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Jack and the Giants

posted Sep 19, 2013, 1:27 PM by David Burkhart   [ updated Nov 14, 2013, 4:05 PM ]

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Multi-headed giants prevent Jack from earning his fortune. He cleverly out-wits the giant family. Salsi is a well-known interpreter of American folklore and  tells the story with magical twists and turns.

Note to teachers: This book fits core curriculum for tall tales, folklore, myth. It is used in schools with emphasis on Appalachian history, state history, and history of America's first settlers from Europe, especially the British Isles and Germany.

  • New Release...2013
  • Winner Mom's Choice Award
  • Finalist - Great Southeastern Book Festival

Publisher: Headline Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-938467-52-6 (9780938467526)
ISBN: 0-938467-52-2 (0938467522)

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Lynn Discusses Jack Tales While Highlighting Jack and the Giants

Appalachian Jack Tales

posted Sep 19, 2013, 12:12 PM by Lynn Salsi   [ updated Nov 14, 2013, 4:04 PM by David Burkhart ]

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Told by Hicks, Ward, and Harmon Families

Soft Cover only...available through publisher, all book sellers, and wholesale through publisher and major distributors.

This collection of Old Beech Mountain Jack Tales are a vital part of America's oral history. The stories represent the oldest folklore brought in the minds of the first Appalachian settlers.

The eleven tales represent part of the collection told by the three original families who settled on the Watauga River in the Revolutionary War period while America was only thirteen colonies.

Jack is the star of every story. He is the trickster of adventures in a series of tales influences by settlers mostly from the British Isles and Germany. In this collection, he faces giants, unicorns, witches, kings, and highway robbers.

Publisher: Headline Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-9820873-0-5 (9780982087305)
ISBN: 0-9820873-0-6 (0982087306)

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Jack and the Dragon

posted Sep 19, 2013, 10:04 AM by Lynn Salsi   [ updated Nov 14, 2013, 4:01 PM by David Burkhart ]

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Retelling stories is part of ancient tradition brought to America by the first settlers. Jack rushes off to confront a Dragon that shows up uninvited. Using magic and critical thinking, Jack has to figure out how to best the beast. The story focuses on Jack's relationship with his bossy brothers. Young readers learn how Jack overcomes the Dragon and bullying.

Note to teachers, parents, and librarians: This book is widely used in classes as a story example about sibling rivalry and bullying. Also, fits core curriculum for folktales, storytelling, myth, and tall tales.

Publisher: Headline Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-9820873-2-9 (9780982087329)
ISBN: 0-9820873-2-2 (0982087322)

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Oral History: A Family’s Legacy

posted Aug 24, 2012, 7:34 PM by David Burkhart   [ updated Nov 14, 2013, 4:16 PM ]

Everyone who knows me knows I’m big on oral history. I like to hear people talk about their families, and I enjoy writing down what they say. Just today, a lady shared her experience as an eight year old student. A sudden hail storm came up when she was having class in a one room wooden schoolhouse. The wind was so strong, it blew the structure off its foundation and the school landed on the front door trapping the children inside. While hail pummeled, the sky was as dark as night and everything became chaotic. It was a fascinating story of survival by a young female teacher about seventeen years old and her twenty-two pupils. 
Purchase Voices of America: The Crystal Coast

Personal histories are valuable to individuals, families, and the world. It connects people to their present day kin, as well as to their ancestors. It’s a point of pride and of support for future generations. 

But what about recording oral history? When taped or written down, it isn’t oral anymore. Right! But in modern times we’ve come so far in technology that people are not listening to talking anymore. My mother used to talk about attending protracted church meetings where attendees loved hearing the sermons. Politicians stood on stumps, on courthouse steps, and anywhere else there was a place to plant two feet. And, people came to hear them talk. It wasn’t unusual for citizens to hear both sides of an issue at the same meeting. It was a convenience. Voters could decide which person and which party offered the most. 

Time was when families were sure that one or more of their children memorized the family history through repetition year after year, knowing that would insure the family memories as an on-going or living history. That was not an American tradition. It was brought by every race who immigrated. Family by family, the Germans, Italians, Spanish, Poles, Asians, Africans, Lebanese, Syrians, Hungarians, and Russians kept their family’s culture and history alive through talking and storytelling. It became important to cherish the ways of the Old World in the New World.

Oral tellings of family concerns, successes, religion, superstitions, and migrations from original home lands are as old as time. Yet in the 2000s, they are as endangered as anything could be. In 2000, my book, "Voices of America: The Crystal Coast", created a great deal of interest as it featured residents of the North Carolina coast who were descendents of original 1700s families. The family stories were framed by native voices, as the stories came forth.
Purchase Voices from the North Carolina Mountains: Appalachian Oral Histories

Writing down what was once passed on orally has been my way of preserving talking, including old tales, history, family values, and anecdotes. Technology has changed the oral passing of talking in a way that was not dreamed of twenty-five years ago. That’s when people were still speaking to each other. They visited neighbors and hung around after church to share a covered dish dinner. That’s when people exchanged news, weather information, discussed child care, and talked about the best time to plant corn and ‘taters. They taught their children how to plant crops, take care of animals, gather berries, cook, take care of children, and prepare herbal cures.

Our elders brought all of this into the twentieth century through talking. Without them these lessons and much history would have been lost. It’s as simple as the fact that communities were isolated by transportation. Cutting roads through mountain communities was difficult. Therefore, small communities were close knit. These relationships might determine who married, what church groups were formed, best crops, and local language.

For instance in Ashland, North Carolina farmers considered raising turkeys as important as any cash crop. Other communities put importance on growing and drying burley tobacco, or cabbage, or cane that was processed into molasses. 

I captured voices of North Carolina tale tellers including their remembrances and family traditions in my book, "Voices from the North Carolina Mountains: Appalachian Oral Histories". The talkers offered valuable information about their neighborhoods, their parents and grandparents, and how things were done the old way before electricity was introduced into the ridges and valleys.

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The Life and Times of Ray Hicks

posted Aug 24, 2012, 6:41 PM by Lynn Salsi   [ updated Nov 14, 2013, 4:32 PM by David Burkhart ]

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Keeper of the Jack Tales

Two reviewers have declared this book the Appalachian Angela's Ashes. When measured by angst, struggle and "being up again it," I can see that the story has a full degree of amazement. Many readers will feel empathy for the family that struggled against nature and will feel joy for their survival.

Friends say, "The University of Tennessee Press has done a stellar job on the design and editing."

What a story it is! Ray Hicks, known as the last living traditional Jack tale teller in North America, lived his life within the stories passed down through generations of ancestors who settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the latter decades of the 1700s. No one knows whether the Hicks, Harmons, or Wards originated the stories, because the tales are older than the United States. They came to the far western area of the North Carolina mountains before the state of North Carolina adapted the full land mass that is the state (today). In fact, when the family or families started passing around the tales, they were living in Indian country, that part of the frontier set aside for those who were first on the land.  Never the less, the Smithsonian attributes the old families who lived on Old Beech Mountain with bringing the Jack tales forth in an unbroken line of succession to the present day. That doesn't mean that they were the only settlers to talk about the same Jack that climbed the bean stalk. By the 1930s evidence of the stories about Jack and his brothers Will and Tom also spring from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and West Virginia. The family patriarch, Council Harmon, is known to have told the tales all his life (beginning early 1800's) and recalled hearing them from family members during his childhood. He lived a long life and had 20 children.

Ray was a popular storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival for nearly three decades. He was the first to entertain school children for Jimmy Neil Smith, founder of the national storytelling movement. He drew a crowd year after year, for his speech as much as for his ancient stories. He loved the audiences and they loved him. Therefore, this book is a biography that reads like a memoir. It is told in Ray's voice, in the way I recall from the hundreds of hours I spent on his front porch, his livingroom, and his kitchen.

Born in 1922, Ray lived his entire life in the Appalachian Mountains and knew mountain ways. He was a walking encyclopedia of lore, nature, and tradition. He passed his knowledge along to his children, his family, and everyone who took the time to make the trip to 4,200 feet to sit on his porch or in his front room and listen to the master storyteller.

It is easy to say that Ray lived within the family stories. He eventually became the Jack in the Jack tales. His Jack took on the same history or living the old way by the sun, the same that Ray did. Jack walked the same narrow paths and farmed with his family, the same way Ray did. The book is a tribute to the man who helped preserve the art of storytelling for generations that have followed. And at the same time, it is the story of Ray and of Jack and how they came to be the same.

Publisher: University of Tennessee Press
ISBN-13: 978-1-57233-621-6 (9781572336216)
ISBN: 1-57233-621-8 (1572336218)

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If This Ain’t True, Grits Ain’t Groceries

posted Aug 24, 2012, 6:31 PM by Lynn Salsi   [ updated Nov 14, 2013, 4:31 PM by David Burkhart ]

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I edited the stories Glenn Bolick wrote as a tribute to his mountain upbringing. He says people think he talks funny, because he shortens words when he speaks. He points out how everyone in his community spoke the same; therefore, he captures the spirit of his life and times, as well as that of his parents and grandparents.

Readers will love the stories of his elementary school years and of his adventures taking dinner to his Daddy’s sawmill crew. Glenn and his siblings had many memorable times  in the one-room school house built at the top of the ridge. None of the students were happy about sitting in a drafty (often cold) wooden building where all grades were taught in the same room. 

Glenn and his brothers had the duty of taking three peck buckets packed filled with lunch to men working at the sawmill set over the creek. Their mama included various kinds of pies and sweets. Glenn and his brothers had to fight off temptation, but sometimes snitched a piece of pie.

Glenn and I agree that the southern Appalachian accent should be saved. Some of what people think is southern is a combination of colloquial speech, old English brought from England in the 1700s, some ignorance of standard English, and local sayings referred to as idioms.

Bolick has interspersed sayings throughout the book and relates stories about some of them. 

If This Ain’t True, Grits Ain’t Groceries is good for a lot of laughs, but it’s also a sentimental read for those who enjoy going down memory lane with one of America’s great raconteurs.

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