My wife's grandfather, Leroy is 97 and I love to visit him because he is a terrific story teller. Every time we talk to him we seem to hear stories about lust for adventure and a couple near death experiences.
Today he told us about the house he grew up in on the Detroit river, the river that connects Lake Erie with Lake St. Clair. Leroy used to ice skate on the river when it froze over. One day skating alone he fell through the ice. As he was falling he put his arms out to form a T. This kept him from falling completely through. The river underneath the ice was flowing at about 4 mph so if he let go he would float way from the hole and be completely trapped under the ice. He tried to kick himself up, but the heavy skates made this seemingly impossible. He tried one last time and felt a pull from his collar as he slipped up onto the ice. He looked around to see who pulled him up. There was no one there. He told us that his belief in God was strengthened that day.
On another day, Leroy decided to skate out under a distant bridge. The ice was firm and fast on the side canals, but under the bridge the current was stronger and the ice was thinner. When he reach the bridge he fell right through the ice. He tried to pull himself back up, but could not. Each time he tried to pull him self up, the ice would break further. His only chance was to keep breaking the ice and expand the hole by punching it. With each punch the ice gave way and allowed him to get closer and closer to a bridge support. Finally, he was able to reach the bridge support and pull himself up.
Finally, on a very windy summer day, Leroy took his sail boat out onto the river. He was a master sailer and he skillfully navigated the currents and winds on that day until he notice that a rope slipped out of place on his boat. To fix the problem he had to let go of the rudder. An instant after letting go, the wind and current turned the boat and the boom from the mast swung around and knocked Leroy out of the boat unconscious. He landed on his back and floated face up. He's not sure how long he was floating before he eventually regained consciousness. He does remember that it took him a few seconds to even realize that he was in water. As soon as he did, panic replaced the relaxed unconscious state he was in and he immediately started to sink. He looked up and saw his boat 20 yards away floating down river at the same speed as he was moving. He was able to swim over and get back on the boat. I said, "wow lucky you had a life preserver on." He said, "I did not have a life preserver on, those are for sissies."
The Main Point
|97 year old Leroy Whannel with his great grand kids|