Michael "Mike" George Cowden - the Iron Butterfly - RIP

Submitted by tarvid on Wed, 10/07/2015 - 23:45

I chanced across Mike's obit in the Roanoke Times. One is never quite sure how many one misses but finding out about such events without social media is random.

Mike and I had numerous "professional" transactions. I kept his network going at Briarpatch. He did his best to keep my fanny warm in the winter and water running at the farm. A tree fell on the service wiring to his shop and disconnected the neutral which fried all of his electronic equipment. It's the neutral that keeps both legs near 110 on a 220 volt entrance and when the neutral is cut one leg will swing closer to 220 and the other drops. His computers and network were on the side that swung towards 220.

I was his Internet provider during the dial up days and when The Wired Road put up access points on the WVTF tower on Iron Mountain, I could see a trace of signal at his home on Briarpatch Mountain. The signal was weak and we tried numerous heroic attempts to make it work. Mike had a fellow drop a large tree that was blocking the path. Unfortunately, he dropped it on a Pontiac Mike had planned for his daughter.

I had installed a Hick's water stove which sprung a thousand leaks (electrolysis - should have been a stainless tank). Mike put in an oil fired boiler. I took a few lightning hits over the years and Mike and I spent hours adapting controllers. The pump was a victim of a couple of those hits and Mike would bring his crew to replace the wires and/or pump. I did it couple of times without benefit of his expert crew. All of which approached cardiac events.

I was doing some International traveling at times and would smuggle a few Cuban cigars from El Salvador or Bolivia. I would buy a few Dominican cigars, smoke them, and put the rings on the Cuban cigars. For Mike they were Manna from Heaven. But heaven for Mike was banging out stuff in his shop. Mike was more than a passable engineer but his true brilliance shone the creations that came out of his shop. I still have one of them - a manifold to connect a Fisher wood stove to a fireplace chimney in my office. We also traded kitchen stoves. Mike got my blue porcelain wood cook stove, I got a 6 burner dual oven institutional stove which cooked hundreds of meals at the farm.

When we weren't discussing physics, we would talk religion. Mike reminded me of Gandhi who said "if you don't find God in the next person you meet, there is no point in looking for him further". Mike's cosmology lie at the intersection of modern science and religion. You can get an inkling of that in the film "What the bleep do we know?" Mine came from the liturgy of St. James - "Ubi Caritas et amor, Deus ibi est".

Love was manifest in the people around him. I never knew his first wife but their daughter Sarah is like a candle in a dark world. Nancy struggled with cancer as did Lou Ann and Mike himself. I watched Micky and Valerie grow up into wonderful people. His staff was special (I remember Charlie from Robby's in Galax). and his neighbor, Hattie, brought warmth to many gatherings at Mike's  house. He found his Bible in his garden. As Rumi said, "there is a field the other side of good and evil. I'll meet you there".

I love you Mike, I'll  look for you in the Multiverse.