The Death of a Road Commissioner

T■ By Rob Lindquist

he year was twenty-seven when the spillway done give out.
‘Rain, it come in torrents, fer two weeks, round about.

The spillway failed and then a flood, the worst we ever saw,
‘Left the river clean of boulders; the canyon stripped and raw.

It drowned Montgom’ry Webster, horse and pack horse, sure as hell.
‘Took the old man down the river in the flood’s almighty swell.

‘Pinned two men against a boulder in the rapids raging fury.
One cried, “Help me out’a this!” the other, “What’s yer hurry?”

A phone line saved those fellers; someone tied it to a rope,
Then pulled the hawser toward those men as their last and final hope.

O’Dell, he nearly drown’d that day; ‘Got knocked square on the head.
He slipped into the torrent and was counted out for dead.

They heard him holler “Save me!” his voice came weak and thin.
“Oh boys, we’ve gotta help him!” “Can anybody swim?”

Van Fleet came to the rescue with his bow and arrow sure.
‘Wrapped a candy bar and dressing in waxed paper well secured.

Charlie pulled the bowstring sent the package in the air
To the stranded man now heartened on his island standing there.

They found Mont Webster’s body in a pile of trees and brush.
He was carried sev’ral miles in that river’s mighty rush.

His pack horse was impaled by a limb off a sycamore.
It struggled out’a the flood’s embrace to die upon the shore.

Montgomery’s horse was never found ‘flood took it, hide ‘n all.
It sank into the sandy bed to leave an empty stall.

My story, now, has got to end with nineteen twenty-seven,
When the spillway broke, and then a flood sent Webster up to Heaven.

 

Swift Collection
Hemet Lake’s dam was already overflowing Feb. 16, 1927 when its adjacent earthen spillway was over-run by the rising water. The result was a flood that found the San Jacinto river course flooded all the way to Perris. Montgomery Webster, who housed “Ramona” author Helen Hunt Jackson when she came to the valley years before, was a County Road Commissioner at the time of his death.

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