With ghosts and witches and talking animals folk tales step from the adults’ porch or parlor into the nursery. Although children’s folk and fairy tales are typically told for amusement during leisure hours, one occasionally hears of their being used, like songs, to accompany the labor of many hands and, like the hands, make like work.
The North Carolina versions of the Jack tales have still another practical relation to Southern life. In their portrayal of Jack as a typical easy going, unpretentious mountain boy as well as in their use of the mountain vernacular, the Jack tales are excellent examples of the adaptation of the Old World folk tales to Southern settings and folkways, a kin to the democratization and localization of British ballads.
In the Jack tales, too, knight-errantry and chivalry survive on a democratic and popular level. The persistent appeal of the Jack tales to the Southern folk rests not simply on their appeal to children but also on the appeal of the ever triumphant Jack as a symbol of the bottom rail on top. As a trickster hero who overcomes through quick wit and cunning rather than by physical force, Jack belongs with Brer Rabbit and Old John. Symbolic of the dreams, desires, ambitions and experiences of the heads of these little fellers may touch the clouds.
White Mule, Cawn Likker, Shine, Moon, et al. Regardless of alias this sequence simply means the raw, new, colorless, distilled product of fermented corn mash, sugar and water. If well made, of decent materials in a proper still, with the fusel oil rectified out, and aged in wood it starts to be whisky after not less than four years in the wood of charred oak casks.
None of the manufacturers of bourbons should any right to call any corn whisky “bourbon” until it has aged at least four or five years, but the demand so exceeded supply that all rules were off.
As far as corn likker goes, whether it sis made in a copper wash boiler, run through an old shotgun barrel, and a length of iron pipe into a galvanized washtub covered with a cotton blanket. It can be drunk straight, with water, with juices and disguises. It can be scalding hot on chilly October evening with cloves, brown sugar, and lemon peel.
In general, signs are of two kinds – warning signs, the unnatural signs which indicate effects to follow, on the basis that coming events cast their shadows before them (omens, portents) and luck signs good or bad, which indicate observances (charms, cures, sometimes in the form of counter-charms to break another charm or avert a bad omen) or avoidances (taboos). Warning may be a good sign or a bad sign or just a sign or mean something; charms and taboos are described in some such terms as hits good luck to do this or hit’s bad luck to do that; while a cure is good for or a sure cure for. A person has a warning or know of a cure; he can feel a change in weather coming on, but animals know it; signs come true, work out, or work out true. The reading of a weather sign may take the form of looks like or something looks like…from the way; the report of a sign may begin, “I know you don’t believe much in signs,” or “I don’t believe in all signs, but”; the favorite expressions of faith and approval are “I’ve always heard that,” “I’ve heard it that way all my life,” “I’ve never knowed it to fail yet,” and of doubt and disapproval, “I never did pay no mind to,” “I never knowed it to happen out that way,” or “You can’t tell.”