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Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014
Nobody was tougher than Calvertville nativePosted Friday, April 10, 2009, at 3:11 PM
Major Homer Bowersock (Submitted photo)
Imagine going off to join the U.S. Army at the age of 15 in 1915 and launching a military career that spanned 34 years.
He told the Army recruiter he was 21 when he enlisted and no one questioned that because he was big for his age and World War I was brewing.
Homer, who was raised on a farm southeast of Calvertville, retired from the military with the rank of major.
That's not bad for a Greene County kid who never completed high school.
However, Major Bowersock is best known in the military ranks as a gifted, hard-nosed football player and coach.
Amazingly, he played on the field for more than 17 years with his first game at the age of 16.
He played for Army teams at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Fort Francis .E. Warren in Wyoming.
Homer was a big, gawky country boy who took a liking to the contact in the game of football.
He first played tackle for the Army team at Columbus (Ohio) Barracks. Later he was converted to halfback, fullback and then quarterback.
His nephew Amos Bowersock lives in Linton and he shared Homer's story with me the other day.
Amos' dad, George Bowersock, was Homer's brother.
Amos said it's kind of funny how his uncle became such a football star -- saying with a laugh, "He never saw a football before he joined the Army. The only thing he played here (in Greene County) was football with a tin can."
Amos provided me with an interesting newspaper (San Antonio, Texas) account of Homer's football prowess dated Dec. 6, 1933. At the age of 33 he was still in the Army, married with three children, and still playing football.
At the time, Bowersock was a First Sergeant for Service Company of the First Calvary.
The story stated, "He's the gentleman you saw plow for 35 or 40 yards through the entire Coors Independent team recently for a touchdown. He's the fellow who brings his knees up hard and his feet down harder and is as tough to bring down as the proverbial streak of lightning."
The story went on to say Homer was a very tough guy -- who had gone out of a game for an injury only once when he thought he had broken his leg.
He played in countless games against college, professional and other Army teams.
There wasn't any big secret to his football playing longevity other than being a smart player who loved the contact and knew how to protect his body.
Quoting Homer in the story, he said, "I guess I'm naturally built to take it. Some men are put up that way. Some are naturally tough and some are not. The only thing I've done consciously to keep from being hurt is to learn how to fall. In a bruising game like football, you've got to learn how to protect yourself."
The advice Homer related in the story is good advice today for any aspiring football players.
"When I block a runner, I have my arm covering my ribs next to the runner. Then, when he knocks me over he hasn't hit me in a tender spot, and I still have time to get my arms out the way and break my fall to the ground," he stated.
Amos Bowersock recalls hearing a lot of stories about his rough and touch uncle as he was growing up.
He served in both World War I and World War II with two different Calvary units.
During WWII, Homer guarded the Golden Gate Bridge and later served in a leadership role along the Mexican-U.S. border and Amos added, "He didn't have any trouble at all."
Homer also commanded a group of POWs (prisoners of war) during WWII that cut timber in Michigan.
Amos said Homer visited back in Greene County several times during his military stint, but never came back to Indiana to live.
He kept in contact with his Hoosier relatives around the holidays.
"I remember him when I was a little kid. He would always send us a box of candy at Christmas," Amos recalled.
Homer died in November 1952 and is buried at Sam Houston Cemetery in San Antonio.
His memory lives on by those who knew him.
"He was tough," Amos concluded.
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