Thursday, March 11, 2010

Abandoned Well Lore

The following article came from the Tri-Basin NRD Newsletter, Tri-Basin Topics, Volume 22, Issue 2, Spring, 2008. It chronicles the travails of pioneer F. W. Carlin and his run-in with an abandoned well.

On August 14, 1895, a pioneer named F.W. Carlin steered his wagon off on the wrong track as he was crossing the prairie north of Broken Bow, Nebraska. The trail dead-ended at an abandoned sod house. He tried to turn his team of horses around and head back down the road, but one of them balked. He got off the wagon to see what was spooking his horse.

Here in his own words, as reported at the time by the Custer County Beacon, is what happened next: "without a moment's notice, I became aware of the fact that I had stepped into an old well and was going down like a shot out of a gun. I placed my feet close together, stretched my arms straight over my head and said "O God have mercy on me!" According to a later measurement of the well, he fell 143 feet.

Amazingly, the only injuries he sustained when he landed in water and mud at the bottom of the well were a broken rib and a badly sprained ankle. In spite of this amazing stroke of luck, he still faced the staggering problem of getting out of this very deep hole by himself. He struggled for hours before he was able to break away part of a board in the cribbing that lined the well hole. He shoved that board into the sidewall and used it as a seat. There he spent his first, cold, wet night underground. For the next two days he slowly, patiently inched his way up, digging footholds and handholds using his trusty pocketknife.

Emerging from his would-be grave, he gave thanks to God for saving him from death by hypothermia or starvation, but his troubles weren't over. His horses and wagon were long gone, so he had to crawl on his hands and knees a mile and a half to the nearest house, which took all night.

This is one reason why we plug abandoned wells in GMD 4.

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