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Retired Trimble County educator Dean Bowling has assembled a collection of stories from his youth, and others about his ancestors, for a new book, “Mules and Wildcat Heads.”
Published by Xlibris Corp. of Bloomington, Ind., the book centers on “those Eastern Kentucky hills in which I grew up; a story of the love and admiration for those who influenced me the most,” Bowling explained.
Born Garrett Dean Bowling, the new author was raised five miles from a little town called Sandy Hook, Ky., where he attended one-room schools in the Appalachian mountains and eventually graduated from high school and college. He came to Trimble County at the beginning of the 1969-70 school year – when the building was brand new, teaching math, physics and Russian, and serving as yearbook sponsor that year.
He later became TCHS principal and was promoted to assistant superintendent of Trimble Schools. Now retired, he and his wife, Kate, still live on New Hope Road in Bedford.
Bowling said it was his daughter who pressed him to write down the many stories he had shared with her and others about his youth.
“She was after me to write them all down,” he said. “So a couple of years ago, I sat down and started listing them all, then writing them. And then the book started falling into place.”
Bowling also was encouraged by his wife, who, he says, is an avid reader. “After she read the stories, she thought other people might want to read them, too.”
Bowling said he chose “mules” for part of the title because his family farmed with mules when he was a youngster. “There are a lot of stories in the book about mules, stories about riding mules and plowing with mules.”
The other part of the title refers to his grandmother’s homemade biscuits. “My grandma used to make big biscuits – those biscuits were comfort food to me,” he recalled. “My grandpa used to call them ‘wildcat heads.’ We used to have them with butter and homemade syrup. They’re mentioned in the book a couple of times.”
The book also includes stories about his ancestors and family members from “the Revolutionary War up through the 1950s and into the early 1960s. It also has a lot of personal stories about my brothers, my sisters and myself, and the people around us.
“I had a great-grandfather who fought with General Washington,” Bowling said. “His name was Jarrett Bowling. He was originally from Virginia. Way down the line, there was another ancestor by the same name who settled in Kentucky. Although my name is similar, I was named Garrett with a ‘G’ after one of my dad’s friends. I don’t think my dad knew about the Jarrett Bowling’s way back in our family line when I was born.”
“I looked into several publishers and talked to some,” Bowling said last week in a conversation at the Trimble County Public Library. “There were some that were interested in publishing it, but they kept putting me off. Finally, I decided I was tired of waiting and went ahead and got it done with Xlibris.”
Local residents can buy copies of the 152-page book in hardback ($29.99) or paperback ($19.99) direct from Bowling by calling (502) 255-7122. The book also is available at Barnes & Noble bookstores or may be ordered on the Internet at www.xlibris.com, www.amazon.com or www.bn.com.
According to binding notes by the publisher, “Extensive use of humor is used in relating the story and gives the reader a glimpse of the boy in many of us. … Even when the subject is sometimes sad or serious, the author attempts to relate the point in a humorous manner. The story is real, the people are real, the humor is real, and the sadness is real.”
And, whether the reader is from the city or Appalachia, the publisher promises the book will evoke “memories and nostalgia” of growing up.
“So far, the feedback from those who have read it has been very positive,” Bowling said. “They tell me it was very interesting and funny.”