As a boy, William found adventure in the great outdoors, but he also had some close calls with his life. He related a few stories that had to do with nearly drowning. When he was about five years old he was walking on a six-inch beam over a mill creek, about 120 feet above the mill. Halfway across the beam he slipped and fell into the swift waters which swept him toward the 12-foot water wheels. Next to the water wheels were spill gates dumping water onto the boulders below. William lost consciousness when he fell into the water and woke up to find himself in the arms of his rescuer, a farmer who was just returning from market with his cattle.
Another time William was ice skating on a pond and fell through the ice. "How I got out of the pond is a marvel to me. The ice kept giving away, yet in my eightieth year, I am here to tell of it."
He found out he could swim when he slid off of a fish dike into the water, "...with my back turned to the dam. This left me in a position where I couldn't even try to swim. I, with my feet, felt a plug of wood in the deepest part of the dike. I then realized I had to do my best to swim. I reached the top of the water and couldn't even open my eyes to know which direction I was going. I thought if I could hold out till I struck something, I would be all reight. When my eyes were dried, I found myself in the bullrushes." He turned around to see the dike well behind him. "There I was standing in bewilderment, thinking to myself, I know now I can swim."
Boys will be boys, and even though he nearly drowned a number of times, he was not deterred from exploring and having fun.