They say the best chickens are free range- what about kids? Are the best kids raised free range as well?

Lacey and Mike D’Avella think so. They have raised their very own free range kid, Ashton D’Avella.

If you’ve spent time on Main Street, seen a play at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, been to the library or even had a picnic at Mill Spring Park then you’ve probably run into Ashton.

He’s a crochet model, a duck patrolman, the inventor of rainbow rings, a turtle rescuer, a dog walker, and he’s accomplished all of this before the age of 13.

Imagine a childhood in this day and age where you can safely stroll into the old-timey candy store, play hide and go seek all along Main Street or even grab a hot chocolate at the coffee shop where they’ll simply “put it on your tab”.

Photo by Jay Huron

I had the chance to sit down with this free range Kid and his mom, Lacey, to hear more about Ashton’s adventures in Tennessee’s Oldest Town.

Ashton’s duties as a “Duck Patrolman” began when Marcy Hawley, a local resident, discovered a duck nest behind her home. She tasked Ashton, along with other Jonesborough-raised kids, to organize a duck patrol to ensure the ducklings made it to adulthood. “We keep the ducklings from being eaten by cats,” Ashton said with a look of worry on his face. “I take photos of the ducklings to keep track of them all.”

Ducklings aren’t the only species that Ashton keeps a close eye on. “We had a hard rain one day and it was flooding- I was much younger then.” Said Ashton. “I was at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre and there was a little baby alligator snapping turtle in the flood waters. I jumped in to save him! I didn’t want him to drown in the hard currents. I kept him for a while.”

Lacey took this as an opportunity to explain they try to have a three day limit on the wildlife they let stay at their house.

Ashton is a man of many talents, including crocheting. His first lesson was given by Deb Burger well-known yarn spinner. Some of Ashton’s work can be viewed in Deb Burger’s book, Complete Photo Guide to Crochet.

At the age of 11, Ashton took his crochet skills and began making rings out of alternating colored yarn, “Rainbow Rings”. He now sells those at Hands Around the World, a vibrant shop housed on Main Street.

Ashton has spent many days at the Lollipop Shop, a nostalgic candy store on Main Street. But it’s not always just fun and games and a sweet treat here and there — Ashton also provides help to local merchants as an unofficial Jelly Bean bin cleaner. “A big thing I used to do at the Lollipop Shop was cleaning out the Jelly Bean bin. But I’ve kinda grown out of that,” said Ashton with a smirk. “Now that I think about it, I’m wondering how many times that bin gets cleaned out these days.”

“Ya know, I’m a dog walker too.” Explained Ashton, as if he thought this blog might get him some more business. “The only dog I walk right now is Banjo the Beagle. I only work in summer, spring and fall, but I don’t do it in the winter. I’m just not a snow guy.”

While I had him, I had to ask Ashton about one of his favorite restaurants, Main Street Café, a place he often frequents on his Jonesborough adventures.

“I love Main Street Café! They have an ‘Ashton Special’ on the register, it’s a special button they created for me. It’s a scoop of chicken salad, fries, and a root beer!”

Ashton claims he has 17 home-away-from-homes throughout Jonesborough—nearly all are shops on Main Street. If you ask Ashton why he volunteers so much of his time, he’d say,

“I think volunteering is something that helps the community. And Jonesborough is a really great town with really nice people. I help a lot of people but some don’t need it as much as others. My goal is to help the people that really need it.”