By Harley Nefe
Over the past couple of days, decent crowds have been gathering at Horn in the West for special performances honoring the late Charlotte Tanksley Ross, who was a regional storyteller known as “The Legend Lady.”
Two cherished High Country cultural organizations, Blue Ridge Community Theatre and Southern Appalachian Historical Association joined forces to present excerpts from the award-winning play, “From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me,” written and performed by Ross’s daughter, Boone native Clarinda Ross.
In the tradition of mountain storytelling, “From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me” tells the joys and sorrows of five generations of women in the author’s family with honesty and humor. Common historical events are related in terms of how they affected this particular family. The play is a testament to the power of family storytelling, and how it can shape the lives of generations.
Performances have been taking place outside at 3 p.m. on June 19 through June 21 at the Coffey Cabin porch, where Charlotte Ross used to share stories many years ago. Through these presentations, folks have had a chance to see Charlotte Ross’s daughter burst out of the cabin door and tell the history of her mom’s lineage and stories her mom told her that have been passed down through generations.
“The show is going very well with the wonderful climate and the beautiful setting at the Coffey Cabin,” said Julie Richardson, Blue Ridge Community Theatre board president. “It was something Clarinda and I imagined, and I talked to her about.”
The setting sparks fond memories for Clarinda Ross so the storytelling tribute event is being embraced despite the heavy emotions that can be felt throughout the atmosphere. It is Clarinda Ross’s first time back at Horn in the West since her mother’s passing.
“It’s unfortunate circumstances that bring the show here, but at the same time, it’s a celebration,” Julie Richardson said. “We’re very happy to be able to celebrate Charlotte Ross in this way.”
Charlotte Ross of Boone, died peacefully at the age of 79 years old on Easter Sunday 2021. She was an authority on the folklore of the Appalachian Mountains, as she was a protégé of Dr. Cratis Williams. They traveled frequently together to Scotland and Ireland to research the origins of Appalachian culture. Like her mentor, she was an educator and became a renowned storyteller of the region. She was passionate about the Appalachian mountain region and culture and shared that love. In the 1990s and beyond Charlotte entertained audiences all over the region. She delighted in telling stories to school and civic groups and was widely known as “The Legend Lady.”
Photos by Ken Ketchie: