MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Another long collaboration has ended with a recent death. This collaboration was between a man, Wesley Hill, and a piece of nature, Niagara Falls.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Where there are awe inspiring natural phenomena, there are daredevils. Those daredevils sometimes need to be rescued when their plans don't work out quite as they had hoped. At Niagara Falls that person, the rescuer, was Wesley Hill. He died last Monday at age 76.
NORRIS: In the course of his career on the Niagara River, he is said to have recovered the bodies of hundreds of people who died in the water and he saved more than 50 people from death.
Mr. WESLEY HILL (Niagara River Rescuer): The only things that I ever seen come out that survived was Roger Woodward, a young boy come over with a life jacket on.
MIKE WATERS reporting:
He was about seven at time wasn't he?
Mr. HILL: Yeah, he was about seven years old. A collie dog came over the falls and lived one time. It was badly bruised, one leg was broken, but it lived. And another time I got a small deer that came over the falls and lived.
NORRIS: That's Wesley Hill speaking with the late NPR host Mike Waters in 1976.
SIEGEL: The Hill family was full of river men. Wesley's brother, William Hill, Jr., “Red” Hill, died in 1951. He was trying to go over the falls in a barrel made of inner tubes in front of a crowd of 200,000 spectators. Another brother and their father also worked on the river.
Mr. HILL: Rescue work on the Niagara River is kind of a tradition. Although my dad at one time said that anyone that went over the falls in a barrel was crazy or else he wanted to commit suicide. My dad himself had went through the rapids and that but people have done that in a boat.
NORRIS: And here's one last piece of Mike Waters's 1976 story about Wesley Hill and the experience of being on the Niagara River.
WATERS: What was it like going over the falls. What was it like in a auditory sense, which is after all the media we work in. So we took a tape recorder and we put it inside a metal drum and we released it above the falls in the hope that it would be carried over the falls and you'd be able to hear the sound that very few men heard and lived to tell about it. The wind was not playing along with us and it was swept to shore. We made two attempts without any success but we are able to bring you the sound that they heard at least in the rushing water above the falls. This is what it was like.
(Soundbite of Niagra Falls)
SIEGEL: The sound of the Niagara River in 1976 from a profile of river rescuer Wesley Hill. He died last Monday of natural causes at the age of 76.