Elizabeth earn a living. Robert Lee was the

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Elizabeth Grey

December 11, 2017

ENG 253

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Donna Levy

Final Exam


Don’t Take No Wooden Nickels


     John was a broad, tall, gullible man born
in the country.  He wasn’t very educated,
but was always kind and willing to lend a helping hand.  One day he decided to broaden his horizons
and take a trip to the big city to see what opportunities there were for
him.  Much to his family’s dismay he
decided to go anyhow.  Now John was
raised on a farm, the son of a sharecropper, so he didn’t have much
experience.  With his lifesavings of $56
he decided to board a bus to New York City. 
John’s family tried everything they could to deter him but his mind was
made up. The day he was to leave John’s Grandma gave him a piece of advice she
said I know you want more out of life than just being here on this farm so you
have my blessing to go and explore to see what is out there for you. I just
want you to remember one thing, don’t take no wooden nickels!  John had no idea what she meant but he was
sure he would figure it out.  On the day
he arrived to the city, John was amazed at the high buildings, flashing lights,
cars and the commotion of the city.  Once
he found a room for rent he set off to find employment.  John was a hard worker and could do anything
he put his mind to.  He came upon a
corner diner that had a help wanted sign in the window.  John entered the diner and spoke to the man
at the counter, I just moved here from the country and need a job.  I see you have a help wanted sign and I am
willing to do almost anything to earn a living. 
Robert Lee was the manager of the diner and thought to himself well I
could use he help around here and I won’t have to pay him as much because
anything he earns will probably be way more then he’ll ever see back home on
the farm.  Robert Lee was a
smooth-talking, city slicker.  He was
born in Petersburg, Virginia but moved to Harlem, New York when he was a
baby.  Robert Lee was an educated man but
his street smarts always dominated his thoughts.  He was so slick he could sell water to a
duck.  Robert Lee told John he could use
him around the diner to wash dishes, help keep the place clean, and other
duties that came about.  John was more
than happy to accept the job.  After his
first week of employment John received an envelope containing $25. He had never
received that much money at one time so he was ecstatic.  As the weeks went on John had more
responsibilities at the diner but was getting paid less and less.  When John spoke to Robert Lee about this he
was told that business had been slow and the money was not coming in so he had
to cut John’s pay.  But John knew better,
he knew his boss was not being totally honest with him.  John realized that he was being taken
advantage of, and remembered what his Grandmother told him; “don’t take no
wooden nickels.”  Although John was not
formally educated, he learned everything he could working in the diner.  John had saved enough money to open his own
diner.  He served some of the best country
food that could be found in the city.  He
remembered watching his grandmother and mother cook and used those recipes
along with what he learned working for Robert Lee.  John’s restaurant was a success he almost put
Robert Lee out of business.  One day
Robert Lee went to John’s diner not knowing who the owner was, he was taken aback
to find out it was John.  Robert Lee
thought John to be inexperienced, and ignorant and thought he could take
advantage of him, since John was a country boy. 
When Robert Lee asked John how he was able to pull off opening his own
place John just shyly smiled and said “I ain’t take no wooden nickels.”


Part Two

     African American folktales have been
passed down from generation to generation. 
They were told during the slavery era as a form of entertainment to keep
the slaves amused during their time of oppression.  Slaves also used folktales to communicate information
about secret meeting places or plans to run away.  There were various types of folktales that
were expressed, some of them were regarding animals such as Brer Rabbit and
Brer Fox, and there were also the John and “Old Marster” tales, which referred
to a slave named John and his master. 
The stories that were told took on several themes and styles. Some were
written in the vernacular of the old slaves from Africa. Once the slaves were
brought to America from Africa during the slave trade they were deprived of
many of the customs they had previously practiced in their country. The verbal
practice of telling folktales are what kept the stories thriving and shared
around the world.  While folktales can be
very amusing, they also show significance of passing down morals or individual characteristics.

    When writing this story my focus was on a
general audience from young to old.  I
tried to add a little humor but with a lesson to be learned.  I used the theme of a moral story as the
basis for my tale.  I thought about what
my grandfather used to say when I was a child. 
He would always say “don’t take no wooden nickels.”  I had no idea what the phrase meant until I
became a teenager.  Remembering the
phrase taught me as I was growing up, to not let anyone take advantage of my
kindness, or fall for anyone’s trickery or deceit.

     I based my tale in the 20th
century post slavery times.  John was
born in the south and his family owned the land that they cultivated.  His family was not formally educated but were
excellent farmers and sharecroppers. They made their living on what was
produced on the farm and from their crops. The tale was built on the conflict
between a man and his boss. Both men were of African American decent but Robert
Lee felt he was a better man than John since he was educated, raised in the
city, and also good looking.  John was
just a run of the mill country boy.  He
had no real life experiences, was not formerly educated, and not very good
looking.  Because the boss was an
educated African American that established a business in the city, he thought
he could undermine his not so bright employee. 
The boss underestimated the man he hired and tried to betray, but his
plan was not successful.  Although the
boss trusted his worker and felt that his lack of education was a positive
outcome for him, his trickery and deception did not work in his favor.  John was able to outsmart Robert Lee and
teach him a lesson in the end. 








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