Wells and Old Motels

A story I saw in the news this morning, about a child rescued after falling down a deep well in China, triggered a memory about a similar event that took place in the 1980s in Texas. The memory led me to scan old online articles about the Texas event. Though we lived in Chicago at the time, I remember how the child’s plight held the nation’s rapt attention.

The Chinese child, a three-year old, fell forty feet into a 295-foot deep well. ‘Baby Jessica,’ the Midland, Texas child, fell into an abandoned well and was trapped twenty-feet below the surface.

Rescue came fairly quickly for the Chinese child and the boy suffered no significant ill-effects.  Baby Jessica spent fifty-eight hours trapped in the well. Efforts to rescue her were broadcast on live television, as I recall, around the clock. When she came to the surface, her injuries were evident. As I scanned online news articles about the incident this morning, I recalled that the event had traumatic and long-lasting consequences for her, including fifteen surgeries and the loss of a toe. And, well-wishers donated around $800,000 to her, was made available to her when she turned twenty-five years old.

More than one story has been written about her, so I won’t use the memory to spur another one. But maybe I’ll use a story I heard last night to prompt one of my own; if nothing else, I’ll document it here to serve as a resource for later.

My ex-sister-in-law and her husband joined us for dinner last night and she told a story that, as a child, she and her siblings went with her parents to Bentonville, Arkansas. There, her father persuaded the caretakers of a closed motel, built of logs, to allow the family to ‘camp’ at the motel for a night. The family put their sleeping bags down on the floor of the motel’s lobby and spent the night. Years later, on a return trip to the area with friends, she learned that the location of the motel is now under thirty or forty feet of water, thanks to a project to dam a river.  That’s all I know about it at the moment, but I feel certain an interesting story could come of this.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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