Where I Come From
My earliest memories, except for drowning the puppy, are fleeting and incomplete. Drawing them from the file drawers of my mind is not an easy task, they bring with them the facts, fuzzy though they sometimes are, and the feelings, good and bad. It is akin to peeping into an old closed room through a peep hole or small crack in the wall. I can see a little strip or spot clearly but the things on each side are hidden.
By the time I was old enough to remember, our household consisted of mom and dad, me, Shirley, Vernon, Jewel and Delphia as a constant. Ted & Fran were in Detroit, Vance, Roy, and Marshall were in and out, having all three been grown or nearly so by the time I was 3. We had a cousin, Woodrow Combs, that lived with us most of the time too.
My dad was a carpenter by trade. He was also an expert gunsmith and made hand crafted Kentucky long rifles ( muzzle loaders) that he sold world wide in his later years. He was also a great blacksmith and could make anything ever needed in the way of a tool or metal part for a tool or gun . He was a singing school teacher, teaching the shaped notes for the Church of Christ as well.
My memories of daddy before I started to school are sweet and gentle ones. He never struck me in my life but I was afraid of his gruff voice, even though I can never remember him scolding me until I was older. I mainly remember him wrapping me in an old Indian designed blanket and rocking me on the porch while the gentle blanket of night slowly fell down over our little holler, the lightening bugs flashing, the whippor-wills calling, daddy chewing his tobacco and spitting juice over the log handrail, and the boys all laughing at daddy's big tales.
We lived in a log cabin that dad and the boys built and had moved into just before I was born. Before that my family had lived in a lot of different houses but all of them were on Hurricane or Big Branch. My dad's mother was Mary Jane Morgan and she was from Camp Creek. His dad, John C. (Burrhead) Bowling had been raised on Red Bird but came to Hyden to work where he met and married Grandma.
Mom's dad was Jess Johnson, her mother was Sarah (Sally) Elizabeth Lewis. Grandpa Jess moved around a lot but he moved to Hurricane and had a store down around Pacetown and he and grandma lived near the John & Doshia Bowling house. They came to Hurricane when my mom was 7 years old. She lived on Hurricane or Big Branch, within a couple of miles of the same house for 82 years! She was 89 when she went to be with the Lord. Dad was 91. They both dies in 1994 within 3 months of each other. Daddy couldn't live without her!
Mother told me that when she came to Hurricane she and Mallie (Lewis) Stidham became fast friends. They were friends as long as they lived. Their friendship entwined our two families forever. Some of their children married each other and the relationship between the Stidham and Bowling families have always been more than mere neighbors, they will always be family and true friends.
At the time mom was growing up on Hurricane, dad was growing up on Hurts Creek. His family lived in a log cabin where the brick house sits now in the first steep curve coming up the road from town. Gillis Morgan had this brick house built later and my daddy was the carpenter who built it. When dad was growing up there it was an old two room log house of the type so common in Appalachia. A room on each side with a dog trot in the middle, a central fireplace with open grates back to back in each room, lean to kitchen on the back, a ladder to a sleeping loft for the kids, a long covered front porch. I learned in my college years in an Appalachian study class that this home design was a direct link to the Scotch-Irish heritage. Our ancestors lived in similar houses of the same size and pattern in the lowland's of Scotland and Ireland.
Mom and dad never talked much about their courtship except to hear daddy say she was the prettiest girl he ever saw. She told me once that if she knew he chewed tobacco she never would have married him! That was said just in jest. However, she always hated his spitting am-beer everywhere! Daddy said her hair was white as cotton when he met her, it was light brown by the time she was older. She said dad's hair was so black it looked blue when she met him. He was bald except for a little ring around his head by the time he was 30. She did say that when she first met dad they were children in school and he jumped on her back once and she didn't like him then. He told me once that he was so mean when he was a child his sisters called him a little black devil!
Once after they were in their 80's I was visiting and mom saw a speck of brown way up near the top of the front door frame. She said “ Ah! That is probably where Ott spit his tobacco juice out the door”. Dad was sitting in his rocker. He looked up from reading and said, “ I declare, if a fly shits on the wall she says its am beer”. That was not like dad to say a bad word. He got saved when I was 5. After that he quit cussing. Before that he had a bad temper and cussed like a saylor.
Mom and dad never fussed. I can only remember two times in all the years I ever heard her sass him back. That's just the way it was back then, the man was the boss! Now, dad worshiped mom and was not ever hateful with her and was a good father and husband. They would set in the yard and hold hands until they died. I ask her once if they ever fussed when they were first married. She said the only time was over his tobacco juice. She had embroidered a pretty mantle scarf and she said dad wiped his Am-beer stained hands on it! She didn't tell me the details of the fuss but she said he never did that again! I wish so many times I had ask more questions about their early years. Mom was quiet and didn't talk a lot. Daddy was the lively one. He was a great story teller. His stories have enriched my life tremendously. Vernon has inherited his talent for humor.
Just thought I would share a little background of where I come from.