Jock and His Mother

Once there was a young man called Jock who lived with his old mother. One day she said to him, “Jock, you are a lazy fellow, and it seems that I have to do everything for both of us. You need to go out and find some work to help us out.”
“I’ll do that, Mother,” said Jock. And the next morning he left the cottage and started down the road to look for some work. It was not long before he met a packman. The man said, “If you carry my pack today, at the end of the day, I’ll give you a needle.” Jock carried the pack, and sure enough, he was given a needle, but on his way home, he cut a bunch of brackens, and he stuck the needle in the middle of them. Then away he went home. When he got home, he told his mother about his work and his needle, but when she asked him for the needle, he told her that she’d have to search for it among the brackens.

“Oh, Jock,” she said, frustrated, “That is not what you should have done with a needle. You should have stuck it in your hat.”

“I’ll do that next time, Mother.”

The next day Jock met a man carrying plough socks, and the man said, “If you help me carry these plough socks, I’ll give you one at the end of the day.” Jock remembered what his mother said. He worked all day, and when he got a sock for his pay, he put it in his hat. But on the way home, he stopped beside a stream to get a drink, and as he leaned over, the sock fell into the water and was lost.

When Jock told his mother, she was frustrated again and said, “That is not what you should have done. You should have tied a string around it and dragged it home behind you.”

“I’ll do that next time, Mother.”

The next day Jock worked for a butcher who told him, “If you work for me all day, I’ll give you a leg of lamb at the end of the day.” Jock worked all day, and when he got the leg of lamb, he tied a string around it and dragged it home – through mud puddles, dirt and leaves. By the time he got home, the meat was spoiled, of course, and Jock’s mother was frustrated again.

“You should have carried it home on your shoulder,” she admonished.

“I’ll do that next time, Mother.”

The next day Jock worked for a horse-dealer who promised him, “If you work with my horses all day, I’ll give you one for yourself at the end of the day.” But at the end of the day, Jock tried unsuccessfully to hoist the horse onto his shoulders, but he found that it was too heavy, so he left it beside the road. When he told his mother, she was beside herself.

“Couldn’t you have ridden it home, Jock?” she asked.

“I’ll do that next time, Mother.”

The next day Jock worked for a man with a herd of cows, and you can guess what happened at the end of the day. Jock was riding home on a cow with the cow’s tail over his shoulder.

Now nearby there was a rich man with a grand house and a beautiful daughter who was always melancholy, so melancholy that the man promised that anyone who could make his daughter laugh could marry her. Many men tried, but the daughter never even smiled. But then one day she was bored and sad and looking out her window, and she saw Jock careening down the road on a cow. She immediately burst into fits of laughter.

So Jock married the girl, and he and his mother both moved into the grand house. And Jock’s mother was finally satisfied.
This is a brief retelling of the story of “Jock and His Mother.” If you’d like to see it with a more Scottish flair and a few more incidents, check out this version: http://www.compassrose.org/folklore/scottish/scottish-folktales/jock-and-mother.html

Contributed by Marilyn McPhie