The Liar's Bench returns: Gary Carden shares his story
Just outside downtown Sylva, Gary Carden sits on his porch in the centuries old house that he grew up in.
“My name is Gary Carden and I’m a storyteller, ” said Carden. “I've been other things too. I've been a teacher, I've wrote grants, but I tend to think of myself as a storyteller. Even when I was teaching, I was still a storyteller.”
Carden was born in 1935. One of his first memories is riding in a car on main street in Sylva.
“A simpler world, life. There were no telephone poles. no street lights. There wasn't a hell of a lot of pavement. Most everything was dirt roads then it was paved downtown,” said Carden.
Carden has shared stories about his mother and the people of Western North Carolina who inspired him in his plays and other writings. He’s an accomplished playwright who won the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2012 among many others.
There’s the bull shot artist sitting there, there’s the old war hero. You know sometimes there was somebody who was once upon a time a teacher but everybody has forgot – they are the lost people.Gary Carden
Always the performer, Carden used to host an event for local musicians and storytellers called The Liar’s Bench for about four years. He says tall tales hold truth and preserve mountain culture.
“There’s the bull shot artist sitting there, there’s the old war hero. You know sometimes there was somebody who was once upon a time a teacher but everybody has forgot – they are the lost people,” said Carden. “They have not family and there they sit. And they called it The Liar’s Bench because they are sitting there telling lies just as hard and as fast and they can but they aren’t all lies - sometimes it's our culture that they are telling you and it's slipping and it's going.”
Carden – now 87 – will bring back The Liars Bench for the first time in years at the Jackson County Library on July 12th at 7 pm in an event hosted by The Smoky Mountain News.
Cory Vaillancourt also contributed to this report.