Tales from the Morgue: Saved by a dead horse

2012-08-10T10:15:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Saved by a dead horseJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 10, 2012 10:15 am  • 

We have all heard of people's lives being saved by animals. When a man fell down a well and was saved by a horse, one might imagine the horse pulled the man up as he clung to a rope. Visions of the Lone Ranger and Silver come to mind.

But this well was the site of more than one accident. The horse that saved the man did so by drowning and having its floating body hold the man up out of the water.

Back in 1910, the story probably kept a number of people from wandering about in the dark.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 13, 1910:




White Falls Forty Feet to the Bottom and Is Saved by a Dead Horse from Death by Drowning

BISBEE, Sept. 12.— W. A. White, a rancher from Hereford, had an experience Tuesday night that was enough to turn his hair gray. He fell into a deep well, which was partly filled with water and it was hours before he was rescued. Although not seriously injured by his fall White was crippled by a wrench given his back when he struck the water.

Mr. White was in Bisbee Tuesday with a load of garden truck from his ranch. On his way in from Hereford he noticed a buggy standing some distance from the road at a point between the wagon road bridge and the railroad tracks on the Hereford road, which is about fourteen miles from Bisbee.

White transacted his business in town and started for his ranch in the evening. When he reached the place on the road where he had seen the buggy in the morning it was very dark and he thought he heard someone call for help. He stopped his team and walked in the direction of where he had seen the buggy.

He had walked a short distance from the road when he felt himself dropping straight down. He fell what seemed to him a great distance when he struck the water and went down several feet. Rising to the surface of the water, White felt something big floating and drew himself up on it. After he had recovered himself he discovered that he was sitting on a dead horse which had bloated sufficiently to float and to hold up his weight.

For some time White was not able to do anything for himself, as his fall had hurt his back and had partly stunned him. After he regained all his faculties he set about to get out of the well. It was so dark that he could see nothing and could only estimate the distance to the top. The well was about four feet across and forty feet deep. White took his knife, which was unusually large, and cut steps and hand holds in the sides of the well. He thinks that it must have been about eight o'clock at night when he began digging the steps. He would dig a step on one side of the well and then reach across and dig one on the opposite side. Drawing himself up a step at a time he reached a place twelve feet from the top shortly before daylight, where he found a change in the ground and that the walls had partly caved in.

This condition of the sides of the well prevented him from getting higher. He had worked steadily for about nine hours digging out the steps to find that they would do him no good. During the time he was digging he would become exhausted from the strained position he was obliged to keep and would go down and rest for a few minutes on the dead horse.

Shortly after the day began to break White climbed up to where the well had caved in and while examining the situation he heard the sound of wheels on the road. He listened and said that he could tell by the sound that it was a buggy passing with one horse. He called for help and heard the man driving in the buggy drive up to White's team and say "Whoa, stand still," and then drive on. White continued to call for help, but the man in the buggy did not answer although White is sure that his cries for assistance were heard.

To be left in such a predicament by the man who was driving the buggy who did not even stop to see from where the calls for help came made White angry and his anger served as a tonic. He dragged himself up to the place where the well widened out and with his knife and a piece of rock cut a hole big enough to sit in. From this place he started to dig an upraise with his crude tools. When he had dug for about four feet he heard sounds of someone coming towards the well. He called out and Guy Welch from Hereford answered him. Welch had brought a rope and with the assistance of two hunters White was pulled out of the well.

Welch said that the man who had driven past the well in the early morning had stopped at Hereford and told him that there was someone in trouble up the road. He did not say what was the matter. Welch drove out as fast as he could and found White's team and heard his calls for help.

White stated that he suffered from the cold during the night and that at times his arms and hands ached so that he could hardly his his knife. He dropped the knife once and thought that it was lost, descending the well he found his only tool laying on the body of the horse. He was in the well for a little more than fifteen hours and while at times he said that he was very much discouraged he made up his mind that he would get out alive. He stated that he would have been killed had it not been for the horse that had had the misfortune to drown in the well.

White is very bitter against the man who after hearing his calls for help went off and left him in the well without even so much as making an investigation to see what the trouble was.

The horse that was drowned in the well belonged to Naco people who had been out the day before. It had fallen in and it was impossible to rescue it.


While the man in the buggy did eventually tell Welch that someone was in trouble, it certainly would have been nice if he could have checked the well and told White that he'd send help.

Where's Lassie when you need her?

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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