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History: Young man saves himself from drowning

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Everyone understands that the Red River is very cold in January. The Bossier Banner related the following story about a young man who saved himself in the cold waters of the Red River in its January 20, 1927 issue.

“Bethune Patillo, a youth of only 18 summers, but with the will and forethought of a hero, who resides at Lakeport on Red River, while helping the ferryman with the cable spanning the river near his home on Christmas Eve day, had his gasoline launch to sink, leaving him helpless and encumbered with a heavy overcoat on, apparently doomed to a watery grave, as old Red was on a rampage and the current very swift.” [Lakeport was in extreme Northwest Bossier Parish in the Wardview area also known as “The Lake Bottoms.”]

“The ferryman hollered to him to grab the two empty gasoline cans, which he quickly did. With more nerve and forethought than is usually shown by an apparently drowning man, he succeeded in clutching both cans and with good judgment he removed a red bandana handkerchief from around his neck and made fast the bale of one of the cans to his left arm, intending to secure the bale of the other can in much the same way when the bale broke its fastening and he was compelled to keep his right hand over the opening in the can, the cap having lost off in his struggles.”

“This was in icy cold water, and about 5:30 in the evening.”

“He soon realized that he could not swim in any straight direction, and found he would have to follow the current of the swift river, and by manipulating his cans, he managed, after some three miles, to land on an island, nearly frozen, but by continually yelling he managed to attract Mr. John Ward and his younger son to his aid, about one-half a mile away.”

“By the time help arrived, at 8:30 o’clock in the evening, he was nearly frozen, too much so to walk, and it was necessary for Mr. Ward’s young son, about the age of Bethune, to carry him on his back to their home. He was quickly supplied with dry clothes and placed in bed. His parents were notified at once of his safety.”

“He awakened on Christmas morning, thankful for the kind hands he had fallen into.”

“The cans that acted as buoys for the saving of the lad’s life are now at Mr. Ward’s residence.”

To discover more about how Bossier Parish residents help each other, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or amiddlet@state.lib.la.us