Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Sunday, August 22, 2010

"The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving

Our story today is, "The Devil and Tom Walker. " It was written by Washington Irving. Here is Shep O'Neal with our story.


Storyteller: Before we begin our story, let us go back three hundred years to the late sixteen hundreds. In those years, one of the most famous men in the world was Captain William Kidd. Captain Kidd was a pirate. He sailed the seas, capturing any ships he found. He and his men took money from these ships. Captain Kidd hid this money in different places.

Captain Kidd was captured by the English in Boston, Massachusetts and executed in the year seventeen-oh-one.

From that time on, people all over the world searched in many places for Captain Kidd's stolen money.

The people who lived in Massachusetts in the seventeen hundreds believed Captain Kidd buried some of his treasure near Boston. Not far from Boston was a small river which ran into the Atlantic Ocean. An old story said that Captain Kidd had come up this river from the ocean. Then he buried his gold and silver and jewels under a big tree.

The story said that this treasure was protected by the devil himself, who was a good friend of Captain Kidd.

In the year seventeen twenty-seven, a man named Tom Walker lived near this place. Tom Walker was not a pleasant man. He loved only one thing -- money. There was only one person worse than Tom. That was his wife. She also loved money. These two were so hungry for money that they even stole things from each other.

One day, Tom Walker was returning home through a dark forest. He walked slowly and carefully, so that he would not fall into a pool of mud.

At last, he reached a piece of dry ground. Tom sat down on a tree that had fallen. As he rested, he dug into the earth with a stick. He knew the story that Indians had killed prisoners here as sacrifices to the Devil. But this did not trouble him. The only devil Tom was afraid of was his wife.

Toms stick hit something hard. He dug it out of the earth. It was a human skull. In the skull was an Indian ax.

Suddenly, Tom Walker heard an angry voice: "Don't touch that skull!"

Tom looked up. He saw a giant sitting on a broken tree. Tom had never seen such a man. He wore the clothes of an Indian. His skin was almost black and covered with ashes. His eyes were big and red. His black hair stood up from his head. He carried a large ax.

The giant asked, "What are you doing on my land?" But Tom Walker was not afraid. He answered, "What do you mean? This land belongs to Mr. Peabody."

The strange man laughed and pointed to the tall trees. Tom saw that one of the trees had been cut by an ax. He looked more closely and saw that the name Peabody had been cut into the tree. Mr. Peabody was a man who got rich by stealing from Indians.

Tom looked at the other trees. Every one had the name of some rich, important man from Massachusetts. Tom looked at the tree on which he was sitting. It also had a name cut into it -- the name of Absalom Crowninshield. Tom remembered that Mr. Crowninshield was a very rich man. People said he got his money as Captain Kidd did -- by stealing ships.

Suddenly, the giant shouted: "Crowninshield is ready to be burned! I'm going to burn many trees this winter!"

Tom told the man that he had no right to cut Mr. Peabody's trees. The stranger laughed and said, "I have every right to cut these trees. This land belonged to me a long time before Englishmen came to Massachusetts. The Indians were here. Then you Englishmen killed the Indians. Now I show Englishmen how to buy and sell slaves. And I teach their women how to be witches."

Tom Walker now knew that the giant was the Devil himself. But Tom Walker was still not afraid.

The giant said Captain Kidd had buried great treasures under the trees, but nobody could have them unless the giant permitted it. He said Tom could have these treasures. But Tom had to agree to give the giant what he demanded.

Tom Walker loved money as much as he loved life. But he asked for time to think.

Tom went home. He told his wife what had happened. She wanted Captain Kidd's treasure. She urged him to give the Devil what he wanted. Tom said no.

At last, Misses Walker decided to do what Tom refused to do. She put all her silver in a large piece of cloth and went to see the dark giant. Two days passed. She did not return home. She was never seen again.

People said later that Tom went to the place where he had met the giant. He saw his wife's cloth hanging in a tree. He was happy, because he wanted to get her silver. But when he opened the cloth, there was no silver in it -- only a human heart.

Tom was sorry he lost the silver, but not sorry he lost his wife. He wanted to thank the giant for this. And so, every day he looked for the giant. Tom finally decided that he would give the giant what he wanted in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure.

One night, Tom Walker met the giant and offered his soul in exchange for Captain Kidd's treasure. The Devil now wanted more than that. He said that Tom would have to use the treasure to do the Devil's work. He wanted Tom to buy a ship and bring slaves to America.

As we have said, Tom Walker was a hard man who loved nothing but money. But even he could not agree to buy and sell human beings as slaves. He refused to do this.

The Devil then said that his second most important work was lending money. The men who did this work for the Devil forced poor people who borrowed money to pay back much more than they had received.

Tom said he would like this kind of work. So the Devil gave him Captain Kidd's treasure.

A few days later, Tom Walker was a lender of money in Boston. Everyone who needed help -- and there were many who did -- came to him. Tom Walker became the richest man in Boston. When people were not able to pay him, he took away their farms, their horses, and their houses.

As he got older and richer, Tom began to worry. What would happen when he died? He had promised his soul to the Devil. Maybe. . .maybe. . . he could break that promise.

Tom then became very religious. He went to church every week. He thought that if he prayed enough, he could escape from the Devil.

One day, Tom took the land of a man who had borrowed money. The poor man asked for more time to pay. "Please do not destroy me!" he said. "You have already taken all my money!"

Tom got angry and started to shout, "Let the Devil take me if I have taken any money from you!"

That was the end of Tom Walker. For just then, he heard a noise. He opened the door. There was the black giant, holding a black horse. The giant said, "Tom, I have come for you." He picked up Tom and put him on the horse. Then he hit the horse, which ran off, carrying Tom.

Nobody ever saw Tom Walker again. A farmer said that he saw the black horse, with a man on it, running wildly into the forest.

After Tom Walker disappeared, the government decided to take Tom's property. But there was nothing to take. All the papers which showed that Tom owned land and houses were burned to ashes. His boxes of gold and silver had nothing in them but small pieces of wood. The wood came from newly cut trees. Tom's horses died, and his house suddenly burned to ashes.


Announcer: You have heard the story, "The Devil and Tom Walker." It was written by Washington Irving. Our storyteller was Shep ONeal. Listen again next week at this same time for another AMERICAN STORY told in Special English on the Voice of America. This is Shirley Griffith.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Johnny Appleseed" from Voice of America

I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about a man known as Johnny Appleseed. Many people considered him a hero.


Johnny Appleseed was the name given to John Chapman. He planted large numbers of apple trees in what was the American wilderness two hundred years ago. Chapman grew trees and supplied apple seeds to settlers in the middle western Great Lakes area. Two centuries later, some of those trees still produce fruit.

As a result of stories and poems about Chapman’s actions, Johnny Appleseed became an American hero. However, some of the stories told about Johnny Appleseed over the years may not have been really true.

John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, in seventeen seventy-four. His father, Nathaniel Chapman, served in America’s war for independence. He fought British troops in the battle of Concord in seventeen seventy-five.

John was the second of three children. Little is known about his childhood. His mother Elizabeth became sick with tuberculosis and died a short time after the birth of her third child. In seventeen eighty, Nathaniel Chapman married Lucy Cooley of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. John and his older sister moved to Longmeadow with their father and his new wife. This new marriage produced ten more children.

When John Chapman was old enough to leave home, he asked his half-brother, Nathaniel, to come with him. They slowly traveled south and west from Massachusetts to the state of Pennsylvania. At that time, much of western Pennsylvania was undeveloped.

Government records show that John lived in the Allegheny Mountains in seventeen ninety-seven. He is said to have cleared land and planted apple seeds near a waterway. In a short time, the seeds grew to become trees that produced fruit.

Pennsylvania was the first stop in what would become a life-long effort to plant apple trees. The reason for John Chapman’s life’s work is unknown. Some people said he loved to watch the flowers on apple trees grow and change into tasty fruit.

Apples were an important food for the early settlers of North America. Apples offered something different in daily meals. They were easy to grow and store for use throughout the year. They could be eaten raw, cooked or dried for eating during the winter. And they could be made into other products, like apple butter and apple juice.


After a few years, Chapman left the hills of western Pennsylvania and traveled west into the Ohio Valley. He transported sixteen bushels of apple seeds down the Ohio River in eighteen-oh-one. He planted apple seeds in several areas near a place called Licking Creek. Some of the seeds were planted on land owned by a farmer named Isaac Stedden.

Chapman was careful about where he planted apple seeds. He did not leave them just anywhere. First, he would find rich, fertile land in an open area. Then, he cleared the land, carefully removing unwanted plants. Then, he planted his seeds in a straight line and built a fence around them. The fence helped to keep the young trees safe from animals. As the trees grew, he returned to repair the fence and care for the land.

Chapman planted with thoughts about future markets for his crops. His trees often grew in land near settlements. He often sold his apple seeds to settlers. Sometimes, he gave away trees to needy settlers. When low on seeds, he returned east to Pennsylvania to get more. He got the seeds from apple presses -- machines used to make apples into a drink called apple cider.

Before long, Chapman’s trees were growing in fields across Ohio. People began calling him Johnny Appleseed.


Johnny Appleseed was a small man with lots of energy. He had long dark hair. His eyes were black and bright. He never married. He lived very simply. For years, he traveled alone in the wilderness, without a gun or knife. He slept in the open air and did not wear shoes on his feet.

Some people gave him clothing as payment for his apple trees. But sometimes he wore a large cloth bag or sack as clothing. The sack had holes for his head and arms. On his head, he wore a metal container for a hat. He also used this pot for cooking his food. People said he lived this way because he wanted to. He had enough money for shelter and clothes if he had wanted to buy these things.

Johnny Appleseed looked like someone who was poor and had no home. Yet he was a successful businessman. He used his money to improve his apple business and help other people. He was famous for his gentleness and bravery. Both settlers and native Americans liked him. Everywhere he traveled, he was welcomed. Reports from that period suggest that some native Americans believed he was “touched by God.” Others called him a great medicine man.

During his travels, some families asked Johnny to join them for a meal. He would never sit down until he was sure that their children had enough to eat. His diet was as simple as his clothing. He believed that it was wrong to kill and eat any creature for food. He believed that the soil produced everything necessary for humans. He also criticized people who wasted food.


There are a number of other stories about Johnny Appleseed. Once a rattlesnake attempted to bite him while he slept. Johnny struck the creature, killing it. This was an action he said he always regretted.

Another time, he was trapped in the wilderness during a severe snowstorm. He found shelter in an old tree that had fallen to the ground. In the tree, he discovered a mother bear and her cubs. He did not interfere with the animals, and left before they knew he was there.

As the years passed, Johnny Appleseed decided to leave Ohio. He moved west into wilderness areas in what is now the state of Indiana. The woods were filled with bears, wolves and other wild animals. Yet he never hurt these creatures.

Johnny Appleseed has sometimes been called the American Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis established a Roman Catholic group that cares for the poor and the sick. Saint Francis also is remembered for his love of animals and for honoring nature.

John Chapman was a very religious man. He liked to read from the Christian holy book, the Bible. He was strongly influenced by the Swedish scientist and Christian thinker, Emanuel Swedenborg. Chapman belonged to the Church of New Jerusalem, a religious group based on Swedenborg’s teachings.


In about eighteen thirty, John Chapman got some land in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There, he planted apple seedlings that grew and produced crops. He sold, traded and planted in other areas. Some reports said he also traveled to the nearby states of Kentucky and Illinois. His travels lasted more than forty years.

It is estimated that, during his lifetime, he planted enough trees to cover an area of about two hundred sixty thousand square kilometers. Over time, some adults said they remembered receiving presents from Johnny Appleseed when they were children.

In eighteen forty-five, John Chapman became sick and developed pneumonia during a visit to Fort Wayne. He died in the home of a friend, William Worth. Chapman was seventy years old. He was buried near Fort Wayne. The marker over his burial place reads, “He lived for others.”

When word of Chapman’s death reached Washington, DC, Senator Sam Houston of Texas made a speech honoring him. Houston praised Chapman’s work as a labor of love. He said people in the future would remember his life and work.

Strangely, stories about Johnny Appleseed continued to spread to other areas, long after John Chapman died. Some people claimed they had seen Johnny Appleseed as far south as Texas. Others were sure that he planted trees as far west as California. Even today, some people still claim they are Johnny Appleseed.


This Special English program was written by George Grow. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.