Georgia folktale about a clever blacksmith who, with the help of an old witch woman, helps fool the Devil as death is approaching. Written and told by David Hirt.
Now I know what my Pap used to say: “You take care what’s you wish fer, ’cause you just may git it.” And that happened to the old blacksmith here-a-bouts in Stone Mountain, Georgia – a man named Lon.
My story also got in it the old witch woman of Stone Mountain. Not too many people know about her, but she lived here. Down the end of Poplar Springs Road where the old city swimming pool used to be (but it was way back before then), she made salves and poultices to help the sick and weary to get better. Why she could birth a baby or lay out the dead, didn’t matter to her.
Well, one day she come into ol’ Lon’s blacksmith’s shop looking to have her big old boilin’ put fixed. Seems a leg had broke off.
Now lemme tell you – Lon was no pillar of society. He drank, gambled, and there are some who say they heard him swear on the Sabbath. But he did have a mighty respect of the old witch woman. He knowed she could kilt him dead ift she wanted to. He fixed that pot in jack time and wouldn’t take no pay for it. So the old lady said she would grant him three wishes whenever he wanted, and he knew she was telling the truth. Right then she started her chant: “This old woman taken nothing for free. I’ll grant you wishes, I’ll grant you three.”
Lon knowed he better make up his mind a-’cause she wouldn’t leave ’til he did make his wishes. So he started to think real hard about his first wish. Well, seems Lon didn’t like to lend out his tools. And some folks had come to his shop and in their messin’ around had lost some of his tools – and a working man’s tools of his trade are his life. So for his first wish he asked the old woman to make it so’s any time anybody touched one of his tools, it’d stick to ’em like glue. ‘Til he could come ’round and take it out’n their hand. That way he’d know who was messin’ with his tools and he could fix-’em good.
The old woman said. “It is done. Now what be ye second wish?”
Now you gotta know that Lon just loved to take him a jug and sit on the front porch of his house and drink ’til the sun went down. But somebody’s always a-moving his chair, and he’s always havin’ to pull it back up on the porch. So he wanted it fixed that if’n somebody sat in his chair they would be trapped there ’til he could see who it was. With a nod the old woman said it was done.
Now for his third wish, Lon did some real thinking. He was like the rest of us – make a penny, spend a dime. So’s he was always out of money and always a-needin’ more. He asked the old woman to fix up his change purse so that’d when he put in money it wouldn’t come out ’til he said so. In other words, make him think a’fore he spent it. And that wish was granted same as the rest.
With that, the old lady seen her debt paid to the blacksmith and she up and left. Lon was glad to see she was gone and he was stIll standin’ upright like a man, and hadn’t been turned into a pig or something. But he soon forgot about his wishes, what with all his drinking, and cussin’ and what little work he’d been doin’.
Then one day right in the middle of the hottest day on record, this man walked into Lon’s shop a’wearing all black clothes and a big old heavy wool coat. Lon thought that feller was a fool for bein’ so fully dressed on such a hot day – ’til he looked right in that man’s eyes. They was yeller like a dog’s eye, and they sortly shined like a cat’s eye. And it was right then and there he knowed he was lookin’ Into the eyes of Beelzebub, the prince of darkness, the Devil his self, and he was a standin’ right there in Lon’s blacksmith shed.
The Devil talked to Lon in a voice that sounded like rumbling Thunder: “Lon,” he said, “you know why I am here. It is time to go, and your soul is mine.” Now ol’ Lon knowed where he was headed, and he didn’t like it non-to-well. Why, going with the Devil would put him – well, you know. Lon looked at the Devil and asked if he could finish up on the job he was a-doin’ – plow head needed sharpenin’. The Devil agreed and Lon asked the Devil to hand him that 8-pound sledgehammer to finish up the work.
When the Devil grabbed a holt of that hammer, his hand locked tight around the handle and he couldn’t set it down. And the Devil went to cussin’ and spittin’ and shakin’and jumpin’, for he couldn’t take nothing from this world back to his world ‘ceptin’ a mortal soul. To put it plain like, the Devil was stuck, and both him and Lon knowed it.
With a grin on his face Lon told the Devil he was ready to make a deal. Now you got to know dealin’ with the Devil is mighty scary, but ol’ Lon knowed he would win this ‘un. It were a simple deal: “Mr. Devil, I’ll git that hammer out’n your hand if y’all leave me be here on Earth and gimme 10 more years of livin’.”
The Devil knowed when he had been skinned, and by a mortal as dumb as Lon no less, so he agreed. Lon took back his hammer, and with puff a smoke and smell that was none too kind, the Devil was gone.
Well, now I want yu’ns to know that 10 years to the day, the Devil strood back into Lon’s shop like he owned the place, and slapped his hand down on a barrel head and told Lon, “Son, it time to be goin’ and none of your foolishness. Stop what you are doing and come with me.”
Lon knowed he had no choices, so he quietly laid down his tools and followed the Devil out of his shop. But he stopped at the door and said, “Mr. Devil, I am going make a mighty long journey and I know I goin’ to run into people I know down there. I was wonderin’ if’n I could stop by my house and wash up a’fore we go?”
Well, the Devil put his mind to it and thought and then said, surely it would be all right for Lon to stop by his place, for it was on the way anyhow. It was a short walk to Lon’s house, and when they got there Lon started in to wash up and told the Devil to have a seat right there in his old rockin’ chair. Rest a bit for that long journey. Well, no sooner had the Devil sit down that he knowed he was in trouble. He was jammed, stuck tight to that chair. Couldn’ move. And the Devil went to cussin’ and spittin’ and shakin’ and jumpin’, fer he knowed that one more time, he had been took by a mortal. In time, another deal was made. And the Devil were allowed out’n the Chair, and he give Lon another 10 year. And with a puff a smoke and a smell that was none too nice, the Devil was gone.
The next 10 years of Lon’s life went by real fast. Like it was but a minute and the next thing ol’ Lon knowed was that the Devil was in his shop and in his face a’foamin’ at the mouth telling Lon it were time to go. “No more tricks Lon, no more jobs to finish or stops to freshen up – nothing. Now pack up and let’s go right now.” And with that the Devil took Lon by the arm and out the door they went.
They had been on their journey when Lon noted he were thirsty and the Devil agreed he was too. Lon said he knowed a place where he could get a “cold drank,” but he turned his pockets out to show the Devil he were broke flatter than Hassle’s bustle. But Lon had a plan. He look at the Devil and said, “Sir, I know how powerful ya’ are and I know you can be anything you need to be to steal a man’s mortal soul. And I got an idee.” Lon explained to the Devil that if’n he were to change into two thin dimes, Lon could go in and by’em each a “cold drank.” And soon as he left the place with them dranks the Devil could change into a butterfly or moth and fly outta that change drawer in the store and come outside to where Lon would be a’watin’. Then they’d have their “cold dranks” and be on their way.
Now the Devil liked this Idee. He could show off his powers, skin a mortal outa some of his due and still take a soul to the underworld. So with a blink he changed into two thin dimes and into Lon’s change purse he went. And as soon has he were in there he knowed, one more time, Lon had tricked him, and for a third time. Now if that ain’t sump’in. Well, the ol’ Devil went to cussin’ and spittin’ and shakin’ and jumpin’, but they was no way he were gonna git out of Lon’s change purse, lesson Lon wanted him out. And Lon weren’t about to take that chance. Lon figured if’n the Devil ever was to get loose he would bring down the wrath on ol’ Lon. So the Devil was forever to stay in that there change purse.
Well, don’cha know that Lon was sooner or later bound to die of natural Causes. Many folks’round here said it was drinkin’. So Lon presents himself to the gates of Heaven and Saint Peter won’t even talk to him. For he had the Devil in his pocket. So then he presents hisself to the gates of Hell, and the harpies can’t lot him in. Fer this is the man what snookered the Devil three times in a row, and they’d need special permission from the boss and he weren’t no wheres to be found. So ol’ Lon is to this day stuck sommers ‘tween Heaven and – you know – down there.
But they’s folks says that you kin see Lon to this day. You know how on a summers night you see lightening but don’t hear no thunder? They call it “heat lightening.” Well, some says that’s just of’ Lon twix Heaven and wherever, with the Devil in his pocket just a’ cussin’ and spittin’ and shakin’ and jumpin’ fer to get out of that change purse.
Now I don’t rightly know, but I tell ya one thang: That’s my story and I stickin’ to it.
– THE END –
Deal With The Devil – Story Credits
Written and Told by David Hirt
Photography by Craig Dominey
Sound Design by Henry Howard
This story was written and told by David Hirt, and recorded as part of a compilation CD for the live Halloween storytelling event A Tour of Southern Ghosts. This event is put on each year by Art Station at Georgia’s famous Stone Mountain Park. This event is one of the best storytelling programs in the country – check it out if you’re in the area!