My sweetie thinks it’s creepy that I have so many stories about drownings and near drownings. I think I got on this subject after I wrote the story on Grandma for Mothers’ Day. I told you that her first husband had a stroke while he was swimming. She sent me a beautiful hand-written letter a few days later. She said that several years ago her brother came by for a visit and told her what actually happened that day (isn’t that weird, when they were in their 80s he finally decided to tell her the whole story?). Apparently they were fishing and my grandfather hooked a big one…too big to bring in on the line. So he decided to go after it. My great-uncle said Grandfather went down once, resurfaced and hollered for help. Then he went back down and never came back up. So he really just drowned.
As I told you Thursday, the main canal was about ½ a block from my grandparents’ house. When I was a child, the irrigation ditches didn’t frighten me unless the water was running high. That was generally in the early spring when the run-off was at its peak. During those times we were strictly forbidden to even walk near the canal. When the water was low, my brothers and I would walk into the mouth of the culvert that ran beneath the road. It was easily 6 feet high, but more likely 8 (as a small child, everything seems big…)
I know we didn’t have any trouble walking together into the opening. But it was dark and scary and even during the driest of seasons there was a trickle of muddy water that ran over our bare feet and curled around our ankles. I was not fond of the spiders and snakes (although I never saw a snake, my brothers insisted they were in there!) nor the dark. Perhaps my brothers can verify that they really walked through the underground culverts all the way to the center of town. I heard that they did, but I was too afraid to accompany them on that dangerous and terrifying journey.
Anyway, this canal was much bigger than the one I fell into. It was the collector and it ran several blocks before it was diverted into about three different smaller ditches like the one by our house. None of these ditches were fenced nor covered except for a narrow culvert so that the family living in the house could cross by foot or by car to get to the road.
One spring morning, someone from the neighborhood pounded on our door. It seems that the little girl just down the street from Grandma and Grandpa’s house was missing. She was about two and the cutest little thing with dark eyes and dark hair. Her parents were American Indians and they had a big family like us. They had a boy the same age as me and other kids that matched up with the ages of my siblings. We knew each other well and played together often. Natasha’s mother was frantic with worry. The canal was running high. Dad and Grandpa both joined the group of searchers. None of us were allowed to help because of the dangerous waters, so we stayed home and worried. I remember at one point we all gathered together and said a prayer for her and for their family.
Later that afternoon Grandpa was in the group that found her little body. She had fallen in the canal and the water had carried her to the dam in one of the diversion ditches. As a community, we were devastated. It was the first death of a child that I remember and it could have been any one of us. We stayed far away from the canal for the rest of the run-off season. My mom, who was a non-swimmer and deathly afraid of the water, insisted that we all take swimming lessons. Not that swimming lessons could have saved little Natasha…
My sweetie has a way cool story in his family. One of his ancestors that helped settle his hometown had a daughter that drowned in one of these irrigation ditches just like the one where I nearly met my demise. She was not breathing and had no pulse for quite some time. Her parents asked Elder Orson Hyde to give her a blessing. When he told them that she was gone and it wasn’t appropriate for him to recall her to life, they told him that her blessing as a babe had promised her that she would live to adulthood and bear many children.
Elder Hyde immediately gave her a blessing and within seconds she was breathing again. She did live to be a mother with quite a few children. When I read that story for the first time, I understood that devastating feeling her mother must have felt knowing that only Heavenly Father could make a difference for her. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you my one last drowning story, then I promise we’ll move on to happier things.