Ray’s first storytelling beyond Beech Mountain came in 1951. A teacher at Cove Creek Elementary School invited Ray and he told stories to her class. Word spread that Jennie Love’s students had heard a storyteller and that they were clamoring for him to come tell again. When Ray returned to the school, everybody wanted to hear his stories. That pleased Ray and he spent all day going from room to room. Jennie gave him $3 for gas.
“Ray was a godfather of folklore and a master storyteller by any account. But beyond his contributions to his art, Ray, who died in 2003 at age 80, was a precious piece of Appalachian history, and a man whose simple mountain wisdom has long outlasted his days on the front porch of his cabin in Beech Mountain.”
When Ray Hicks got rolling, you could get a tale with roots as far back as the 15th century delivered in a dialect that has faded from these hills with his passing – a unique manner of speech born of Scotch-Irish and English of the 1700s simmered by years of isolation into the characteristic lilt that echoed across these ridges for years. Hicks spoke a language that sounded strange to many in recent years, but would have been comfortably recognized by the Founding Fathers
At his side for over fifty years was his sweet Rosa, a petite, soft-spoken mate who bore him five children and never seemed to tire of his endless narratives. She loved company as much as did Ray, but always scooted to the background while Ray entertained their guests. Often, she was in the kitchen, where she spent much of her time cooking and canning her garden goods, or outside in her lovely flower gardens in the summer.