In an earlier post, I wrote about my search for Elsie Blue, the blue-tick coon hound in my manuscript Up the Rutted Road (working title). As I sought a dog I could describe, I also needed to find a picture of Uncle Glen's weathered, old-timey house. The house pictured above was the home of master storyteller Ray Hicks, who has "passed on over." It was hiding in plain sight, because I have the picture among my collected research about Appalachian oral tradition.
Each October, Ray, a tall string bean of a man, would come down off Beech Mountain--along with his family and a load of sassafras root to sell--to hold court at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He was an icon of that event. Wherever he stopped to roost, a crowd would gather to hear him tell a Jack Tale in his unique, mesmerizing mountain drawl. He took his time with each word, rolling it around in his mouth, breaking it into as many syllables as possible.
It saddens me that I never got to hear him in person, though I do have a VHS tape of him which I procured at AppalShop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, during a research trip. I hope he won't mind if I borrow his house for my book. I promise not to do it harm. I love it too much.