Sweet Georgia lady’s brief lapse of judgment worked out fine
At the writing of today’s story, it is Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 — although you, likely, are sitting out with us on the 27th at our usual “Saturday-morning front-porch” visit.
January the 25th is important because it is the birthday of two of the great men in our life: First, there is Preacher Miller, born in 1909; and, then, my dad — C.T. Bowen — born in 1930.
Those of us you who have shared a good many of our front-porch visits through the years know of Preacher Miller — the tell-it-like-it-is, hell-fire and brimstone, backwoods, church of Christ preacher. I say “backwoods” not because he was a “self-taught” man, but because he had the knack for preaching the gospel anywhere — in the backwoods, in the country, in the small town, in the city or anywhere in-between.
This old-time preacher who would be 109 today was probably the most influential man in my life.
But you and I have not talked a great deal through the years about my dad, the man most people called “Dut.” He was influential, too — as dads always are — but for slightly different reasons than the preacher. The preacher, naturally, taught us all about the Bible and what it means both to preach it and live it. Nobody could have taught more.
He was a giant of a man, a bigger-than-life figure in many lives. Even today, he is well-known from coast to coast among the churches of Christ, even after being gone now almost 30 years.
But dad’s influence kind of comes to us from around a different corner. He lived a hard life — was sick most of my 11 years and four months with him — and was not able to impact me directly the way that Preacher Miller did. He did not have those extra years, either.
But I want to tell you something, I know you know — a dad is a dad. Regardless of how limited our time together is or how rough the road, there’s no one like our dad.
He is the first man we all knew to love, and he is the first gentleman that we all want to be loved by.
It isn’t always “sappy” — seldom is. Dads are not usually turned that way. But our dads probably impact us the most regarding who we were back then and who we have become today — that is, all except mama, which is another story.
Regarding mama, it truly is amazing that “Dut” — who came from a rough bunch from out in the country — got hooked up with this lady named Fanny Louise Miller. When we say “lady,” now, we mean a lady in the purest sense. Anybody hailing from LaGrange, Georgia who ever knew Louise will tell you what a lady she was.
The Lord just chose to make her from a different cloth, a more-gentle fabric. When he weaved her blessed soul, he must have smiled.
The Bowens were cut from a different fabric, too. I can say that with a smile because I am one. But — from all that I can gather — there never was a Bowen with red clay stains on their shoes who wasn’t wild, including Dut — maybe we should say, especially Dut.
Dad’s younger brother Bobby once told me that Dad and some of the other Bowens took a paddle away from the teacher one time and used it on her. I’m not especially proud of that and don’t even know how true it is, since the Bowens also are given to hyperbole — all except me, of course.
But I do know from experience that my dad knew how to use a paddle particularly well — and a switch, too — so I don’t doubt that story’s validity. On that front, the teacher and I sit side by side in the same corner, if we’re able to sit at all.
But it makes us wonder how a precious soul such as Mama fell for C.T. Bowen. It must’ve raised eyebrows from miles around when the news spread:
“Did’ya hear that one of th’ Bowen boys from th’ country is courtin’ Preacher Miller’s oldest girl Louise?”
And the responses must’ve been dipped from a deep well of Southern expressions: “What’s this world ol’ world a-comin’ to?” — “Mercy me!” — “Tell me it ain’t so!” — or “Lawdy be!”
Obviously, this is a puzzling situation, much like one of those complex arithmetic problems those teachers gave us at school. We can hardly scratch the surface on this complicated matter in a single front-porch sitting. The best we can hope to do here is present the equation and allow us all some time to mull it over.
So, for now, let us just say that whatever came over Fanny Louise Bowen back when she was 16 somehow must’ve been a good thing — I mean, in the long run.
After all, you and I could hardly have had all these talks together for two decades had it not been for Mama’s abrupt lapse of sound judgment.
So, while the world may say “Mercy me,” and “Lawdy be!” at this story, we say,
“Thank you, Lord, for helpin’ that sweet Miller girl look at th’ Bowen boy with her heart and not her brain!”
Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives and writes in Red Oak, Texas.