[Note: Sense 1 was previously bow one’s back.]
bow up one’s back v phr Also bow one’s back, bow up in the back [In ref to an animal arching its back as a sign of aggression or stubbornness] chiefly Sth, S Midl; scattered West Cf bow up v phr
1 To assert oneself, resist stubbornly, “dig in one’s heels.”
1887 Rochester Tribune (IN) 19 Aug 1/3, The attempt was made to do the same thing in Columbus, but the Democratic gangsters bowed up their backs and stood by the boys with alacrity, even to a Democratic judge throwing the indictments out of court. 1897 Century Illustr. Mag. 53.761 GA, She pinched her husband all she could; but who, Andy Magraw, he, good, peaceable man if he were, sometimes bowed up his back, and cussed, and would n’t. 1913 Muskogee Times–Democrat (OK) 22 Mar 1/3, The entire delegation, with the exception of Senator Owen is for Hastings, but the junior senator from Oklahoma has “bowed his back” and has issued an ultimatum that the supporters . . of former Gov. C. N. Haskell . . will never land in a federal job if he can prevent it. 1914 Raleigh Reg. (Beckley WV) 12 Mar /1 (newspaperarchive.com), The Raleigh Herald, bowed up in the back this week and took violent exceptions to the manner in which the Independent-Herald reported the outcome of the last trial of Dr. E. L. Ellison vs. the Raleigh Register. 1946 Sikeston Std. (MO) 20 Dec 1/1, The President bowed his back and refused to yield an inch despite all the pressure of labor leaders who up to this date had won every fight in which they had been engaged. 1954 Gastonia Gaz. (NC) 28 July 4/8, Britain certainly hasn’t bowed up her back in opposition. 1958 McCulloch Woods Words Pacific NW, Bow his back—To refuse to do a job. 1966 DARE(Qu. JJ24, To refuse firmly: “He wanted to get some more money, but this time I _____.”) Inf AR13, Put my foot down, bowed my back. 1977 Athens LC News Courier (AL) 3 Feb 2/3, Dr. Wayne Teague, who up to now . . has adopted a turn-the-other-cheek attitude, has suddenly bowed up his back, stuck his fist in the face of the AEA’s Dr. Paul Hubbert, and in so many words told him to “git yore best holt. . .”
2 = bow up v phr 2.
1914 Anaconda Std. (MT) 6 July 2/1, In the seventh the aliens bowed their backs, but a double play, Sawyer to Brady to McMurdo, killed the revival. 1937 Amarillo Sun. News–Globe (TX) 17 Oct 8/1, Ashlock and Vaughn, backfielders, drove the ball to the five-yard line, where the Chiefs bowed up their backs and held them gainless for three downs. 1992 Delta Democrat–Times (Greenville MS) 22 May sec B 2/4, All of a sudden, what looked like it might become a rout became a game. That is, until Reed recovered—”bowed his back” is the term commonly heard in the Cubs’ dugout. 1994 Mt. Democrat & Placerville Times (CA) 16 Dec sec B 1/1, One day Kenny Brown decided to become a good runner. With that, he “bowed his back” and did just that.