Sep 1, 2009

Giveaway & The Retelling of William “Red” Hill’s Famous Rescues~Guest Post by Cathy Marie Buchanan, Author

The Burton Review is pleased to present the following guest post by Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Day The Falls Stood Still, which released August 25, 2009 by Hyperion/Voice.The Day The Falls Stood Still (USA edition)

The Retelling of William “Red” Hill’s Famous Rescues


William “Red” Hill (right) - Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library
When I set out to write a novel capturing the wonder I feel while standing at the brink of Niagara Falls, the life of William “Red” Hill, Niagara’s most famous riverman, was a natural place to find inspiration. Like my imagined riverman, he had an uncanny knowledge of the Niagara River and extraordinary courage. It was said he could predict the weather simply by listening to the roar of the falls, that he would wake in the night knowing he would find a body tossing in the river the following day. In his lifetime (1888-1942) he hauled 177 bodies from the river and rescued 29 people. His two most famous rescues are recounted in The Day the Falls Stood Still.

Ice bridge – George Barker, Library and Archives Canada, PA-056072

In the years before a floating ice boom was installed across the upper end of the Niagara River, an ice run from Lake Erie sometimes resulted in a bridge of ice linking the American and Canadian shores of the river at the base of the falls. The first of Red Hill’s famous rescues−the ice bridge rescue−took place in 1912. That year, temperature and wind conditions were ideal for the formation of an ice bridge, and from late January until February 4th, visitors came from far and wide to view the bridge. The most daring ventured out onto the ice to sled on the ice mound at Prospect Point, enjoy a sleigh ride, or visit the shanties selling light fare, liquor, photographs and curios. At noon time, with close to 35 people, including Red Hill, out on the ice, the bridge rumbled ominously and broke free. Red Hill recognized the sound, and headed for shore, calling out for others to follow him. With all but four adventurers cleared from the ice and what remained of the bridge drifting toward the Whirlpool Rapids, the floe began breaking up into smaller cakes. Red Hill was credited with rescuing Ignatius Roth, one of the adventurers still on the ice. The fate of the remaining three, Burrell Hecock and Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge Stanton, is described in The Day the Falls Stood Still:

“Workmen dropped ropes to the threesome from the Lower Steel Arch Bridge. The boy managed to grab hold of one but was dangling forty feet above the river when his strength gave out. The man caught a makeshift line made from three coils of insulated telephone wire, but it came apart as he was tying it around his wife’s waist. They were on their knees, praying in each other’s arms, some said, when their bit of ice overturned.”

Ice bridge tragedy. The speck on the largest cake of ice is Burrell Hecock. – Niagara Fall (Ontario) Public Library The second of Red Hill’s famous rescues occurred on August 6, 1918, when a scow dredging the entrance of a hydroelectric canal on the river broke free of its tug and drifted toward the falls with two deckhands aboard. After becoming lodged on a rock shoal just a short way from the falls, the men worked feverishly, shifting much of the scow’s load to its bow and building a makeshift windlass from timbers pulled from the scow’s interior. A lifeline gun arrived from a nearby Life Saving Station, and a line was successfully shot to the men from the roof of one of the powerhouses on the river. By the time the line was secured to the windlass, darkness had arrived. When the lines of the breeches buoy, meant to transport the men to safety, became snarled, Red Hill went out along the lines but was unable to untangle the buoy. At dawn, he journeyed out again. The scene is described in The Day the Falls Stood Still, except that it’s my imagined riverman Tom Cole, hanging from the lines.

“The scow is held back from the brink by a bit of rocky ledge and yet it serves as anchor to the lines Tom is dangling from. Should that scow shift in the torrent of the upper rapids, should the bit of rock give way, the scow along with the tangled lines, the pulley and sling, and Tom will be pitched over the falls.”

Red Hill’s second attempt was successful, and the stranded men were returned to shore. The scow still remains at the same spot where it became stuck in 1918.

Scow rescue – Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public LibraryBorn and bred in Niagara Falls, Red Hill’s rescues are stories I grew up with, bits of lore I imagined time and again as I gazed out at the old scow, as I passed by the plaque commemorating the ice bridge tragedy. With their retelling in The Day the Falls Stood Still, perhaps the rescues will captivate readers as they have me.The Burton ReviewA big thank you to Cathy Marie Buchanan for her wonderful insight into the majestic beauty of the Niagara and using it an intoxicating backdrop in her new book, The Day The Falls Stood Still.
See my review here, but suffice it to say, I enjoyed the novel immensely.
See the rest of Cathy's tour stops here.
Giveaway open to USA and Canada, and closes 9/19/09!
If you would like to enter for your chance to win a copy of this book please do all of the following or you will not be entered:

1. Follow this blog publicly via Google Friend/Followers
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I will email the winner who has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address. Good Luck!