Light Notes

He found a baby on the road, then decades later the veteran was shocked again

In the autumn of 1943 while on leave, US Army Pfc. Harold Buchanan found a baby on a narrow mountainous road in Missouri. More than seven decades later, the story came full-circle.
In the autumn of 1943 while on leave, US Army Pfc. Harold Buchanan found a baby on a narrow mountainous road in Missouri. More than seven decades later, the story came full-circle. Jorene Ewald and Harold Buchanan

The tree-lined hills and valleys beckoned the young Army private as his ’35 black Chevy hugged the narrow road, a hairpin curve almost upon him. Basic US Army training was behind and the war just ahead, his 3-day leave wedged in between for saying good-byes.

But before the fading autumn sun could dim the burnished foliage, this 18-year old would be called to serve in a way he couldn’t have imagined.

“There was a valley, we called it a gully, kind of in a rough area with a sharp curve. When I went around that curve, I looked and I saw something on the side of the road,” Harold Buchanan said in his warm southern voice, clearly remembering the drive. “I didn’t know what it was so I went on down a bit to where I could pull out of the road.”

Back in 1943, Highway 5 between Ava and Mansfield, Mo., was a narrow country-type lane, of sorts. Harold described it as black-top, not gravel like so many others in those parts. But even though it was a bit better for travel, you’d still have to pull way over on a curve to let an oncoming car drive by, grass growing along the shoulder of a drop-off into the ravine below.

With his 2-door sedan safely parked on the edge, what the hawk-eyed soldier saw changed the course of that day.

“It was a tiny, little baby laying right there on the side of the road. I didn’t see anything else right at that moment but that little baby, so I picked it up. My mother was waiting in the car and I came over and handed the baby to her,” 93-year-old Harold said, reflecting on being there at just the right time. “There were no cars that came while I was doing that, but easy they could have run over that baby.”

With the little girl now safe in his mother’s arms, Pfc. Buchanan took a quick looksee over the valley and the boulders piled at the top of the road. Immediately, he spied a red convertible at the bottom and sprang into action, climbing over rocks and thick brush. There, he found a young woman pinned under the car, her husband thrown nearby with neck and shoulder injuries.

“I only weighed 121-pounds then,” said Harold thinking back to the heavy convertible teetering on some rocks, “So I have no idea, other than the help of the good Lord, how I bent down and raised up that car and pulled the lady out! Her leg was bleeding, so I ripped off the sleeve of my shirt and I tied it around her leg in an attempt to stop the blood from flowing.”

At a time long before cell phones, the military man knew it was up to him to see that this family had medical care before much more time passed. While the sturdy woman steadied herself against him, step by step they neared the top.

“When I got to the steep rocks there – it was quite a drop at that point – I said, ‘Now look, let me try to carry you over this, if I can,” Harold said, thinking back to his surprising strength at that moment.

Worn out but determined, Harold then headed back down the deep gully for the husband. In short order, the couple and their little girl were under a doctor’s care in the next town over, then whisked away to a hospital more than fifty miles away. A brief good-bye fading with sound of the siren.

Within days, Harold went on to Camp Livingston in Alexandria, La., where he served with Company D under General George S. Patton. Fortuitously and unexpectedly, he stayed stateside the remainder of World War II as a cook for the maneuver training camps, one in the Louisiana “piney woods” that mimicked the lush forests of Germany.

Throughout the war years and since, he has had many a story to tell: Like how he met his future wife at a little church two blocks from the Alexandria USO; love at first sight and his bride at war’s end for a 74-year marriage. Or how he felt God’s call to serve as a pastor and the way prayers were answered, sometimes in miraculous ways.

In his later years, Harold has wondered many a time what happened to that baby girl he rescued roadside. Then, just a couple of years ago outside the Cracker Barrel restaurant near Brookfield, Florida, the town he lived at the time, that recollection came full circle.

“It was just pouring down rain and I was standing there waiting on a friend who was going to meet me there,” Harold said, reminding how the big porch with rockers is a good place to wait. “This lady came out, her and her husband, and it was pouring down rain and they said, ‘Oh, it’s raining and we need to get on the road!’

In typical Harold style, he took action and offered his umbrella. Now protected from the deluge, her husband could get to their pickup-fifth wheel rig out back, and then drive up in front of the porch.

While Harold and the woman stood under the overhang, their conversation turned to where the couple would be heading. Her answer was Missouri and then she added, “Ava”, the same place this veteran had grown up.

“And she said, ‘Yes, I was born there,’” Harold said, retelling with excitement what happened when he told her his name. “Oh, she almost went into orbit! She said, ‘My daddy and mother have told me the story about when they had a wreck and I fell out of the car, and I was on the road and you picked me up!”

After more than seven decades, Harold was at the right place at the right time … God’s perfect timing once again.

It seems some answers may come this side of heaven when we serve another with kindness. Something as simple as offering an umbrella to a stranger.

Lucy note: Rev. Harold Buchanan’s story idea came from retired Registered Nurse Lorna Runge when their paths crossed in Kennewick. He serves as district superintendent for the Bible Missionary Church in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada.

Lucy Luginbill is a syndicated Tri-City Herald columnist, religion editor and career public television producer and host. Her popular Light Notes column reflects inspirational and faith-focused stories. She’s been working in journalism for more than 30 years.
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