If you want to know about the real people of North Carolina, the old times, of struggles to stay alive, and of the oral traditions of story telling, passed down and transported from the British Isles, study the life of Ray and Rosa Hicks. Ray passed away a few years ago. I had an opportunity to visit Ray and Rosa through a mutual friend and sadly, did not make it to their home on Beech Mountain before he died. Ray Hicks was one of a few remaining NC mountain men, passing along the old traditions of story telling, moutain lore, herbal medicine and life in the mountains before times got easier.
Ray and Rosa Hicks were featured on public tv in North Carolina on UNC TV years ago. I have a copy of that documentary and I treasure it. The show opens with a haunting banjo tune and a misty view of the mountains where they lived. The Hicks are shown in their daily life on Beech Mountain, living life the old way, carrying water in from the nearby spring house. However, much of the show centered on Ray and his animated telling of the jack tales. Ray has received numerous awards and was considered a national treasure. Ray also sings traditional songs, some of which are sung in a blues type way, from the gut, revealing hard times and suffering. People like Ray and Rosa Hicks are hard to find these days. Down home folks that are hardworking, genuine and unpretentious. As Ray said to his audiences, I am just the way in front of you as I would be at home and indeed he was. The last genuine man.
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