Sidelined by horse riding accident, Sowder counts his blessings in return to His Heart Quartet
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – When he stepped on the stage with His Heart Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Bill Sowder hopped around with an energy that would belie the fact that he’s now 69 years old. He moved. He thrust his forefinger toward Heaven. He pumped his fist.
It was vintage Sowder, one of Kentucky’s best-known gospel music personalities.
And it’s certainly not what one would expect from someone who was supposed to just be learning to walk again.
“I tell you, I feel like a million bucks. I might look like a Dollar General store but I feel like a million bucks,” Sowder said shortly before His Heart opened for Triumphant Quartet.
Few could have pictured Sowder back singing with his popular quartet on March 23, much less moving across the stage. But his is a story that underscores the title of His Heart’s latest CD, “God Can.”
Go back to November 8. While much of the world was caught up in Election Day hysteria, Sowder was out on his Tennessee Walker, trail riding with two cousins. “I love trail riding. I ride all the time,” Sowder says.
Apparently, something spooked his 8-year-old horse and he started bucking. “He had tried me before,” Sowder says. “Something like a big tractor or something would scar him then he’d try to kick me off.”
His cousins rode past. “My horse started bucking. There was no rhyme or reason for that because I had been sitting there for a while. He’d tried bucking before and I had ridden some pretty hard bucks, so I was looking for a soft spot to bail off. There was a woven wire fence there and when I saw that. I thought, ‘If I hit that fence just right, it will spring me.’
“So I bailed off into that fence. When I did, I hit a post, a steel post, and broke a rib there. I had a gash (in his right arm) and it was just spurting blood out there. The thing is, I cowboyed him. I rode that rascal.”
Since the accident, Sowder has sold the horse.
At the time of the accident, though, Sowder didn’t know was he had been seriously injured.
“I didn’t hurt. I wasn’t in pain. They took me to the hospital and x-rayed me. All I wanted them to do was sew up my arm because it was bleeding like crazy,” Sowder remembers. “I thought if I could get home and get on my inversion table, I could just jar it loose. But it ended up being bad.”
In addition to the broken rib and deep cut, Sowder says his pelvis was separated “by three inches from where it is supposed to be.” He also suffered a lacerated bladder. Instead of going home to his inversion table, Sowder spent 10 days at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. While there, he underwent surgery where a metal plate was attached to hold his pelvis together.
The doctors also inserted three screws in his hip, although it was not broken.
And the doctors gave him a timetable for recovery.
“I was not supposed to be walking yet,” Sowder grinned as he thought about getting on stage about an hour after meeting with KentuckySings.com. “When I had my accident, they told me I would be in a wheelchair for four months. God said, ‘Six weeks was enough.’ After six weeks, I went to a walker, then to a cane through January.”
Yep. God Can.
Sowder believes God worked through many prayers and the efforts of those closest to him.
“When I got home from the hospital, Tammy (his wife) took off six weeks of work to take care of me,” he said. Tammy Sowder works at a local bank.
“I couldn’t do anything for myself. I couldn’t put any weight on my legs at all,” Sowder remembers. “I was in a wheelchair and I had to have a board to transfer from the chair to the bathroom. She helped me and she is such a great nurse.”
The other members of His Heart – tenor Kyle Harris, baritone Jeremy Dickerson and bass Bob Abbott – pitched in as the group was about to embark on one of the busiest times of the year, the annual Heartfelt Christmas Tour throughout Kentucky. “We were supposed to start that Sunday (after the accident),” Sowder says. “Ricky Spaulding (of Patriot Quartet) stepped in and took my place and sang with them through the 18th of December. He did a great job. We put a TV in front of him with the words of the songs on it. He’s a real trooper and I really appreciate Ricky.
“Now let me tell you about Jeremy. I pick on Jeremy all the time and he’s a knucklehead, but he really stepped up. Kyle stepped up. Bob stepped up. They all stepped up to make things happen.”
That includes the quartet’s annual Christmas party. “They all surprised me at Christmas. I always take them all out for a meal at Christmas,” says Souder, who owns His Heart. “I couldn’t do that this year, so they surprised me with a meal at home. They came and brought food. We had the Christmas party at my house.”
And there can be no doubt that God answered the prayers of many people on Sowder’s behalf. He tells of a friend who called to check on him and said that he’d been praying for Sowder’s recovery at 4 a.m. the previous day. Sowder smiles as he recalls not being able to sleep that night. “I want you to know that 4 o’clock is when I went to sleep. That tells you something: God hears those prayers. I feel like every prayer that was put up for me was honored,” he says.
“I didn’t have any pain. I didn’t take any pain medication after the surgery. People couldn’t believe I didn’t take pain medication. The doctors at UK told me four months. God said, ‘Six weeks is enough.’”
And Sowder has been able to return to his work at Rockcastle County High School, where he serves as a substitute teacher and the public address announcer at Rocket basketball games. “I started back (announcing) in January. It tickled me to death to get back,” Sowder says. “They told me whatever you need, we will get it for you. The kids at school made me this huge card. They signed it and wrote me a note. The principal brought that out to my home and that blessed me so much.
That’s not to say there were not some challenges along the way.
“Six weeks in a wheelchair with no weightbearing, you lose your sense of balance and I had so much atrophy in my legs,” Sowder says. “The first time I stood up, I fell backwards like I had lead in my butt. I had to learn to walk again.”
And Sowder says that even though he feels like a million bucks, he got winded easily when His Heart returned to the stage from the winter break on March 19. “I got winded,” he says of his first day back. “I get out of breath because I’m out of shape,” he says. “I rode around in a wheelchair for six weeks eating ice cream so I gained weight. That’s all I did.
“Now when I am singing, I run out of air…. When I sit down (on stage), it’s not because my legs are hurting. I am out of breath and want to take a break. It’s going to take me a while to get back into shape.”
Sowder says he’s engaging in physical therapy three times a week.
There was also the “God Can” CD to record in February. Sowder took his cane and was able to navigate the studio in Nashville. “We were able to get it before we started singing (on March 19),” Sowder says. “I think it’s a great CD. We have some new stuff and some old stuff on it.”
It’s somewhat fitting that among the song selections are the classic “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” and more recent compositions “I Know My God Can Do It” and “God’s Been Good.”
Bill Sowder knows. Since Nov. 8, 2022, he really knows.
THE GOD CAN
His Heart has brought along a new feature to concerts this year, a “God Can.”
While it is the name of the group’s newest CD, it also highlights an idea Sowder ran across years ago.
“Something we are doing this year is something I have been wanting to do for a long time,” he says. “When I worked at Berea hospital, I had a coffee can that I called my ‘God Can.’ I took prayer requests.
“Everybody has been so good to us to pray for us on the road and pray for me. I wanted to do something for them, so I got me a little milk can and one of my buddies at school made me a little sign that says, ‘God Can.’ What we are doing, we are asking people that if they have a prayer request they would like for us to pray with them over, we promise them we will. All they have to do is fill it out and put it in the God Can.
“God can answer those prayers and we are going to pray over that can. God knows every request in that can, every prayer request in that can. People will say to me, ‘I am praying for you,’ but sometimes they need prayers more than me. This is a way we can help people that come to see us and we can be part of their worship lives and try to make a difference for them.”