Thursday, March 27, 2008


My father, Zebulon "Zeb" Vance Shook was born on December 1, 1920 in the Matney Community, just a couple of miles south of Banner Elk, NC. In time, his family would move back up the mountain to a small community named Balm, and from there, his parents and their growing brood of children would finally settle in Pigeon Roost, NC, at the family homeplace to care for my great grandparents.

We laughed quite a bit with the funeral home director as he chauffered us to the Shook Cemetary in Pigeon Roost. He was somewhat familiar with the area, but the shortcut to Papa's final resting place through Horsebottom into Pigeon Roost was new territory for him. The bottom line is that the Shooks are mountain folks. We come "up in the mountains," and we're stronger for it, I promise.

Daddy's family was not affluent by any means. This first photo had to be taken during the Depression. Missing are his three youngest siblings who were yet to be born. Papa, young teenage boy on the right, holds the baby at the time, my Uncle Bradley ( I think). I don't know the history of the photo, but the background sheds a bit of light on the land where Papa's family lived. I'm assuming the car belonged to my grandfather, who was the rural mail carrier and used it for his job, but I'll have to get that piece of info verified.

Prior to WWII, Daddy worked at a feed exchange store in Banner Elk, NC. After he returned from the war, he married my mother, and the two of them moved to Boone, NC, where Daddy finished his undergraduate and Master's degrees at Appalachian State Teachers College. The photo below is his college senior photo (I think).

Mom says she was stunned when Daddy announced his intention to study Library Science in graduate school. I suppose she had always thought he would choose a line of work that would allow him to be outside, in the natural world where he felt so at home. But, as a child, it was obvious to me early on that Papa loved being surrounded by books. I spent many mornings with him before school back in the "stacks" of the old library on campus. There, Papa would point out books he thought I would enjoy, as well as those he had intentionally purchased for their academic value.

Daddy eventually became the Acquisitions Librarian for Appalachian State Teachers College and witnessed the library's collections grow as the school became Appalachian State University. Under his guidance, he and his staff put together several valuable ethnic collections, and he started and oversaw the first Appalachian oral history project on campus. Papa always had a sense that where we were all from was a place richly steeped in tradition and wisdom, and he did his best to record interviews, catalog research, and organize collections for research on the area and Appalachia in general. He was proud to be from the mountains!

His own writings, "Letters to My Grandson" (and eventually to his grandchildren after Eliza's birth) record events in his life that he wanted his grandchildren to know. We read three of his stories as we celebrated his life down by his graveside. Those gathered laughed heartily, and a few there were the main characters in the plots we chose. It was indeed a wonderful way to have him there with us.

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