Wednesday, July 24, 2024

MendoThrowback: Big Bro Saves Little Bro from Drowning in Willits Lake After Ice Gives Way 


Combing newspaper archives, MendoFever will work hard to provide a MendoThrowback every day of the calendar year to remind residents of days long gone. 

[A collage of clippings from the February 3, 1938 edition of the Ukiah Republican Press]

12-year-old Gordon Gunderson, along with a group of friends, threw care to the wind and slid across the ice that covered the lake at Willits’s Cavagnaro Ranch located a mile north of town on the east side of Sherwood Road. 

Disaster struck when the ice gave way pulling little Gordie into the frigid waters. Without missing a beat, his brother answered the call, Macgyvered a solution, and pulled his little bro from the lake before he drowned.

A brief article in the February 3, 1938 edition of the Ukiah Republican Press details the account of childhood naivete meets heroism. 

Little Gordie and his buddies were reportedly “sliding” on the ice, being “venturesome,” when his hubris took hold and he was drawn to the middle of the lake. 

Standing atop the thin ice, Little Gordie suddenly broke through and supposedly “went to the bottom which is quite deep at that place.” Conscious enough to return to the surface, Little Gordie ascended and held onto the edge, gripping the ice, hoping for help.

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Never fear, ingenious big brother is here. Seeing his little bro in need, big bro “got a long pole which he pushed out far enough for Gordon to grab hold of and he then was pulled over the ice.” 

You might think the young man might catch a cold in the aftermath of his ice bath, but after returning to stable footing, Little Gordie and company reportedly ran back to town and this exercise “kept Gordon from catching a cold and he is now none the worse for his ice bath.”


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  1. My brother and I both broke through the ice at Donner Lake in 1967. It was making sounds as we walked out on it near the state park. Talk about cold! We broke ice with our elbows until it got thick enough to crawl up on. Ran to the house and stripped in front of the heater. We could not tell our sex due to extreme shrink.


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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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