He tasted dirt, Edgar Brower did, as he picked weeds at night. Not even a cricket sung in the deep darkness—all of them buried in a series of dust storms that had swept through Enid, Oklahoma. While he wrestled with a Lamb’s Quarters as tall as his shoulder, Edgar dug bare feet into sandy earth to stabilize himself. When he finally yanked the thing loose, it sent him reeling backward onto his bony backside. For a second he focused on stars, enjoyed midnight silence save the wrestling sounds of his mom and three sisters who struggled with weeds somewhere near him. His dad had abandoned them six years ago, so he didn’t even remember him. In the distance he saw the silhouettes of his neighbors picking, too …
Even though he was only a kid, Edgar recognized the mirage, knew that they all went out at night so that no one would know. They all picked weeds for food, and ate bitter salad for dinner. They all knew about each other’s poverty. Yet, they all knew that their pride kept them from stealing rabbit food in daylight hours. So what that he picked Lamb’s Quarters on his eighth birthday—July 21. They all knew that kids went to work when they could. Just last year, 1937, they all knew, Edgar took his first job on this very same day. During the school year Edgar cleaned the school, which they all knew too. They all knew each other’s business. On weekends he worked as a farm hand. In the wintertime, he had to make boots for himself out of old tires. He’d cut the thick rubber, and fasten it to his feet with twine.
Working hard in school didn’t even earn Edgar satisfactory marks, hard as he tried. Something felt disconnected inside of him, but he couldn’t name it. The town just considered him a big, dumb kid who’d never amount to anything. When he made it to high school, however, they celebrated his 6’5” frame when he helped the basketball and football teams to victory; in spring he excelled at track. The thing about Edgar—he just knew that he wasn’t stupid. And his science teacher, Dr. Anna B. Fisher knew it, too. She discovered that Edgar possessed superior intelligence, but she had to draw it out of him verbally. Daily, Dr. Fisher worked with Edgar and gave him the same test as other students, but not on paper. The two would talk and the little wooden classroom boomed with Edgar’s thoughts after all the other kids had gone home.
After Edgar graduated from high school, he joined the Army. His plan: get to college through the G.I. Bill. He didn’t factor in how much he’d like the military, and that there they’d discover his exemplary leadership skills. Welcomed into the Special Operations unit, Edgar learned how to jump and so landed behind enemy lines during the Korean War. The Army was a perfect match for Edgar, and he loved it. But he still had his eye on earning himself a college degree. Ending his Army career as a First Lieutenant, the boy from Oklahoma took advantage of that G.I. Bill.
From the Army Edgar ended up at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California, where his sister lived. Elected Associated Student Body President, Edgar continued his leadership effort. Defying the town that thought him nothing but dumb muscle, Edgar was accepted to the University of Southern California where he studied industrial engineering. The USC education combined with Edgar’s natural problem solving abilities landed him a career in upper-level management for a company that manufactured and installed all of the communication equipment for the NASA space program. The connections he made through NASA brought him an appointment as Assistant Post Master General where Edgar designed and built all of the U.S. bulk mail centers. He also served as the chief executive officer and chairman of the board for numerous struggling companies. Thanks to Edgar, the companies flourished just like he did, changing dirt into dollars.
NO “POOR ME”
Every thing that Edgar Brower received in his life he earned through hard work and perseverance. Refusing to adopt the “poor me” attitude, no matter how taxing his circumstances, Edgar taught his kids to live by the same philosophy. He married his soul mate, Pauline, and became the instant father of two girls aged 4 and 7. Pauline and Edgar then had two more daughters. Each of his girls grew up having to earn privileges and items of their dreams. Nothing was handed to them.
When Edgar and Pauline had parties, they included everyone. Their parties defied social hierarchy where Tom Stafford, the commander of Apollo 10 in 1969, clinked glasses with the Brower housekeeper—both invited guests. Through his assignment as Assistant Post Master General, Edgar worked with individuals such as former United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, General H. Normal Schwarzkopf, and former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. However, even after making the acquaintances of noble dignitaries, Edgar reminisced about the high school teacher who recognized his learning disability and mentored him through it. Today he would have been labeled as dyslexic. Sixty-six years later, Edgar talked adoringly about his science teacher, Dr. Anna B. Fisher, whom he credits for showing him the way out of the dust.
On May 1, 2013, Edgar Brower died in his sleep. He joined Pauline who had passed away in May 2012. The two had enjoyed 54 years of marriage. The philosophy that Edgar and Pauline transferred to their children lives on in their daughters who continue to raise their children to respect everyone, to never have a “poor me” attitude, to never take anything for granted, and to never give up—a beautiful Brower cycle that began in the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma with an underdog who had the courage to follow his dream.