Mountain memories

Retired Trimble County teacher
pens book on Appalachian life

Bowling grew up in the Kentucky
hills during 1950s-1960s

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. (October 2009) – In his new book, “Mules and Wildcat Heads,” author Dean Bowling cautions that “some life lessons are harder than others.” At the insistence of his daughter, Bowling has penned a book about his life in eastern Kentucky in the 1950s and 1960s.

Mules and Wildcat Heads

His daughter, Casey, had “heard me tell of growing up in eastern Kentucky and compelled me to get it on paper,” said Bowling. “When I began to write, it kind of fell into book form.”
The 152-page book is a compilation of events in his life that he actually lived through or events that were passed on to him from those around him who exerted great influence in his life.
“I was born in the head of a holler on Wells Creek about six miles out of Sandy Hook, Ky in Elliott County,” said Bowling, 62. “I attended a one-room school there on Wells Creek and went to Sandy Hook High.” Thus was the education of this self-pronounced “hill boy.”
Bowling uses a lot of humor to tell his story, applying a personal look at his rural upbringing. “I believe this book will invoke memories and nostalgia of those earlier years for the reader, whether you are from the city or a true Appalachian child,” he said.
Bowling writes with clarity and vivid detail about his first pet squirrel, Lolly. He had set out one morning to hunt squirrel and spied an old mother squirrel that ran up an oak tree to hide in a nest of grape vines and leaves.
He writes, “Much to my surprise, instead of seeing momma squirrel burst from the clump of leaves, out came a baby squirrel tumbling to the ground. I picked it up to discover a tiny hairless mousey looking thing. I became so excited that I forgot about the original mission.”
The baby squirrel became known as Lolly and remained the family pet for many years.
Bowling eventually left his idyllic life on Wells Creek to attend Morehead State College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in math and minoring in physics and Russian. He married his wife, Kate, while in his last year of college and realized how badly he needed a steady, full-time job.
Graduating from Morehead State College in summer 1969, Bowling was hoping to land a teaching job in the Lexington, Ky., area. He received several calls from then-superintendent of the Trimble County School System, Joe Ross, who insisted he come to Trimble County for a job interview.
“Having never heard of Trimble County, my curiosity got the better of me,” Bowling said. “I decided to check it out just for fun.”
Once he arrived in Trimble County, he “found it to be a lot like where I grew up and decided to try it for a year.” He eventually “found that I liked the place and it would be a great place to raise a family.” Bowling began the first of his 21 years of teaching for the Trimble County School System that fall.
Bowling taught math, physics and Russian for two of the 21 years. He rose to the position of Trimble County High School principal for a period of six years and worked in the central office for more than five years. He retired from his passion, teaching, in September 2001.
“Mules and Wildcat Heads” should “appeal to the Baby Boomers who grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s but also to the younger generation who may have an interest in learning about that period of time in the Appalachians,” he said.
The truthfulness of the book is what appealed to Alice Welty. Welty, who is older than Bowling, said she grew up during the Depression and “there were a lot of similarities in the book” to the time in which she grew up.
Welty has known Bowling since he moved to Trimble County. They attend church together and her children were familiar with him as a teacher. Bowling taught her son, Barry, Russian and advanced physics and was a strict, but well-liked teacher.
She purchased her copy of “Mules and Wildcat Heads” directly from Bowling. She began reading it on a Sunday afternoon and was immediately enthralled with it.
He wrote about things familiar to Welty, such as killing hogs and making blood pudding, Welty said. “You preserved everything you could in those days.”

• “Mules and Wildcat Heads” can be purchased in hardback ($29.99) or paperback ($19.99) at www.BarnesAndNoble.com, www.Xlibris.com, www.Amazon.com, or by contacting Bowling directly at (502) 255-7122.

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