Jamaica Anansi Stories/The Cowitch and Mr. Foolman

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Jamaica Anansi Stories by Martha Warren Beckwith
Animal Stories (The Cowitch and Mr. Foolman)
29. The Cowitch and Mr. Foolman.
Moses Hendricks, Mandeville.

A gentleman had a cowitch[1] property. He wanted to have it cut down, but whoever cut it must not scratch their skin. Anyone who cut it down without scratching, he would give the pick of the best cow on his property. Many tried, but failed. Anansi says that he will cut it down. So the gentleman sent his son to watch and see that he cut the tree without scratching his skin at all. Anansi began cutting and the juice of the tree began to eat him. He wanted to scratch. He said to the boy, "Young massa, de cow yo' papa goin' to gi' me, white here (scratches one side), black here (scratches the other), had a red here, had anodder black here, blue jus' down at his feet." He went on that way until he cut down the tree.

He got the cow, but he couldn't manage the removal of the cow alone, and he didn't want to get any intelligent person to assist him, he wanted a fool; so he got a man by the name of Foolman, Foolman wasn't such a fool as he thought. They removed the cow to a place to butcher it near to Foolman's yard, but Anansi did not know that. So he said to Foolman, "Brer Foolman, we mus' get fire, roast plenty of meat." Foolman said he didn't know where to go to get fire. Anansi pointed out a little smoke a long distance off. Foolman refused to go. He got vexed and started to go for the fire himself. He was no sooner gone than Foolman called up his family, butchered the cow, and removed all the parts, leaving the tail. He dug a hole in the earth and drove the root of the tail down as tight as he could. When he thought it time for Anansi to come back, he held on to the hair of the cow-tail and called out, "Brer Nansi, run! Brer Nansi, run!" Anansi come and he say, "Brer Nansi, de whole cow gone, only tail!" He held on to the tail and both of them thought to pull up the cow. While pulling, the tail broke in two. So Anansi had to give Foolman a piece of the tail that popped off. So with all his cunning, he got but a very small piece.

[1 A kind of plant with poisonous juice.]