CHAPTER I - BIRTH AND EARLY YEARS
My life on this
earth began on March 8, 1913 at the home of my Robinson Grandparents on
Arizona Street in El Paso, Texas. The reason that this auspicious event
happened in El Paso was that the Mormon people had left the Colonies in
July 1912 in a great exodus due to the Mexican Revolution. Most of these
people never returned. Grandfather Henry Eyring Bowman tells in his
short autobiography how he arranged for the trains to take the people
out, and for a place for them to stay temporarily at a lumberyard in El
Paso. This is another long story, and I will not venture to write more
about it. My parents were not living with the Robinsons, but mother
went there to have her baby.
My life has not
altered history nor garnered fame or fortune. It has not been the life
of a great originator of ideas, but rather that of a follower--of one
who carried out activities and profited from knowledge discovered by
some brighter spirit, finding, perhaps, some originality in the way the
knowledge was adapted and the activities were carried out. The redeeming
factor, and the source of a degree of success and a very much greater
portion of joy, was that I was born of "goodly parents" who taught me
from infancy so well that I elected early in life to "follow" the
teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the limits of my
I grew up with
great pride in my Bowman and Robinson progenitors, especially my
parents, Claudious Bowman and Jennie Stark Robinson. It became a great
blessing in my life to become well acquainted with my four
Grandparents, Grandfather Henry Eyring Bowman and Grand- mother Mary
Gubler Bowman, and Samuel John Robinson and "Minnie" Amelia Stark
Robinson. Grandmother Mary Gubler Bowman was especially helpful to me
and influenced my life more than she knew. More about this later.
My early childhood
was a very happy time. There are memories of the family having to do
without many things that are bought with money during the years
following our return to Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1917.
However, my parents were resourceful, and also taught us the true
values in life, so that the material things were never even missed.
The first home we
lived in was the little brick home just across the street south of the
big two story Romney home that now belongs to Jerald and Sharon Taylor.
Wesley was born there. When we climbed into the attic, we found, among
other things, a number of beautiful china figurines that were real works
of art eight or ten inches high that had been hidden there by the
previous tenants before leaving in the exodus. We didn't appreciate
their value at the time. I do not re- member what happened to them.
Next, we moved one block south across the street to a bigger brick home
where we lived for about six years. Keith and Donn were born there.
Dad bought the
"family home", a two story typical brick Mormon home, in late 1925 from
Peter N. Skousen. It was formerly the A.D. Thurber home. Kathleen was
born there before we had fully moved in, on January 14, 1926. The young
boys of the family helped to chip the mud plaster off the walls and
ceilings so that it could be replastered with "hard" plaster and be
more livable. There was not enough money left over to buy much
furniture, so Dad made a kitchen table and enough four legged stools
for us to sit on. This home was on the same block as the flour mill
that Dad managed, which made it easy for him to slip home and see how
the boys were working.
My brothers and
sisters and I were taught to work very early in life. The family cows
were turned out to pasture on the "flat" east of Dublan. There were no
fences in those days and the cows could graze freely and go as far as
they wanted to go. It was my job to find the cows every afternoon, from
the time I was about seven years old. I also had to milk them. There
were a number of painful sessions with Dad and a stick at the woodpile
when this duty was neglected. The new home had a barn and a stable on
the lot where the cows had to be fed and milked. Dad also always planted
a vegetable garden, lawns, and flowers, which kept the boys busy hoeing
weeds, and even watering with a bucket during the dry seasons.
However, there was
time after the work was done for play--to run down to the river, a mile
or so distant, for a swim, even when the river was in flood. There were
cornroasts, using corn picked from the neighboring fields, and many
other adventures that boys can think up. One day the older boys
persuaded Bernard Done, who was always the "goat," to pull a skunk out
of a hollow tree. They told him that if he held it up by the tail it
couldn't spray. It could.
Another thing we
liked to do was to take the little flat cars that ran on the rails and
that were used by railroad repair crews to go out and repair the rails.
We would ride on them down to Corralitos, a few miles north of Dublan
to where the U. S. soldiers camped while they were looking for Pancho
Villa and his troops. Dad and the other men knew General Pershing well.
He was a special friend of Bishop Call. They also knew Lieutenant
Patton, who wore a pearl handled pistol, and who became a notorious
general in World War II. A movie was made about him. We would search in
the trash dumps they left and find Bayonets, canteens, belts, bullet
shells and perhaps other items we liked to play with. Later, when we
visited Columbus, New Mexico, we saw bullet holes left from Pancho
Villa's raid on that town, which was why the U.S. army was looking for
him. Dad Taylor had a contract to supply beef for the army. My dad
remembered riding in with the negro drivers over the Pershing highway
in the big White trucks that had solid rubber tires.
It was a red letter
day when Santa Clause brought Bob and me a single-shot 22 rifle. It
gave us many happy hours roaming the countryside hunting rabbits,
ducks, quail, or doves. We had previously had BB guns, and I well
remember the day that I learned never to point a gun at anyone. We had
been playing with our BB guns, and I ordered my brother, Bob, to stop
or I would shoot. I didn't think the gun had any BBs in it, and so I
pointed it at him and shot. The BB hit him very close to his eye on his
nose. I was lucky; how sad I would have been it had hit him in the eye
and blinded him. I learned my lesson. A gun should always be handled
like it is loaded.
Later, with Dad's
help and supervision, we constructed a rolled dirt tennis court. It
took constant upkeep, but we did it willingly, and it was as smooth and
hard as cement when freshly rolled. We had many happy hours playing
tennis. Dad would never let his boys beat him, unless some did later
when they grew older.
During our last
year at the J.S.A. two or three friends and I constructed a 16 ft.
lumber rowboat under the direction of Moroni L. Abegg in the school
"shop". This contributed to many happy hours at the lakes with all the
kids and also with the scouts. It was really too heavy for us to
handle. We had to lift it up on a hayrack wagon to take it to the lake,
but we did it at every opportunity, at community parties and scout
outings, etc. After I went away to college, they must have let it get
leaky and abandoned it. I cannot remember what happened to it.
I was active in
scouting during the periods the leaders kept it going. It was an on and
off affair, and so I only got to Star Scout. I enjoyed many trips to
the mountains, lakes and surrounding country. We had trips with Uncle.
J" and Uncle Lee Robinson to hunt and also bring home wood. On one such
an occasion we had over stayed our food supply. Uncle Lee whipped up
some gravy with a little flour that was left and water to go with
whatever else we could find. As we were eating it, Fahy, his small son
remarked: "I 'on't like gravy what mans make."
Uncle Harvey took
us to the mountains on horseback to go hunting. Dad had let me take his
22 high power deer rifle. Mennel left his shoes and pants too close to
the fire and they burned up. They went to Meadow Valley where the
Garcia boys were milking cows and making cheese to find some clothes.
The boys there were about ready to kill each other fighting over the
small supply of tobacco they had left. We were glad we had been taught
differently. On our return trip, we were ahead of Uncle Harvey and so we
stopped in Strawberry by the creek to have some lunch. We saw some fish
in the stream and decided to shoot them. Orin Romney took his Uncle
Wilford's 30-30, put the barrel an inch or two under the water, and
fired. It split the barrel two inches and bent it. It had to be cut off
to be used again. There are many ways to learn many things.
I also remember
Uncle Harvey sending me to the mountains with Isidoro (Lola) RiDs to
bring wood home. We each drove a wagon with one team of horses each. We
camped at the Park on the road to Pacheco. I was quite young then and,
of course, still small. It took us a day or so to fill the wagons with
oak and juniper wood. The wagons were so well loaded that we had to
hitch both teams on one wagon to pull it up the hills. We had a brake to
go downhill. I well remember how delicious the beans, potatoes and
chile, etc. were that Lola cooked. We had a great time.
March 8th, 1921 was
a day long anticipated. It was when I was baptized by my father in the
river at the head of Memmott's lane. It is engraved in my memory as a
very important occasion.
During the summer
of 1922, Dad and his brothers, Demar and Devereaux were planning a trip
to Kanab to visit the other members of the family. I do not remember
whether or not one of the brothers was planning to stay there. Tom Jones
also needed to go to Utah and had asked permission to go along. They
had a stripped down Model T Ford. They had built boxes on the back to
hold food, tools, etc. and to sit on. They cover the back with quilts
and canvas so they would not get full of dirt. I begged to go along,
and Dad finally let me. My Uncles and Tom Jones gave me a bad time,
kidding and pinching me to see how much I could take. But it was a
great experience and we got along very well. There were very few paved
roads at that time and, since the Ford had no roof or sides, we were
always covered with a layer of dust. When we stopped in a town or city
to buy food, the people would gather around to see us. We went by
Bisbee and Globe, where the Superior Highway is now, but at that time
the roads were so steep that the gas would not run from the tank to the
motor. The Ford did not have a gas pump. The gas was fed by gravity. So,
on the steep hills we had to turn around and back up. We also had to
get off and push occasionally. On one of these occasions the Ford ran
off the road on the edge of a deep canyon. Fortunately there was a tree
there that stopped it, and we were able to get it back on the road.
The Model T Ford
had three pedals, one for low gear, the brake, and the reverse gear.
Going across the desert to Lee's Ferry the brake wore out, and Dad used
the reverse pedal as a brake. He was going quite fast when there was a
rather deep rut. He pushed on the reverse too hard, and broke the
differential. We were stranded, but luckily a truck came along later and
towed us to Lee's Ferry. We stayed at Lee's Ferry a few days while
Uncle Devereaux went horseback to Jacob Lake where there was a
telephone. He called Uncle Bernardo in Kanab and told him to bring the
parts and provisions. He told him not to spare the expense because the
people were millionaires. When Bernardo arrived and saw Devereaux, they
had a ring-tailed fight. Watermelons were in season at Lee's Ferry, and
we ate them until we almost busted. They hauled their water from the
river in a barrel on a sled. Then it had to settle for a day or so, and
the bottom foot or more of the barrel was soft mud. I got to drive the
mule and take the sled to the river and fill it with water. We took a
lot of watermelons along when we left. They had blocked the rear end of
the Ford up when they took it apart to see what parts were needed. When
we went back to fix it, there was a rattlesnake among the blocks. Uncle
Dev. shot it with his little 25 caliber automatic.
When we got to
Jacob Lake, Uncle Devereaux wanted to kill a deer, even though it was
out of season. He had a 30-30 along. We all walked out together until
we came on some deer. They passed the gun to one another and nobody
could hit a deer. Finally Uncle Devereaux thought it was his turn and
killed one. We took it to Kanab. Uncle Dev. had gotten us kids to climb
on the train boxcars and jump off, and he would catch us. So every
where we went that had a high spot I had to get up and jump off for him
to catch me. They put me up on a light at the Roosevelt Dam and I
jumped off. At the Grand Canyon, Uncle Devereaux climbed down below
Bright Angel point and had me jump to him. I guess I am the only one
who has jumped off Bright Angel point. When we finally arrived at
Kanab, I was all dirty and looked like a ragamuffin, but they sent me
over to Grandmother Bowman's to beg for a handout. My memory is dim
about what happened in Kanab. On our return as we were crossing the
river at the lower crossing, where the highway crosses now, it seemed
to me that we had been away forever, and I said, "1 wonder if we'll
know the old place."
My formal schooling
during the years 1919 to 1925 was in the Dublan Elementary School. I was
considered advanced enough to skip the third grade. My cousin, Ben
Taylor, skipped two grades and so we were in the same class. School was
held in the same building as the church services which at that time was
the old "Relief Society Building," constructed of brick with a cupola
for the town bell as was the custom in small Mormon towns. The bell rang
out to prevent tardiness at school and Church meetings. Aunt Lucille
Robinson Taylor gave me a good start in learning, and Sister Bertha
Wilcken Pratt further inspired me in the seventh and eighth grades.
Both were great teachers who dedicated their long, useful lives to
training the young people in the community.
I remember going to
Conference in the same building just mentioned when President Heber J.
Grant attended. I remember his famous stories about learning to sing,
play baseball, and write beautifully, etc., and his statement that if we
persist in doing something it becomes easier to do, not that the nature
of it has changed, but that our ability to do it improves.
I think that what
got me into the reading habit and furthered my education more was that
Aunt Lucille had quite a library down at Grandfather Robinson's home,
including a set of the "Book of Knowledge", an encyclopedia that had
many pictures and very interesting explanations. I went down there a lot
and would read for hours at a time. I also remember going there when
they were rebuilding the home that had been burned by the
revolutionaries. There was a sack of white lime that I thought was
flour, so I took a big mouthful of it. They had to rescue me from
choking by washing my mouth out.
I began to have
impressive experiences with prayer when I was a young boy. Dad had a
gold watch. He didn't carry it to work, but left it on the dresser in
their bedroom. It fascinated me, and I would take it to the farm
occasionally. One afternoon we went swimming in the river at the Riquena
(our farm). It began to sprinkle, preparing for a summer rain, so we
grabbed our clothes and ran across the alfalfa patch to the barn. When
I dressed, I noticed that I had lost the watch. After the rain stopped,
I got the boys to help me find it. I knew that there would be serious
consequences if I didn't return it to the dresser that night. We
searched back and forth across the alfalfa patch for a long time, and
the other boys decided it was hopeless and quit looking for it. I found
a place where no one could see me and prayed to God to help me find the
watch. I was sure that he would. Then I went to the alfalfa patch
again. I found the watch the first time across.
I graduated from
grade school on May 18, 1926. The certificate is signed by Ralph B.
Keeler and Bertha W. Pratt.
My Father ordained
me a Deacon on February 1, 1925, and a Teacher on December 23, 1928. I
served in the presidencies of the Aaronic priesthood Quorums, and also
as Patrol Leader in Scouting.
Dad was ordained a
Seventy by B. H. Roberts, a man he very much admired, one of the Seven
Presidents of the Seventies, a General Authority, who was instrumental
in keeping him active in the Church at a critical time. (See Dad's
story.) In 1928, he was set apart as Counselor to Ralph B. Keeler in the
Stake Presidency. In 1933 he was made Stake President, with Moroni L.
Abegg and Harold W. Pratt as counselors. When Harold W. Pratt was
called to be President of the Mexican Mission, Wilford M. Farnsworth was
set apart as Dad's counselor. They served until 1953, when Dad was
called to be President of the Mexican Mission.
The years 1926 to
1930 were profitably spent at the Juarez Stake Academy. The Dublan
students rode the dusty, smelly school bus over the rocky, bumpy,
twisting road to Colonia Juarez, an hour in the morning and another at
night. It was only eighteen miles, but the bus often had flat tires or
broke down, and we had to walk in. Sometimes we did not get to school,
or get home at night after staying for a dance. However these were
happy hours of singing, clowning, visiting with friends, that fostered
a closeness of friendship seldom known elsewhere. It helped keep alive
the strong rivalry between “Turkey Buzzard Flat" and the "Posthole", as
the towns were known in opposing camps.
Here are some
typical entries in a small diary I began:
Wednesday, Jan. 1,
1930: Everybody is sleepy--got home last night at 3:00 A.M. Tonight I
stayed up until 11:30 studying.
trouble with the bus this morning and were late for school.
wood all day. Got blisters.
Friday, Jan. 10:
The bus stayed up for a dance, but I didn't go. We got home at 3:00
o'clock in the morning.
Saturday: Papa took
sick last night and he stayed in bed all day. Sunday: Papa is getting
worse, he vomits blood, etc.
Monday: Papa is
very sick. Tonight six or seven men held a prayer circle for him.
Tuesday: Papa felt
worse, so Mama, Papa, and Grandfather Robinson went to El Paso on the
train to get medical aid.
My father had a
bleeding ulcer. Doctor Stell could not do anything to stop the
bleeding. Uncle Harvey had the train held up while they got him packed
in ice on a cot, and they put him in the baggage car to go to El Paso.
Mother and Grandpa Robinson went with him. Friends met the train and
took him to a hospital. Members of the Priesthood had held a prayer
circle and had given Dad a Priesthood blessing. They promised him that
he would live until he could get proper medical attention. The doctors
at the hospital said that Dad did not have enough blood left to keep
him alive. It was a miracle. They gave him blood and other treatments.
That Sunday the whole stake fasted and prayed for him. At about meeting
time, Dad sat up in bed and said, "I am well, could I have something to
eat?" My diary entry for Thursday was: Mamma wrote a letter and said
papa was healed Sunday.
I was very small
for my age and rather on the plump side physically. The men on the farm
called me "El Gordito", and the kids nicknamed me "Fatso". I suffered
uncomplainingly the rheumatic pains in my legs. It was embarrassing to
always come in among the last runners in the annual "Cross-country
Race". All the boys had to run it every year. However, I always finished
the race. I played some tennis, but didn't compete in the other sports
that brought popularity. Thus, it was a great satisfaction to win the
Heber J Grant Oratorical Contest, speaking on: "Why Observe the Law of
Tithing". I treasured the prize, a leather bound Book of Mormon,
inscribed with an inspiring letter from President Heber J Grant. Since
coming to Utah, I seem to have misplaced it. I played the Alto
Saxophone in the Academy Band, and participated in the Operettas and
other school activities.
I graduated from
High School on May 23, 1930. The certificate is signed by Ralph B.
Keeler, Superintendent, Claudious Bowman, Stake President, and Joseph
C. Bentley. At our graduation, a picture was taken in which I am
standing under the outstretched arms of my cousin Ben Taylor.
During our years of
Elementary and High School education, my brothers and I, along with
Uncle Harvey's boys worked some Saturdays and during the summer holidays
on the farm, "La Riquena." At an early age, we drove the horse teams to
freight the wheat to the mill about six miles distant. The wagons had
wooden wheels with steel rims, and a long box bed covered with a tarp
so the wheat would not leak out. Upon arrival at the mill, we had to
wait our turn to unload the wagons with a shovel or skoop. At times, we
also drove the "header-beds" which were large hay-racks on which the
sides were formed with a framework of lumber and heavy chicken-wire,
high on the left side and low on the right, to catch the wheat cut by
the "header" pushed by four horses.
We also cultivated
corn and beans with a horse-drawn cultivator. It had foot pedals to
quickly adjust the position of the cultivator shoes so as not to cut
down the plants if the horses got a little out of line. We also cut the
alfalfa with horse-drawn mowers. The mowers had iron wheels and seat,
and a tongue between the two horses. It had a cutter bar on the right
side that was seven feet long or so. One day while cutting alfalfa, the
cutter bar caught a skunk, leaving him minus his front legs. The next
time around the little fellow was waiting with revenge in his heart. He
didn't spray the horses as they passed first. He knew who was
responsible. I felt the sting and great burning sensation of his
unerring spray to my face and eyes. It was necessary to bury my hat and
shirt, and I was "persona non grata" for a time, in spite of a number of
Then came the first
John Deere tractors with iron-spiked wheels. They speeded up the work.
We cranked them by pulling on the fly-wheel on the left side of the
motor. We spent countless days sitting on the steel seat or standing by
it while plowing or disking, or planting.
During my teen
years I had the privilege of going on deer hunts with Dad, Uncle Steve
Farnsworth and his son, Joe, who lived in Garcia, and sometimes Uncle
Harvey and others. I still remember the thrill it was to kill my first
big buck. One time, I was hunting with Joe, and he let me shoot a deer
that he pointed out to me. We dressed it and had the problem of putting
it on my horse, Old Flax. I was trying to hold his head so he wouldn't
kick while Joe lifted the deer up behind the saddle. But Flax kicked him
in the groin, and he nearly passed out with the intense pain. After a
long time, the pain became slightly less, and we got the deer on the
horse and returned to camp. Joe then started for Garcia.
Once while hunting
with Uncle Steve, he said. 'Ten years ago, I killed a deer just around
this point and left my pocket knife there where I dressed it. I think I
will go and pick it up. He went without hesitation to the place and
picked up his knife. He knew the mountains as well as his own back
My mother received
her patriarchal blessing when she was fourteen years old. The patriarch
told her she would be blessed by having the General Authorities of the
Church in her home and at her table. This was literally fulfilled during
the more than twenty years that Dad served as Stake President. All the
visiting General Authorities stayed at our home, and we were privileged
to become personally acquainted with them.
On one occasion,
Elder John A. Widstoe was having breakfast with us. When mother asked
if he would like some hot cakes, he asked what kind of syrup she had.
She answered that she had just made it. (It was made by heating sugar
until it was caramelized and then adding water.) Elder Widstoe then
said that he would have some. While eating them, he said, “Oh, you can
just taste the minerals in this syrup”. He thought it was made with
On another occasion
when Elder George Albert Smith was with us, Dad asked the Elder that
was with him (I believe it was his cousin) to offer the family prayer.
At the end of his prayer the Elder said a blessing on the food. When we
were again at the table, Elder George Albert Smith said, "Elder, you
should not have done that, the blessing on the food should be a separate
Another of the
Apostles we were privileged to become personally acquainted with was
Elder Melvin J. Ballard. I remember how he would sing "I'll Go Where
You Want Me To Go Dear Lord." I also remember him relating to the
people in a conference in the Dublan Chapel his experience of seeing
the Savior Jesus Christ in the Salt Lake Temple. He described how he
felt and how he kissed his feet. Knowing that he was an honest man, and
hearing the sincerity with which he told his experience, made a great
impression on me as well as the whole congregation. I don't believe
that there was a dry eye in the whole chapel. Our Lord and Savior truly
lives and he has a resurrected, celestial, perfect body. This gives us
the assurance that if we are worthy, we may be resurrected also and
return to the celestial kingdom to live with our Father in Heaven and
elder Brother Jesus Christ.
We had many
enjoyable mountain trips. When I was very young, a number of families
went to the mountains on a fishing trip together. Each family drove a
wagon. When we got to the spring, we walked out on a long very high
trestle over the canyon to a higher point on the mountain. I was amazed
at the height and length of the trestle. The grade then came back
around higher than the spring and around another mountain before
turning south again. There were trestles over many canyons at that
time, but they have now all been burned or taken down for the lumber.
Grandfather Henry Eyring Bowman was a partner with Mr. Green, who was
in charge of building the grade. He lost heavily when the
revolutionaries stole his supplies and mules, including enough
dynamite, hay and grain for the mules, etc, to have finished the job.
Mr. Pearson, the man who built the giant lumber mill at his town, died
on the Titanic. The lumber mill was finally abandoned, and the grade
that was being constructed for a railroad to bring logs down to Pearson
to be cut into lumber, was never finished.
I remember when
Uncle "J" was President of the Mutual, and he took us all to Cave
Valley for an outing. We took a group of boys and girls in a light
wagon we had. The steel rim kept coming off one of the wheels. We kept
it wet so the wood would swell and keep it on. It was a great trip, and
After I graduated
from High School, my help was needed on the farm. During the winter and
spring of 1930-1931, Taylor and Bowman planted an 8,000 tree orchard on
the "flat" east of Dublan, We planted peach and apple trees. Bob and I
worked together digging holes to plant the trees, irrigating,
cultivating, and many other jobs. We always tried to do twice as much as
the hired hands, finishing a row each while the others were only half
One time, when I
was harrowing, pulling the harrow with a team of horses and riding on a
board on top of the harrow, I looked down and a rattlesnake was riding
on the board with me. Boy, did I jump off fast to pick up a rock and
kill it. The trees grew marvelously at first, but died out slowly over a
period of 10-15 years because of lack of water and Texas Root-rot. When
we watered, the land had not been leveled and it was hard to control
the water on parts of the orchard. The land was sandy, so when we
opened the ditch to let the water out, it would wash quite a wide
opening that was difficult to dam up. We used straw, but didn't have
sense enough to use sand hags. When we replanted the orchard in 1960, we
used siphon pipes. There are still about 3 or 4 of the original apple
trees left in the orchard (1988).