Better This Than Purgatory (Or Worse)
Thomas A. Droleskey
Suffering is part of the price of Christian discipleship. We are called to carry our crosses each and every day, offering all of the difficulties we encounter as the consecrated slaves of Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Indeed, this is still the month of September, the month of Our Lady of Sorrows. None of our sorrows or travails can compare in the slightest to the anguish Our Lady felt as the sword of sorrow that had been prophesied by Simeon at the Presentation pierced her Immaculate Heart as she stood so valiantly beneath the Cross of her Divine Son. Indeed, we should view it as our singular privilege as Catholics to understand the theology of redemptive suffering, realizing that each one of our crosses has been perfectly designed for us by God Himself from all eternity.
As I explained in my four part travelogue three months ago, travails are part of our travels. I have yet to find time to write up the travelogue of our summer speaking tour across the nation. However, as we encountered some particularly amazing adventures on Tuesday, September 20, 2005, and Wednesday, September 21, 2005, I thought it apropos to write them up at this point before we continue on our way to Memphis, Tennessee, today, September 23, 2005, in advance of my lecture there after the 10:00 a.m. Mass at Saint Cecilia's Church offered by Father Gregory Post.
We had traveled to northern Wisconsin in anticipation of settling there in the middle of August. Unfortunately, we were not able at that time to find any place to live and we lacked the funds to purchase property and to build an insulated structure to enclose our motor home during the harsh winters there. Thus, we had decided to do some speaking prior to the Catholic Family News conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the end of October.
Alas, I was felled by major chest pains in the latter part of August. I described these to physicians who assist at Holy Mass at Saint Joseph's Church in San Antonio, Texas. They believed that the symptoms, when judged in light of my family history of heart attacks and heart disease (and my own twenty-seven year history of hypertension), required immediate attention with a series of medical examinations. This wouldn't have mattered to me very much if I had remained in the single state. As I do want to do everything humanly possible to be around for my wife and daughter, I thought it prudent to follow the doctors' advice and to get ourselves down to San Antonio a month ahead of when I had been scheduled to speak at Saint Joseph's at the beginning of October.
The drive down to San Antonio from Wisconsin, which took three days, was relatively uneventful. We gave Lucy Mary Norma a break from the road in St. Louis on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, before driving down to Oklahoma City and thence to San Antonio, arriving there on Thursday, September 1. I had my initial set of tests done the next day, September 2, and thought that a scan of my heart and coronary arteries that showed no sign of calcified plaque whatsoever was good news. Well, that wasn't all of the story, as I found out eleven days later. Blood tests taken on September 2 but not completed until September 13 indicated that I do indeed have a risk factor (a toxically high level of an amino acid called homocysteine) associated with heart disease and long-term mental deterioration. The risk factor identified can cost "soft" (non-calcified) plaque to break up and cause a heart attack. I would have known nothing about this had it done been for the beneficence of the doctors involved, who donated their services to me. We have no health insurance and a catastrophic health event would be particularly catastrophic in the human order of things, offering all, obviously, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
It was our intention to head to Dickinson, Texas, where Queen of Angels Church and Priory is located, on September 7, 2005, following my visit to a cardiologist in San Antonio that afternoon. There is no daily Traditional Latin Mass in San Antonio. Thus, we wanted to get to Dickinson for Mass on Our Lady's birthday, September 8, preparing to leave for the 221 miles and three and one-half to four hour drive around 5:45 p.m.
We had prepared the motor home, which had undergone major engine repairs in Wisconsin, for "lift off" as we like to say. We slid in our "slides" (the parts of the motor home that slide out about eighteen inches to add some walking space in our living room and bedroom areas). I jacked up the jacks that stabilize the motor home when we are parked. I turned the key in the ignition. Nothing happened. Nothing but "click, click, click." I am not a mechanic. However, I have had enough experience with malfunctioning motor vehicles to know that the starter had failed to start. I didn't know this for sure. My surmise at the moment, though, was that the starter had died after four years and 78,000 miles.
The three of us went outside to assess the situation at around 6:00 p.m.. I had hooked up our Trail Blazer to the motor home. We didn't know who was going to assist us. Suddenly, though, a pickup truck with a trailer drove past our site at the KOA Kampground in San Antonio. The trailer, which resembled a horse trailer, had words printed on its side just below its roof: Oil, Filter Changes.
"Hey, stop!" I yelled out. "We need your help."
The man driving the pickup truck stopped. He said that he would look at the motor home as soon as he parked his vehicle.
It took some time. He had to look in several places, even thinking that the problem might be related to a weak or a dead battery. The gentleman concluded after an hour of searching that the problem was indeed the starter. He told me where to find an automobile parts store where I could purchase one, promising to return in an hour after he had taken one of his employees home. I had to detach the car from the motor home, going through all of the paces that I have become such an expert in performing in the past four years.
Thus, I trucked off to the automobile parts store, plucked down $171 for a new starter ("That's eight and one-half books" I told myself) and returned to the campground to await the return of the mechanic, who wanted to charge only twenty-five dollars for his labor, which resulted in the motor home being able to start again. We thanked him for his labors.
I hooked up the car to the motor home. We were saying our travel prayers (a Hail Mary and invocations to Our Lady of the Way, Saint Christopher, Saint Raphael, Saint Michael, Saint Bernadette and Saint Noah--to whom Lucy is particularly devoted--our Guardian Angels, the Guardian Angels and Patron Saints of all of the parishes, dioceses and archdioceses through which we shall be passing, and the Guardian Angels and Patron Saints of all of the people we shall be encountered this day and every day) as I started the motor home successfully. I put the vehicle in drive, noticing that the "slides," which had been slid out following the failure of the starter, had to be slid in once again. This necessitated turning off the engine as the slides will not slide in unless the engine is off. The slides did not slide in, however. They did not move. They did not budge. No power was getting to the motor that pushes the slides in and out. At 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7, 2005, it was clear that we were not getting to Dickinson for Our Lady's birthday. Missing Holy Mass on that day was to be our penance. State police officers generally frown on motor homes being driven with its slides extended.
After two days of searching for a mobile recreational vehicle repair service, a mechanic came out on Friday, September 9, to repair the slides. A connection located beneath our cabin steps had come loose, necessitating some soldering. That cost another $145. "Seven more books," I said to myself. "All to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls."
With Father Stephen P. Zigrang coming to San Antonio to offer Mass on Saturday, September 10, and Sunday, September 11, we stayed put at the KOA Kampground through Sunday afternoon prior to driving one hundred miles north to a private home in Austin, Texas, where I was to speak that evening. The motor home started successfully, the slides slid in perfectly. A new problem, though, had arisen: our rear-view video monitor which permits me to "see" things directly in back of the motor home no longer worked. I surmised that the problem was a fuse (probably one that was disconnected by one of the two men who worked on the motor home searching, respectively for the cause of the engine's not starting and the failure of the slides to work) after I discovered that the blower for the air conditioner in the driver's compartment of the vehicle (there are "house" air conditioners that cool the living room and bedroom) was not working. More offerings to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart.
The talk in Austin went well. We drove the 196 miles from there to Dickinson, arriving around 1:35 a.m. on Monday, September 12, 2005, thankful to be at Holy Mass at Queen of Angels some six hours later. We stayed there until after Mass on the Feast of the Seven Dolors of Lady, returning to San Antonio for a book signing at a Catholic bookstore that was a complete and total bust. More offerings to give Our Lady on the feast of her Seven Dolors.
My talks at Saint Joseph Church, which had been scheduled for October 7-8-9, were given on September 16-17-18. They were well attended. We were grateful to have met so many Catholics who have embraced Tradition without compromise. We stayed over through Monday, September 19, 2005, learning after Mass that a new hurricane, Rita, was developing and might threaten the Texas Gulf Coast later that week. We had planned on staying in Dickinson for a few days after driving to Corpus Christi to pray at the gravesides of my late parents' mortal remains. The talk of another hurricane meant that we would have to cut short our stay in Dickinson. Little did I realize that our stay would be as short as it turned out to be.
After breakfasting with Father Zigrang and some of the lovely people from Saint Joseph's Church we drove the 140 miles down to Corpus Christi, where it was as hot as it had been in San Antonio for the two week stretch that we had spent, save for one hundred six hours in Dickinson, there. We parked the motor home at a campground in the city of my late mother's formative youth and her death, the place where both of my parents' bodies are buried. It was good to pray at their gravesides for the first time since October of 2003, driving the 246 miles to Dickinson shortly thereafter, arriving back in Galveston Country around 11:00 p.m. on Monday, September 19, 2005.
News of Hurricane Rita was pretty prominently displayed in the Houston area newspapers by the next morning, Tuesday, September 20. "We had better get out of here sooner rather than later," I told Sharon. "We don't want to be caught in the bumper to bumper rush of a major evacuation." I thought we could leave on Thursday, September 22. I was wrong.
A fellow at the Kemah Boardwalk in Kemah, Texas, which is located right on the Gulf of Mexico, told us that a mandatory evacuation would start the next night, Wednesday, September 23. "We're leaving tonight," I told Sharon. It was our plan to head north to do some speaking prior to the Catholic Family News conference in Indianapolis during the weekend of October 28-30 (Christ the King weekend). We had to expedite those plans to avoid the rush of people leaving south Texas. Indeed, the Kemah Boardwalk, which features a carousel and a ferris wheel and a miniature train, was being prepared for Hurricane Rita. The locomotive of the miniature train was being lifted up by crane so as to be evacuated prior to the storm!
"Will the train be destroyed? Will the Kemah Boardwalk be destroyed?" Lucy asked us.
"Only Our Lord knows," I told our daughter. "We must pray for the safety of all of the people who live in this area." We then said a Hail Mary for that intention.
Driving back to Queen of Angels Church in Dickinson from Kemah to attend a Holy Hour dedicated to averting the storm and making reparation for our sins that was conducted by Father Stephen Stanich, we said our goodbyes to the priests (Fathers Zigrang, Post and Stanich) and headed back to the anthill that called itself a recreational vehicle campground in Dickinson. (Ants, by the way, love to climb up on the jacks and the tires to invade a motor home's crevices. The only deterrent, believe it or not, is powdered laundry detergent or powdered dish soap.) Sharon packed up the motor home. I attached the car to the tow bars and detached our sewer and water hoses, detaching our 30 amp electrical wire after the generator, which keeps the "juice" flowing while we are driving, had been started. All was in readiness for our journey to Little Rock, which is about 470 miles north of Dickinson.
Not even twenty-one hours after our return to Dickinson, therefore, we were off on the road once again, joining a steady but moving stream of traffic north on Interstate 45 at around 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20, 2005. I had become adjusted to the fact that I had to look extra carefully at the side view mirrors when changing lanes as a result of the video monitor's refusal to work. This adjustment was particularly important when we encountered a bit of heavy traffic right in downtown Houston just as I was about to exit onto US-59, a highway that I drove all the time in the 1970s when I was driving to visit my parents, who had relocated from Long Island to the Lone Star State in early 1973, from different venues (Indiana, upstate New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania). The traffic on US-59 was actually moving quite well.
Sharon took Lucy into the bedroom around 9:15 p.m. I just continued to drive, knowing that it would be sometime around 4:00 a.m. or so before we arrived at the KOA Kampground in North Little Rock, Arkansas, which was the very first campground that we had parked our motor home after we had purchased it in July of 2001. Indeed, we were making excellent time.
My cellular phone rang around 10:26 p.m., just as I was approaching Lufkin, Texas, some 140 miles north of Dickinson. I couldn't make out who it was. A bad connection. Human beings can be sent into orbit around the earth. Cellular phone connections cannot be perfected. The call was lost. The phone rang again. A man asked me if I was Thomas Droleskey. Once again, though, the phone went dead.
As the caller's number came up on my phone, I called back. The man on the other end said, "This is Corporal Vailes with the Splendora, Texas, Police Department. Are you Thomas Droleskey?"
"Yes, I am."
"Do you own a 2005 Trail Blazer?"
"Yes, I do."
"Do you know where it is?"
My heart sunk. "Evidently not," I replied.
With the rear-view video monitor out of order, you see, I did not know that the Trail Blazer had broken off from the motor home. Although I learned the full details of what happened from Corporal Vailes when I doubled back and drove the seventy miles to Splendora from where I was when I pulled off the road to talk to him on my cellular phone (near the Angelina College exit on US-59, just south of Lufkin, Texas), I did learn, quite sketchily, that the vehicle had crossed four lanes of traffic without hitting any other cars, truly a miracle in and of itself, and had been towed to the police department. I told Corporal Vailes that I would turn the motor home around and head south on US-59 to drive the seventy miles to Splendora, which is about thirty-six miles north of Houston. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love. Save souls. All to you Blessed Mother. All to the Immaculate Heart of Mary," I kept saying over and over and over again.
Stunned disbelief is the only way to describe my reaction to the news I had been given. I told Sharon what had happened. The tow bar must have broken at about the time Sharon was taking Lucy back into the bedroom at around 9:15 p.m.
"The car is gone?" she asked incredulously. She paused while she pondered the matter. "No one got killed? I'm amazed. This is a miracle."
Indeed, it was.
Thus, I started the drive back to Splendora, believing that the car was drivable and that Sharon would have to drive it. That would have meant getting gasoline for both the motor home and for the Trail Blazer. It would have meant tiring out Sharon. It would have left Lucy missing her mother if she stayed in the motor home with me or missing the motor home if she rode with her mother in the car.
Upon arriving at the police department in Splendora, though, I learned that the Trail Blazer was not drivable The Blue Ox tow bar had pierced the undercarriage of the car, destroying the transmission and the radiator and severing the brake line and the power steering line. Corporal Vailes pointed out those problems to me as soon as we pulled into the parking lot of the police department with the motor home close to 11:50 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20.
Corporal Vailes was as amazed as Sharon and I were about what had happened. He filled in the complete details of what had happened:
The Trail Blazer broke off from the motor home, crossing the two northbound lanes of US-59, crossing the median strip, crossing the two southbound lanes of US-59, crossing the two lanes of the southbound frontage road, being guided perfectly through an opening between a telephone pole and the guide wire that held up the pole, landing in a field and coming to a stop after it had it a utility pole. Corporal Vailes explained that the mechanism on the car that received the tow bars from the motor home took the brunt of the impact from the utility pole, although electric service to nearby customers was interrupted until a utility service repairman flipped a tripped circuit breaker back into place. It was truly remarkable that no other vehicle was involved and no human being was hurt. Thanks be to Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother.
I asked Corporal Vailes how he had gotten my cellular phone number. He explained that he had looked through some papers in the car and found it on a FEDEX receipt. He figured that I might not ever know where I had lost the car if he had not called. Actually, I could have called Onstar (which service came, at least for one year's worth of service, with the Trail Blazer after we had purchased it following the totaling of our 2000 Saturn when we were hit broadside by a teenaged driver who had run a red light at over 50 mph in Middletown, New York, on November 23, 2004) to find out where the vehicle was. However, it was good to find out when I did.
Corporal Vailes advised me not to park our motor home at a campground near the police department. "That is no place for a gentleman such as yourself," he explained. I was truly in a quandary, knowing that the repairs to the Trail Blazer would take time and that most of the shops, if they could even accommodate us, would be closed in advance of Hurricane Rita. I had to find a way to transport the Trail Blazer with the motor home and then get it repaired when we got back to the northeast.
The operator of the tow truck who had towed the vehicle from the field where it had landed to the Splendora Police Department arrived as I was running through all of the possibilities in my mind (and consulting with Sharon, who was seated on a couch in the motor home and speaking to me through a screen window). The first thing that the tow truck operator wanted was $225 for a three mile tow! I asked Corporal Vailes if this was legal. He said that the police did not interfere with the business of the tow truck operators. I guess that fee was what you would call a New York premium (the Trail Blazer has New York license plates on it).
The tow truck operator, a burly fellow who probably did not realize that Ember Wednesday had already arrived, offered the transport the Trail Blazer to Memphis, Tennessee, where I am scheduled to speak this Sunday, September 25.
"How much would that cost?" I asked him.
"$2000" was the response.
"That is not an option, I responded quite quickly.
Corporal Vailes said that I could not leave the Trail Blazer on the police department's parking lot overnight. The tow truck operator said that it could take up to two weeks to repair the car. Knowing that the hurricane was approaching, I told the tow truck operator, who, though a young man, reminded me a lot of Mr. Haney from Green Acres, that the best thing we could do was to purchase a flatbed trailer and transport the car ourselves. It just happened that the man had a friend who had a flatbed trailer for sale. He telephone his friend, who told him that he could sell me the flatbed and install a new tow bar with a hitch for the trailer for $1200. "That's sixty books," said to myself. I had no choice. Bye-bye, book sales. All to you Blessed Mother. All to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you. Save souls.
With a plan in place, the tow truck drive reattached the Trail Blazer to his wrecker. Sharon gave me a miraculous medal to give to Corporal Vailes, whom we thanked for his efforts. I returned to the motor home and then followed the wrecker down some eight to ten miles to a little community off of US-59 that will remain unnamed. We were led down some back roads in this small community to a private house. Lights were on in the garage area. Our arrival (and the arrival of $1200) was anticipated, evidently.
The tow truck driver dropped off the Trail Blazer in the middle of the country road on which the private home was located. He sped off into the darkness immediately after doing so, probably to dispose of some of the $225 he had just been paid by me in a local establishment where beverages high in carbohydrates are dispensed. It was at that point that Sharon had a fleeting thought: "Wait a minute. This guy has sped off. We're in the middle of nowhere with people we do not know." She caught herself immediately after having this though" "No, Our Lady guided the car across a highway with no one getting killed. Nothing will happen to us here."
I met the fellow who was in charge of taking off the remainder of the frame that once held the tow bars that attached to our Saturn and then our Trail Blazer. He said that I would be guided to back into their driveway so that a new frame and trailer hitch could be installed and the flatbed attached. It was rather interesting backing up without the rear-view monitor around 12:30 a.m. That task was accomplished, at which point a whole assortment of people sat around in lawn chairs to observe the proceedings. It was apparent that none of the eleven or so people, some of whom appeared to be very closely related to each other, were aware than an Ember Day had started. They were popping down the snacks and the brew while the repairs were done. We had provided them with some early morning (or late night) entertainment. They had just won the Freeway Lottery, so to speak.
Two principal concerns were uppermost in my mind: 1) Would running the generator while we stood still cause the carbon monoxide detector to go off as happened with the shard of a truck tire that ripped through the undercarriage of the motor home on the morning of July 9, 2005, on Interstate 45 south of Ennis, Texas, destroyed our exhaust system? 2) Would dear Lucy Mary Norma stay asleep during all of the banging and drilling? Amazingly, the generator, which is needed to run the air conditioners (it was hot even at that time of night), did not cause the carbon monoxide detector to off. And, yes, Lucy was able to sleep through the two and one-half hours of banging, bumping, drilling, and all around loud noises that were going on under the motor home and right outside of the bedroom where she was sleeping.
I went outside to assess the situation about an hour after all of the banging and rocking and drilling began. One young onlooker, a man who appeared to be in his early twenties, said, "You had a tough thing happen to you."
I took that as my cue to say the following:
"Not at all. We are Catholics. We understand that we must do reparation for our sins and those of the whole world. Each cross we are asked to bear has been perfectly fitted for us from all eternity by God. The graces He won for us by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross is sufficient to offer up all of the suffering we endure in this mortal life. If we are consecrated to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, as we should be, then we offer up all of the merits of whatever we earn by means of the patient endurance of our crosses to her, trusting that she will apply some of that merit to our own souls, thus reducing the amount of time we need to spend in Purgatory if we die in a state of grace and have yet to make full satisfaction for the debt that we owe to God as a result of our sins. What has happened this evening has benefits for us spiritually that we will not understand fully until eternity. We accept all from the hand of God and we offer all to His Most Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart."
The man looked at me plaintively, obviously not understanding a word of what I had just said. He looked at me and said, "We's just country boys." That was the end of the conversation.
This is what I thought to myself after he shook his head and said, "We's just country boys:"
"Thank you, Martin Luther. The world in these people, who are loved by God and whom He wants with Him for all eternity in Heaven, live is devoid of the spiritual compass that can guide them to their Last End. The world in which these people live is the fruit of the Protestant Revolt and the subsequent rise of Freemasonry. They do not give their salvation a second thought as they have been 'saved' by their 'profession of faith in the Lord Jesus' on their lips and in their hearts. They are steeped in a world of passing pleasures and irrelevancies, responding to this or that crisis in the world with a shrug of the shoulders as they concentrate on racing dirt cars and winning trophies on 'Roll Over Derbies' in the Astrodome.
"These people, who are trying their best to survive despite their living in a world of darkness that they are not even aware of, are furthermore the victims of Vatican II and the much heralded novelty of ecumenism wrought in its wretched wake. No 'nuanced judgment' is needed here to condemn ecumenism in its entirety and without any reservation or qualification whatsoever. Let those who have no contact at all with people such as these folks in rural Texas talk of nuance and the 'positive things' Protestantism has done for the true Church founded by Our Lord upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. Let those who want to slobber over Benedict XVI and win what they think are 'brownie points' for Traditionalism by 'making the best case for Vatican II and ecumenism' irresponsibly try to convince fellow traditionalists that we must not be as rigid as, say, the Society of Saint Pius X in rejecting ecumenism in its entirety. Let such men and women go to visit the people we encounter on the highways and byways of the United States of America and dare to say that ecumenism has been anything other than a nightmare from Hell itself for the conversion of souls to the true Church. Who is trying to convert the people who worked on our motor home on the morning of the Feast of Saint Matthew, September 21, to the true Church? Who? "Archbishop" Joseph Fiorenza, in whose Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston these people live? Their local Catholic "pastor," who probably doesn't even realize he has the obligation to tend to the eternal welfare of all of the souls in his parish's boundaries, Catholic and non-Catholic alike? Who is trying to win these souls for the true Church? Who? No one, that's who. And this is all the result of Vatican II and ecumenism. Period. Let anyone who talks of 'nuance' and 'reasoned judgments' look at the true state of the world and the wreckage of souls produced by the Protestant Revolt and its seepages into the Catholic Church by way of Vatican II and the erroneous novelty of ecumenism and say that the people in rural Texas who are stumbling their way through daily life have been well served by the recent popes and the rot of the Second Vatican Council. Let them say that and answer to God for their prominent and decided role in weakening the traditional Catholic resistance to these novelties at the moment of their own Particular Judgments."
Yes, you see, when I wrote out the check to pay for the flatbed and the new tow bar and hitch inside of the house that was attached to the garage I saw a
"Third Place" trophy from a "Roll Over Derby" that was held at the Houston Astrodome a few years ago. That is the pride of their lives, not the Holy Faith. Immodesty reigned supreme among the women and the men. They were clueless about the issue when it was raised with them, looking at me as though I had nine heads and was a relative of the late Ray "Uncle Martin" Walston, hailing from Mars itself. The wide screen television blared forth one satanic image after another. Oh, yes, thank you, Martin Luther. Thank you, Vatican II. Thank you, ecumenism.
These hard working folks took two hours to finish their labors on the motor home. It was then time, at around 3:00 a.m., to move the motor home out into the country road on which had rested the Trail Blazer for the flatbed to attached to the motor home before the Trail Blazer was loaded onto the trailer. More adventures awaited at that point.
The flatbed trailer is, in the words of Ralph Kramden, a piece of junk. It is a homemade contraception designed to carry "dirt cars" on it to their various appointed races. Prominently displayed at the very front of the trailer is a wrought-iron stand featuring a blown-out tire. One chap said, "You'll need that rim in case you get a flat." While I accepted all of the travails of the past five hours, having the tires on the flatbed trailer go flat was not one of the things that I wanted to hear as a possibility at that hour. Additionally, one of the wooden planks on the left rear of the trailer was rotted through.
"How is the car going to get onto the trailer with that hole?" I asked.
"Don't worry," some fellow told me. "We're going to fix that."
"That" was "fixed" by their placing a wooden board over the hole.
More to the point, though, yet another of team working on this project had difficulty moving the Trail Blazer. I had to take it out of "neutral" (which is a several step process that took me some weeks to learn by heart after we had gotten the thing on November 30, 2004, and first "hooked" it up to the motor home on December 10, 2004) before it could move. Smoke billowed out of the engine compartment as soon as it was started up. And the vehicle could only move forward; the reverse gear had been destroyed. This necessitated several men to push the Trail Blazer backwards so that it could be moved forward onto the flatbed trailer. Everything was then in place for the placement of the car onto the trailer.
Or maybe not.
The steel guides were placed onto the trailer so as to accommodate the Trail Blazer's wheels onto its flatbed. The car, however, could barely move. The transmission is deader than dead. There was enough juice, though, for the car to get up something of a head of steam before it died. Multiple efforts were made to get the car up onto the flatbed. (It is tiring even to write this all up, believe me.) In the middle of the night, therefore, a team of about eight grown men were trying push the Trail Blazer up onto the trailer while the fellow in the car gave the machine some gasoline so as to see if it could move of its own accord one last time before coming to rest onto of the flatbed.
Alas, there was a most expected problem when the Trail Blazer actually made it onto the flatbed: the wooden board placed over the rotted planks broke, causing the left front tire to sink partially beneath the flatbed. "All to you, Blessed Mother. All to your Immaculate Heart. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls."
Several more efforts were made to get the car onto the flatbed. Each failed. Several more efforts were made after that. Each failed.
Finally, though, the car was placed on top of the flatbed. This process took close to forty-five minutes. A chain was wrapped around the bent part of the tow frame that had been installed on the Trail Blazer on December 7. 2004, and locked into place on the wrought iron bar holding the blown out tire on the front of the trailer. I was told that I would have to purchase "motorcycle ratchets" to secure the rear of the car in place.
"Oh, no," I said to myself. "I have to figure out how to use ratchets?" I had visions of the Trail Blazer falling off of the rear of the flatbed as the chain in front broke loose while we were driving. I was also told to purchase a "pigtail" to convert our six-pin electrical power socket to a four pin socket so that the flatbed trailer's brake and running lights would feed off of the motor home's power.
"Where do I get such things" I asked at 2:45 a.m.
"There's a Wal-Mart some ten miles up on US-59. They can help you there." As Sharon commented later, "For $1200 don't you think they could driven here to Wal-Mart to complete the job." Thank you, John Calvin. Thank you, Adam Smith.
After saying our goodbyes, we departed around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 21, 2005, with our newest material possession: a dilapidating flatbed trailer replete with our disabled car perched preciously on its rickety wooden planks. The new possession caused the motor home to swerve violently: it fishtailed as a result of the bulk of the car's weight being in the rear of the trailer. This meant I have to drive much slower than the legal speed limit, increasing the number of hours it would take us to drive the nearly 410 miles from that point to Little Rock. Why Little Rock? It is away from the immediate path of the hurricane and afforded us a chance to rest before we moved onto Memphis.
We stopped at the Wal-Mart around 3:15 a.m. I bought the needed items, successfully converting our electrical socket on the motor home to suit the specifications of the flatbed trailer. The ratchets were another problem. I couldn't figure them out. Sharon, who is much more mechanically inclined than I, couldn't figure them out. We gave up after about an hour of trial and error as Lucy continued to have her restful night of sleep. It was time to get gasoline at a Chevron station across the way from the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Getting gasoline in the motor home is always an adventure. It takes about half an hour to fill up the eighty-two gallon tank. It took a little less than that at around 4:30 a.m. on September 21. However, I did notice that the line that leads from the receptacle for the nozzle to the fuel tanking was leaking gasoline once again, betraying an effort in Wisconsin to repair this remnant of the July 9 tire shard incident. Money was just spilling out onto the ground, so to speak. I guess that about two gallons, in total, spills now every time I fill up the tank. "All to you Blessed Mother. All to your Immaculate Heart. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls." Several people pointed this out to me. Yet another bystander told me that I had better get air in the tires of the flatbed trailer: "You'll have a blow-out with such low pressure in those tires." The air box was inaccessible to the motor home, now pulling a nineteen foot attachment.
While completing the refueling of the motor home, though, I had a confrontation with a chap who was playing truly on his car's stereo extremely loud. Mindful of Lucy's need to sleep, I asked him to turn down the "music," explaining that my daughter was sleeping in the back of the motor home. Heavily tattooed and body pierced, the man looked at me with a snarlish, hateful disdain.
"Get away from my truck" he spit out of his gritted teeth. He then sped away, screeching his tires as he did so.
"Oh, yes, thank you, Martin Luther. Thank you Vatican II. Thank you, ecumenism. Yet another proof of the 'nuanced' joys of a world where Christ does not reign as King and Mary is not honored as Queen, a world in which the Catholic Church herself in her human elements sees no need to convert anyone other than traditional Catholics."
I was told that there was a truck stop some ten miles north of the gasoline station, which was located in Cleveland, Texas, where I could get assistance with the ratchets and the air for the flatbed trailer's tires. It was thus off on the road again if only for those ten miles.
A woman at the truck stop said that the mechanic would not be on duty until 7:00 a.m. It was 5:00 a.m. at that point, some nine hours after we had left Dickinson. I was beat. Prudence dictated that I await the arrival of the mechanic while I attempted to get about ninety minutes of sleep with the motor home parked alongside a slew of trucks (with the diesel engines running all the while).
The mechanic arrived. He knew exactly what to do with the ratchets, firmly securing the back of the Trail Blazer to the body of the flatbed trailer. We were off on our way once again, although the air in the trailer's tires had yet to be addressed (the air box in the service bay was, you got it, inaccessible to the motor home). We just prayed and prayed and prayed, thankful to Our Lady that this experience, which could have seen an innocent person killed as the Trail Blazer broke loose from the motor home, was not worse than it was, thanking her, indeed, for the cross that was perfectly fitted for us from all eternity by God Himself.
The remainder of the trip to Little Rock was hot (remember: no air conditioning in the driver's compartment in the motor home) and long. I had to drive at least ten miles under the 70 mph daytime speed limit in Texas. "All to you Blessed Mother. All to your Immaculate Heart. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls." Lucy was astonished that she had missed all of the excitement, eager to take a look at our new acquisition. She is such a good traveler. Oh, we are so very blessed to have a daughter who loves the Faith and who responds to the graces sent to her to accept the difficult life on the road that we live.
Phone calls were made while en route to start the process of reporting all of this to the two insurance companies that will reimburse us for some, although not all, of the out-of-pocket expenses. The Trail Blazer will have to be estimated for damages in Memphis or in the northeast once we return there. However, we started the process while completing the drive, keeping tabs on Father Zigrang, who spent about 10 hours in his car driving to San Antonio yesterday, September 22, from Dickinson, getting caught up in the rush of evacuees from Galveston County. Please pray for all of those who have been forced to flee as a result of the threat posed by Hurricane Rita.
We arrived at the North Little Rock KOA Kampground a little after 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21. There are lots of refugees from Hurricane Katrina in this campground, as we found out after our arrival. Bedraggled and hot and absolutely exhausted, we got the motor home secured for our short stay here, falling fast asleep around 6:30 p.m. As one who usually takes some time to get to sleep, I can tell you that I was out in a flash and I stayed out for about thirteen hours. I was unconscious.
We made arrangements through the insurance company that insures the Trail Blazer for a rental car to get us around to do some errands here in Little Rock before we leave today. The only thing that was available was a four-door pickup truck. I am probably the only man in Arkansas who is wearing a jacket and tie while driving a pick-up truck. I will save details of our brief journey to downtown Little Rock yesterday for another time. Suffice it to say, though, that, eegads, we found ourselves on "President Clinton Avenue," coming to face to face with the President William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum at its terminus. We quickly turned around and headed the other way.
The current plan is for us to leave here today, September 23, around 11:00 a.m. so that we can get over to the Memphis area for evening Mass at Saint Cecilia's Church. We will leave there on Sunday, September 25, after my lecture to make our way back to the northeast to see if the Trail Blazer can be repaired. A short jaunt, relatively speaking, will be made to Vienna, Virginia, for a talk at Saint Athanasius Church on October 1, 2005, and I will speak in Fairfield, New Jersey, at the Saint Anthony of Padua Mission of the Society of Saint Pius X on Sunday, October 9. It will be off to Indianapolis of the Catholic Family News conference after a few talks that have yet to be confirmed are given in the New York area. It's back up to Wisconsin after that, where it appears that friends have found a small cottage (500 square feet) for us to rent. We can finally take the wheels off of the motor home, so we hope and pray.
As is noted in our new fund-raising appeal letter (click Donations), we want to stabilize our financial situation, which is not at all prepared to handle events such as the one described above. We are asking for readers who support my work and want to see it continue to make pledges of a regular, monthly donation to Christ or Chaos, Inc., to underwrite the work of this site. We also need immediate assistance to help us at present. That pretty much goes without saying. However, let me say it: we need help now. We are grateful for whatever you can donate. We remember all of our benefactors and friends daily in our prayers. The work that I am attempting to do is not easy in human terms. Indeed, it is very difficult. However, I know that I must, despite my own many sins and failings, continue it as we appeal to those who support our work to help us, especially in these times of pressing need.
No matter what we experience in this vale of tears, we must remember that our sins deserve far, far worse than we suffer in this life. Nothing we suffer is the equal of what one of our least venial sins caused Our Lord to suffer in His Sacred Humanity on the wood of the Holy Cross. Nothing we endure is the equal of the sorrow our sins caused the bitter piercing Our Lady's Immaculate Heart. A little suffering now is better than a lot of Purgatory (or worse) later.
All to you, Blessed Mother. All to your Immaculate Heart. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we love you. Save souls.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Saint Thomas Villanova, pray for us.
Saint Maurice and Companions, pray for us.
Saint Philomena, pray for us.
Images from Early on an Ember Wednesday, 2005, Somewhere in Rural Texas
The tow bar and its arms that broke off from the motor home and assassinated the undercarriage of the Trail Blazer
Yet another view of the tow bar, situated right behind the flatbed trailer to provide greater effect
A side view of the Trail Blazer after it had been loaded onto the flatbed trailer
Here it is. A frontal view of the flatbed trailer with the Trail Blazer. One of the many onlookers can be seen in the rear