Week #4 — Closest to My Birthday, Homer Kuykendall Shanks, #4

While my dad’s birthday is closer to mine, I felt I *had* to write about Papa, my dad’s dad.  His birthday is about 3 weeks after mine, he died the day before my 13th birthday, and I just discovered this photo of him as an infant yesterday.  (OMG!)

photo (24)

Papa was born on October 25, 1910, in Clyde, Texas.  He was the first of five children born to William Homer Shanks & Josie Ellen Kuykendall.  Papa’s father’s grandparents moved to Central Texas from Alabama in the early 1870s.  His mother’s grandparents arrived in Northeast Texas from Arkansas and Tennessee in the late 1840s.  The couple met in Clyde, Texas, where they both taught school.

I choose to lay much of the blame for my own genealogy habit at his feet because he was “into it”, himself.  He didn’t do any of the data collection or courthouse digging or cemetery tromping . . . that was his sister Chera’s gig . . . Papa was the bard.  He was a storyteller.  I do not have memories of him telling stories.  He died when I was still young, and we didn’t visit him near as often as we could have.  What I do have are the stories he wrote and the stories he inspired.

He attended school in Clyde, just east of Abilene, Texas, through the late 1920s.  We know gobs of things about life as a child in Clyde during that time because he wrote about it while in his early 70s.  My copy of the manuscript is over one inch thick, double-spaced, one-sided.  A incomparable and irreplaceable jewel, right?!  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if each of our ancestors had been so kind as to do our work for us?  Also while taking a class on creative writing at a local community college, he wrote a handful of short autobiographical pieces, one of which discusses the time he lived with my family following his heart attack shortly after Grammy died.

Then at an annual Shanks family reunion on Thanksgiving — yes, we actually called it Shanks-giving — he and a handful of his first cousins discussed a) each of their parents had died by then, b) they each had wonderful family stories, and c) they, themselves, weren’t getting any younger . . . “We really should write these stories down, don’t you think?”  The journalist among them, Ann Shanks, spearheaded the project, did much (if not all) of the genealogical work, compiled and edited the submissions, and oversaw the publishing.  The result, a couple of years later, was a wonderful book entitled Lots of Laughter, Lots of Love that covers quite a bit of material.

  • Their common grandparents, John Fletcher Shanks & Maggie Darden:  their known ancestors and their parents’ migrations from Alabama to Texas,
  • John & Maggie’s 8 children.    The cousins each wrote about their Shanks parent, one of the 8 children.  Some were biographical.  Some were anecdotal.  Every one of them was perfect.

While all three of Papa’s sisters submitted papers on their father, William Homer Shanks, Papa did not, possibly because of declining health.  The book was published in 1984, and Papa died on October 1st of that same year.  I’m certain he’d be more than happy to geek out with me over my own genealogical & family writing work.

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