Ray Hicks at his home on Beech Mountain, North Carolina May 1990

We first met Ray in 1988 at the storytelling festival in Jonesborogh, Tennessee. He invited both Rachel and myself to come up and visit him at home. By the time we had arranged to visit, the snow had already made the drive impossible from where we lived in Kentucky. We waited until next spring, in May of 1990, to make the journey. Dennis White, the Director of June Appal records at Appalshop, gave us good directions and we met him at Ray's house. Ray was very happy to see all of us, and invited us right in.

The Hicks home is located at just around 5,000 feet above sea level, which means a short summer, and a normally late spring. 1990 was no exception. But Ray's house was warm, and it was a beautiful, clear day up on Beech Mountain. The view north looks towards Stone Mountain on the Tennessee border, not far from Virginia's Mount Rodgers as well.

We spent all day, playing music and swapping stories. Ray's wife made dinner and we enjoyed this wonderful couple's company and stories. Ray is famous for his "Jack Tales", which go back in his family (and the Beech in particular) for over 150 years. The Hicks family may well be the most famous "Jack Tellers" in the Southeast.

Rachel Goodman and Ray Hicks

Ray is about 6'8" tall, and makes Rachel look quite short, despite her normal stature.

Ray and Don, talking about farming at high elevations.....

Dennis White and Ray Hicks on the front porch

"Ray Hicks' speech, except for glottal stops peculiar to certain families living on Beech Mountain, is as pure Southern Appalachian speech as one is likely to find. Essentially unchanged since the 18th century, speech in the Appalachians differs considerably from Southern Speech."

"The unselfconscious mountaineer, without inhibitions concerning grammar and diction, telling a folk tale for the sake of the tale, and at the same time using english familiar to George Washington and Daniel Boone, is unique today. Ray Hicks, who stands at the end of a tradition, is just such a mountaineer."

Cratis Williams
Professor of English, Dean of the Graduate School
Appalachian State Teachers College

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