Orville Hicks

Orville Hicks

Orville Hicks carries on the centuries-old tradition of storytelling. He is a mountain original, a native of the Beech Mountain area who grew up hearing the old men and women tell tales of a magical boy named Jack and his adventures, of kings and princesses, dragons and castles. Unlike most of the young'uns of his generation, young Orville absorbed everything he heard - and then some.

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On his mother's side, he is a descendant of the legendary 19th century storyteller Council Harmon. "Old Counce's" heirs share their amazing heritage with the rest of the world ever since an English folklorist encountered a cousin of Orville's, Jane Hicks Gentry, in 1916. Since then, members of the family have supplied the material for dozens of books, articles, and recordings.

The most famous of these tale tellers is Ray Hicks, who is Orville's cousin. Ray and his family live at the end of a dirt road, high on the flank of Beech Mountain. There, to the wooden frame home his father built in 1916, have come hundreds of people from around the world to listen to the old stories. Ray has also become the star of the National Storytelling Festival, held each year in Jonesborough, Tenn.

You don't have to drive to the end of a dirt road, however, to meet Orville Hicks. You will find him, between 12:30 and 7 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, at container site located on U.S. 321 between Boone and Blowing Rock. Orville manages the site, which is definitely the most popular one in the High Country. So why is a nationally known storyteller managing a green box site? "Folks ask why I am here," he said. "It's because of the people."

A few minutes at the site shows exactly what he means. Every other car is a friendly face, ready to hear a quick story as they get rid of their trash. This happens over and over in just a few minutes. Orville loves to make people laugh. While he will tell the long Jack Tales, he knows hundreds of short storytellers. He bills himself as a Mule Egg Seller - you will have to ask him why.

You can also take the magic of Orville Hicks home with you in one (or both) of his recordings. "Carryin' On" is a collection of Jack Tales, while his new one, "Orville Hicks: Mule Egg Seller and Appalachian Storyteller" focuses more on his funny stories. There is also a limited-edition video that features both Orville and local storyteller Dianne Hackworth.

To sum up, Orville Hicks is both a world-class traditional storyteller, who keeps alive tradition ancient when Rome was founded - and he is also a mountain Jerry Clower.

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