Stepping Over The Line
Joe Bowen of Taylorsville comes at you with a big smile that won’t
quit. As he approaches the decade before his three score and ten,
he still operates full steam with what could be called a tight
triangle of Focus, Flow, and Faith.
Joe’s focus is raising money
to help fight muscular dystrophy.
His flow is to ride a bicycle
across the country to win support for his cause.
His faith tells him he can do
it-after all, it was a 20-years-younger Joe Bowen who walked on
stilts all the way from Los Angeles, California, to Powell County,
Kentucky, where he was born in the little community of Bowen.
required six months to plan (running six miles every day) and six
months to plod, one giant step at a time, over a distance of more
than 3,000 miles in rain and desert heat. Along the way, Joe
raised $100,000 for the fight against the disease that each year
shortens so many lives in the United States and claims countless
victims around the world.
What motivates Joe Bowen?
"I was raised on a farm in eastern Kentucky that didn’t even
belong to us. At the time, I didn’t know that we didn’t own
it-just rented. As a child and as an adult I have lived the
privileged life of a rich man without the burden of having any
money. And what a way to go!"
Standing next to Joe in the
living room of his elegantly restored home in Taylorsville (Joe
Bowen has a special talent for many kinds of craftsmanship), a
bicycle waits for its rider.
"It may take me two years
to get ready, it may take me four, but I’m going to do it!"
says Joe with the positive smile that spreads all over his face,
seldom collapsing and turning to a pessimistic frown.
In 1981, Joe wrote a book
titled Stiltwalk, which traced his journey from Los Angeles to
Kentucky: "…I was once more in Kentucky and walking fast.
Not in my home county yet, but getting close….Eight miles past
Mount Sterling, I walked from Montgomery into Powell County. After
crossing the county line, I had about 18 more miles to walk before
I reached the tiny town of Bowen, which had been founded by my
great-great-grandfather and near which I had been raised on a
small farm with my four brothers.
never mentioned in the news except when the little Red River
overflowed its banks and the valley towns would be nearly washed
away. Proud, dependable people lived there-people who worked small
farms, raised their children in traditional rural homes, and were
concerned about America. I hoped that whatever publicity was given
to the walk would somehow help that Appalachian region."
Lonnie Joe Bowen wants to help
Appalachia and America, because they are inseparable. At the same
time, he wants to help the victims of muscular dystrophy.
"I thought about my
little friend Robbie Johnson. I could close my eyes and see his
smiling face and those big brown eyes-eyes that sparkled when he
turned them on you. Would someone find a cure for the disease that
had this little boy in its grip?"
The work of MDA, Muscular
Dystrophy Association, is as complex as it is costly. With Joe
Bowen’s smile and positive outlook, a cure for the disease in all
its variations one day will be found. Maybe it will be remembered
that once there was a Kentuckian who walked on stilts more than
3,000 miles to call attention to the medical challenge before us
If later in his unselfish life
Joe rides his bicycle across the country to further the work of
the Jaycees, Jerry Lewis, doctors, nurses, and researchers, it’ll
be remembered, too, that once there was this healthy man from
Powell and Spencer counties who did what he could to convince the
world that all good things are possible.