ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Ray Hicks was, without a doubt, the best-known Appalachian storyteller.
“He just had a unique way about him, a unique way of speaking,” said Shannon Hitchcock who has written a children’s book about Ray called “Saving Grand Daddy’s Stories.” “Ray had heard the stories from his own granddaddy, and he was on a quest to save the stories his grandpa had told him.”
He was known as the keeper of the Jack Tales, stories that had been passed down through the generations of a mischievous boy named Jack and his adventures. Growing up in Yadkin County, Hitchcock had an appreciation for family stories and remembers even telling some of her own to her sister.
“When we were little girls, we shared a bedroom, and she was about 3 years younger than me and had trouble going to sleep at night,” said Hitchcock. “She would usually say ‘tell me a story’ and since the lights were out I couldn’t read her a story so I would make up stories.”
Years later her sister’s tragic death in a car accident would inspire her to do more with her story telling talents.
“Right after her funeral I turned to my husband and said ‘life is too short. We don’t know how much time we have. I’ve always wanted to write children’s books and now I’m going to write books.”
Her first book, titled “The Ballad of Jesse Pearl,” was based on her mother’s family and the tuberculosis epidemic of the 1920s. She would go on to write several other books and has become quite successful. Her latest picture book biography about Ray Hicks explores his family’s traditions.
“It’s really kind of a universal story because it’s a story between a grandparent and a grandchild,” she said. “It shares how the stories were handed down to him, then handed down to his own children and then saved for all of us.”
You can find “Saving Granddaddies Stories” wherever books are sold.