Little Eight John
Marilyn A. Kinsella, copyright, 1981, www.marilynkinsella.org
Drama Choir is an art form by Dr. Jack Stokes of Belleville IL. Being in Drama Choir influenced my writing and directing this tale.
I discovered this folktale in Treasury of American Folklore
Author: Sandburg, Carl - Botkins, B.A.
Publisher: Crown Publishers, Inc. New York 1944
However, there are other children's books with this name
It was written in heavy dialect. I’ve altered the dialect somewhat and kept a lot of the delicious flavor of the language by using idioms and sayings. The style of my writing was vastly influenced by my teacher and mentor - Dr. Jack Stokes, of Belleville, Illinois. Drama Choir differs from a Readers’ Theatre in that the parts are memorized and the drama parts come to the front of the chorus to dramatize their lines. However, it could be presented as a Readers' Theatre. I give free use of this manuscript to schools and libraries. If you choose to use this script, I do ask that you let me know, give me credit, and tell me about the performance. Any commercial use of this script including publishing and taping of any type requires my permission. markinsella19 (at) hotmail.com
Drama parts: Little Eight John (J), Mama (M), Papa (P), Old Raw Haid Bloody Bones (R)
Chorus parts: A, B, C, D, E - Everyone in chorus (in two lines in back of the stage area with major speakers up front)
A. Now where is that Little Eight John?
Is he hidin’ from his Mama again?
That little prankster Little Eight John.
Is he a-snickerin’ away in some corner somewhere?
B. That cross-goin’ little youngster, never would mind what a growed-up tol’ em.
C. Come to think of it, I don’ reckon I seen that boy come a noon last Sunday.
D, But Mama knowed. She knowed what happened to that baby of hers.
A. Well, will you just look at that ol’ grease spot over there. Somebody forgot to do their housecleaning! Say, that grease spot sho do have a peculiar shape – a kid of sassy-look-around-the-edge-shape.
B. It’s peculiar all right! That’s Little Eight John, as I leave and breathe.
J. (out in front) Mama?
A. What happened, Little Eight John. You a-callin’ yo mama like that.
B. That sho don’t sound like the Eight John I onc’t knowed.
D. (unearthly voice) But Mama knowed…She knowed what happened to that baby of hers.
A. Well, then Mama, why don’ you tell us. Tell us what happened to this greasy lookin’, mealy-mouthed, disrepectin’, little son of yours?
M. (walks out in front of chorus) I tol’ Lil Johhny! I tol’ him to never to go a moaning and a-groanin’ –
all on a Sunday mornin’! And, you know what it means when you moans and
groans. It means you’ll meet up with Ole Raw haid Bloody Bones!
E. You mean, when you moans and groans, groans and moans…you meets up with Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones?
M. That’s right! If’n you a moan on a Sunday morn, you’re askin’ fer your comeuppance with Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones.
A. Is that what happened, Mama? Is that what happened to Little Eight John?
M. Oh, that Little Eight John weren’t so bad. Deep down in my Mama heart, I knowed he weren’t so bad – just a frightful disrespectful and sassy around the edges, he was.
B. You got to hand it to Mamas. They always stands up for their babies…no matter what!
M. Like the time I tol’ Little Johnny, “Don’ you go a-steppin’ on no toad-frawgs or you will bring bad luck to the fambly,
you will. And, he just looked up at me with them cow-brown eyes of hissin’ and said…(LEJ rises up and faces mama)
J. No’m, I won’t step on those toad-frawgs...I won’t step on any.
A. But, sho’nuff, when his mama wasn’t lookin’, he went out to find a toad –frawg
to squirsh. In fact, sometimes he squirshed a whole heap of toad-frawgs!
J. Here toad-frawggie. Lookee what’s I got fer ya – a nice, juicy skeetter. That right, just unfurl that sticky tongue of yours out of that buggy-eyed face and you can have it.
C. Then, he’d give it to him all right…
E KER…SQUISH! (all stamp on the floor with LEJ who looks at the bottom of his
A. Oh, Little Eight John!
B. An’ then, the cow wouldn’t give milk
Ceptin’ milk that was sour
An’ the baby would have the colic
An’ a bad case of the scours.
C. An that Little Eight John would just duck his had and laugh and laugh.
E. You better not laugh
That don’t carry no clout
Cause Ol’ Raw Haid Bloody Bones
‘ill get cha, if’n you don’t watch out!
E. But, Little Eight John, he don’t care…he jus’ don’ care!
(LEJ – sitting backward on a chair and getting up when Mama speaks)
M. Now, Little Eight John, what’s did I tell you ‘bout sittin’ backwards in a chair?
J. Oh, I knowed Mama. You don tol’ me before. If’n I sits backwards in a chair, I brings d’weary trouble on our fambly. And, we’ll have none of that…no siree!
A. (Mama turns around and LEJ sits backwards) So, Little Eight John set backwards in every chair…when his Mama wasn’t lookin’
J. Now, what should I care if’ns we git the weary troubles. Me, I jist ain’t sitcheeated right lessin’ I sits backwards, hmmph!
B. Why, just look at him smile
With that creepy stare
As he set in that chair
Just waitin’ out the dare…
Why, he don’ careCH. (softly) He jus’ don’ care.
C. Then, his mama’s cornbread would burn
And the milk wouldn’t churn
Why, that child never did learn.
E. (sing-songy) Oh, Little Eight John…listen to your Papa (right hand to ear)
P. (hands on hips) I’m a tellin’ ya…tellin’ ya true
That smile of yours don’ carry no clout
E. Oh, Little Eight John…listen to your Mama (left hand to ear)
M. (pointing a finger at LEJ) Cause, Old Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ill get cha if you don’ watch out.
E. (all pointing to audience) Cause Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ill get cha if you don’ watch out!
M. Oh, goonies, goonies! Bad luck will be with us if’n you climb those trees on Sunday!
J. Why Mama, you wouldn’t catch me up a tree on a month of Sundays. Even, if a most ferocious-type bear should be at my rear…so have no fear.
A. But, that Little Eight John. That bad, bad little boy, he sneaked up the trees on Sundays. He jist sat up there scarin’ all the little birdies with his cat noises
(J – make cat noises) and silly faces. (J make silly faces) and throwin’ spit balls (J flicken finger toward chorus) at every critter that happened to pass by.
E. (reach for head and face, and say) “Yuuuck!”
J. Some day they is gonna thank me fer this…Ridden the trees of all these pesky birds. Bad luck? Why, theys should pay me fer this here bad luck.
B. An’ when pappy’s taters wouldn’t grow
An’ his mule, Ole Jack, wouldn’t go
Little Eight John just put on a show.
C. After shruggin’ his shoulders (Eight John mimicing these lines)
He’d say with a lie
That he didn’t know why
With a great big ole. “And I don’t care” sigh.
E. (sing and wave with right hand) Bye, bye Birdie
P. (hands on hips) Don’t think that sighin’ of your carries any clout
E. (singing with left hand shading forhead) We hate to see you go.
M. (pointing to LEJ) Cause Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ill get cha, if’ns you don’ watch out!
E. (all pointing at audience) Cause Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ill git cha, if’ns you don’t watch out.
M. Now son, I’ll be tellin’ ya true. Don’ be goin’ ‘round countin’ your teeth. Cause shore as it rains on washday – dere comes de bad sickness in your fambly.
J. Yes, Mama, you done tol’ me since that first tooth popped into my lovin’ baby face, that I shouldn’t oughta be countin’ my teeth
A. But dat , Little Eight John, he go right ahead an’ counted them teeth. He counted his uppers (point up) and he counted his lowers (point down). In fact, he even counted all the teeth that fell out of his lovin’ baby face on weekdays and twice on Sundays!
J. (counting teeth)
One, two, three,
It’s plain to see
Four, five, six
That Mama’s in a fix
Seven, eight, nine
Cause I ain’t denyin’
Ten, eleven, twelve’ll
To stirrin’ up the devil.
B. An’ that Little Eight John would just snicker an’ sin
With that toothy, sickenin’
C. Den his Mama would whoop
And de baby git the croup
All’s on account of dis nincompoop!
E. (finger to lips - singing) Hush little baby don’t say a word.
P. (hands on hips) Go ahead an’ grin that toothy grin…that don’t carry no clout!
E. (cradle arms – rocking and singing) Mama’s gonna buy you a mockin’ bird.
M. (pointing to LEJ) Cause ol’ Raw Haid Bloody Bone’s ‘il git cha, if’ns you don' watch out!
E. (all pointing to audience) Cause Ol’ Raw Haid Bloody Bone’s ‘il git cha, if’ns you don’ watch out!
M. Lawsy-mercy! All de money is done gone from the poke. Whatever will we do?
This certainly a case of the weary-money blues. (pause – look at LEJ). Don’ tell me, Little Eight John, that you been a-sleepin’ at the foot of your bed to bring us
such money-troublin’ blues to our front door?
J. Why, Mama, didn’t you tuck me in yourself last night…and listen to m prayers (folds hand and looks up to heaven)…”Now I lay me down to sleep, I prays the Lawd my soul to keep” Wasn’t my little punkin’ head layin’ on my goosey-down pillow, when you kissed my little-boy face? (looking at Mama batting his eyes at her)
A. Oh, that boy! He sho do know how to git to his mama! Cause everybody knowed that just as soon as she blowed out that candle, (Mama pretend to blow out the candle and go back into group) he turned his little boy body to the other side.
J. (like a preacher) Don’t Mama know that money is the root of all evil? Don’ she
know that the preacher man would be proud…proud, I say…of the way I saved
this fambly from E-ternal damnation. (like a little petulant boy shuffling one foot)
And, besides, don’ she know that the mornin’ sun burns my baby brown eyes,
if’n I sleep with my head up there?
B. And when the family went broke, with no money in the poke, Little Eight John thought it a joke!
C. And, he began to giggle and chortle and snort…cause, as I sadly has to report, that little boy was an ornery sort!
E. (turning to the right) Turn to the east, Johnny (turning left) turn to the west
P. (hands on hips) Dat gigglin’ of yours, don’ carry no clout.
E. (point to neighbor) Turn to the one that you love best!
M. (point to LEJ) Cause, Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ill git cha, if’n you don’ watch out!
E. (all pointing to audience) Cause, Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ill git cha, if’n you
don’ watch out!
M. One last warnin,’ my little one. Don’ you go havin’ no Sunday moans….for fear of Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones.
J. What you talkin’ about Mama? What else have you ever heered from you Little Eight John’s lips but a quiet whisper on a Sunday morn? (Mama returns to the group)
A. But sho enough – comes high noon and everyone else is still in church with the preacher man, Little Eight John lets out with a moan and a groan.
J. (moan and groan)
B. Listen to him moan and groan…all on this Sunday morn.
J. (moan and groan)
C. But Johnny din’ have time to laugh, or giggle…or grin…
Cause Ole Raw haid Bloody Bones was standin’ there right next to him.
R. (ORBB enters) Was that you I heared,Little Eight John?….a moanin’ and goanin’?
Was that you I heard disturbin’ my Sunday rest?
J. (Shaking) Uh, no sir! You must be mistaken. You see, my Mama tol’ me never to moan and groan…leastways
never long abouts no Sunday morn. And, I always do what my Mama says.
R. Is that right? Well, where is the varmint that conjured me here?
J. That must have been my little brother you heered.
R. No such-a-thing. Your brother and fambly is church-gin’ people. In fact, you is the only one for a mile around.
J. Well, gee, I don’ rightly know. Maybe it was those pesky birds up in the tree.
R. No such-a-thing! You skeered all the birdies from this farm and two farms over.
J. Then, I knowed. It was them toad-frawgs. Sho’nuff, I tol’ my Mama…those toad-frawgs sho do like to moan and groan.
R. No such-a-thing! Why, you squirshed every toad-frawg in this here county.
J. Well, gee, what do you reckon?
R. I reckon…it was a lyin’... disrespectful... toad-frawg-squirshin’... Little Eight John. That’s what I reckon!
E. Run, Little Eight John! Run and hide! (LEJ “run” to the middle of the chorus with R behind him
A. Little Eight John made his way right quick fer the kitchen…
but not quick enough, cause Ole Raw Haid Bloody Boones caught him and turned him into a
grease spot…(R take hand and bring it down on LEJ’s head as chorus says….)
E. (right hand up and down) Ker-Squirish!
A. On the kitchen table. (both R and LEJ back in chorus)
B. Next mornin’, mama comes in and tries to wipe up that ole grease spot. But, it never went away.
C. And Mama did cry, for she knowed why…she knowed why.
D. And now you know what happens to never-mindin’ little boys…and girls.
E. (sing-songy)This is the way we wash the table, wash the table (pretend to wash the table)
P. Don’ think you can laugh and giggle and grin, that don’ carry no clout.
E. This is the way we wash the table…early in the morning. (keep washing, then abruptly stop…in unison - look up at the
audience and take one step forward)
E. (to audience pointing say firmly and in unison…) Cause Ole Raw Haid Bloody Bones’ll gitcha,
if’ns you don’ watch out. (heads down)
Wicked John and the Devil