September 27, 2023

Letter to the Editor: My first ‘near death’ experience

It was Jan. 10, 1934, when I was only 10 days old and terribly sick ... probably double pneumonia according to my mother. She finally gave up on her “home treatment” and called Dr. Sayer who was located in St. Charles, just five miles west of our little village of St. Marys. He was at our farm home in short order, on a terribly cold night, with the thermometer at 10 below zero.

Finding my temperature at 106 degrees, he immediately took me out on the front porch to get it down. He told my parents that “Little Johnny” could have died right on the spot, and this probably saved my life. It was one of their best formulas back in those days. I survived.

My second “near death” experience. At about four years of age, I was playing in the front yard of our farm home after my older brother Bob, sister Theresa and brother Jim got on the school bus. For some reason, they left the front gate open, which was never to happen, with the CB&Q Railroad running parallel to the gravel road.

Wearing a little blue coat and cap, I was going to surprise my mother by getting the mail for her right after our mailman had left. At about the same time, a large steam-powered freight train was speeding our way from the west, not more than an eighth of a mile from our home. Whenever mom heard a train whistle, she habitually looked out the kitchen window, and what did she see ... little John heading back to get his cap which had blown off his head in a heavy wind, landing right on the tracks. She dashed off the front porch not touching the steps, across the front yard, out the gate, and grabbed me off those tracks, with the train whipping her skirt ... not a second to spare.

I remember mom telling this story time and again over the years with a quiver in her voice. We survived.

John McNeer