Donald Davis returns home to tell stories

By Mary Ann Enloe | Oct 09, 2012


World renowned storyteller Donald Davis comes home again this week to entertain folks with his Western North Carolina homespun humor.
Davis appears Sunday afternoon in a benefit performance for the Friends of the Smokies at 3 p.m. at Lake Junaluska's Harrell Center.  He is donating his time.
"I'm a little tired now," Davis said late Sunday afternoon from Jonesborough, Tennessee, where he had spent the weekend performing at the Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival.  "It's been a really full few days."
This was Davis' 32nd appearance at Jonesborough.  He was recently featured in a CBS Sunday Morning segment, "Storytelling festivals keep an age-old tradition alive."
Davis entertains audiences all over the world with Haywood County stories.  Folks find themselves inside the tales.  They laugh as if they knew his mother and how she reacted when her sons put the snake in her car.  They can imagine that car plowing into the mayor's front yard on Hazelwood's Main Street when Banker Joe Davis tried to teach his wife to drive, and she couldn't slow down at the bottom of Bass Hill.
Regardless of where folks are, they've known people like that.  Davis' vivid storytelling takes them home.
Donald Davis spent his childhood in a farmhouse across the street from the present Hazelwood School on Plott Creek.  His mother, Lucille, taught at the old Hazelwood School, now the Folkmoot Center.   His father, Banker Joe, got the name because he headed up the town's only bank, and there were three Joe Davises in Hazelwood.
The family then moved to East Waynesville and later to the top of the hill beyond the Waynesville drive-in theater.  Those places and those people make up Donald Davis' stories.
The former Methodist minister's ancestors settled in what would become Haywood County and some of their property became part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The Ocracoke resident has a deep love for his mountain roots.
"I remember when you couldn't get to the Great Smokies without coming through Waynesville," said Davis.  "You turned down Depot Street at the Gateway to the Smokies sign that stretched across Main Street."
Davis is looking forward to seeing the smaller replica of that sign which was recently installed at the corner of Waynesville's Main and Depot streets.
"Waynesville really is the gateway to the Smokies," he said.  "We should have a real sense of that.  The Friends of the Smokies have a great interest in perpetuating the culture of the Park, and the Park is a vital part of the economy in this area."
In a New York Times article, noted author Wilma Dykeman said, "I could have listened all morning to Donald Davis...His stories often left listeners limp with laughter at the same time they struggled with a lump in their throat."
Home town folks will have the opportunity to hear one of their favorite sons Sunday afternoon at Lake Junaluska.  Tickets are $15.  For more information, call 452-0720.