Folksy storyteller Donald Davis doesn’t take a position on the parenting debates raging in America’s neighborhoods. But depending on your view of the matter, Davis either had an innocent, magical childhood during a simpler time when common sense prevailed, or he was the unwitting victim of borderline neglect in another parenting era.

Davis, a professional raconteur molded by his small-town upbringing in Waynesville, has nothing but fond recollections of his Opie Taylor-like pranks and capers in western North Carolina. Davis’s loose collection of stories recalls a time free of modern parenting anxieties: ticks, bullies, peanut allergies, standardized tests. Jeepers, when he grew up half-a-century ago kids often toted pocketknives with them to school.

Great social changes were already set in motion but had not yet reached the Appalachian Mountains — newfangled concepts like child safety, self-esteem, and the quaint notion of a 16-year-old owning an automobile. Child supervision was a distant concept. In chapter after chapter, children entertain themselves without an adult in sight. The consequences: scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and emergency-room visits.

Davis’s final chapter relates a scenario unthinkable today: 13-year-old Davis taking the Trailways coach on a 27-mile commute to Asheville for a dental appointment. Alone. The wide-eyed boy spends hours exploring downtown Asheville, visiting Ivey’s Department Store, Harry’s Pontiac-Cadillac dealership, the Imperial Theater movie house, and Finkelsteins pawnshop.

After one such outing, Davis writes: “On the bus ride back to Waynesville that late afternoon, I knew that I just had one of the greatest days of my life.”

John F. Blair, Publisher. 2011, 224 pages, hardback, $19.95.

Hear Donald Davis tell his stories

September 25-October 1
Teller in Residence Series
The Swag, Waynesville
(800) 789-7620
theswag.com

December 17
Stories for the Holiday Season
Fearrington Village, Pittsboro
(919) 542-3030
fearrington.com

This story was published on

Since 1933, Our State has shared stories about North Carolina with readers both in state and around the world. We celebrate the people and places that make this state great. From the mountains to the coast, we feature North Carolina travel, history, food, and beautiful scenic photography.