Calico Rock Bridge

This isn’t the kind of material I usually post on my blog, but I ran across this photo and the memories flooded in. So, here we have it. It has a happy ending. My mother wrote her memories of this event, more accurate then mine I’m sure! See the end of the story after the photo for her corrections. 

The Hwy. 5 bridge at Calico Rock was built in the early 60’s. Vada Sheid was getting a lot of work done to roads, bridges and damns in north central Arkansas at the time. She was a mover and shaker in Arkansas politics!

My father was working on this bridge when catastrophe happened to my entire immediate family. My younger brother was in the Calico hospital ready to have his tonsils out. My mother was driving baby sister and me to Grandma’s house at Rodney so we could stay with her while she sat with brother during his hospital stay. Long story short; we had a head on collision on a blind hill on a frozen snow covered dirt road with two women in a hurry to get to their factory job. All five of us were damaged badly.

Here is a difficult part; school had been cancelled after the bus (driven by my uncle, Mom’s brother) left on his route. This road was part of the route but she didn’t know if he had already passed by or not. The factory had closed for the day but not before the women in the other car had left home. There was one house about 1/2 mile to the north that mom felt confident had a phone but the people didn’t usually stay there in the winter … they might not be home. There was another house – again about 1/2 mile to the south. She felt confident they would be home but knew they did not have a phone. So there was the decision of which way to walk with two broken children.

I remember waking up in the car and pulling my face away from the broken windshield and thinking, wow, when windshields break they really do look like a spiderweb. Then I remember falling out of the car into a bar ditch. I believe that’s what broke my arm. I saw my mother standing next to the other car telling the mangled and bleeding women she was going for help. They were partly laying in the car and partly in the red snow. We walked down the middle of the icy snow covered road. My sister was bleeding and I told mom my arm was broke. The next thing I remember was being in the house laying on a bed while people fussed over us. All I could think was please don’t let me bleed on this pretty quilt.

Somewhere in the next day or so my father had a boom drop on him while working on the bridge. He was the first person to survive such an accident. We all five spent the next several days together in the Calico Rock hospital. Brother had his tonsils out. Mom had both knees and ankles crushed in the accident and the doctors were amazed that she had been able to walk the distance she had. Sister was thrown from her car seat into the dash and had a crescent moon shaped cut above her left eyebrow. I had the broken right arm and 26 stitches in my neck, a tear not a cut, from the impact of the windsheild. they said my thick knotted scarf kept me from bleeding to death. Dad; he was in the hospital a very long time. They said he might never walk again after having a broken spine. He spent a long time at home recuperating but at the age of 75 (is that correct Dad?) he still works circles around a lot of younger folks.

We are a strong family. This photo taken of the Calico Bridge a few years ago after a snow has reminded me today of that fateful time. It is a happy ending. Everyone of us is still alive and well.

The bridge at Calico Rock crossing the White River.

Mom, when you read this please fill in any blanks and make corrections as you remember them.

Here is Mom’s remembrance of the events.

The school bus came upon the accident after we walked from the accident area.

The other vehicle came over the hill in the middle of the road.  I remember starting to brake and swerve, but it was too late, it was so quick, the hill was so short and not enough time to react. When I came to, I was holding your little 18 month old sister in my arms.  You were on the floor but aroused when I called out. Your sister was crying out from the time I came to for a very long time.  At least she was conscious. You held up better than your sister or I.

Cars didn’t have seat belts then, the seat your little sister was in was a converted car bed that was not sturdy, that had light weight hooks over the back of the front seat.

I couldn’t get my door or window open and the back window only rolled down a short way.  I was pinned into the seat with the steering wheel. I couldn’t move to get my door open. I had you try to get the door on your side open. I don’t recall if I could barely reach and open your door or if you were able to open it, but when it opened, the door flew all the way open and you fell out of the car and down into the bar ditch, it seemed so far.  Thank the lord, as he must have helped me, I was able to get out from under the steering wheel and slide to your side of the seat still holding your sister.  I was able to hold on and slide out the door and dropped to you. (Later when we looked at our car the steering wheel was smashed way back and down into the drivers seat.  It didn’t look like anyone could have survived or would have room to be behind the steering wheel).

We climbed up to the road, I was trying to get something to put over your sisters face to cover the blood.  I could barely reach through the opened window of the back seat to the diaper bag and get a diaper.  

I recall standing in the road holding your sister and you by my side trying to decide which way to go on the road.  When we decided to go south to the house where I knew people always were, you told me your arm was broken. I said to just let it hang down, so I held your other hand as we walked, after going to the vehicle and telling the people in the other car we were going for help. Someone acknowledged me.  I knew the school bus would be coming soon or it may have already gone by. I didn’t know what else to do at the time.  Your sister looked like her eye was torn and her head cut to the scull above it.

So we walked and walked and talked as we went.  When I could see the house I started screaming help to anyone that could hear me. You were hollering also.  Someone ran from the house. I told them to get help as there were people in the other car that were still alive.  I recall people running toward where the vehicles were and someone in the family was sent on further down the road to a house with a phone.  

The peoples vehicle had no water in it as it was below freezing and they didn’t have antifreeze. The people were very poor but full of compassion and helping.  They were wonderful. They laid you on a bed in the front room.  It seemed an eternity till the ambulance arrived and took us to the hospital in Calico Rock.   

Your dad and I had to take your sister to a town toward  Little Rock the same day to an eye specialist to see if she still had an eye. She was checked and initially treated, then we went back to the hospital in Calico Rock and re-admitted your sister.  Her eye appeared intact  (My mom, your grandmother, was with you and your brother when we got back).

They kept asking about me, I kept saying I was okay, just to take care of you two girls. 

Well, I guess I had been in shock, and went to pieces later and had to be sedated when it was all over and we decided for your brother to have his surgery since we were all there anyway.

I guess a mother and people do what they have to at impossible times. They have help from above.

It was some time later, when we were mostly recovered that your Dad had the boom fall on him. They were going to lower the boom, it was really tall and something went wrong and Dad was under the boom when it fell on him.  

The witnesses said that it was almost impossible for an adult to crawl through the cross arms of the boom, but when the boom hit your dad, they said his body was like a rubber band as it came through the cross members.

 The boom had knocked your dads hard hat off, he had a large cut over one ear and a chunk of his hip bone chipped off.  The boom was flat on the ground as your dads body was almost in a sitting position with his legs bent outward at the knees, and the outer members of the boom were on top of his knees/legs.  They thought dads legs had been cut off, but they weren’t.  Dads legs were severely injured without them being broken.

I don’t recall how long it took him to recover, it was so long.  But The Lord was with us that day also as he had been when we had our accident.

Dad was the 5th in the history of the company to have that boom fall on him, but the first to live through it.

There is nothing to say how we all made it but by the Grace of God.

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