FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 20
Mama was proud I was out doing a man’s job.
I would hear her bragging about it to folks who would drop in to see her, folks like my best friend Coca-Cola’s mama or daddy, or his Uncle Dut and wife who lived right across the road on the east side of our house. They and almost everybody from the Murphy Avenue Church of Christ would be by our house bringing food over or just coming to see Mama while they could. Even some of the ladies from the Callaway Cotton Mill would come, because they all loved Mama.
For many, many years after this summer and the startling events that it would hold, I would hear from the ladies with whom Mama worked about how much they loved her. You can imagine, too, how happy Mama was to see that I was starting to grow up, as I was the baby of the four children, something you already know because Mama was as free and easy tossing that term ‘baby’ around concerning me as Red was tossing around a few of his words of endearment.
Something else made Mama happy that summer. She loved Pee Wee.
Pee Wee and Timmy had been friends a long time, and Pee Wee would always be coming over to our house. He’d swing by to pick up Timmy for them to go out and do whatever they did, but he would always get out of his truck to say hey to Mama. I noticed that when he came in to say hey that he would almost bow to her, and he always took off his baseball cap when he greeted her.
Pee Wee was nothing less than a gentleman’s gentleman. That you need to know about him. Even though he worked on a rough job with rough men – the roughest men you could find this side of a chain gang – Pee Wee wasn’t rough that way. It wasn’t that he couldn’t beat you up if he wanted; because he and Timmy had proven way back in the late ‘60s that they could whip anybody at LaGrange High School and that even without breaking a sweat.
I always heard that, although I don’t remember exactly where it was that I heard it. But I believe it to be true, even to this day. Pee Wee had the size and strength, and Timmy had a little mean streak in him that went all the way back to the previous generation of my daddy’s side of the family. The Bowen side of the family was rough, and the stories of them doing things such as taking a paddle away from the teacher and paddling her had been told for years.
Jack and Bud and Bobby and Jim – these were rough men back in the 1940s and ‘50s.
Daddy was, too, I guess, and how he got Mama to marry him and turn him into a regular church-goer is still a little beyond me.
It speaks to Mama’s sweet nature more than anything. If ever a story is to be told about a beautiful lady taming a rough boy from out in the country, this story certainly is that.
More on that a little later, because it is a story both of romance and of tragedy; and it will need to be told in full, in time. I cannot help, even here, of holding my breath thinking of having to tell it a little further down the road here in this chronicle.
Back to Pee Wee and Timmy for now, though: Pee Wee didn’t carry himself as a tough or mean guy, even though he was a solid six-feet two-inches. He was more the type who seemed never to get tired of saying “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” to Mama and calling Mama “Ms. Louise” and asking how she was feeling today. It wasn’t in the Eddie Haskell way, either. It was genuine.
Mama had a knack for recognizing good character – I guess she saw something in Daddy way back when she was sixteen that others may not have seen – and she always loved Pee Wee. I would grow to love him more, too, as the summer went along. Heroes don’t come along every day, but Pee Wee became more of a hero every day out on the bricklaying job that he had set up for ‘Lil’ Timmy,’ as he would say from time to time.
I never knew how little I was until that summer, and it stuck with me for the next fifty years, kind of like buttermilk and cornbread sticks to your ribs when you eat a glass after supper.
Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a writer and preacher of the gospel. And, after a ten-year hiatus, he’s also returned to work with students at Ferris High School as well.
In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text (972) 824-5197.