HA! The old "now he tells me" - LOL!!!
Actually, if they did get erased (yes, the drive light was on steady), it likely only clobbered the directory because aside from the initial reset, the head never moved much. That said, I have an old "486" with a data recovery program that I can fire up. And the contents of the disks aren't too critical - just woulda been nice to get.
Reversed the cable and now the light is truly on all the time - previously it only came on (and remained on) after the modprobe command. Obviously, I put the cable back the way it was.