During the 1984 Nation Festival Jean Smith asked if I would like to drive Ray and Rosa Home to Banner Elk. We loaded into the station wagon and took off, Ray talking the whole time. He was telling me stories of the Great Depression, stories of a witch who taught him how to not be shy, a story of a man who ate his own arm to keep from starving to death. Of course, all the narratives flowed out of him in that Elizabethan dialect until Rose said, Ray, you’re going to get this young boy completely lost unless you stop talking for a few minutes. Rosa was right. I was so involved in Ray’s imagery that I had no idea at all as to where we were. But with help from Rosa we found ourselves climbing up Beech Mountain.
When we stopped in front of that hallowed farm house Ray asked me to dinner. We sat down to a meal of red beans over bread and washed it down with brandy. Ted sat on the bed, grinning right along with his Dad. Ray taught me the Swapping Song which I still sing to this day. I knew that I was in a rare and wonderful situation and thanked the storytelling muse for putting me there. Ray was a compulsive, traditional storyteller who did not stop spinning narratives for the two hours I was in his presence.
When his time came for resting, he went out to his spring house and brought me two cabbages from his garden. My head was spinning. We shook hands and I asked if I could take his picture. I snapped a shot right again the soft colors of the sky. We shook hands all around and I climbed into the station wagon and began my descent of Beech Mountain. I was elated. I knew that I had shared time that was rare and wonderful and being an apprentice storyteller, it was a true blessing.
Dennis Freeman, Storyteller, Phoenix, AZ