Channel Cat Tales: The Smithsonian Exhibit opens this weekend!
The Flood of 1950 almost caused the baby of the Noble Smith family to be born in an amphibious vehicle. This is the conclusion of the story of Henry Smith's birth.
...Now and then the craft swerved to avoid drifting logs and other heavy debris. Almost back to the Wabash was another long line of polls marking the route of Illinois 33. Potter steered the Duck north between the poles toward the high ground a mile or so away.
Several houses could be seen above the water. A school house farther down the slope was almost in the flood. The farmer guide pointed to a house at the extreme top of the hill. “That’s it,” he said.
Suddenly the duck lurched part way out of the water and Sgt. Potter cut the propeller. The craft was earthbound, moving along the firm concrete of a modern highway. It passed a roadblock of Illinois National Guardsmen and climbed the steep bank of the hill to the house where Mrs. Smith waited --across the river from Vincennes and her doctor and the hospital. She, heavy with the weight of her child, than unborn, climbed slowly up a ladder and clambered over the gun whales. Then she seated herself in a kitchen chair and wrapped herself in a blanket for the long, bitterly cold trip to the safety of Vincennes across the dangerous floodwaters of the Embarras and Wabash rivers.
After the party was safely aboard the return journey began. By this time, the late afternoon sun slanted across the waters, turned the yellow mud to silver, and glanced and glared into the eyes of those aboard the Duck. The wind became colder and the obstacles harder to see among the little white caps.
As the craft wobbled out of the water at the Lincoln Memorial Bridge, it stopped long enough to drop off the guide and continued on to the home of relatives of the Smiths. Within minutes Mrs. Smith was safe, near hospitals and her doctor, where her son was born a few days later. The round-trip had been about 6 miles and had taken more than two hours. To Sgt. Howard Potter and those who were with him- Sgt. Dick Beasley, Pvt. Franklin Mayse, Cpl. Harold Lee, Sergeant First Class C.P. Roberts of C Battery and V.O. Keith, a volunteer Red Cross worker, the mission was routine. To the Smiths-- it was not.
(Henry was born Monday, January 16, 1950 at Vincennes Hospital. Friday after the baby was born a Duck was sent back into the hills to bring baby clothes to the hospital for the new arrival.)