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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 24

So, what’s in a name?

“Is this story all true, Popman,” my grandson said to me with a little sideways look as if he had his doubts. I had been telling this story to him on our hiking trips since the beginning of our anniversary tour, as I call it, which would be the beginning of two-thousand-twenty-three.

“Oh, it’s all true,” I said without hesitation, “but you have to remember what Mr. Twain said. Truth is like a well. You dip into it to get the water you need, but you don’t pull up all the water in the well at one time.”

Cheyenne smiled at that, and I kept on going with only a slight pause.

“For example,” I said, “you’re in this book,” and he gave me a surprised look at that revelation. “That’s right,” I said, “just as I have been telling you this story this winter, I’m going to tell it in the book. But I’ll have to change some things. It will be a mixture of my memoirs and a novel, so truth will weave itself all the way through. But some things I’ll have to create and some things I’ll have to change.”

“Change?” he said, curiously.

“Oh, for sure,” I replied. “For example, I’ll change names. I won’t use the real names but the names I think fit the characters or, perhaps, just a name I like. Since you and I like westerns and have been reading Louis L’amour and the Virginian and other westerns all these years, I’ll use some western names.”

I paused to let it sink in, then continued: “I’ll even change your name.”

He smiled at that, and said, “Hm, wonder what you’ll call your grandson, Popman.”

“Cheyenne,” I answered quickly. He chuckled at that, because he knew immediately that that name came from the old television western “Cheyenne,” starring Clint Walker. We sometimes sing the theme song as we mill around the house, “Cheyenne, Cheyenne, where will you sleep tonight, Cheyenne …” It is a catchy tune.

“So, Cheyenne,” I said, “what is it you need to know about our story at this point?”

“Oh,” he answered without hesitation, “what about the girl? I’ve gotta hear this.”

I didn’t exactly like the way he said it, because I saw blackmail written all over it. Cheyenne inherited way too much of his Popman in him.

“All right,” I said, “but you can’t be runnin’ and tellin’ your Bamaw about this girl, the way your sister Georgia did when we were coming home from Houston from watching the Astros play in the playoffs a couple of years ago.”

“What did she do?” he quipped.

“Oh, you know how you do late at night. We were driving up I-45, around midnight. And I started reminiscing – the way I like to do, you know – and I got to tellin’ her about that dark-haired girl in the yellow and blue outfit with the smile that could stop a train.”

I chuckled, and so did Cheyenne.

“First thing Georgia does when she gets home and tell your Bamaw how Popman has been talkin’ about an old, old flame on the way home from the game.”

“Did Bamaw get you?” he asked.

“No, not for a day or two, but then she did. She waited for just the right moment and said, ‘Billy Ray, so you’ve been tellin’ our granddaughter about that girl from Roanoke, huh?’”

“Billy Ray,” Connor interrupted.

“Yeah, Billy Ray. I told you I had to change the names, even my own. But as you can see, I kept part of it. I’ve always liked Billy Ray, so I took it. It’s Southern, you know. But as I was saying, I tried to play it down and even act like I didn’t know what she was talkin’ about; but I just laughed it off. But next time I saw Georgia I gave her a little ‘what for’ for tattling on me. So, if you don’t mind, don’t bring any of this up to your grandma.”

“Popman, it’s been fifty years,” Cheyenne said, “but I’ll keep it between you and me.” He paused, then said, “So, Popman, tell me about the girl.

I took a deep breath, looked out across the creek where we had stopped to rest on our chilly February hiking trip, and started in.

“First off, you have to remember I was sixteen, going on seventeen, and the girl was barely sixteen. I had already met your Bamaw from church, even though she lived out in Texas. But we hadn’t started dating yet. We actually would start to date a little come the fall of that summer.

“So, the Lord had some good things in mind for us just a bit down the road, but this dark-haired girl played a big role in what all went on that summer, the good and the bad. I think she was a distraction to me, in a good way. She kept my mind off of your great-grandmother Louise as her health deteriorated that summer. I thank the young lady for that.”

“What was her name?” Cheyenne interrupted again.

I smiled. “Do you remember the song that Doocy was singing when Red’s old truck came rambling up the dirt drive to the house on the hill?”

“What was it,” Cheyenne said, “Was it Kory or Corene or something?”

“Close. It was ‘Corrina.’ Well, that was the girl’s name. Now, as far as the story goes, I don’t remember whether the song came first or the girl’s name. I just remember that once Doocy learned that her name was ‘Corrina’ that that song was all I heard pretty much the whole summer. Even years later when I would go back home to Georgia on Spring Break or something and go out to the brick job where Pee Wee and Doocy and the others worked – because they all stayed together for a number of years – Doocy would start hummin’ that song as soon as I got out of my truck.”

“When did you learn the girl’s name,” Cheyenne said, “anxious to get back to the story.

I took a deep breath, because I knew we were about to get into the heart of this story, literally I guess.

With that, I began the story, right at the point our young Billy Ray learned the name of a dark-haired girl from Roanoke who had a smile that could stop a train.


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 or call or text (972) 824-5197.

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