Monday, August 29, 2016

Channel Cat Tales: Baby Almost Born in "DUCK"- Part One


Channel Cat Tales   The Smithsonian exhibit opens this weekend! 

In 1950 Noble Smith worked at the Robeson grain elevator on Robeson Hills- the ruins of which are still visible from US Route 50. When his son, Henry, was born during the Flood of 1950, he almost arrived in an amphibious vehicle.

This is the story as told in the Indianapolis Star, dated February 12, 1950, and the Vincennes Sun Commercial dated January 20, 1950.

Mrs. Noble Smith will never forget the day her son was born, but for the Indiana National Guardsmen, it was all in a day’ work-- just routine flood duty. Mrs. Noble Smith and her husband and her foster daughter were central figures in a mission of mercy that started when an officer of the Illinois National Guard requested that one of the Hoosier Guard’s amphibious vehicles, or Ducks as they are often called, make a trip to the high ground of Robeson Hills across the Wabash and slightly north of Vincennes, to carry Mrs. Smith to safety.

So the 31 foot amphibian roared down Main Street in Vincennes, past the barricade at the entrance to the Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash and over it to the Illinois side. There Sgt. Howard Potter stopped long enough to pick up a farmer to serve as a guide, then drove his craft through the white-capped back waters behind the levee and set a course between the telephone poles which marked the route of inundated US 50.

Sgt. Potter steered his clumsy craft gingerly along the highway. Twice, he cut sharply to starboard to avoid the tops of submerged signs that would have torn the bottom out of his vehicle. On either side of the road, filling stations, houses, barns, restaurants – all the various buildings man constructed to live in and to work – were abandoned to the waters, their doors and windows open so that there would be no resistance to the force of the flood.

Off to the north, little figures of men could be seen toiling on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The wind came up and the going got rougher. About 2 miles from the bridge the guide indicated the route was to change, angle sharply to star board. He leaned down and spoke earnestly to Potter, who cut the motor almost to idling, so the craft barely held her own.

“Bridge abutment here,” someone explained. Only the day before, another duck had been seriously damaged when it snagged a submerged culvert. If it happened here, it would be bad.

Only the lapping of the water and the thin sound of the wind makes in willow branches broke the silence. Driver and crew felt tensely for passage between the concrete sides of the submerged bridge. After what seemed like hours the danger was passed and the duck followed the path of a country road toward the railroad tracks to the north. The going was easier now as the mission near the protection of the railroad embankment. Once on the other side of the tracks, Sgt. Potter steered back again toward the river down the side of the railroad bed keeping carefully in deep water.


Continued tomorrow