Ava Ahmadbeigi and Jeff Bowman

Recorded February 26, 2020 Archived February 26, 2020 38:37 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019696


New friends Ava Ahmadbeigi (26) and Jeff Bowman (69) talk about Jeff's beloved grandma Murphy, who was the last "pioneer woman" living in a fire lookout at almost 8000 feet tall, who was instrumental in Jeff becoming who he is today, and who encouraged him to be whatever he wanted to be.

Subject Log / Time Code

JB describes how his parents met and how they came to Fresno.
JB describes where he lived with his grandma and that he had a very strong connection to her.
JB describes how his grandmother was a pioneer woman and that she never said a contentious word.
JB describes how his grandma walked to vote just before she died because the bus forgot to pick her up.
JB describes how his grandma encouraged him to be whatever he wanted to be.
JB says everyone should have a "Grandma Murphy."
JB talks about what he thinks he grandma would say to him now if she were still alive.


  • Ava Ahmadbeigi
  • Jeff Bowman

Recording Location



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00:02 Hi, my name is Ava ahmadbeigi. I'm 26 years old. Today is Wednesday, February 26th, 2024 in Fresno, California, and I'm here today talking with a new friend Jeffrey Bowman.

00:20 And I'm Jeffrey Bowman and I'm 69 soon-to-be 70.

00:26 I know it's amazing with my youthful appearance. But it is Wednesday February 26th in the year 2024 in Fresno. I'm in Fresno and I'm here with a brand new friend Ava on my biggie. I almost choked. Are you are you originally from Fresno? I was born in Lynwood, California, which is

01:05 In the Los Angeles southern part of Los Angeles and my parents moved to Fresno when I was a year old, so I

01:19 Throughout my life I've ever either lived in I worked in the film in music business in Los Angeles for a while, but I'll be there lived in the Fresno area or LA California for a long time ago by your parents moved to Fresno was for work. I was born in 1950. And so that's part of it. I'm not mad. I'm not fond of the Boomer name, but that that's that.

02:01 Kids that were born that were Offspring coming out of World War II so my dad been in the army during World War II, my mom was a registered nurse and they just happened to me in Southern California my mom growing up in an area called Whittier and then and then later in the Mount San Bernardino, San Bernardino Mountains in a small town called big bear.

02:44 And was with my grandmother my grandfather passed away.

02:51 Right after the end of World War II so they they

02:59 Play Matt and

03:03 I was born not not long afterwards. Yeah, and and so Dad apparently picked up a job up here. He was he was in the Freight business. It's kind of a wheeler-dealer character in the whole family was perpetrated with characters and

03:31 So he like you like the world of sales you didn't like confinement. He was offered some master sergeant at the end of World War II and in the transportation Corps. That's how I ended up in the Freight business, but he they offered him.

03:51 To be a lieutenant to go into the and at they said you either will you can leave or you can continue in the military and he goes worse the door. So all his jobs always surrounded a lot of freedom. He liked being able to

04:13 Yeah, we went up there and but my earliest memories always include my mom's mom. My grandma might have my grandmother. So how involved was she in your Early Childhood a lot. There was not that kind of connection unless she was physically present and she was the first female Lookout fire lookout for in the San Bernardino National Forest. It was a big deal, which I didn't know. I mean she was just Grandma, but she did so every summer or it's what they call the fire season.

04:59 Which as soon as it's no thawed then she go up to this Tower in a place called Keller Peak a little less than 8,000 feet in the air in and then she would show during the Summers if we didn't go visit her there. It was the offseason where I would see her a lot Christmas time and stuff like that, but she was there when I was born and

05:31 Hi Dad, I just had this.

05:34 Extraordinary connection with my grandmother and she ended up taking care of me in the summer a lot because my mom was Ill so I live with her and then

05:49 In that this little Tower at 14 X 14, I doubt I went back to visit and and the guy that was there was a volunteer at Sands National Monument now and he goes let me get this straight you were seven and she did this job and took care of you and I go yeah, and it goes that's impossible and I

06:13 But when you're a kid she reflected on it one time every minute. She was a great story tell her and she told me she goes to keeping you entertained was a job plant cell have you I can imagine energetic little boy when I went but I have not gone back in a long long time and

06:46 And it was pristine it would have been kept exactly like that a picture of her and

06:57 She was there from 1946 till 1968 69 and she started when she was 46 years old. She did my my grandfather. Apparently. I had a heart attack on the job. They gave they gave these jobs a lot to Veterans and he'd been an evening in the Army in World War 1 and

07:21 So everybody called her Billy Billy Murphy life daily, you know, I never discovered her given name was Wilma and then the middle initial was he and could have been Elizabeth at nobody. Everybody just called her. I'm in the grandkids. It was all Grandma. I bet it was.

07:48 But everybody called her belly. I don't know how she ended up with that. But she was born in 1899 on Indian reservation in Humboldt County or no Modoc County call Fort Bidwell and her parents. My great-grandparents had come out from Arkansas in a covered wagon and heard father delivered the mail the US mail by Stagecoach. It's hard to put that stuff together. I mean, I just handed Mia right that that my cell phone and all the way I look at it. I think about her life and we talked a lot. So all those things that happened in the

08:43 White

08:46 If the people did not fly in the rain and her dad and her lifetime phones and for the longest time, she did not have a phone. She had a cabin in Big Bear in my folks could not get a hold of her and and I'm reasonably sure. That's the way she

09:07 So how many Summers did you live with her house or my folks went on a trip to Mexico and and then I stayed there and then this summer my mom had bouts with cancer and Luciana operation and

09:37 So Grandma told the story that they got ahold of her at the color paint through the radio and said that son-in-law was trying to get ahold of her and they said I can't

09:53 I need help.

09:55 I'm sure everybody did trying to take care of me.

09:59 Tell Mom was that in those days any kind of serious operation. They just kept you at the hospital. So dad was trying to work and then I was 7 so she just

10:13 She had a 57 red and white Mercury that she never took the plastic off the seats the hole that she had the car forever and she drove from Big Bear from Keller Peak and came and got me and then I just stayed there that with her the whole summer and until mom and recovered my folks came and got me. So I would stay a shorter times but I had stayed there a lot as is a little boy. Do you remember if you understood what was going on while I knew I knew mom was sick and so everybody takes a positive.

11:01 Packed with those kind of things you're aware that something's wrong cuz I was an only child. So my mom was a stay-at-home mom and dad went to work and then I was aware that she was gone. I couldn't go visit.

11:18 And but I would absolutely adored my grandmother. I mean she was like a superhero to me when she shot rattle snakes and wrestle bears for all I knew I mean, I mean really, I mean she was my this is what my dad would say you going to spend some time with your grandma Murphy.

11:41 I want you to pay attention because she's the last pioneer.

11:51 That so so I don't remember ever a contentious.

11:59 There was certainly with my full ride. I was a handful but I don't remember and I'm sure it was with her, but she was she was a tiny.

12:11 Lady and look frail. This is a photo of her I do this little magazine about living with her.

12:23 Wow. Wow, you wouldn't you couldn't guess because she does she's not a big, you know, she's just that looks like she's got a ton of muscle mass.

12:39 She survived.

12:43 Being hit by lightning the up in the peak in this Tower. It's so you're in the peak is high above, you know, did the ideas with a lookout tower you have this view of the surrounding area so you can spot smoke and then and then radio that in to the Rangers and then they can try to get to it before it becomes a forest fire and that was her job and and so

13:15 For a kid and I was fascinated by westerns. It was Gunsmoke in The Cisco Kid and all these different cowboy shows and and and so I mean she was a cowboy that was it was just like she was out of the wild west to me and and

13:42 I just honestly in looking back I'd I thought about this coming in to talk about her today.

13:52 I don't remember a contentious word ever. That was always she's extremely positive person. She's feisty SRB feisty with other folks.

14:09 Do you know know know know I really should know that one. So it was funny and in growing up. I was unaware until I got to be older and actually in college the plight of

14:26 Women in the world in the debit in the United States, I mean, but she she was

14:34 Wanee

14:37 When she got the right to vote.

14:41 So here's a great story. I think this is a great story County.

14:48 Sheetz

14:50 She felt that was a sacred right to vote. That was that important because she hadn't had it.

14:57 And and so she was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and my parents were Republicans. So after every vote National voter, California about somebody call somebody and rub it in Japan who won or lost the old days where where people were decent about disagreeing and

15:26 Sheep

15:30 It should do she instilled in me.

15:35 That whether you thought it was useless or that you were.

15:44 You were going to cast a vote that was not going to matter that it always mattered at that and then I didn't really understand until I started to study about her and she was by that time she passed away in 84 and it's been in the last four or five years that I've really started.

16:07 Looking back and and trying to find out information about her upbringing. She was a staunch supporter of Native American rights and I but I never put it together. She was born on the Indian Reservation or whatever and I can ask her now, but whatever informed her whatever she saw whatever she came into contact with.

16:37 Made it the way she thought about Native Americans. She was said she felt strongly about their rights and

16:50 I don't know. It was just so being so but as a little boy you're just around this stuff. And I mean you're not, you know, I mean, but she was just

17:02 She's amazing on the voting story. My parents had passed away at it long before she did they were neither of made it to 62. And so that even made our bond closer because my parents work on 30 and I was 30 so but I would I was

17:35 I'm now clean and sober for 34 years, but I wasn't then so if you're an alcoholic or an addict, it stifles your growth pattern I really was.

17:53 I'm not prepared for my parents to realize I was close to them. Also. They were they were they were great people. But anyway, so I guess I got to be closer to her. I'd call her after I vote that was so she'd they've moved her out of the mountains cuz she had congenital heart disease in her eighties and she lived in San Juan Capistrano mobile home trailer.

18:21 So she called these vanpools for the elderly. I guess I'll be using one here shortly and and they pick people up and take them to the polling place. So I called her up and I

18:43 She had to be 83 at this point very frail. She was riddled with arthritis and and she had had asthma and congenital heart. And so she was at this point. She's a tiny guy when she was robust. So she was really frail. She had a walker still live by herself and I think Grandma

19:08 Did you did you vote for the wrong person? She goes You're darn tootin. I did Mexican and she said but they didn't come to pick me up.

19:20 I got the van pool and she does know they forgot me and I go but you still voted and she goes. Yeah, I walked.

19:40 And I hated the idea.

19:46 And I also Marvel that.

19:52 That she had that stroke of character.

19:58 Aiko you didn't and she goes yeah. Yeah she goes higher

20:04 I walked I just kept going until I got there and then or

20:09 At The Point Place Lego Mrs. Murphy, did you walk her and she goes? No, I slit on my butt, honey.

20:17 I don't know if you can guess you can add it anything. So I

20:26 And that was Hernan that show she has her body gave up on her. She passed away not long after that and and is one of the last thing she did.

20:41 Is she had the world?

20:47 Sorry.

20:54 So I shoot cheap. I think we have this concept of Americana.

21:03 Women that had the kind of strength she did and that they'd be

21:09 Conservative, whatever the heck that means and and she wasn't.

21:18 That all she was already aware that

21:23 Things needed to be done to protect the environment. So this all the stuff in for my life. It changed how I looked at things.

21:37 She occasionally had to kill a rattlesnake around the lookout to keep it safe people would visit I think for her own safety and

21:51 Shut up board up on the wall that had these rattles so in my mind.

21:59 You know, I'd watch all these westerns and when I went to visit her at a pellet rifle and it my big Hope was that I'd kill my bag of rattlesnake. Also, I have a rattlesnake. So as luck would have it in about the last week that I was there.

22:19 I went to the Outhouse and I was coming back and I heard a rattle that they don't want to mess with you, but they will again so I heard a rattling it called for Grandma and she came down with Chata shotgun 410. There's smoke what they cost small-bore because she's so time The Recoil on a regular shotgun would have knocked her over but she kept a shotgun for what she was living by herself and

22:54 So the rattlesnake and coiled up and was against

22:59 Boulder Rock and she goes, you know, if you want to shoot it, go ahead. So I thought I'll never forget this a shot.

23:10 The snake and I was pretty good Marksman for a little guy and I saw the pellet pierce the skin snake.

23:22 And and I got sick I threw up.

23:27 And then she finished off the

23:31 The snake and that's why I was man. I'd failed complete abject failure, right? It's going to be a gunslinger and and and

23:47 So I thought I'd always thought of this phrase Cowboys always stuck to their guns and I was so I was standing there and she goes so you're a good shot and I go yeah, I got sick and she goes yeah, I forgot I had made chicken for lunch and I

24:08 She has it's okay and I go but I I didn't stick to my guns.

24:15 And she she said I don't think you understand what that means. She goes.

24:23 If you

24:25 If you stick to your beliefs if you

24:31 When that stuff that's sticking to your guns. She goes most

24:37 People that carry the gun in the west never use them at all. She goes. That's a bunch of hooey. She goes I kill the snakes and save the rattles Dawn or him.

24:47 They're at their souls because I don't want to kill us next that I have to.

24:53 She goes and sometimes you do things. You have to be Chico's.

24:59 You're a good guy shoes that counts more than anything and she goes when the time comes you stick to your guns, but that has nothing to do with shooting a firearm.

25:11 It sounds like she really believed in you have done a lot of things in my life. I have done some filmmaking and and I write him and I self-published did the magazine about her and I do a show of you have been in the music business is the musician forever and end, but what she did.

25:38 Was

25:41 Help make me believe that anything that I set out to do that I could do.

25:50 Just really all my mom is passed away and would gone to a Christmas party and I was Santa Claus and I rocked it when I drank and so I was I shouldn't have been driving her. I was driving her home.

26:06 And

26:09 Did you know?

26:12 I go. Can I go Grandma? I said, you know nobody in my family gets.

26:19 Me and understands what I want to do and she goes I do.

26:28 She said when I was a kid, I wanted to be a concert pianist or a poet and she goes and nobody was going to let a woman do that and my family she says you be whatever you want.

26:50 Pretty cool. Very cool. Very cool that she spend so much time with you at this time. When your parents were occupied dealing with something that I've been dealing with and that she saw you and taught you from then and kept seeing you for me. It was this amazing relationship. I realize that you know as years go by and pass by and failed marriages and and I taught teenagers. So this constant frustration. The Public public education is a freaking mess. It's insane.

27:32 And that's all personal opinion.

27:37 I did just was so lucky.

27:43 We she got hit by lightning and she tells his amazing Story of Survival. She there was in these towers you're just suspended in the sky. You're on the steel legs. So you're on this huge Peak.

28:03 And then in this glass house because I have to have glass all the way around so they can see you note site these fires. So these storms will blow in and there lightning so they have lightning rods to catch the lightning to protect you on the edges of this catwalk that goes around that the building song.

28:31 So everybody knew this story that Grandma had that she said the storm blew in so fast that she'd gone downstairs to tighten something up some Oil Dealer some darn thing and she got back up and it was already the lightning was already starting to hit the lightning rods and one of them just caught there's a old water pump because it's attracted to metal and she was too close to it. They during during a lightning storm you sit on insulators there their glass little cups that go on a chair and then a footstool and then you sit on that and the glass

29:21 Keep shoot it is that lightning can't travel to to get to you and she hadn't gotten to the insulator yet and it blew off the side of the building that explode the lightning and hitter.

29:37 And she had a dog that she kept a lady was a cocker spaniel. So she woke up.

29:45 It knocked her out and when she woke up the side of the building was gone the radio and it was was out. The dog's leg was broken. And so she crawled into the end of this bed and covered her.

30:08 Covered herself in and rested for a while and then realized she was nobody's coming. So she so she grabbed the dog this I went back there that the ladders are almost here to get up and down and I was 30 ft down. She's carrying the dog to get to a car and she added snowed she got caught in a snowdrift and had to climb back up and went and she goes I just had to wait and hope that they would somebody to show up eventually some Rangers came and rescued her. She said so she was so scared. She thought she'd never go back and then she recuperated and she went back to work. So I knew this story in a lightning storm hit.

31:01 While I was there and it's the scary as it would be like being in this room and you seen the lightning strike right outside o know if you've ever been in a lie, and so it you hear this impossibly loud thunder and then the lightning hits you could you could reach out and touch not for very long and am I

31:32 Start scared. I was scared. And yes, so she she said she

31:39 I have a recording I've ever recorded some conversations with her and then she said no.

31:46 I got you in the bed and I held you and you were so scared.

31:54 And I was too but I didn't want you to know I was scared.

31:59 And I've always thought.

32:02 The how lucky I was blessed.

32:07 And I think about those kids on the border.

32:10 Veteran carcerated children

32:14 And everyone deserves a grandma Murphy.

32:24 When the lightning strikes

32:27 No one has survived two separate.

32:32 Real likes

32:35 Close me.

32:39 It would have really pissed. My grandma would have gone she just stood outside.

32:46 It would have pissed her off so bad. I think that's a marvelous thing. I think about her. I guess in today's world. I don't liberal-conservative. She's just honry right and wrong shed roof great moral fiber.

33:04 And I fight I think about.

33:08 That the only thing that made me feel safe was

33:14 Her

33:18 When was the last time that you saw her?

33:22 She was a

33:24 Did they put her in?

33:27 I don't know convalescent hospital. She couldn't breathe very well and I driven really long ways. She was I think the split was in San Clemente, which is Way, South, California.

33:46 And

33:48 I remember my Uncle Mike by this time I my folks and passed away in my Uncle Kenny and told me he said you know, she really

33:58 Thought it was amazed. She was asleep and I was holding her hand and she woke up and I was holding your hand.

34:10 And she couldn't talk very much.

34:15 That's the last time I saw her and Kenny told me that he goes you don't know how much she she thought that was like miraculous that you could have shown up out of nowhere.

34:30 So I did get

34:33 I did get to be a cowboy.

34:38 What how what do you think you meant to her? Obviously, she meant so much to you but not reciprocal my dad would remark about it. If they weren't they were really close.

35:00 Miranda laws that was quite amazed.

35:06 I think my dad could do you know that it was a lot not said about

35:12 How extraordinary her life at Ben and she was married at 18 then lost her husband and then started this whole nother life is this mountain?

35:27 So I

35:31 I would travel great distances to be there for her in and I think she I think she knew that she she knew I

35:44 I would do anything for pick it up, you know, and I think a lot of people have yeah, I do this show about my about her and it's amazing after the show's over. How many people talk to me about some family member that meant

36:06 The same thing

36:09 We have a few minutes left, but I'm curious to know what you think. She would say to you now if she was here if she could see you in the life that you know, honestly, I think a couple things I think she would have.

36:30 Been proud of the life. I have led think I pulled myself together on my drinking.

36:41 And and then created another life to it's funny. I was right around 46 same age. She was when she went to Keller take to the lookout when I became a teacher.

36:57 And then I got high I taught for 20 years. I guess. I don't know if they call him inner city schools with great kids and and

37:10 Because of Facebook and social media, I realized the kids they're older now, they're 40 and they have kids but they've stayed in touch and and I think I made a difference and I think she would have been

37:25 I think she would have been proud of that.

37:30 Is there anything that you would have wanted to say to her?

37:33 No, I died as much as I miss her.

37:38 08 and it was just on the chest.

37:46 I'm just so glad she was my grandmother.

37:54 I just

37:56 I have this immense love.

38:01 For Billy

38:04 Thanks grandma.

38:14 I'm good.

38:16 Thank you.