ me. See, Ole Jim never had’t no way wif no kids. Here about then, up come ole Ranger Tom and hiz dep-u-tees, Clayton and Jimmy, and they had wif them about twenty udder folks all a-rustled up, a-fore ole Jack got ‘em worked inta a frenzy. And poor ole Jack, he wuz a-tired from a-runnin’ down the mount’n and back up agin. But ole Hungry Jack, he just a stood thar wif them mens and he just-a waggt hiz tail and smiled, ‘cause he knew’t he done a good thin’.
Well, when they got them thar two boys up outa dat dere pit, they all a started a-hootin and a-hollerin’ and, from then on, Jack wuz a bonna-flight heero. The senator gave ole Jack the medal’t of honor and certified papers a-claimin hiz wuz a offishul rescue dog. Ole Jim got a medal too.
So’z one day, ‘bout five years ,later, I uz up in them thar Sierras and came cross’t ole Jack and Ole Jim, and Hungry Jack wuz a skinny as a jack rabbit on a prairie in the Kansas. Ole Jim dit’n a look no good neither. But I axed ole Jim, I axed ‘em, I said, “Hey, what’s a matter wiffen you two boys?, you looks might sickly, aint’ you been ta eatin?” I sez ta him. Ole Jim just look’t me in the eye and said how he and ole Jack hadt been kicked off their claim on the Truckee by some revenuers who wuz a-turnin the forest inta a playground for them thar rich city folk from back east. And so’z he went ta the mayor and tole him they ain’t got no right ta take away ‘iz claim like dat.
Well, ole Mayor Cleaver said it wuz nuttin he could do cause the governor promised t’ open up them thar casinoes ta them thar eye-talians from back east. The mayor tole ole Jim, he said, “whyun’t you go an’ holler at the gov’nor and see ifn’ he cain’t get you a job in one o’ them thar caseenoes?” And ole Jim got so dernt mad, he up and punched ole Charley Cleaver right in hiz nose, he did.
Well, they put ole Jim up in jail fore ‘bout near six weeks till he said he’s sorry, and ole Jack uz just a-sittin outside on the street right at the whinder a-waitin’ fer ole Jim a come out. Ole Jack, he wouldn’t ta eat pert near nuttin all them thar days. He just a sit thar protestin’ along wif Ole Jim.
Some say’d ole Jack would git up at night and walk up ta the Truckee and catch hizzelf a salmon and eat it. But thar ain’t never been no one proofed dat yet. They uz just tellin’ stories tryin’a make Jack look like a traitor sump’n.
That thar wuz a loyal dog, that wuz. Best dernt friend a man ever know’d.
So uz, ole Jim, he a ‘pologized and wuz set free, but ole Jack wuz too weak ta git ta hiz feet. Not eatin’ an all. Some say’t he uz poison’d and some say’d he dyin starva-shun. But they don’t know’dt. See, Jack wuz still protestin. Here day’t been heroes and rescuers and saved the lifes of two little boys and now day’uz holed up in jail fer protect’n dare own lant? Naw, Jack wuzn’t a leavin’. He staid dare and if’n anyone tri’t ta pick ‘im up he growl’t. And so, ole ‘Lizabeth Turner knew’t wut Jack wuz doin and she tole the mayor and if’n he dit’n a ‘pologize ta Jack in front of the whole dern’t town, she wuz a goin’ ta Washin’tn Dee Sea and tell ole President Buchanan that them thar caseenoe people wuz buyin the law out thar in Caleefornya and they’z in cahoots wif da mayor and govn’r and all them thar pollytishuns.
Well ole mayor Charley, he wutn’t goin’ ta have that thar thin’ happen cuz he’d been strun up like a turnip green. So’z he called all a peeple of da town t’gether the next mornin’ and tole him he wuz wrong fer hole’n ole Jim up in that thar jail, and how ole Jim wuz a hero and all, and how ifn’t everyone wuz as brave and like Hungry Jack and Ole Jim, Truckee county would be the happiest place on thiz here earth. An’ then the mayor look’t back over at ole Jack, he did, and Jack wuz still a-lyin’ on the dirt, but he hadt hiz ears propped up a-lissenin ta what ole Charley’s a-sayin’, and Charley say’t, he say’t,“…and finally, I deeply an’ most humbly regret a hurtin’ ole Jack’s feelin’s and would be obliged if’n he would share a plate o’ them thar flappyjacks wif me thiz mornin’.” And so ole Miss ‘Lizabeth brought ole Jack a tray o’ them thar flappyjacks and the mayor ly’t on the ground a-next ta ole Jack and they went ta eatin’ them thar mornin’ cakes together.
Ole Jack, he a just went ta eatin them thar flappyjacks just a-like he ain’t et nuttin in years! An’ ever since then people say’t thar goes ole Hungry Jack, best dernt dog in all the hole wide’t werld.
So’z ole Hungry Jack and Jungle Jim, they’z got ther pic-shers in the newsie-papers and you could’t see ole Jim’s a jealous o’ Jack cause da mayor iz a shakin Jack’s paw and a smilin’, and Ole Jack, he’z a lookin in’t da pic-sher at Miss Lizabeth a sayin’ thank you. But ole Jim, he uz in the backgrount o that thar pic-sher. Hey, ‘Lizabeth, you still got that ole pic-sher o’ Jack and Charley?
So’z one day ole Jim got ta thinkin bout how Hungry Jack got all famous and he got to stewin sump’n fierce. He tole one o them thar caseeno peeples that’n Jack could dig faster n any shovel machine they’t ever seen. An them thar caseeno peeple sait thar ain’t no such dog can outdig one o them thar shovel machines. So Ole Jim made a bet that’n if’n Jack could’t beat that thar machine the caseeno peeple have ta give Jim back hiz gold claim and git thais caseenos off’n the mount’n.
Well, them caseenos peeple wut’n born in a coal’t mine, they tole ole Jim, if’n this here diggin contest wuz to prove sump’n, then it would have ta take place fer twentyfer hours. And if’n Jack could outdig that thar machine then they would leave da mount’n ta Ole Jungle Jim hizzelf, but if’n Hungry Jack lost, then Jack and Jim had ta go down the hill and never return. An ole Jim dit’n care none, he travel’t all over this here country a fore even the railroad made it out to Chicagee.
Now, soon as peeple in Truckee hert bout that thar contest, they’uz started givin ole Jungle Jim mean stares and mumblin as’n he walked by. They wuz made at ole Jim. Not that they wuz fraid that ole Hungry Jack coutn’t win, but that a ole Jim would do such a thin. Hell, weren’t Jacks doin that the caseeno peeples came an took the land away. Nor wuz it Jack that hit the mayor. But ole Jim, he hadn’ta never forgot bout dat dare thin bout the mud hole, and all them years had gone by and Hungry Jack uz gittin old.
Childrens started a talkin bout how Jack could dig faster an a train could climb a mountain. Some say he couldn’ta and some say he coulda. But all peeples ever-where wuz a talkin and arg-nin an folks justa come out a fightin over silly thins. He he, even ole Charley Cleaver got in a argnin match wif da barber and came out wif half a mustache. Hee hee haw haw. Lordy, wut a mess ole Jim had git da town into. Hey, barkeep, whar’z Miss Lizabeth? I needz to show my friend here that thar picture. (came right outta da Truckee Tribune, it did. Ole Anthill Adams took da pic-sher hizzelf, he did.) Hey, barkeep!
Well, anywayz, the diggin contest wuz set for nine a.m. Satuday the seventeenth an peeples started a comin from all over ta watch ole Hungry Jack beat that thar steam diggin machine. Thar wuz tents a goin up all over the mount’n fer weeks, wif families and folks from as fer out as New York. Ther wuz peeples cookin taters, cabbage and hocks, and smoked salmon. There wuz kids playin in a circle round ole Rosie Summers who was sittin in her rocker knittin ole Hungry Jack a sweater and kids pickin posies and womens bakin pies and men makin likker. There was card games and dancin girls, horse races and wrestlin matches. They’z all havin fer to party to celebrate the diggin. I ain’t seen nutting like it since the rush o forty-nine.
No one know’t how ole Jim got Jack to say yeah to ole Henry Comstock to fer dig in that thar contest, but Hungry Jack show’d up alone that Saturday morning cuz he and ole Jim wasn’t speakin to one nuther. Ole Jack wuz mad a fer all them years he wuz wif Jim, he ain’t never let Jim down. But Ole Jim wuz stoopid. He’d a sold hiz soul to the devil if’n the devil made him an offer.
Well, ole Henry Comstock had his machine shovel thar all polished up and rarin to git to diggin an he looked at ole Hungry Jack and they’z stared at each other for pert near five minutes. Jack had this look on his face, like he loved ole Comstock. And Henry he wuz looking confused. He started a talkin to ole Hungry Jack and axin him whar ole Jungle Jim had dis-a-peert to. And I a-member ole Jack’s ears a proppin up and then Jack opened his mouth and I swear I heered that dog a say Jim was sick wif flu.
Well ole Mayor Cleaver took to the stage and tole ever-body ta git thar selfs ready cause in ten minutes the contest was to gittin on. Ole Charley had money bet on Hungry Jack hizzelf, but he didn’t tell no one. Ever-body had some money vested.
Miss ‘Lizabeth had all the womens bake up some o them thar flappyjacks fer Hungry Jack so when he uz a hungry he could have sump’n ta eat. Ole Henry, he talked wif hiz mens and got to settin his chair right on the edge of the field whar hiz shovel machine wuz, watchin as hiz men fire’d up that ole copper boiler. Ole Henry’s machine looked like a one-armed monster wif a giant hand at the end, wif claws as big as your leg. The smoke that wuz a comin from dat boiler wuz as black as night, and the noise it made when the men went to turnin wheels and pullin handles wuz so loud it sounded like God’s thunder wuz comin down on top o your head.
There wuz volunteers lined ta help set aside all the dirt Hungry Jack wuz going ta fer be diggin cuz twenty-fer hours iz a long time fer to dig and the mayor dit’n want any o that thar dirt to cave in on ole Jack. There wuz men lined up to help ole Henry’s boys if’n they need’t help, too.
Well ole Hungry Jack and Henry Comstock shook paw to hand and ever-body wished each other good luck, and the mayor said let the best man win, and then he pologized and said may they both do well and god be on both their sides. Then ole Lizabeth came up an gived ole Jack a big hug and axed him if’n he wuz goin to go through wif the diggin. Cuz she wuz worried bout him and cared for him like a mamy loved her own. And ole Hungry Jack just a looked in her eyes and licked her on the cheek, and said “Yeah.” So Lizabeth went an set down next to Rosie and watched.
Ole Mayor Cleaver shot his pistol and the contest wuz begun. Ole Jack looked like spider weaving a web, his legs just a movin so fast, they wuz a blur, but the dirt and dust wuz a comin up like a cloud, first a dark brown, then slowly turning to gray and some folks said it even looked white and blue. Dit’n take but two or three minutes and Jack dis-a-peert into a hole as big as a wagon.
Ole Henry, his boys wuz a churnin that thar machine an throwin dirt pert near a hunert feet into the air, it looked like a Nevad-y dust storm in the middle o spring.
Well, ole Henry’s boys wuz goin just as fast as ole Jack, when all of a sudden the machine let out a big pop and the smoke got thicker’n a Rosie’s tater and hamhock soup. Peeples wuz a coughin and cryin and wavin their hands like they’z been hit by a bucket o honeybees. When the smoke finally clear’t, ole Jack wuz so far ahaid, that Ole Henry came to screamin at his boys. It took Ole Henrys boys bout ‘n hour to git that shovel machine diggin agin, and bout that ther time came ole Jungle Jim.
Peeple cleered a path as Ole Jim went t’ lookin down the hole whar ole Hungry Jack wuz and turn’t an said to ole Henry, that he uz bout to own the whole dern’t mount’n and Henry and his boys gonna have to go back east fer good. But ole Henry wuzn’t in no mood fer funnin’ or nuttin’. He had lots o money in this here contest. He said this wuz better than a whole year of gamblers a comin to hiz caseenos and he wuz going t’ win anyhow cuz no dog wuz going to fer make him a fool.
All day and all night they wuz a diggin an a dancing. Ole Hungry Jack had come up a couple o times to eat some o them thar flappyjacks that Miss Lizabeth hat made fer him and when he saw Ole Jungle Jim, he just a shook his head and dropped his eyes. Ole Jim tried to say sumpin to ole Jack, but Miss Lizabeth tole him to leave Jack be, he didn’t need no trouble now.
Well, bout sun-up they’z dug holes so big, that peeples sat on the edge lookin down and could see nutting but clouds o dust and clouds o smoke comin from down in them thar holes. Ole Jack, he wuz pert near to China when Ole Henry’s shovel machine hit a hole an water a started to pour into the big hole an bout drown’t the men. They hurried to git buckets an haul the water out, but they weren’t pert near fast enough and the water got so heavy that the sides o’ the big hole started a fallin in on itself and then it started ta crackin the earth, and the earth shook like a mighty hand o god slapped it and the walls started t’ fallin in on Hungry Jack’s hole.
Well, ole Henry wuzn’t fer to quit and paid a hunert peeple t’ git that thar water out the hole. But Jungle Jim and Ole Henry started to fightin’ cause Ole Jim said that wuz a cheatin’ cuz he couldn’t t’ pay no money fer nobody to help ole Hungry Jack, and then the earth went to shakin agin, and a fore we knew what hat happen’t, ole Hungry Jack wuz buried in that thar hole under water, and mud, and dust.
So’z ever-body went to helpin dig ole Hungry Jack out’n the hole, but they could never find him. Ever-time they got deep, the blue sand kept t’ fallin in on em, and they had’t to stop to git the blue dirt out.
Well, ole Henry lost hiz shovel machine that day, but no one ever laid’t eyes on Hungry Jack ever agin. Ole Mayor Cleaver, he dedicated April seventeenth as a memorial day fer Jack. The blue dirt turn’t out t’ be some sort o silver metal and ole Henry Comstock got rich offen that contest after all. Jungle Jim, well, no one round these parts ever heered o him agin, neither, ‘cept that’s because he ran off and never showed his face agin. Ole Lizzybeth? she still makes them flappyjacks and sets out a plate for Jack, if’n by some miracle o God, Jack digs hisself outta dat dere hole. Lizabeth! Whar’s that thar pic-sher o Jack and the mayor?
Anyhow, that thar iz the legend a ole Hungry Jack. Lizabeth!?
“Hold on, Clayton, I’m comin’, them flappyjacks is just about done. Mister, did you want some syrup and molasses with them flappyjacks?”