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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) part 49

It was early evening when we pulled into our gravel drive that ran behind our white-framed house on Juniper, and Corrina and I walked straight back to see Mama, the screen door jarring us as it slammed behind us.

Mama had been waiting for us to pull into the driveway, figuring we’d be home by 5:30, maybe 6:00. Grandma Belle was over and staying with her. When we walked in, she was helping Mama get into the rocking chair that was by the bed. Mama would still sit up a couple of hours a day, and she had made sure to rest all afternoon so she’d be ready when we came. I knew Corrina was going to encourage her, making me marvel at that particular unexpected blessing that came along with the Summer of ‘73.

Grandma set a chair beside Mama’s rocker for Corrina, and she stayed and talked a while, telling Corrina again how glad she was that she had come to church with us. She went on to advertise that she had made some fried apple pies just for us that she wanted Corrina to try before she left and take a piece home with her. I say ‘advertise,’ but not in a showy way. Grandma had the least ‘guile’ in her of anybody I ever knew.

I was glad that Corrina got a chance to get the Grandma experience. Outside of Mama, there wasn’t anybody like her.

Grandma personified Southern hospitality. Any visitor who happened down to the corner of Murphy and Fourth Avenue for church on a given Sunday had an open invitation to come and enjoy the best Southern cooking east of the Mississippi and probably east of the whole wide world, if the truth be known. Every Sunday Preacher Harvey would feed the congregation the rich spiritual food for the soul for the better part of an hour, his booming voice and plethora of scriptures shaking the rafters, and Grandma Belle would supply the food for the stomach later in the day. They made a great combination, something they had done since the late 20s.

Grandma was a part of the House family, a genteel type of people. I never knew a House who wasn’t as humble and gentle as our dog Chico, a part of our family for most of the first thirteen years of life. He was a mutt originally – nothing more than a dirty-white, half chihuahua and half who-knows-what – who became the king of our house and worth more than a house full of silver and gold, an expression the Preacher used just the other Sunday talking about the covetous Balaam of the Old Testament. The Houses were like Chico: They never bit anybody and loved everybody they met. Mama took after the House side of the family.

The Miller clan of which Preacher Harvey was a notable representative was far different. They were eccentric people, often much too candid, and more often than not they subscribed to strange ideas about the world and the Bible and were unbashful to share them with their genetically strong voices. They weren’t dangerous ideas, just curious. They could argue for an hour about why the wheels of a wagon appear to be turning the wrong way, “and such like,” to use the Preacher’s expression. But they had a healthy supply of creativity in their genes, and I always hoped that the Lord mixed some of that in my blood when He weaved me.

Preacher Harvey was eccentric, too, no doubt about that, but the Lord twirled him in a little different way and gave him an excess of talent and speaking ability and a great memory to boot. He was a pioneer preacher who drove a Buick. The Buick, which was always spic-and-span, was the only thing that separated him from the backwoods churches-of-Christ preachers of the 1800s such as Racoon John Smith and Moses Lard and many other nineteenth-century men who rode horses and mules across the southeast taking the gospel from the hills of Kentucky down to our Georgia red clay, and beyond. The Miller and House blood made for an unusual combination. As much as I admired my grandfather, I was still glad that Mama got more of the House blood in her.

The Bowen blood from my daddy’s side was a whole different thing. The Bowens were from far out in the country; and they were rough people and, generally speaking, were allergic to church-going and Sunday afternoon lunch-on-the-grounds and those sorts of things. But they had their good points, too: to a man they had a keen wit and sense of humor, they loved people, and, if you could’ve dug up a family motto from the archives, it would’ve read “What you see is what you get.” You can’t go all wrong with attributes such as that.

“Cheyenne,” I said, as I tried to draw this diverse family tree like an artist draws a picture, “you’ll have to do the arithmetic on your Popman and figure out how the Lord divvied out the Miller, House, and Bowen genes into my blood.”

“Oh, I will,” he snapped back with a laugh, “I already have a good idea.” 

I didn’t tell him, but I had done the arithmetic in my own mind, and I figured it was about an even split, although I hoped I had more of Mama’s House blood in me than anything.

After visiting a while that evening and all but making Corrina promise to come to church on a Sunday and come home and eat with all of us after church, Grandma hurried on home to fix supper for Preacher Harvey. As she left, I eased out, too, to go take a shower and clean up, leaving Corrina and Mama together to continue their talk.

When I walked back into Mama’s room after showing, dressing, and throwing on a healthy supply of cologne, the two ladies were already deep into the conversation.

I could not help but chuckle at the thought of how far to the other end of the spectrum these two were to the rough and gruff bunch I had rubbed elbows with all day in the hot Alabama sun. I was glad to see Mama and Corrina into much of Mama’s life story, such as we have related here, and I pulled up a chair near the doorway and listened in. 

For the first time that evening, I really noticed Corrina. She was dressed in classy dark slacks with a green top that matched the greenest eyes I’d ever seen, and she wore small green earrings and a necklace to match. Both looked classic, as if they may have been handed down to her from her own grandmother. She looked especially pretty sitting there by Mama. She never dressed gaudy. She was a simple dresser, but elegant, which I thought was a hard thing to do. She pulled it off, just the way Mama always did.

Corrina was leaning up on the edge of the rocking chair Mama had given me for Christmas the year Daddy died, her hands clasped in her lap, and she was listening closely as if Mama was the only person in the world. Corrina had that nature, something that struck me the first time I met her. Except for an occasional glance and smile over at me as I relaxed over by the door, she never took her attention away from Mama.

It was clear she came from good stock, just like Mama.


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 p.m. Wednesdays. Email or call or text (972) 824-5197.

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