This is ~ Chapter 8 ~ from Our Glory Stories.
MY ANGEL STORY By Roger
“Destruction may seem imminent but My power to save is omnipresent.” Father
The state of Alabama has two major rivers that run from north to south. The one on the west side of the state is the Tombigbee River, and the one on the east side is the Alabama River. These two large rivers merge just a few miles north of Mobile, Alabama, to form one huge river that flows into Mobile Bay and then the Gulf of Mexico. The oil field where I worked as a pumper is located about 60 miles upstream from the Gulf in the “v” that is formed by these two rivers converging together. Work crews were transported to the field in the summer months by truck, approximately 25 miles from Jackson, Alabama. During this time, river levels were typically low and the roads were open and accessible. However, in the winter months the rivers usually flooded and high water conditions made the roads impassible. During these months we used crew boats on the flooded rivers to reach the oil field. Conditions were dangerous on the high water rivers. There were ocean going tugs and barges on these rivers which ran in all types of weather; good and bad, foggy and clear! Winter temperatures were bone chilling and often near the freezing mark. The water temperature was low enough that anyone getting dunked could quickly suffer from hypothermia.
It is in this wintertime setting that my angel story took place. I was working day shift. It had been a long day and I was eager to see the end of the shift. All the guys at Tank Battery #2 headed towards the two crew boats that sat at the dock on the river. We began the nine mile trip down the Alabama River headed for Tank Battery #1 to pick up the rest of the crew. The air was especially cold that evening. I was longing for home, a hug from Gerri and the kids and a long, hot shower.
My Uncle Joe was the Field Superintendent and was operating the larger of the two crew boats. He headed away from the dock at #1 and down the river. The guys and I in the smaller boat fell in behind. We were headed down river a couple of miles to a cut off that would take us across the swamp to the Tombigbee River where we would turn upriver to the landing we used as a base for the boats. This cut off saved us several miles and a great deal of time. We hadn’t gone very far from Tank Battery #1 when the motor on our boat sputtered and quit! Water in the gas tank was a constant problem in the damp swamp. While this was not an unusual occurrence, it was getting late, it was now very cold, the river was raging and we could not allow ourselves to drift by the cut off. If we missed that turn in the river we would drift all the way to Mobile, and it would be very difficult for others to find us. It didn’t take long for an air of concern to begin surfacing amongst the crew!
Amid all the turmoil, we all were very mindful of the extreme danger of the ocean-going tugs and barges that they push. They could run over our little boat and never know it! 19 As a couple of the guys began working on the engine problem, I got on the marine radio and called the May Day to our other boat. They were now around a bend in the river and out of sight. There was only silence on the radio. No response! I called again. No response! We all became aware that we were on our own with nightfall quickly approaching. What do we do now? We all agreed we could not drift by the cut off! Buster, the electrician, and I got out of the enclosed cab and stood on the front deck of the boat in hopes that we could grab something hanging over the bank of the river that would give us a place to tie off until we could get the engine running. Shortly, we both grabbed overhanging branches and then realized that the current was too swift and the boat too heavy for us to do any good. Just as we both were about to let go of the branches or be pulled into the water, Buster’s branch broke. Whack! It hit me square in the back. Into the frigid waters I went. I was drawn fully under the surface of the water. The shock of the very cold temperatures took my breath. I quickly bobbed to the surface with my cap and glasses still firmly in their right place. My mind was racing with all the circumstances. I was in danger. I was wet and cold. I had on long underwear, winter clothes, heavy boots, and my new down filled jacket, all of which were now totally water soaked. The crew boat engine wasn’t running. It was now drifting backwards downstream and out of sight. My good friend and supervisor, Larry Godwin, was screaming from the boat, “Are you alright? Rog, are you alright?” Larry was in full panic mode because just one year earlier he had been present when an employee had drowned on the company site. What pain and panic he must have been experiencing as he thought he was reliving the nightmare and that once again the river might claim another victim. Suddenly I realized that I still had a firm grip of the tree branch I had grabbed before I went into the water. I heard Larry yelling and I yelled back. I assured him I was OK. “I’m a good swimmer and I will be alright,” I hollered.
The boat disappeared around the bend and I turned my heart to my Best Friend. “Lord, what do I do now? Do I get out of these heavy wet clothes and make an attempt to swim towards the boat or do I just hold on to this branch?” The branch I was holding was the tree top of a small sapling that had fallen over the bank when the river had risen to wash away the bank’s soil. I made the decision that although the top of the bank was about eight feet above me, I would try to pull myself up this little sapling to the top of the bank. I began inching my way up and got about half way when the roots broke and dropped me back into the frigid river water. The tree was still attached to the bank and I still had a firm grip on it. I couldn’t give up, so I tried again only to get the same result. Down again I went back into the water and still holding on for dear life! Where is the boat now, I wondered? Did they miss the cut off?
By this time, I am really cold. Again I asked, “Lord, what should I do?” While considering all my options, suddenly I heard something in the woods above me. I looked up and to my utter surprise two men in camouflaged hunting clothes were looking down over the bank right at me! They both extended their rifles down to me. I took hold and they lifted me up out of the water, wet clothes, boots and all and stood me firmly on the ground!
I immediately asked “Where did you guys come from? How did you know where I was?” They said, “We were in the swamp hunting and heard all the yelling and commotion and decided we’d better come and see what the problem was.” The next instant I heard my friend, Larry, yelling. “I’m coming, Rog. I’m coming!” Realizing he was behind me running along the river bank and not in the boat, I turned around to face him as he was laboring at a full run towards me along with Buster, the electrician, close behind. While running full speed, Larry ripped off his winter jacket and he had it extended out in front of him. He almost knocked me down as he wrapped the jacket around me and held me embraced tightly in his arms, hoping his body heat would stop my shaking. Hypothermia had already begun to set in, and I was having difficulty forming any words and getting them out!
Larry exclaimed, “How did you get up that bank?” I replied, “Those two hunters picked me up out of the water.” Larry thinking I must be hallucinating said, “What two hunters?” I turned back around to face them and to my total shock and amazement, THEY WERE GONE! As quickly as they had appeared, they had disappeared! I turned to Larry and Buster and said, “They were right here when you yelled at me. I was talking with them when I heard you yell at me! I could see you and you could see me and they were right here, I swear, they were right here!”
With a puzzling look, Larry said, “Rog, Buster and I didn’t see anyone with you. We didn’t see anybody but you.” It was totally impossible for Larry and Buster not to have seen the two men who rescued me. There were no large trees or bushes to block the view along that river bank. It was not dark, and we were all very close together. Even dressed in the camo, when the hunters moved, Larry and Buster should have been able to distinguish the movement as they walked away! As I pondered this later, I realized two normal men could not have lifted me with ease up out of the river and stood me on my feet on the ground. I am 6 foot 4 inches tall and weigh over 200 lbs without clothes. I have no idea what I must have weighed soaking wet in all those clothes, but it was well over 200 lbs!
I am absolutely convinced that My Heavenly Father sent in reinforcements. How did they know exactly where I was over that bank and down in the river? How could they possibly have walked up to the EXACT spot on that bank and looked over to find me in the river? How could they have lifted all my weight and the weight of my soaking clothes up so high to the top of that bank in one motion and then just DISAPPEAR into the woods without being seen by anyone but me? Thank You Father for angels on assignment!
“For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service].” Psalm 91:11 AMP