Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Memorial Day Was Every Day When I Was A Kid

My Mom’s parents always called it “Decoration Day” but no matter when we visited, we almost always went to visit gravesites and pay respects. On the ranch though, for me growing up, it was a daily occurrence.

Just up the hill from our house, barn, out-buildings, branding chute and corral was “Ora” cemetery at the crest of a hill before the road dropped down into pastures. The tiny cemetery had been carved out of the ranch by my ancestors and by the time I was born it was maintained by Fremont County, fenced with a gate at roadside.01664_s_aaeuyfyqe0320_z

It was populated with Bowman’s, High’s, Moon’s, Cotterell’s and Hunts, all names still carried by kids I came to know in school. Prominent was the headstone for Hyrum Edward Bowman, who with my Grandfather Mel homesteaded with horses, cattle, wheat and oats there 100 years ago.

I’d visit there almost every day but especially right after the American Legion put a flag on my “Uncle” Edward’s grave for Memorial Day. He wasn’t my uncle, he was my Dad’s best friend and cousin growing up and he was killed when the B-26 in which he was a tail-gunner was shot down over Italy.

I never knew him of course, but the end of that war was only 8 years distant when I began jumping over the fence to that little graveyard and we checked in with his wife Frankie for years after that. After so many days had passed, my Dad would let me bring that little American flag inside each year.

Edward’s remains had been located after the war in an orchard in Italy where the owner had carefully buried each member of the crew and put crosses up to honor them. Edward was brought back to Idaho to be close to family.

His first name is my middle name. As my first memory of a fallen soldier, he symbolizes for me the many other members of my family who have served:

  • Chamois (Shumway) in the Narragansett (King Phillip’s) War, the first major war involving people who settled here in the 1600’s,

  • McCrory who served with Washington in the Revolutionary War,

  • Neeley, who died in a prisoner of war camp in Canada during the War of 1812,

  • Shelton, during Mexican-American War

  • Messersmith, American Civil War - West

  • Bowman (my Father) in WWII and

  • Bowman, in Korea (Edward’s Brother)

  • White in Vietnam.

I must also give tribute to another of my Father’s very close boy hood friends, who as our rural mail carrier took time to visit with me nearly every day in those early years, J. Lorin Pence, who served in WWII (during which he was also a POW) and Korea and who passed away just this past February.

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