Thursday, October 14, 2010

It Is Clear Now That Mark And Mel Were Both Cool!

I know now that I was prejudiced about my grandfathers.

My parents were only a little over 5 years apart in age but my grandfathers were 16 years and a turn of a century apart. As I was being born, Mark White was just 44 while Mel Bowman had turned 60, retired and already a grandpa.00263_p_10aeuyf6sw0394_b

During my early years, Mark was intense, just turning 50 as I entered first grade. In many ways he as like my Dad, intense and driven. Mel had retired from ranching and spent nearly every day palling around with me, teaching me, guiding me.

Mark was modern, a dapper dresser, always first to have newer cars, like the first “hardtop” Ford convertible in 1959. He even took me to Las Vegas in a 1965 baby blue Ford Mustang convertible to celebrate my graduation from high school with a Johnny Mathis show at the just-opened Caesars Palace. He loved tinkering, technology and gadgets.

Mel was a homesteader/rancher and a man of the land. To me he was always as old fashioned as he was kind, always dressing head to toe in khakis with a Stetson and suspenders. He was ultra frugal and drove an old, beat-up Jeep.

I recall riding through one of our meadows next to my Dad on a brand new tractor pulling a state-of-the-art hay baler but poking along at little more than a crawl behind Mel who stubbornly insisted the only way to rake hay in preparation for baling was with a team of draft horses.00457_p_aaeuyfyqe1754

Mel died when I was 16 after giving me that old Jeep and as Mark was just turning 60 and more grandfatherly. I was privileged to spend a great deal of time with Mark all the way through college and my mid-twenties.

I learned that he was as passionate about history and genealogy as he was technology. He too had a love of the land and animals, including prize Black Angus before they were cool.

I had always credited Mark with my inclination toward technology and gadgets but now as I dig deeper into family history, I realize Mel was just as eager to embrace those things. As his grandfather had while homesteading northern Utah, Mel was the first to bring a modern threshing machine to the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho.

Mel’s was the third family in our county to have a telephone and he was quick to adapt electricity when it was run to rural farms and ranches in the 1930s. He is also credited with engineering solutions to fight crickets and low-cost irrigation dams. His family boarded eight different teachers to foster a one-room school. To top it all, he owned one of the first of the sporty Whippet automobiles.

Now in my 60s, those early prejudices have vanished and I can see clearly my inherited traits from each of these men who at first seemed so different. I owe so much of who I am to each of them and as I write these histories for my own grandsons, I hope I can be a fraction of the grandpa Mel Bowman and Mark White were to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reyn, enjoyed the granddad blog, also the one about the Raleigh hotel guys. By the way, I'm vacationing near Glacier Nat'l Park next summer and am driving from Spokane, WA, to Kalispel, MT, apparently going through some of your of ancestral territory. Any advice on interesting stops would be appreciated.