The Cricket

By Master Storyteller Joe Hayes

from his book "The Day It Snowed Tortillas"

This is a story about two men who were compadres, which means they were godfathers to each other's children.

One man was rich. He had a fine ranch with a big herd of cattle. And he had one mule that was his pride and joy. It was a prize-winning mule.

His compadre was very poor. And he was lazy. He never worked, never paid his bills. And he was always talking and talking. The people gave him a nickname. They called El Grillo, The Cricket, because he would never be quiet, just as a cricket won't quiet down when you're trying to get to sleep at night.

One of the foolish things The Cricket was always saying was that he was un adivino, a seer, and that he could solve mysteries and find things that were lost. He used that idea to play a trick on his rich compadre.

Whenever The Cricket would get far behind in his bills and owe a lot of money, he would go to his rich compadre's ranch. He would catch that prize-winning mule and lead it into the mountains and hide it.

The rich man would look all over his ranch for the mule. Then he would go call on The Cricket. "Can you help me?" he would ask. "My mule is lost. I can't find him anywhere on the ranch. Could you use your powers as a seer and find out where that mule is?"

The Cricket would say, "oh, that doesn't sound too hard. I think I can solve this mystery. But you know, I need some help too. Could you just pay off a few of my bills?"

The rich man would pay The Cricket's bills, and the poor man would go back to the mountains and get the mule and lead it home. Over and over he played the trick on his compadre. But his mischief almost caught up with him.

One day the rich man was in Santa Fe visiting the governor, and the governor was upset. "Oh," he sighed. "I have lost a ring that I've had since I was a child. I can't find it anywhere in the palace."

The rich man reassured him. "I can help you. My compadre is a seer. He can solve mysteries and find things that are lost. I'll tell him to come find your ring."

So the next day The Cricket had to go to the palace to find the ring. Now the pressure was really on him. He would have to find something that was really lost. So he tried to get out of it.

"I understand that you are un adivino," the governor said, "that you can find lost articles."

"Oh, no, Your Excellency," The Cricket said. "Sometimes I've been lucky and found something that was lost, but I wouldn't say I'm a seer, or have any special powers."

When he heard that, the governor became suspicious. "This man sounds like a fraud to me," he thought. "He sounds like a cheat."

The governor told The Cricket, "I'm going to lock you in a room for three days. If at the end of that time you can tell me where my ring is, you'll get a rich reward. But if you fail, then I'll know you've been lying to the people. And you'll get the proper punishment."

So The Cricket was locked in a room, and of course he had no idea where the ring was or how he might find out.

Now, the truth of the matter was that three of the kitchen servants had stolen the ring. And it just so happened that on the evening of the first day one of those servants was sent up to The Cricket's room to serve the prisoner his supper.

The servant entered and placed the food on the table, and when The Cricket saw his evening meal before him, a thought hit-that he had only three days in which to solve the mystery, and here it was suppertime, the end of the first day!

So as the servant was leaving the room, The Cricket shook his head and muttered to himself, "Ai! Of the three, there goes the first!"

He meant the first of the three days, but when the servant heard him, he thought The Cricket had recognized him as one of the thieves. He ran back to the kitchen. "That man in the room!" he sputtered to his friends. "He really is a seer. As I was leaving the room I heard him say, 'Of the three, there goes the first.' He knew that I was one of the thieves!"

"Don't jump to conclusions," the other two advised. "Tomorrow a different one of us will take his food. We'll see what he says then."

The next day a second servant delivered the evening meal. Again, when The Cricket saw his supper before him, the truth struck-only three days to save himself, and the second one now was gone. As the servant was going through the door, The Cricket sighed, "Ai! Of the three, there goes the second."

The servant ran back to his friends. "There can be no doubt about it. He knows! As I was leaving he said, 'Of the three, there goes the second.' He knew that I was one of the thieves, too."

So on the third day, when the third servant took The Cricket his food, he just fell on his knees and pleaded, "Please don't tell the governor. We know that you know about us, but if you tell the governor we'll have our heads cut off."

The Cricket realized what the man was talking about. "I won't turn you in," he assured the servant, "if you do exactly as I say. Take the ring out to the barnyard and throw it on the ground in front of the fattest goose in the flock. Make sure the goose swallows the ring."

The servant did as he was told. Later, when the governor demanded to know where his ring was, The Cricket told him, "Your Excellency, this is very strange, but I had a vision while I was in that room. I saw your barnyard and the pen where the geese are kept. And the ring was in the belly of the fattest goose!"

The governor laughed. "How would it get there?" But he ordered that the goose be brought in and his stomach opened. And there was the ring! That made a believer of the governor. He rewarded The Cricket with gold and sent him home with the goose for his wife to cook.

After getting out of that one, The Cricket promised himself, "Never again will I call myself a seer." But keeping that vow was not so easy.

A few weeks later the governor of Chihuahua was in New Mexico visiting at the palace, and the governor of New Mexico just had to brag about The Cricket. "Living here in this province of New Mexico is a man who is un adivino," he boasted to the governor of Chihuahua. "He can solve mysteries and find things that are lost. He could tell you what was hidden in some secret place."

The governor of Chihuahua laughed. "Adivino, indeed! There's no such thing!" The two men started to argue, and before long they made a bet. They bet a thousand dollars apiece.

The arrangement was that the governor of Chihuahua would hide something in a box, and they would run the box to the top of the flagpole. The Cricket would have to stand on the ground at the bottom of the flagpole and tell what was inside the box.

The day of the contest arrived, and the governor of Chihuahua got a clever idea. He took a big box and put a smaller box inside it, then a smaller box inside that, and so on, until the last box he put in was very tiny. "He'll think it's something big in this large box," the governor laughed. "But I'll get something very small to go in this tiny box."

He went to the garden to look for something small, and just then a little cricket went hopping across the path. The governor caught it and put it in the smallest box. He sealed all the boxes and raised them to the top of the flagpole. The guards went to get The Cricket.

There the poor Cricket stood at the bottom of the flagpole, without a clue what was in the box. But the governor of New Mexico and the governor of Chihuahua stood before him, and there were soldiers all around. He couldn't run. He just stood there. An hour passed, and then another.

Finally the governor of Chihuahua started to laugh. "This man is a fraud, just as I told you." He turned to the governor of New Mexico. "Pay the bet and let's be done with it."

Now the governor of New Mexico grew impatient. "Speak up," he told The Cricket. "Tell us what's in the box. Speak!" Finally he roared, "I'll give you one more minute. Speak or I'll have you shot!"

The Cricket had to say something. He stuttered and fumbled. "In the box . in the box .in the box . in the box ."

"What?" gasped the governor of Chihuahua. "How does he know there's a box inside a box inside a box?"

And just then, thinking of himself, The Cricket hung his head and cried, "Oh, no! They've got you this time, you poor little Cricket!"

The governor of Chihuahua's jaw fell. "If I hadn't heard that with my own ears, I never would have believed it!" He drew out his wallet and paid a thousand dollars to the governor of New Mexico.

The governor of New Mexico gave 500 of those dollars to The Cricket. He shook his hand and slapped him on the back. "Well done again!" And he sent him home.

That was too close a call for The Cricket. "Never, ever again in my whole life will I tell anyone that I have any special powers whatever!"

But the boys on the street had always liked to make fun of The Cricket. That day they had filled a big gunny sack with garbage, and as The Cricket started down the street they ran out to meet him. They waved the gunny sack in front of him. "Adivino," they taunted, "use your secret powers. Tell us what's in this gunny sack."

"Don't call me adivino," The Cricket snapped. "I don't believe in that anymore. It's nothing but a bunch of garbage. Leave me alone!" The boys stared at him in amazement. "How did he know it was garbage? He really is a seer! We thought he was just an old fool."

So from that day on, no matter how hard The Cricket tried to tell people, "No! I'm not a seer. I have nos special powers at all," they wouldn't believe him. Every time a housewife lost a spoon, she would come to him to find it. The governor kept calling on him to solve mysteries.

Finally, to have any peace at all, The Cricket had to take his family and move far away from New Mexico, to a place where they hadn't heard of men who are called adivinos, or seers. And if he hasn't died by now, he must be living there still.

To order "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" or other books by Joe Hayes, visit Cinco Puntos Press.

Copyright © Joe Hayes
Order Joe Hayes Books at Cinco Puntos Press

Joe Hayes, Storyteller

Joe Hayes, professional storyteller and SFAOL contributor, has performed in hundreds of schools, libraries, museums and parks. He tells folktales from many cultures, and among his favorites are the local cuentos, the Hispanic tales of New Mexico. A highlight of every summer in Santa Fe, for children and adults alike, are his storytelling sessions outside the tepee at the Wheelwright Museum in Santa Fe.

In 1982, Mariposa Printing and Publishing company in Santa Fe presented 10 of these stories in "The Day It Snowed Tortillas." Now in its ninth printing, the book has become a regional favorite and has brought delight to readers throughout the country.

From the melodic song of "La Hormiguita"to the classic lament of "La Llorana," "The Day It Snowed Tortillas" is a collection that will captivate hearts for years to come. If you enjoy the stories of Joe Hayes on SFAOL, you can order this book or others he has written by visiting Cinco Puntos Press.

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