Here's a little piece published in the Ukiah Daily Journal, December 3, 1978. I'll try to attach the actual article to this message in case anyone wants an actual copy.
Sunday, December 3, 1978
Ukiah Daily Journal, Ukiah, Calif.
Weott descendant tells of 117 years of work and adventure
Perry Bowman was born in Mendocino County in 1862
By FAE WOODWARD
Perry Freeman Bowman has been a hobo, cowboy, soldier and logger during the 117 years since he was born in "New Discovery, at two-counties," which was located near Shelter Cove in the area where Humboldt and Mendocino counties meet.
His grandfather was Leonard Putnum Dodge, who ran a mill at Rockport, and his grandmother was Susie Dodge a member of the Weott tribe. His mother, Amelia, was born in 1849, and Perry, the son of Perry F. Bowman, trolley car conductor who became a bear hunter, was born in 1862 in a community located about five miles east of Shelter Cove, between the cove and the community of Four Corners.
Heir to a maple sugar factory in Pennsylvania, Perry's father, like many young men of his time, decided to go West and ended up in San Francisco operating a trolley car. According to the son, the elder Bowman took a ride on a boat and ended up at Cleone, where he tended bar, until one day when a customer came in full of stories of hunting bear. The elder Bowman "went bear crazy," according to his son. The younger Bowman also tried his luck at capturing wild animals, only his interest was the cougar, he said. He has many tales of cougar hunting and says there were both gray and black cougars in the county. He thinks the black ones were like the black sheep in a white flock.
The wanderlust in the younger Bowman, however, was not caused by the lure of the wild, but unhappiness at home. According to Mendocino County's eldest citizen, his six younger sisters were always getting him into trouble with his family. They would cause the mischief and he would get the punishment, he says. Although he doesn't say how old he was, he indicates with his hand that he was not full grown when he ran away from home. His first attempt at this was not too successful, because after a few days he was found and returned to his family. He says they didn't give him a minutes peace over his failure, and four days later he was off again. This time, he says, he made good his escape. He led his followers to the south, indicating to all he met that he was headed for San Francisco. Instead, he crossed the ridge and worked his way north, finally reaching the Canadian border. However, he could not gain entrance into Canada and traveled to Seattle and other parts of the Northwest, he says.
Although it is not clear which adventures came first, there were many in his life, including serving in five wars, the last one being World War I. He says he was a lieutenant in the Spanish-American War and shot the enemy like clay pigeons, using the ruse of hats on sticks raised just high enough to barely be visible over the top of the rocks. He and his company hid in the brush and cut the enemy down one by one as they snuck up on the make believe soldiers.
Perry says he was in Panama during the digging of the canal in what he referred to as a mud hole. He tells of the mud being loaded aboard barges and taken out into the ocean for dumping.
When Perry returned to Mendocino County in 1915 it took him a month and a half to locate his family, he says. It took five wars to cure Bowman of his woman shyness, he claims. He has since outlived three wives and claims 45 children.
One regret of Perry's is that he only had six days of schooling. The school was on one side of the Eel River and the Indians on the other side. The river rose so high in the winter, he says, that the children would have to have been floated across, and the water was a bit too rough for that.
The deequash (white men) are funny, he says. When they were told that Weott meant river of eels, they called it the Eel River, instead of Weott River.
According to Perry, at one time, after he was grown, he had an opportunity to join a class of ninth graders. They taught him the decimal system out of a primer, he says, and the other students ended up copying off of his paper during the test. He got an A, he recalls. "Just think what I could have done with three whole months of school," he says.
Perry likes to dance and he says he prefers dancing with "bubble" dancers. According to the 117 year-old resident of Fort Bragg, the larger the woman is the easier she is to dance with. He says he always checked out the dance halls for the "bubble" dancers, then took turns asking each of these larger women to dance with him.
The Mendocino County native says he always has been a hard worker. Although he is not a large man — 140 pounds in his prime — he could snake the big logs just as good as a 240 pound man, he says. There are tricks to everything, according to Bowman, and he just knew the way in which to use his body so he could do the same job as a bigger man, without harming himself. In fact, Bowman says, he had less injuries from working than those around him. But the man born 117 years ago says he has been dead four times — referring to accidents in the woods which left him unconscious, waking later in the hospital where he recovered
sufficiently to work again. He says he passed his 100th year in the woods in Humboldt County where he says he belongs to the Humboldt Hospital League.
Although cataracts have stolen the better part of his vision, Perry Freeman Bowman, at 117, says he feels better now than he did 80 years ago. When he was about 40, he thought for a about nine years that he was going to die. He says he laid in bed for three years "while Dr. Pill kept feeding me those pills." Finally, he decided that this was not for him and went hoboing again for awhile.
It would appear that Perry's secret for longevity is inheritance and outdoor living, with lots of hard work. Although he does not smoke or drink, now, he has tried these things during his life, and said he was a drunkard during the prohibition era. He says he made his own and a little for the customers, too. When the brew was hidden he would let them know how many feet from this or that the "pig" or the "goat" could be located. "One day a pig, and the next a goat," he says.
Although Perry was considerably older than his six sisters, four of them are still living as are three of his brothers. One brother, whom he calls King Bowman, helped build Boulder Dam, Perry says.
Perry, who presently has a room in Fort Bragg, hopes to move his residence to a place he calls Seaside. The remains of his mother's house, there, can be seen on the right hand side of the road just north of the Tenmile River. It has caught many a travelers eye, because of the roses that completely engulf it. The vine, planted by his mother, has a stem almost as big as his wrist, now, he says. The Seaside property was originally owned by his grandfather and then by his mother.
The oldest member of the Weott tribe says he wants to build a house on this land that is so filled with memories for him. He recalls his mother starting a flock of turkeys from 14, and remembers herding the flock to Seaside when they were fattened..
The family was living in the woods on the Usal Road, and Perry says they would lead the turkeys to a deep depression where there were hundreds of grasshoppers. He recalls dropping grain on the ground to guide the turkeys to the low spot. When the birds weighed between 15 and 30 pounds, they would herd them to Seaside to butcher them.
When he left Indian Creek, Perry says his mother had between 1800 and 2000 chickens. He doesn't know what happened to her chicken business, because when he came home again, she was no longer was at Indian Creek. He found her at Caspar.
Although there have been a lot of changes in his lifestyle during the last century, Bowman seems to have always taken them in his stride, and knows even today how to make his pennies last. He found it cost him considerably less to take the M.T.A. to Ukiah, and take the regular bus to Santa Rosa, than to take that bus from Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa, where he visits occasionally with his baby daughter, Hummingbird, whom he says has been employed by the telephone company, there, for 37 years.
Regarding baseball, the man who has observed the changes in sports for over 1100 years, says baseball players these days are spoiled. The team on which Bowman played had to beat 225 teams for the championship which they won in San Francisco. He says they were thrilled with the $60 in prize money which was given in coin "instead of those no-good greenbacks."