Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #108
…Tossed onto the sprawling mud like a toy, fully three hundred yards from permanent water, at a staggering 20 degree angle, the River Queen boasts many survivors…
Father Ferrell had thought he would be on his own in his search for James and Abbey, alone in a strange city renowned for its crime and disease.
At least he will not be alone.
At least they are still alive.
Tossed onto the mud like a toy, fully three hundred yards from permanent water, at a staggering 20 degree angle, the River Queen boasts many survivors. But it is horribly out of place at its present semi-dry dock. It may take the spring flood waters to naturally return it to sufficient buoyancy.
Until then, James and Abigail wonder, how on earth rescuers will negotiate the swampy wild, especially considering the pockets of quasi-satisfied alligators; scavenging the dead fish and distressed wildlife. Those who chose a lifeboat that did not stay upright, meet the same repulsive fate. So distasteful is the scene, not even the biggest, toughest, manly man is able to stomach it. In fact, the crew has closed all exterior deck to passengers. They have food and water. A radio will be their contact with the outside world.
“I know this isn’t how you expected your cruise on the Queen to end, but things may have turned out much worse,” relates Captain Phileas Longfellow. His foreknowledge of a spectacular rescue effort has him choosing his words carefully. He asks of already shaken cruisers, “How many of you have read the book, Around the World in Eighty Days?” About one-half of the seventy-five hands are raised. “Jules Verne is my mother’s favorite author, the inspiration for my first name. I do not consider myself an equal of Phileas Fogg, but we will soon have something in common with the fictional balloonist of globetrotting fame..”
They are given a firm clue of what is in store. For folks who have never been higher than the fourth floor of a big city building, the thought of ballooning is more than a stretch.
“I can see that some of you may be afraid of heights, but I have been told that it is the only way we are going to get out of here. Those of you who know you have a problem with heights, please come forward and we will match you with people who are not. Remember it is the only way we can get back to New Orleans.”
James and Abigail look at each other. Newly wed, they have much to learn about each other. This topic is one that has eluded those celebrating their golden anniversary.
“I have jumped from the loft in our biggest barn,” Abbey says proudly, speaking of her short term role as a tomboy.
“I have a tree fort in the tallest oak on Hillside Estate.” James describes his prowess as a boys-boy.
Captain Longfellow describes the operation further. “The Army Air Corps, stationed at Fort Pickens… that is at Pensacola… are sailing twelve balloons from their aerial observation unit. They will begin arriving here in when wind conditions allow, needing a southeast quartering direction for optimum flying. Beside the balloonist, they hold six people. The flights will be spaced fifteen minutes apart. The crew will stay with the River Queen.
“Lastly, as close as we can do it, we are going to evacuate according to the age of the individual or the average age of a family grouping. This is at my discretion–so ladies, please refrain from exaggerating your age–opposite to what you are used to.”
‘Well I never’, is the consensus common comment of women truly over 35, secretly hoping to pass for 45 or 50.
“That would place us on the last balloon,” laments the undeniably youthful Abigail. In the meantime, they have a ringside view of one of the most amazing rescues in the history of this low-lying country.