George Bowers Sr.: The story of dad’s pocket watch

George Bowers Sr.

Next Thursday would be my father’s 95th birthday. Although he passed from this life in 2009 at the age of 86, he could have done so much sooner and you would be not be reading my column today.

When he was in his early teens, his father, Beecher Bowers, ran a gas station near Maurertown. One day a cash-strapped customer pawned his pocket watch for some gas and a quart of oil. Although there may be a station owner still willing to do that today, most pumps won’t accept anything that thick and round.

It so happened that my father took that watch with him when he, his brother and a friend went crow hunting a day or so later. The bib overalls of the time featured a watch pocket in front of the chest where a worker could store his timepiece long before cellphone clips and pouches.

That particular day, Dad carried a .22 caliber rifle he had bought from Sears Roebuck for $12. His friend had a similar rifle while his younger brother, who may not have yet mastered his accuracy, toted a shot gun.

As dad told the story, they all shot at a few crows that mistakenly flew overhead. When none of them fell, he said, they went to “crow hopping,” which is an activity I am unable to describe. As they were jumping around, however, his friend’s gun suddenly discharged with the bullet striking dad in the chest.

Stunned, scared, and knowing he had been hit, dad frantically searched for blood but found none. What he found instead were two holes in his overalls. Upon closer examination, he discovered that the .22 bullet had entered his pocket, gone through the back of the watch case which was facing outward, destroyed the works, scratched the inside of the crystal a few millimeters from his chest, and ricocheted back out through the movement and through his overalls to eventually lodge in some unknown location, where it doubtless still remains.

Needless to say, they were all greatly relieved but none more so than my dad! The watch pocket sat right in front of his heart and this temporarily pawned timepiece undoubtedly saved his life.

With a mixture of relief, fear, and adrenaline, he kept the scratched glass but tossed the rest of the ruined watch into the woods. Instead of a mortal wound, he carried a large red spot on his chest for several days as a reminder of that event.

He never told his father and his father never asked him to return the watch. Dad suspected that someone had informed him of the afternoon’s events and realized that providence was working overtime that day.

What I’d give to have that movement, those bibs, or even the crystal. Wherever they may be, they serve as powerful reminders of the grace, mercy, and precision of our God. What are the odds that someone would have pawned a watch just a few days before dad would need it? Why was it located at precisely the right spot to absorb and deflect the bullet? What kept the glass from breaking under the force of the speeding projectile? And how was it that the random angle of entry happened to be exactly perfect to cause ricochet rather than death?

Dad shared that at the time he was “too dumb to be thankful,” but later in life he certainly was. And I certainly am as well. Dad was a leader in our family, our church, our community, and in my life. Not only did he earn an honest living for us, but he also helped introduce us to Jesus and to know what it means to serve, follow and obey him. He was a blessing to many over his 86 1/2 years and was a superb and dedicated self-taught Sunday school teacher for most of his life.

As his birthday approaches again this year, I continue to thank God for sparing the life of this special man for over 70 years in order to bless me and many more. Chances are you or someone you know has also experienced a miracle of God that has resulted in the blessing of many. This is the perfect time to thank and worship him for it and to do what you can to be a blessing to others. Thanking God, George

George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume III.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.