Here’s a bit of “Talking Deer Hunting With Zeb”
I first met Zebulon Pike Pruitt in the little town of Lumberton North Carolina. I was cooling my heels there waiting for a part for my 280Z to be couriered into town from Charlotte. It ended up taking all of that day and the biggest part of the next one to get the part and get it installed. The year was 1978.
I’d wandered down the main street of Lumberton indulging in one of my favorite pastimes…just talking to people.
Looking back from 33 years later, that pastime has lost its attraction for me, or maybe the times and the public’s generally hostile personality traits have taken it away from me. I don’t know. I’d like to think it’s still there for me somewhere.
The first building that attracted me to it was an old two story job with two big plate glass windows in front advertising Trenton’s Pharmacy. There was a surprisingly well kept awning over the entire sidewalk in front of the store. The foundation of the store had a huge block with AD1886 on it in roman numerals.
At one time, Lumberton must have had city buses because there was an obvious city bus bench firmly planted back under the awning out of the sun. Several old-timers sat there gazing off into the…past…the future…trying to see the pretty girl walking down the sidewalk across the street…who knew?
I glanced in one of those plate glass windows and saw antique wire legged tables and chairs, an honest-to-God soda fountain and a good looking older gentleman gazing off at whatever the old-timers out front were looking at.
I had to see this place!
“Howdy fella!” was the greeting as the little door chime tinkled to announce my entry.
“Well, howdy back at ya!” I was such a great conversationalist back then!
“Are ya lookin’ or buyin”?” I like someone who gets right to the point like that.
“Lookin’ to buy probably.”
About that time my wander eyes caught a sight I hadn’t ever expected to see in North Carolina, let alone Lumberton!
The entire 80 foot wall on the west side of the pharmacy was covered…literally covered…with deer heads! Deer with 6 points all the way to a massive deer with a neck as thick as my waist which sported…I had to count them…16 points!
I HAD to ask, “Who’s the hunter here?”
“Just about everybody in town, but all those came from Zeb Pruitt.”
By that time I’d counted the deer mountings…208 of them…all great, big bucks! Zeb had been a BUSY man!
“He’s right out front. You walked right past him on your way in”
I bought a “Coke Cola”…for 25 cents…and ambled outside to talk with the old-timers.
They were still gazing at whatever and just grunted when I asked if I could set a spell. So, I sat down.
Without going into all the details, that old bus bench was the start of a great lesson in life for me…thanks to Zeb Pruitt.
Zeb had been born right outside of Pembroke North Carolina in 1898. But he was, as he put it, “Raised up” in the Lumbee Indian section of town. Shacks, filth, no jobs. Discriminated against terribly.
Zeb didn’t get bitter. He just went hunting!
Lumberton wasn’t very far out of my way whenever I had to travel to Charlotte from Wilmington for business so I always made it a point to stop by the drug store and see how Zeb was doing and what memories he had for me. Because, by now he knew how much I valued them and how I would treat them.
I moved on to Florida but always made at least one trip to North Carolina every year to see Zeb.
On the last trip to see him, I finally thought to bring a tape recorder.
Zeb was pretty much house bound by then and thought the idea of making a recording of his memories was just “capital”. I showed him how to run the recorder and left it with him.
We shook hands as we always did as I was leaving but this time, Zeb patted by back and said that I would be a great writer one day. Maybe he knew something was coming down the gulley. The year was 2009.
Zeb died January 18, 2010 there in Lumberton, his home, surrounded by hunters, friends, relatives and just about everyone in town. He had turned 102 just 3 days before on January fifteenth.
I had promised Zeb that I’d hold onto the tape recordings he made and turn them into a book or two for him. I did just that. Zeb’s family is all gone now. I guess I’m the closest thing to a family member left.
Zeb loved to hunt. He loved deer hunting more than anything.
I polished up Zeb’s words a little but you can still get the feel of how Zeb thought and talked.
Zeb has a lot of deer hunting knowledge for you. Pay attention and STOP staring at that pretty girl walking down the sidewalk across the street!