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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/385

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371
HOW TO PREVENT DROWNING.

mare, but, when the mare was not to hand, he took the first horse that offered.

The loss of life from shipwreck, boating, bathing, skating, fishing, and accidental immersion is so disastrously great, that every feasible procedure calculated to avert it ought to be had recourse to. People will not consent to wear life-preservers, but, if they only knew that in their own limbs, properly used, they possessed the most efficient of life-preservers, they would most likely avail themselves of them. In every school, every house, there ought to be a slate tank of sufficient depth, with a trickle of water at one end and a siphon at the other, in order to keep the contents pure. A pail or two of hot water would at any time render the contents sufficiently warm. In such a tank every child from the time it could walk ought to be made to tread water daily. Every adult, when the opportunity presents itself, should do so. The printed injunction should be pasted up on all boat-houses, on every boat, at every bathing-place, and in every school. "Tread water when you find yourself out of your depth" is all that need be said, unless, indeed, we add, "Float when you are tired." Every one, of whatever age or sex, or however encumbered with clothing, might tread water with at least as much facility, even in a breaking sea, as a four-footed animal does. The position of a person who treads water is, in other respects, very much safer, and better than is the sprawling attitude which we assume in ordinary swimming. And then the beauty of it is that we can tread water without any preliminary teaching, whereas "to swim" involves time and pains, entails considerable fatigue, and is very seldom adequately acquired, after all.

The Indians on the Missouri River, when they have occasion to traverse that impetuous stream, invariably tread water just as the dog treads it. The natives of Joanna, an island on the coast of Madagascar, young persons of both sexes, walk the water, carrying fruit and vegetables to ships becalmed, or it may be lying-to, in the offing miles away. Some Kroomen, whose canoe upset before my eyes in the seaway on the coast of Africa, walked the water, to the safe-keeping of their lives, with the utmost facility; and I witnessed negro children on other occasions doing so at a very tender age. At Madras, watching their opportunity, messengers, with letters secured in an oil-skin cap, plunge into the boiling surf, and make their way, treading the water, to the vessels outside, through a sea in which an ordinary European boat will not live. At the Cape of Good Hope men used to proceed to the vessels in the offing through the mountain-billows, treading the water as they went with the utmost security. And yet here, on our own shores, and amid smooth waters, men, women, and children perish like flies annually, when a little properly-directed effort—treading the water as I have said—would haply suffice to rescue them every one.—Nature.