When our son, Jim, was growing up, he loved to fish and hunt. My husband wasn’t much of a hunter, but my older brother was, and he was responsible for getting Jim involved in it. Back then if asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, Jim would reply, “If I can find anyone to pay me for hunting and fishing, that’s what I want to do.”
The nearest he could come to a situation like that, he decided, was to become a wildlife biologist. So after two years in the local junior college, he went off to the state college that specialized in such degrees.
As soon as he arrived on campus, he was fortunate enough to be hired by the Fisheries Research Department, and started doing jobs that he would later do for a living. He worked at that job till after he graduated and found a permanent job with the Department of Wildlife. He specialized in the Fisheries branch, rather than wildlife in general.
Jim and his co-workers worked on rivers and lakes in the area, shocking fish and then taking blood and scale tests, measuring and tagging them. This did not harm the fish; it only stunned them long enough to be picked up, tested, and tagged, after which they were returned to the water.
One day Jim told of arriving at an area just below a dam and seeing emergency workers in the area. A man had been fishing just below the dam when his anchor pulled loose and he couldn’t get his motor started. His boat had been drawn up against the dam and sucked under. Neither the boat nor its owner had yet been found. Jim said he saw the man’s truck and boat trailer on the bank and it broke his heart. He said that if he ever saw anything like about to happen, he would have to try to rescue anyone involved, even if he knew he would die trying. And he would have.
Not long afterwards, Jim and two of his coworkers were working not far below one of the smaller dams in the area when their anchor pulled loose. All efforts to restart the motor failed, and the anchor could not be reset in the strong pull of the water. As the boat was drawn closer and closer to the dam, they were near panic.
At the last minute, one of them took a boat paddle and extended it from the end of the boat and held it against the dam. Only the smaller size of the dam and corresponding weaker flow over it prevented their being sucked under immediately.
Another of the occupants took the other paddle and paddled furiously from the other end of the boat, eventually succeeding in pulling the boat away from the dam.
But they still weren’t in the clear. Where before they had been pulled toward the dam, they were now being rushed downstream towards an area of very rough rapids.. Their boat was in danger of being dashed to bits with them likely to suffer the same fate.
At this point, Jim tied a rope around his waist, tied the other end to the boat, and jumped overboard. He was able to swim to shore and pull the boat in before it reached the rapids.
A few minutes later, the three of them were sitting on the bank, still gasping for breath, when a fire truck, a TV news crew, and an ambulance roared up. Since they were sitting near where the vehicles stopped, someone told them, “We just got a call that three people had drowned below the dam. Did you see anything?”
One of the three replied, “Sorry to disappoint you, but that was us, and we didn’t drown.”
A newsperson asked if they would like to be on the evening news that night.
“No, thank you.” they said. “We’ve had enough excitement for one day.”
We were thankful that we didn’t know about the incident till it was all over. Our son has always been accident prone and has had many narrow escapes. Even before he went away to college, my husband often said that Jim had already retired at least three guardian angels. We are so thankful for those angels.