Ronda Lee Hicks, as the traditional song goes, is "a man you don't meet every day." Hailing from the Beech Mountain area of western North Carolina, Ronda is the offspring of the two families of great storytellers who are largely responsible for the area's strong storytelling tradition of the International Wonder Tales of Jack. And his late cousin Ray Hicks was the famed "keeper" of the International Wonder Tales of Jack that have proven so popular in the Appalachian region for more than two centuries. Like Ray, Ronda is a gifted storyteller, but not of Jack Tales. Even so, Ronda's stories about himself, his family, friends, and acquaintances are wonder tales no less. With great candor and sometimes jarring humor, Hicks recounts his life's highs and lows. These events, ranging from drunken debauchery to brutality, are often shocking. He has had many close encounters with "the law" and was twice sent to prison. His relationships with women, including his two wives, have been tumultuous at best. This is the story of a violent, sometimes dissolute life--one that sounds more like it was lived in the mountains a hundred years ago than in contemporary Appalachia. Embedded in all of Ronda's stories are numerous details of mountain life, work, entertainment, behavior, beliefs, values, and codes. Thus, through Ronda's memoirs and interviews with noted Appalachian scholar Thomas Burton, readers will not only meet a truly singular individual but will also learn of many obscure features of southern Appalachian mountain culture, including its darker aspects. At the very least, the reader will wonder how Ronda Hicks lived to tell his fascinating tales at all.
Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of "Serpent-Handling Believers "and "The Serpent and the Spirit: Glenn Summerford's Story."
"Thomas Burton's edition of what amounts to an autobiography of Ronda Lee Hicks--fighter, drinker, womanizer, and storyteller--represents a wiff of late-night honky-tonk whiskey and tobacco in its realism.... Hicks is a talented raconteur, whose gifts are well displayed in Burton's careful editing." -- Erika Brady