The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Father and Grandfather

By Bobbie Bowman Clement © 1985

Issue: June, 1985

My daddy, Elmer Bowman was born and raised in the Bell Spur section of Patrick County, Virginia, the only boy with seven sisters. Being the only boy, he always had to go to the mill or take things to trade at the store.

He once made a bow and some arrows that he put tacks in the end of. One of his sisters shot the other in the forehead and it stuck in and it scared him to death.

He talked about picking up whole arrowheads while hoeing corn, carrying apples uphill from the orchard to store in the root cellar. He told of how 11 jurors almost hung his grandfather for murder. Miss Becky had doubts, so a runner was sent to run the path to prove it could not have been him.

Dad, like his father, loved to hunt all kind of game and fish too. He often took my sister and me when we were too small to climb over some of the briars and argue over who got the bright red float on her fishing line.

He talked about the hard work in the West Virginia coal mines, talked about me loving the ocean and waves scaring my brother when they came near me.

He talked about one year when we lived in Massachusetts of my brother digging a tunnel from the front door to the road through the snow. It was level with the second floor apartment that we lived in. He worked many places to make a living for the family during the 30's and 40's.

He taught me how to shoot a .22 rifle and hit cans on the fence posts. He didn't have much schooling, but he could do many things. He was a miner, a black smith, granite cutter and he worked in a machine shop in the shipyard in Baltimore, Maryland during World War II. He could play a fiddle and the autoharp. My children loved to hear him. He was my father.

My grandpa "Gran" Granville Bowman was very special to me. As a little girl, I went with my parents up the winding mountain road to visit. His greeting to everybody was, "Gentlemen - How are you?"

He whittled many spoons and forks for me to play with. He doctored my cuts and scratches with pine resin. We walked in the high cornfield to hunt Indian arrowheads. We walked out the ridge to the apple orchard and pout house. The pout house was a small cabin-like building sometimes used by his neighbors when they were quarreling, or he used it as a shelter when he went fox hunting.

We often fished together. He always said, "You have to hold your mouth just right to catch the smart trout." He loved to play checkers and kept bees. He talked to his bees and rarely got stung, but they always chased me to the porch. He rode the train to West Virginia for a visit with us. He looked at the coal mine where Daddy worked. He saw puffed wheat for the first time there and joked he would take a bushel home with him.

Although he had little schooling, he loved to read. I thought he was the "Greatest Grand" ever!