'Snow baby' of Wakarusa delivered with the help of a snowmobile and a bag of sugar
No hysterics and no panic. To Dr. James Miller, Angela Carol King’s birth was another “routine” delivery.
But when Angela was born 36 years ago, her parents’ house was buried after the worst snowstorm in Elkhart County history.
Dixie and Steven King’s second child was delivered — at home — at 9:12 p.m. on Jan. 27, 1978, the day after the epic “Blizzard of ‘78” had begun.
To family and old friends, Angie is “the snow baby.”
“I really don’t remember that I was concerned about him getting there,” Dixie said of Miller, who endured a harrowing nighttime snowmobile ride to reach the King’s home on Ash Road, west of Wakarusa.
Drifting snow made all county roads impassable, so Miller, driven by a local police officer, grabbed a prepared physician’s bag and became the first special delivery of the night.
“From every fence post along (C.R.) 40, you went up this way and then down that way on the drift ... about every 20 feet it was up and then down,” said Miller, 80, who’s mostly retired, though he does log one day a week at the walk-in clinic in Wakarusa.
“We eventually got there, but it was very slow going,” he said. “I got there and I think she delivered about an hour or two later. We weren't in a rush.”
“I was probably six or seven years before I fully understood what happened,” said Angie, now married to Will Geith. The Geith family, which includes Riley, 7, Skylar, 5, and Cooper, 1, live in Raliegh, N.C.
“The family still talks about it a lot. Hearing about the story doesn’t get old,” Angie said. “It’s cool to say you were born at home in a blizzard.”
“We called the doctor the day after the storm,” said Dixie, who with Steve, are serving as missionaries in Higashimurayama-shi, Japan until 2017. They've been near Tokyo since 2007.
“We had a storm two weeks before and the ambulance crew called us,” Dixie said, “and others in neighborhood that they were all prepared to drive out if needed. But they were talking about four-wheelers.”
Days went by before road traffic was deemed safe, so the snowmobile arrangement was required. Miller said in the late-1960s, he rode the fender of a tractor following a storm to deliver a child for Gary Eby, but he’d never been taken by snowmobile.
And he hasn’t needed to since.
“Fortunately, she wasn’t overdue, and the baby wasn’t real large so I didn’t have any problem at all,” Miller said. “Had it been a 10-pound baby, I didn’t have any forceps. I figured if she was average, we’d be alright.
Officially, Angie weighed in at five pounds, give or take an ounce or two.
“Right before she was born, I remember saying, “Give me something, give me something,”’ Dixie said. “And Dr. Miller said it was too late. He just sat there in the rocking chair and rocked between contractions. That was very comforting for me.”
In absence of a baby scale, Dixie said Miller created his own way to weigh Angie.
“We got him a five-pound bag of sugar. He held the bag in one hand and the baby in the other,” Dixie said. “He said, ‘Yup, about five pounds.’’’
“Everyone called her the “snow baby.” The people at church, friends, relatives, we’d talk about it every year and Angie grew up hearing about it every year.”
Angie’s birthday, though, has a rival in her family’s history. A grandfather she never knew — Dixie’s father — told of an eerily similar tale about when he was born in 1915.
“He’d always tell me stories about when the doctor came to their house and how a horse and sleigh went over fence posts in the snow to get him there,” Dixie said. “I guess history does have a way of repeating itself.
“It’s so much fun to think back to the memories.”