The man you see in the picture is Ted Hicks, son of Ray Hicks, who was considered the last of the old time story tellers. The other picture is the view from his back porch. I had the pleasure of meeting Ted when we lived in the “High Country” near Boone, NC, and I worked for the public transportation system for Watauga County, NC.
On my frequent trips to pick up Ted and carry him to the doctor’s, he fascinated me with the old stories his dad taught him over the years before he died; stories of the mountain people who lived in this region and the old time “Jack Tales”. He told me how his dad and his mother taught him how to look for certain herbs and plants, and how to use them, how to hunt, how to survive the harsh winters, how to plant gardens on those steep slopes, what would grow, and what would not. He spoke with that old mountain brogue which took me some time to understand, but when I finally mastered the language, I was even more fascinated with the stories.
At the time these pictures were taken, Ted lived with his mother in the house you see, which is high up on Beach Mountain. This is also where he was born. They heated and cooked with wood, and only got indoor plumbing a few years prior to this photo. Life on these mountains is tough, and the winters are even harder.
Ted told the following story which you would think was right out of a survival book. One winter day when he was just a young boy, he and his two sisters and brother were in the old one room school house, when the winter snow which had begun early that morning, turned into a blizzard. The snow was accumulating at a frightening pace, the temperature was dropping, and the winds were howling. Since most of the children lived several miles from the school house, and all walked to and from school, the teacher let the children out early and told them to go straight home.
Their dad had always told them, “If you get caught out in one of them “howlers”, stay on the road as best as you can and look for the tops of the fence post to guide you. Don’t take any shortcuts, even though it might be a shorter distance.”
Ted said, “Well, I thought I knew these mountains pretty good, and the snow was almost to the top of some of the posts, so I told my brothers and sisters to follow me, I knew a better way.” He said they told me, “You know what Paw told us, follow the fence post, we aint going with you.”
Ted said, “I bet I’ll beat you home,” and off he went by himself. After an hour, Ted said everything looked the same, the snow was 4-5 feet in places, he didn’t recognize any landmarks, it was really cold, the wind had increased, and he was lost. Ted told me, about this time he was thinking, “I sure wish I had done what Paw told me to do.”
Well, the story did have a happy ending, as he was very close to his Grandparents’ cabin, and he smelled the smoke from the chimney, he said he struggled to get there, and arrived on their doorsteps half frozen. Ted said “God was a looking out for me that night.”
He spent the night with them, and most of the next day. His Granddad took him home the next evening after the storm had quit. He said, “I expected my Paw to get his switch and give me a good spanking, but he guessed they was so glad to see me alive, my adventure was lesson enough.” Ted said there have been many storms since then, and, “I always look for them fence posts.”
As I got to know Ted and his family, I fell in love with them and their simplistic life style, and most of all the tenderness of their hearts. They would do almost anything to help you if they could. I realize now that they were “preppers” by many of our definitions, but they would not have called it that. I think they would say that they had to have food stored in the root cellar if they wanted to eat during the long winters.
They would have to have the firewood cut and stored, and stove wood cut all the time. The kids listened to the stories their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles told around the fireplace in the evenings and learned how to live and survive in those hard mountains. Ted told me those were some of his favorite times growing up, and in many cases, where he learned so much.
The point is, we all have a natural resource available to us as “preppers”, that being the knowledge of our elders, and maybe just a friend who has a skill that is needed.
Unfortunately, most people in today’s culture do not want to take the time to sit and listen to those with this wealth of knowledge. They would rather watch something on YouTube, or Google a subject on the internet. These can be excellent resources, but you really need to do your research to trust some of the information you get. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying, much of the modern technology is great, and makes our lives much easier.
However with that said, what happens when we don’t have our smart phone or iPad due to a natural disaster such as the recent hurricane that hit the East Coast and North Eastern section of our country?
Many of you reading this article have the type of knowledge I am talking about. I believe one of our greatest challenges as “Seasoned Preppers” is to find out how to give this knowledge to the younger generations. We are so close to losing so much knowledge about our heritage and our history that it is scary. Have you looked at some of the new history books our children are being taught these days?
On a personal note, I found out rather quickly that if I wanted to talk, I should say communicate, to our children, and especially our grandchildren, I had to learn to text message. That was, and still is a challenge for me. But at least we had some good family talk time as most of our children and grandchildren were home for the holidays.