"He stole my pig!" Mr. Man shouted. "That darned rabbit stole my prized pig!" Brer Rabbit had been thieving from Mr. Man's garden for years but stealing a pig was something new (more about that). So Mr. Man lay in wait, knowing Brer Rabbit would be back raiding his garden again, and he brought his dogs: Ramboo, Bamboo, and Lamboo.

Sure enough, Brer Rabbit showed up, but before he could squeeze under the garden gate, Mr. Man turned the dogs loose. "Ramboo, Bamboo, Lamboo! Go get that rabbit!"

Brer Rabbit lit out fast as he could, the dogs close behind. He ran up, he ran down, he ran here, he ran there, but he couldn't shake them. Finally he headed for the one place he knew those dogs would not follow: into the swamp. And once in the swamp, he decided to go see Mammy-Bammy Big-Money, the witch-rabbit. He needed her help.

Mammy-Bammy Big-Money!

O Mammy-Bammy Big-Money!

I journeyed far, ran fast as I can:

You got to save me from Mr. Man.

"Riley Rabbit, Wiley Rabbit," replied the witch, "what exactly have you got in mind?"

Brer Rabbit told Mammy-Bammy about his troubles with Mr. Man, and Mammy-Bammy had troubles of her own with him too. "Yes," she thought to herself, "Mr. Man has got to go."

"Fetch me that hide off the wall," she told Brer Rabbit. The hide was a weird-looking thing: the head was still on, plus all four feets, and a long tail. A very long tail.

Brer Rabbit toted the hide over to Mammy-Bammy who stood in front of the fireplace. She was casting handfuls of salt into the flames, swaying and muttering under her breath. Then, as the salt cracked and melted in the fire… the skin started to stir.

Mammy-Bammy shouted:

Rise, skin, rise,

Show us your bright red eyes —

Stretch out your long, sharp claws,

And open up your hungry jaws!

Brer Rabbit watched in amazement as the skin filled out, rose, and then stood up on its four legs. Its eyes were red! Its claws were sharp! And Brer Rabbit guessed that its jaws were mighty hungry, just like Mammy-Bammy had said.

The critter then walked over to Mammy-Bammy, rubbing against her legs like some kind of house-cat from hell, moving more and more freely as its skin loosened up. Mammy-Bammy whispered something in its ear, the critter growling in response, and Brer Rabbit then watched as it raced away out of the house.

"That should do it, " said Mammy-Bammy. "You go on home now, Riley Rabbit, Wiley Rabbit. Critter'll take care of Mr. Man."

Mr. Man was asleep in bed when the sound woke him up. Something scratching at the bedroom window. Then at the front door. Then at the window again. Too big to be a possum or coon. He grabbed a hatchet and raised it up as he slowly open the front door. The critter came rushing in, red eyes glowing in the dark, and Mr. Man brought the hatchet down. Snickety-snack: it cut the critter's tail right off. Screaming, the critter ran back out into the night.

And the tail… kept moving. It thrashed and twisted, and then it sprang up and wrapped itself around Mr. Man's throat, choking him. Mr. Man grabbed at the tail with both hands and pulled it off his neck; it was all he could do to keep hold of the thing. He hurled the tail into the fireplace, where it kept on thrashing, so he threw the contents of the coal bucket on it, and he kept on raking up the ashes until finally it settled.

Then Mr. Man went back to bed, supposing it was only a nightmare he had dreamed.

But then he heard it again. Something scratching at the front door. And a voice. A rumbling, grumbling, growling voice.

"Taily-po! O Taily-po! I come to get my taily-po!"

Next he heard scratching at the bedroom window.

"Taily-po! O Taily-po! Give me back my taily-po!"

Mr. Man shouted to one of his dogs, "Ramboo, hey Ramboo! I need you!"

So Ramboo came running, and Mr. Man heard him leap up onto the porch and then that dog screamed. Then: silence. And then the sound of bones crunching… as the critter ate Ramboo, bones and all.

Mr. Man called his two other dogs. "Hey Lamboo! Hey Bamboo! I need you both!"

Both dogs came running. They leaped up onto the porch. Then they screamed. And then the sound of bones crunching. The critter had eaten both Lamboo and Bamboo, bones and all.

"Dog taste good! (lips smacking) Dog taste sweet! (lips smacking again) Dogs are what I like to eat."

And then the critter threw its body hard against the front door.

"Now give me back my taily-po! Taily-po! (thump) Taily-po! (WHUMP) Give me back my taily-po!"

Next Mr. Man heard the door creak as it fell and hit the ground.

The critter was in the house now. It ran up to the fireplace and started pawing through the ashes, and then through the coals. Then it got down to the hot embers, and soon the critter was flinging fire all over, and smoke filled the room.

When the critter found its tail, it howled in triumph. Grabbing the tail in its teeth, it ran back out the door.

The whole house was on fire now, but Mr. Man didn't move. He was already dead, frighted to death right there in his own bed.

Brer Rabbit smelled smoke and went to look: he saw Mr. Man's house on fire, and then he saw the neighbors come running. And he knew there wasn't a thing they could do.

Way out in the swamp, Mammy-Bammy smelled it too. "Some kind of barbecue going on at Mr. Man's tonight," she chuckled. "Some kind of barbecue indeed."

You'll find the author's note below... or you can move right on to the story of Brer Rabbit and his lucky rabbit's foot.

Author's Note. I stayed close to the Joel Chandler Harris version of this story; my biggest challenge was shortening the story since the original was 2500 words long: Taily-Po. This is a famous folktale type, and you can find out more at Wikipedia: Taily-Po. The story is classified with the Golden-Arm folktale-type which involves taking a body part or some other valuable object from a dead person, and then the dead person comes to get it back. See, for example, this story in Harris: A Ghost Story.

What I really like about this version of Taily-Po is the way this is not some random monster; Mammy-Bammy conjures up the creature as her servant. That is not something I have found in any other version.

The way that Mammy-Bammy uses a skin and salt to work her magic parallels other accounts of witches and skin-work that you can see in other stories that Harris collected such as Plantation Witch and Ghosts and Witches. Emma Backus even collected a story in which Brer Rabbit put peppers in Old Mammy Witch-Wise's skin: Why the People Tote Brer Rabbit Foot in their Pocket. Elsie Clews Parsons also collected stories about witches and their skins: Out of Her Skin is a story from the Sea Islands of South Carolina, and She Takes Off Her Skin is a story she found in Dominica.

If you Google "Taily-Po" you will see that it is a very popular story even today, especially in Appalachia. As far as I know, the Harris story is the oldest version of the story recorded in writing. Here's a YouTube video (just one of many): The Old Man and the Taily-Po.

Bibliography. Joel Chandler Harris originally published the story Taily-Po in Metropolitan Magazine, v. 23 (January 1906) with illustrations by A. B. Frost. The story was later reprinted in Uncle Remus Returns in 1918, but with only one of the original illustrations (Mammy-Bammy at her fireplace).

Image information. All the illustrations used here are by A. B. Frost for this specific story.