501 Life Magazine | My hero, my dad
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My hero, my dad

by Tommy Wallace

Most boys look at their dads as heroes. A “bigger than life” heroic moment for my dad took place when I was 14. We were vacationing in the Colorado Rockies and after a day of horseback riding, we ate at a restaurant before going back to our cabin on the Big Thompson River. 

The river was actually more like a small mountain creek, but the dark skies had started pouring buckets of rain. The little cabin was just yards from the river which, unbeknownst to us, was starting to rise. We settled in for the stormy evening. 

My youngest brother, Jonathan, and my mom had gone to bed while Dad made himself some hot chocolate. My brother, Tim, and I stayed up with dad, listening to the rain pouring down. Suddenly, someone outside started pounding on the cabin door.

William “Bill” Thomas Wallace of Conway passed away Feb. 22, 2019.

The lady who owned and cared for the cabins told us we had better get out because she had never seen so much water. Dad went to open the back door toward the river only to have the river flow into the cabin. He yelled for all of us to get out to the car and then the lights went out.

I held hands with my brothers, Tim and Jonathan, and, along with my mom, we waded through knee deep water, making it to the car. All four of us were in the car and waiting on Dad to join us. Lightning was flashing, water was rising and we waited. And waited. And waited. Suddenly, there was a huge flash of lightning and Dad, larger than life, comes through the cabin door and makes it through the water, across the parking lot to the car in two or three strides. Heroes are able to do that you know. He jumped in the car and fired up the engine to pull us out of the parking lot and onto the road.

Dad now had to make the decision on which way to turn. Before he could make that choice, people outside began beating on our car. We opened the doors and another family of five joined our five and our station wagon became an ark, growing to a population of 10. So, now our hero had to make the decision to turn right and go up river or left and cross the river on a bridge.

He told us afterward that he didn’t have a clue of what to do but felt that the Lord wanted him to turn left to cross the bridge. As often happens when we are following God’s direction, there is opposition and the family that had joined us began to scream for him to not cross the bridge. They were afraid it would be washed out.

Dad’s choice was made and he kept driving across the bridge before finding himself in the midst of a group of cars on the highest ground for miles around. The next morning I walked back to the bridge. Our cabin was reduced to splinters by the 20 foot wall of water that roared down the canyon that night. There were 143 people who lost their lives in that historical flash flood. My family survived because of our hero, my dad.