In 1935, I was Boone County’s representative at the American Red Cross Aquatic
School in Lake Lucerne, near Eureak Springs, Ark. We studied prevention of
water accidents, the rescue of people who couldn’t get back to safety and the
use of various types of equipment including boats, ring buoys, ropes, bamboo
poles and inner tubes.
We extended the bamboo pole when the victim was too far out to reach with a
device called a “shepherd’s crook,” which was heavier and more expensive
than bamboo. On shore, we coiled a rope like a lasso, stood on one end and
slung the other end out to pull a tired swimmer to safety. We also practiced
using wooden objects such as a chair, plank, log, ladder and even a farm gate
because wood floats.
What a value is a boat or ring buoy or shepherd’s crook if they are not within
running distance of the scene of the emergency? A swimmer who can’t get air
will likely suffer permanent damage in three minutes! There is not time to go
far for devices and not time for rescue crews to arrive in time to save the
Ten years after that aquatic school experience, one of my college students
brought me a photo from a Florida paper. A man was hanging onto the spare
truck wheel that had floated out of the back of his pickup when it was washed
off the road in a flash flood. That photo completely changed my way of
evaluating lifesaving equipment. The life was saved because a spare wheel
floated. And in almost every drowning situation, some kind of vehicle with a
spare wheel is within running distance of the site.
Drownings happen without warning. When someone is unable to get to safety
alone, it is advisable for even good swimmers to scream “HELP!” instead of
attempting a rescue. Even a best friend may become a wild, vicious animal when
he or she is fighting for one last breath!
People trained in lifesaving know how to defend themselves and how to release
strangleholds, but others should have a rescue device on shore, just in case.
There is such a device in almost every automobile. The spare tire and wheel
will float -- if it has air -- well enough to support several people at a
I know of no other rescue device that equals the spare tire because:
The rescuer is in no danger.
It can support an unconscious victim.
All the occupants of a boat or canoe can rest on the wheel while waiting for
There are millions of inflated spare tires!
You can read that a heavy spare wheel, metal and all, will float but there’s
believing if you try it out. Put a wheel in a lake, pond, pool or horse trough
and try to push it under water. Then you’ll join me -- and an army of others
who know that the wheel is “the greatest rescue device known.”
If every reader would try this and then tell tell 10 others, we would probably
save at least one more life this summer. Maybe even a loved one.