13 October 2010

All's Well that Ends Well - in the Well

Nothing gets your name in the paper - or your story on the 24-hour news channels - like falling down a well. From Tikki-Tikki-Tembo to the trapped Chilean miners, the price paid for your 15 minutes of fame can range from several hours to 69 days.


As the miners are being rescued this morning - practically 23 years to the day after "Baby Jessica" took her tumble in Midland, Texas - we can reflect on Hillsborough's entry into well lore. Here's the New York Times headline form October of 1932.

William Richter, a 53-year-old German immigrant from Union City was spending the weekend at a farm he owned in Hillsborough when he decided to investigate whether or not an old well on the property could be made serviceable.

Richter enlisted the aid of local teen Benny Kukuruza to help him get a ladder down the well. Richter went first, and was able to get to the bottom, but as Kukuruza started down, the walls of the well, built with rocks that had been dry-fitted without cement, began to crumble, trapping Richter.

Several of the larger stones pressed against his face and chest, immobilizing him. Fortunately, Kukuruza escaped the cave-in and was able to call for help.

After five hours of digging, rescue squad members Edward Haring and Harry Lambert were lowered into the well where they secured Richter to a rope which allowed the weekend farmer to be pulled to the surface.

Not surprisingly, it was the rescuer Haring who was taken to the hospital after the ordeal - suffering from nervous shock.

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