Obeyed & Disobeyed: "I Witnessed A Drowning"


Author's Note: I decided to write a story about some of my activities to give to my friends, especially my old friends, who I have worked with or who knew me at the time (ca. 1895). If I could have gotten into this story all I would have liked, it would have made a pretty good sized book.

By William R. Smith - 1956

When I was about 15 years old, we lived across the river from the town of Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky. We kept a boat on which to cross the river. I had to cross the river to go to school, so we would let people take the boat across. If we didn't need it, or if we were going to need the boat before they came back, I would set them across myself.

One day, or rather afternoon, a preacher, his wife, a lady, and her little girl, about seven years old, came along and wanted to cross over to Jackson. The preacher asked if he might take the boat and cross over. I told him, "Yes, sir." So they went on down the bank to the boat.

I went on repairing the garden fence, at the time, and got busy nailing on paling. There was a dam across the river, just below about 200 yards. The water was pouring over the dam very rapidly. The water above the dam was about 10 or 12 feet deep and only three or four feet deep below the dam.

By this time, I heard screaming, and I turned around and looked. There they were going down, down, down toward the dam. The preacher, instead of taking the boat upstream a little ways to get away from the draw of the dam, tried to go straight across. When he got out into the current of the river, it began to draw the boat downstream. I knew they were going over the dam.

Though I was just a boy telling those older folk what to do, I knew what they should do. I had gone that way before. I had experienced that way, practicing, going over the dam at a certain stage, and the river was in this stage then. So, I told all of them to sit down in the boat and be still. Then I told the preacher to straighten the boat, [pointing] up and down the river, and they would go over alright.

Now you see what I meant by my subject at the beginning, "obeyed and disobeyed." The preacher and his wife obeyed and went over the dam in the boat; their feet a little wet, but they were alright.

"Disobeyed" is the sad part. The little girl jumped out into the deep water, just before they reached the dam. The mother jumped out after her, and they both went under the water. As they came back up, they went right over the dam. The little girl got caught under the water. Her clothes got caught in some way, and we couldn't find her for half an hour. The mother was rescued.

"Oh, Lord Jesus, it pays to obey."

Now, if the boat had gone over sideways, it would have turned over, and all of them would have drowned. You see, the mother of the little girl jumped right out after her to drown with the little girl, but the hands of Providence kept her from drowning.

There you see the moth-er's love, don't you? A moth-er's love for her own children is great, but Jesus' love for everyone is greater. There is no love that excels, exceeds, or surpasses Jesus' love. I know that. When He died on the cross for sin and to set me free, and you, also, He showed that love.

Then Peter said unto them, "Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38)."

Praise the Lord. I did that very thing, and I am so happy! "Lord Jesus, help us to trust and obey," for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Little children, obey your parents in the Lord that your days may be long on the earth!


William R. Smith, at the time this story was written, lived at 613 Fourth Avenue, Sidney, OH. His daughter, Mrs. J. Wright, Troy, OH 45373, kindly shares this story with our readers.