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Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 21

A Narrow Escape

These experiences of mine were not unusual in the life of the early day country doctor as witness this happening which I am giving as it appeared years ago in the West Union Argo Gazette. (Dr. Whitmire and I were talking about it no so long ago and he verified every word of it.)

The quite village of Westgate was thrown into a fever of excitement Monday evening. About seven o'clock Dr. Whitmire of Sumner rushed into the house of John Dickman, near town, hatless and as wet as a drowned rat, and all out of breath.

The first words he spoke were, "I want a horse and a rope right quick to get a man out of the creek up north of here."
While the boys were getting a team and other things ready, he told Mr. Dickman something in regard to the accident. He said that himself and a young man from Sumner, whose name we could not learn, were returning from visiting a patient of the doctor's near Westgate, over the same road they had traveled about two hours before, and when they came to the creek were much surprised to find that the water was a great deal higher than when they had crossed it previously, but not being acquainted with the stream did not deem it dangerous.
It being dark they thought that they would keep as near the center of the road, between fences, as they could, and making the attempt drove right into the channel.
The current was so swift that the horses and buggy were swept directly downstream in about seven feet of water, lifting the occupants of the buggy up into the to At this juncture the doctor said to his companion, "Let's get out of here."
The doctor let go of the lines and managed to get outside of the top of the buggy, but how he does not know. The water was very deep and icy cold, but not wishing to leave his companion there to drown, he caught him by the collar and pulled him out of the water, too.
The young man could not swim and as there was no bottom to stand on it all depended on the doctor's keeping cool (which he found no trouble in doing in one sense of the word).
Fortunately, for them they finally struck a small mound where they rested. Paying no further attention to the team, thinking that the horses were surely drowned, the doctor, telling the young man to stay right where he was on the mound, for if he moved he would drown, succeeded in swimming to shore and made his way three quarters of a mile across the fields to Mr. Dickman's house for help.
By the time the doctor and help arrived on the scene of the disaster again, the young man must have been in the ice cold water, about waist deep, for fully three quarters of an hour, but he was still alive although much discouraged.
He told the doctor that he could not stand it much longer, but he was encouraged to do so while the doctor tried in vain for some time to get a rope to him, even wading in the water waist deep and holding on to the fence posts and all the time encouraging his partner to stand fast. Finally, the rope was thrown so that the young man got hold of it, and tying it around his waist he was pulled to shore safe, but cold and stiff.
In the meantime, the neighbors had gathered from all directions with lanterns, and while the doctor was so glad that his companion was saved, and had given up his team as lost, and himself and the young man had started for Sumner and drier quarters, the neighbors thought of the horses and finally located the rig, and watching for a while they found the horses still alive.
Wiling feet waded about twenty rods across the bottom to where the horses were and found them out of the channel but fast in a wire fence. The tugs were at once cut and the horses untangled and cared for during the night by Mr. Henry Katz.
The doctor and his young companion will always remember this episode in their lives, and look back upon it with very thankful hearts that they escaped.
Their experience was quite typical of the hazards confronting the pioneer doctor who never knew what he might be called upon to face in the fulfillment of his duty.

The unselfish loyalty to his companion was characteristic of Dr. Whitmire who through forty years of professional association was always my true friend.

  Version: World Wide Web Edition Copyright 1995 by Richard Rathe
  Created: October 1, 1995   Modified: July 5, 1999

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