Jack, Alive and Well on Beech Mountain in Western North Carolina: The Cultural Traditions of Ted Hicks

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lisa Baldwin (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/

Abstract: This thesis is the result of fieldwork, research, and time spent with Ted Hicks and other members of the Hicks family who reside on Beech Mountain in Watauga County in western North Carolina. Ted, who was born in 1954 in Avery County, has spent his entire life living with his mother, Rosa Harmon Hicks, and his father, Ray. He learned the Appalachian mountain traditions from his parents. Modernity has not substantially influenced the Hicks family. They have continued to live, work, and play in the “old ways.” Ted has been a subsistence farmer, woodsman, craftsman, carpenter, and herb gatherer. Only recently has he become an active bearer of the oral tradition of the Jack and Grandfather Tales. Ted grew up in the house on Beech Mountain where his father was born and where Ray heard his grandfather, Benjamin Hicks, telling the tales that his relatives had passed down to him. In 1995, Ray received the National Storytelling Association’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, and he received numerous storytelling awards. He was also the only teller who was featured every year at the National Storytelling Festival that is held in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Ted has been a passive participant in the oral traditions of the family. He was shy and spent more time alone in the woods and farming the family land than in public gatherings. It wasn’t until after his father’s death in 2003 that Ted became an active bearer of the tradition of the Jack and Grandfather Tales. Due to health challenges, he could no longer farm and gather herbs, and therefore he turned to the oral traditions he grew up hearing in his home. Ted continues private performances in the context of his and his mother’s home, and he has transitioned to public performances in the past few years. His performance in October 2009 was his first delivery of a tale on the main stage in Jonesborough. He sat in the same center spot where his father had performed the tales year after year. The delivery of “Jack and the Doctor’s Girl” transcribed in Appendix B was Ted’s fourth public performance. My research includes Ted Hicks’s private performances and one public performance of the Jack Tales, a genre that has been recorded as a two hundred-year old tradition brought to western North Carolina by the Hicks, Harmon, and Ward families, who came from England and Germany and settled near Valle Crucis, North Carolina in the 1700s. Because of the Hicks family’s long history of involvement with the Jack Tale tradition, there is a need for further documentation of this family, which has taken responsibility for keeping the cultural traditions alive in the Appalachian region. My thesis documents Ted Hicks’s role in maintaining family traditions and his transition to being an active bearer of the Jack Tale tradition as he struggles with health issues and a changing community. A video recording and transcriptions of Ted’s private and public performances accompany my thesis and are central to this project.

Additional Information

Baldwin, L. (2010). Jack, Alive and Well on Beech Mountain in Western North Carolina: The Cultural Traditions of Ted Hicks. Unpublished master's thesis. Appalachachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2010

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