Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No NaNoWriMo For Me This Year

In 2009 I was reading the blog of a writer in India, She mentioned that she was going to take part in “NaNoWriMo” that year. I had never heard of it. I looked it up in “search” and went to its website. NaNoWriMo is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November at least 300,000 writers from all over the world try to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in one month’s time. They sign up after October 15 and are assigned a web page for their novel. Periodically they log how many words they have written and a graph shows them if they are on schedule to finish on time. Participation is free but those who sign up are asked to make a donation to the Office of Letters and Light which administers NaNoWriMo. Those who succeed in writing a novel of at least 50,000 words (there are six enormous computers which verify the word count in less than two seconds) are declared “Winners.” They can buy a T-shirt which proclaims their status.
Every year 2009 through 2014 I participated and successfully wrote novels of more than 50,000 words. Two of these novels I self-published in print and three others I posted on this blog at a rate of one chapter per week. The process of writing that many words in a month is consuming. I still had to write a sermon each week, preach it on Sunday, then send it out by postal and email. The days that I did write for NaNoWriMo, I had to write 2,500 words or more.

This year I decided not to participate. The wood on my house needs to be painted. I don’t know if the weather will cooperate, but I have put off the job too long. There are other jobs I have put off too long. If I find time for writing in the evening, I should start again on my memoirs. I’ve lived a long time and I don’t know how much time remains.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 24

This is the last chapter of my novel EARTHQUAKE ON NEW MADRID FAULT.
I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions -

Monday morning Karl and Clifford went to the shelter, picked up Jack Raymond, then went to the same Ford dealer where Karl leased the truck. He picked out a 2010 Explorer with four wheel drive. After the lease papers were signed, they went back to the shelter and picked up the rest of the men. When they arrived in Marked Tree, Karl rented four motel rooms for a month.

Karl already had a sleeping bag. He sent Clifford and the other men to a store that sells camping gear to get sleeping bags, and a camp stove. At the grocery store they would buy about thirty gallons of water, and groceries for four days. Karl went to a farm equipment dealer to lease a dump truck, a front end loader/backhoe, and a bulldozer. The bulldozer was on a flat bed trailer which would be pulled by the dump truck. He would have to come back another day to pick up the loader/backhoe. Karl wondered how he could manage that when he needed the bull dozer to pull the dump truck and empty trailer up and over the dune.

While they were in town they all rented post office boxes. Clifford needed an address for income tax and Social Security, and other state tax reports and also for their insurance. They couldn’t use the shelter for an address; they had all checked out of the shelter.

Karl sent Clifford and two of the men over the dune in the Explorer. He had the other men help him unload the dozer and then chain it to the dump truck. Then he sent all but Smitty over the dune in the pickup truck. He operated the dozer and Smitty steered the dump truck pulling the empty trailer. The dozer pulled the dump truck and trailer up and over the dune. Then he and Smitty had to unchain the dozer and load it back onto the trailer. The other two vehicles were waiting for them. Karl, driving the dump truck, took the lead since he knew the route.

He had intended for them to take over the office building to use for their quarters. However, when they walked into it, it stunk worse than any hog barn. There was litter strewn all over the floors – half eaten MREs, empty water bottles. Scattered everywhere were unused packages of MREs. Worse was that in the various rooms upstairs there was human excrement on the floor in every room. The rest rooms were a nightmare. The toilets wouldn’t flush after the quake but they were all filled with waste. He didn’t think any of the men would be willing to undertake cleaning it.

Karl remembered that Dana spoke of the Mexican women and children using the abandoned police/fire station across the road. He went over there. Opening the door he could not believe his eyes. The building was spotless. Stacked neatly in one corner were unused MREs and water bottles.

Clifford said to Karl, “Would you show me where I lived in Victoria?”

Karl drove him down to the rubble of a brick house nearest the equipment sheds. Clifford got out and tried to get into the wrecked house, but he could not.

“Melodie told me to look for our photo albums in the drawer of an end table in the living room.”

“When I have the dozer down here, maybe we can lift a wall, maybe not.”

It did not take them long to settle in to the police/fire station. Slim said he bet he was going to have an air mattress next week. They all went down to survey the damage. They decided to pull all the sheet metal sides of all the metal buildings and make a pile of them. The equipment was all ruined. They would haul it to another location away from the pile of sheet metal. The water tower looked like it had only minor damage. Maybe it could just be put upright. That wasn’t anything they could do, so they would leave it undisturbed. The tanks which contained fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and butane had all burst open. Because there might be toxic residue, they decided to push and shove them in the opposite direction from where they would be working. When they had finished all that, they would be scraping the rubble into piles, loading it into the dump truck and dumping it onto a field.

Friday morning they looked at what they had accomplished so far.  They left the dump truck and trailer in Victoria and left for Little Rock about noon in the pickup truck and the Explorer.

Mr. Stauer had been working on the Mexicans’ problems all week. He located three men in a Tulsa, Oklahoma hospital. He rented a three bedroom apartment near the hospital for the wives and their children to live in until the men recovered. He called the Oklahoma Human Services and they promised to help the women. He said if they had any needs that wouldn’t be covered to call him.

He had the widows and their children moved to low rent apartments in a town in South Arkansas which has a large Hispanic population. The company’s lawyers were working out the immigration problems for each of the women.


Karl and the others of the Baker’s Koffee Klatch finished their work in Victoria in a little over three months. They were all eligible for unemployment until they could find another job.

Karl did not think he could afford an apartment like Clifford had leased in Chenault. He decided to look for work first. He found a job as a diesel mechanic at a large Ford dealership. The dealer was selling more and more diesel trucks. Also there were now a few diesel automobiles and he believed there would be many more. He was glad to hire a man with Karl’s rich experience because diesel mechanics were being offered high wages by the contractors who were rebuilding the highways ruined by the quake.

Karl found a nice three bedroom house in a lower middle class neighborhood. There were attractive loans for earthquake victims and he had saved quite a bit of money from the job he had just finished. His first task was to build a wheel chair ramp in the front and the back. The house was built on one floor so there were no steps inside. He bought a used van from the Ford dealer and installed a wheelchair carrier on the rear himself.

There wasn’t a whole lot of money left for furniture, dishes, pots, and pans so he bought as much as he could from second hand stores. Moving in here was going to be a big change for Dana. She had been with Melodie and the children all summer and had even started school in that exclusive community. He noticed that the first thing she moved into the new house was her stuffed animals.

When Mary came home, you would have thought that it was the Czar’s dacha. She was so happy and thrilled. Karl was glad that they bought a three bedroom house. Mary would need her own bedroom for quite some time. The doctor ordered a hospital bed, a wheelchair, and a number of other medical supplies. When the company delivered them they about filled up her room.

When Mary was finally in the house, Dana came to her with tears. 

“I don’t know what we are going to do. I still don’t know how to cook.”

“Well, just wheel me up near to the stove and I’ll tell you step by step what to do.”

Clifford, Melodie, and the children came over the first night after Mary came from the rehab center.

“We wanted to bring you a housewarming gift and tell you how happy we are that you are finally home.”

They brought a good set of cookware.

“Dana, we have two gifts for you. Since I never kept my promise to teach you to cook, here is a Betty Crocker Cookbook. The second gift came to my parents’ house addressed to you. They gave it to us to give to you.”

It was a letter from Rosalita”

“Dear Dana,

I am glad that you got away from that camp shelter. It was awful. No one there liked Mexicans.

Several months ago a chartered bus came for all the Mexicans. There was a really nice woman who spoke Spanish and explained everything. The wives and children of men who are missing were taken to a small town in Arkansas. They had a house for each family in a low rent housing project. That is where I am now. The bus was going on to Tulsa, Oklahoma where the husbands of three of the wives are in a hospital.

My Mom has a job in a restaurant here. The other women all have some kind of job. I like the school here. There are a lot of Mexican students and they work hard to get good grades.

         You are still my best friend. Please write me. Here is my address….”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 23

Mary’s days at the rehab center were busier than she would have believed. There were group exercises, classes with required readings and quizzes, sessions with a counselor, physical therapy, weekly examination by a doctor, and sessions with a prosthetic technician.

Beginning next week, Mary would have to wear a leather sleeve on her stump. If there was no swelling, irritation, or skin breakdown, they would start adding weight to the sleeve until they had a rod that reached the ground. She was warned at least once a day that she should not put any body weight on her stump.

Mary worked hard and the people working with her gave her as much as she wanted and a little bit more. It was refreshing to work with a patient who had such grit and determination.

Mary had a hard time finding time to do so, but she sent emails to Shawnda and Shawanda and one of them sent her the email address for Helen Brumstel. Mary was determined to write a happy, chatty message to Helen at least once a week. She really missed the Kindle because she had to wait until a computer was free in the library. She decided to ask Karl to get her one.

It was really wonderful to see Karl and Dana again.

Karl told her that the original project to start up farming at Wesson Farm had been abandoned. He and the other men would concentrate on clearing the rubble and debris in Victoria so that at some time in the future it can be rebuilt. He doubted that the job would take more than three months.

“Good,” cried Mary. “We will both be finishing about the same time. We can start a new life together.”

 Some of the worry lines on Karl’s face faded and he smiled at Mary.

“You surely know how to encourage me and get me started down the track,” he said.

Dana noticed that her mother was wearing shorts and a blouse.

“You got some new clothes, Mommy.”

“Yes, when they brought me here I was in a hospital gown and nothing else. I couldn’t go to exercise classes or any place else dressed like that. One of the aides got a $200 money card for me from the Red Cross. She got my sizes and then went to Walmart and bought me some underwear, a pair of sneakers, socks, some sweatshirts, and shorts, and even a cotton nightgown. It makes me feel more like a woman to have some clothes to wear.”

Dana told her mother how nasty Mrs. Stauer was to her.

“Melodie said that we would be out of their house before next Friday. She and Clifford leased a three bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms will be for me until you and Daddy have a place.”

That was bitter for Karl and Mary to hear.

Mary said to Karl, “If we can afford it, would you get a Kindle for me? I would also need a money card with about $100 on it so I can put some games, books, and music on it. I think you can get one for a little over $100. Wait until the next time you come. Leaving it at the reception desk might be a temptation to someone.”

As soon as Karl and Dana left, they went to Walmart to buy a Kindle for Mary. Karl talked to the sales associate and bought the model he suggested. He asked him to set it up for him. The associate showed him how to put a pass code on it, and how to put his credit card number on it so that Mary could buy apps, music, books, and games.

On Sunday after they went to church they would bring the Kindle to Mary during visiting hours.

Going back to the Stauers’ Dana said to her father,

“I have been feeling sad and guilty about something.”

“What is that, Dana?”

“I ran away from that shelter in Ferndale. The girls were mean and so were the counselors. It worked out all right for me, but I left my best friend Rosalita alone with those nasty girls. Then I get to thinking about her mother and the other Mexican women. There is no one there who understands their language except Rosalita.

“Those women have lots of problems. They have lost any papers they had to show that they have a right to be in this country. Several of them have husbands who were taken away from Victoria by rescue teams. They are probably in a hospital but their wives don’t know which ones. The ones whose husbands died, what will become of them and their children. What will become of Rosalita?

“Who will bury the men who died and where will they be buried. Grandad had a preacher preach over his coffin. Will they have a priest and will their family see them buried?”

“Young lady, you have raised some difficult questions. I promise you that I will pose them to Clifford.”

The next day they returned to the country church and ate at the crossroads diner.

When they went up to see Mary, she was delighted with the Kindle. Karl told her that, rather than buy a money card, he had put in his credit card number. Anytime she bought something at the Kindle store, she would have to type in her password. He whispered it in her ear and she blushed.

When he took Dana back to the Stauers’, Karl spoke to Clifford.

“Dana was talking to me about her friend Rosalita and how guilty she feels that Rosalita is still in that shelter that Dana ran away from. That got me to thinking. Shouldn’t Wesson Farm take some initiative in helping the widows and orphans of its former employees get settled someplace? They will need a Spanish speaking legal assistant to help them straighten out their status with the immigration authorities and getting assistance from Human Services.

“Several of those women saw their husbands lying injured on the ground. The rescue team took them off in a helicopter. They have no idea what hospital their husbands are in and no way to get there if they knew.

“I just think that in a tragedy like this that a company has some responsibility to help the survivors and their families.”

“I’ll talk to Mr. Stauer, Karl.”


Monday, June 1, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 22

Tomorrow my mother is going to be moved from the hospital in Monroe, Louisiana to St. Vincent’s rehabilitation center in Little Rock. Today my daddy is going to pick me up to go to church. I’m watching the children so that Clifford and Melodie can have a weekend together.

“Jamie, Joy come on. Let’s get some breakfast and then we are going to church.”

Down at the breakfast table Jamie and Joy were talking excitedly about going to church. When we were all living in Victoria, Clifford, Melodie, and the children went to the same Baptist church that we attended in Lepanto. At the breakfast table they were singing the songs they learned in Sunday School. Mrs. Stauer came into the kitchen.

“Granmaw, we are going to church.”

“Why didn’t I hear anything about this? You may be helping with the children, but you are just a twelve year old child. You don’t make adult decisions. I don’t want them going to a strange church.”

“My father is going to pick me up to go to church. If I don’t take the children to church with us, then you will have to watch them until I get back.”

“I didn’t give you permission to go to church.”

“You don’t have to give me permission, my father is taking me.”

The children were crestfallen. I went upstairs to put on my pretty dress.

Daddy picked me up early.

“I thought if I drove out of town a little bit, we could find a church that wasn’t so big and high falooting.”

I giggled. We did find a country church. The people were real friendly. The pastor preached the way ordinary people talk, not a bunch of big words and biggety ways.

On the way home we stopped at a small diner and had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. Afterward, we had a slice of apple pie. Everything tasted so good. The woman who waited on us was also the cook. She said most of the food she uses is grown or raised by local farmers.

It was about 2pm when I returned to the Stauers’. Mrs. Stauer was having a tizzy fit. The children were both crying. Mr. Stauer was hiding someplace. As soon as I walked in the house, she said, “It’s about time.” Then she marched off, not to be seen until Clifford and Melodie returned late that evening.

Mrs. Stauer came into the parlor to meet them.

“Don’t you ever put me in that position again. I had to watch two little children and one obnoxious teenager for two long days. Now I need my nerve medicine so that I can get some rest at last.”

I was shaking all over and trying not to cry. I went to my room. After Melodie had the children put into bed, she came to my room.

“What happened Dana?”

“I watched the children all day Saturday. She stopped me from taking them out into the yard. Then I didn’t see her until supper time when she told  me that she and Mr. Stauer were going to a restaurant to get away from the noisy children. I don’t know how to cook anything. All I knew to do was give them cereal and milk. Today I was going to take the children to church with my father and me. She wouldn’t let me. When I returned both the children were crying and she was having a tizzy fit.

“I’m so sorry, Dana, but it was important for us to get away together.”

Monday, Daddy came by to take me to see Mom at St. Vincent’s. She said the ambulance ride was like lying in the bed of a truck which was going down a bumpy road. She looked pretty ragged. I guess that is why. We can’t see her again until Saturday. Daddy is going away tomorrow, so I probably won’t see him until Saturday.

Melodie saw a sign outside a church about a mile from her parents’ house. It was having Vacation Bible School for children preschool to fifth grade in the mornings and for youths sixth grade through high school in the afternoons. Melodie took the children just to get them out of the house. Clifford is busy figuring things on a scratch pad and on a computer. From time to time he confers with her father. That is how they stay away from Mrs. Stauer. Melodie and I are in her direct line of fire.

When the children go in for a nap, Melodie has been showing me how to crochet. I am working on a scarf now. I guess that is the easiest thing. Melodie has crocheted gloves for the children and hats also. I told her that I want to learn to cook. She said that when she has a home of her own, she will teach me, but in her mother’s home and kitchen, she wouldn’t dare.

Mr. Clifford’s condition makes things strange. He has forgotten things that the children remember that he did with them. Melodie told me that he can’t remember how they met or any of the things they did together. Although he says that he loves her, if she asks him, he doesn’t remember being in love with her or asking her to marry him. I’ve noticed how she flirts with him. She said to me once, “I’m having to redo our courtship.”

Little by little we have worked out a routine that allows us to stay out of the way of Mrs. Stauer and keep the children away from her. I went to the library to get some children’s book to read to Jamie and Joy. I also found some books for myself to read. While there I saw a notice about a Children’s Story Time. I wrote down the day and hour each week; we plan to take the children to that.

On Friday, Daddy and Clifford came home early. They had left Marked Tree as soon as they arose and packed their belongings. They went into the library with Clifford’s father.

Clifford led off the conversation,

“Father we need to abandon the project now before we spend any more money. Karl drove me around. Right now the only way to get to Victoria is to roar up a five foot dune of loose soil and hope that you get to the top without getting stuck. Once we reached Victoria, the sight is really grim. It will take a lot of work and a lot of money just to clean up all the debris. There doesn’t appear to be any farm equipment that escaped the fire and destruction.

“It isn’t possible to reach half the acreage until the roads are repaired. Even though there appear to be crops in most of the fields we could reach, it would be dangerous to cultivate, harvest, or plough in those fields as long as the earth is unstable. If the chasm along National Ditch #6 opens again, we would be cut off from nearly all of the fields. 

“Even if we could repair the roads enough to be useable by us and could get the Army to throw a bridge across where the bridge is out, it would not be a good idea to do so. If we repair a road, the public will begin to use it. The first person to have a wreck would be suing us. They would say that we didn’t repair it according to some specification or other that we didn’t know about. We will just have to wait for the State to repair those roads and it will not be soon. They will have a major task repairing the interstate highway that links Memphis to St. Louis. Then they will repair the U.S. highways. It will be a couple years before they repair those State highways. They won’t even start until they convince the Federal government to give them extra money for earthquake damage.”

Karl said, “I agree with Clifford one hundred percent. I feel bad that I promised the men a job and now there won’t be a job for them.”

Mr. Stauer spoke, “Maybe there is a job for them. We could clean up Victoria so that we will be ready to rebuild when the roads are opened.”

Clifford said, “How can we get equipment into Victoria before the roads are repaired?”

Karl said, “If we have a bulldozer, a front end loader/backhoe, and a dump truck, the dozer and the loader/backhoe will have tracks. They should go right up the dune. The dozer will have to tow the dump truck. We will have to have some sleeping arrangements for the men in Victoria and haul them out and back in on the weekends. Maybe we can take in a camp stove. We’ll have to carry in water and food each week. We will also have to lease a four wheel drive SUV to take the men back and forth to Little Rock on the weekends. I hope that it can make it over the dune.”

The men seemed to have reached an agreement on that.

When Clifford came out of the meeting, Melodie took him aside.

“Clifford before you go away again, you have to make some arrangements for your family. I need a car and I want us to rent a three bedroom apartment. That will allow a bedroom for Dana. Karl will have to get a motel room on the weekends. There is too much tension in the house caused by my mother. She doesn’t like the children, she doesn’t like Dana, and I fear she doesn’t even like me.”

“I’ve been so occupied with this project that your father assigned to me, that I have neglected your needs. I apologize. Give me an hour to get cleaned up and change my clothes. You will have to tell me what bank has our accounts. We’ll go there first, see what our situation is, and from there we will go look for a car. Tomorrow we will hunt for an apartment.

“I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time adjusting to having a family – a wife, children, and in-laws that I don’t remember. It isn’t that I don’t want you to be my wife, don’t think that for a moment. It is just that I don’t remember anything about us before the quake. In fact I don’t remember the quake. My memory starts in the hospital. The other day in the store I was flabbergasted when you were saying, “He likes this, he likes that.” when I didn’t know myself that I liked them.”

He leaned over and kissed her on the lips. She looked surprised, kissed him back and then cried.

Melodie asked me to watch the children until they got back. She said it might be after supper. She said that I was to give the children a small peanut butter and jelly sandwich and tell them that their mommy was going to bring them back a Happy Meal.

That evening Mrs. Stauer came into the kitchen before I had a chance to wipe off the kitchen table and wash the children’s faces. She made a scathing remark about Melodie leaving the children in the care of a dim-witted ragamuffin.

Clifford and Melodie came in then and Melodie said, “Jamie, Joy – I brought you each a Happy Meal.” The children squealed with delight and Mrs. Stauer muttered something about another mess for her to clean up. I was as happy as the kids because they brought me a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke.

Melodie asked me if there was any trouble while she was gone. I said No. She said,

“Clifford and I are leaving right after breakfast tomorrow to look for a three bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms will be for you. Your father will only be back here on the weekends. He can stay in a motel. Can you watch the children again?”

“My father will pick me up a little after 1 p.m. to take me to visit with my mother.”

“Okay, I will try to come back by 1pm and pick them up. If I’m not here, just go on with your father and leave them for my mother to watch.”

The next day a little before 1 p.m., I changed into my pretty dress and came downstairs. The children were watching television. Mrs. Stauer came into the room and said,

“My, you are dressed up so pretty. Are you going somewhere?”

“My father will be here any minute to pick me up to go see my mother.”

“Wonder who will watch the children? I am going out now myself.”

My heart turned upside down. What can I do? I can’t go off and leave the children. I don’t want to miss a chance to see my mother. If I take them with us, I could sit down in the lobby with them until Daddy came down to watch them. That isn’t a very good arrangement. I hardly ever get to see my father or my mother. If the children are along with us, they require so much attention that my father and I won’t have any time together. I would have cried but Grandad always said, “Crying don’t fix the bucket.”

I heard tires on the gravel in front of the house. It is Daddy and I’ll have to tell him. But, it was Melodie and Clifford.

“We have found an apartment. We just leased it for six months. By the beginning of the year, the project should be completed and your mother and Karl will be ready for an apartment of their own. You will be living with them. We are going to rent furniture. We should be moved in – you, the children and I – before Clifford gets back from Marked Tree on Friday.”

Just then my father came and I ran out of the house to him. On the way to the rehab center I told him how disagreeable Mrs. Stauer is to me, especially when Melodie and Clifford are not there. I told him that Clifford and Melodie leased a three bedroom apartment and that one bedroom would be for me.

Mother looked much better than she did last Monday. I guess part of it is the exercises and therapy she is getting. Also, this time she had a comb, brush, and makeup.

Father told her that the project was probably only going to last until the end of the year. He was worried about a job after that.

“Karl, God has brought us through difficult times this last month. I believe that He already knows the next job you will have.”


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 21

After Karl left Dana at the Stauers’, and gave Melodie money to buy the toiletries Mary requested, he went back to the shelter. The men were deciding where to go for supper. They all decided to go to a sub shop and bring the subs back to their room.

As Shorty said, “Money is getting tight and none of us have found a job.”

When they were all back in the room eating, Karl spoke up,

“Have any of you thought of working for Wesson Farm?”

“Tell us more about it.”

“Mr. Cartright wants me to go up to Victoria this week, if I can get into it. He wants me to report on what repairs need to be done to the roads to have access to the Farm with big trucks. Then he wants us to repair the roads well enough for big trucks to go back and forth to the Farm. After the roads are repaired he wants an inventory of what farm equipment is useable and what equipment can be repaired. After that he wants the fields surveyed to know which ones still have crops growing, and what fields will have to be graded and bulldozed before they can be ploughed.

“It is a big job, but I think the way we worked together in Blytheville shows that we could handle the job.”

“When would we start?”

“Probably next week.”

“Who would we see?”

“Me. He gave me authority to hire who I needed.”

“How much will it pay?”

“Probably $25/hour. I will ask for $30/hour, but I might have to come down to $25.”

Jack Raymond spoke, “I am all for it. If the job could start by next week, I am going to turn up the heat and see if the Red Cross has any information on my wife and children. Karl found his family after someone turned up the heat. You know what they say about the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease.”

“So I can count on all of you?”

There was a chorus of affirmative responses.

Karl called the Stauers’ home. He asked to speak to Melodie.

“I realized that it was presumptuous of me to ask you to buy those items for Mary.”

“Not at all. It takes another woman to perform that sort of errand. Besides, with Dana here helping with the children, it is no bother to slip out and run an errand.”

“What time could I pick up the items in the morning?”

“I should be back by 10 a.m. I can get everything she needs at Walgreen’s.”

“Could I speak with your father-in-law?”

“Mr. Stauer, I want to go up to Marked Tree tomorrow and then see how far I can go toward Victoria.”


“I will have to rent a four wheel drive vehicle and I will have to have money for a motel and meals.”

“Find out where you can rent a four wheel drive vehicle and how much it will cost. When you come over here to pick up the items Melodie is getting for your wife, have the amount and the name of the dealer. Clifford will write two checks – one for you and one for the dealer. I’ll be anxiously awaiting your report.”

The next day Karl found a 2010 Ford F-250 diesel four wheel drive truck. The dealer agreed to lease it Wesson Farm for $1500/month. Karl went back to the Stauers’. Clifford agreed that a lease was best because they would be using it until next spring. He gave Karl a check for the dealer and a check for $1000 for his personal expenses.

Karl asked for their driver to accompany him so that he could return the Corolla he had rented.

Karl dropped off the bag of toiletries for Mary and was on the road by noon headed for Marked Tree. In Marked Tree he found a room in a modest motel. He walked around town looking for places that farmers and truck drivers might be found. He wanted to find out about the roads. They told him that the road to Lepanto was broken up in some places but was passable. No one had any information about the roads beyond Lepanto.

On Wednesday morning he drove to Lepanto. He found out that a couple miles north of Lepanto there is a long curve in the road. In the curve there was a “dune” about the height of a two or three story building. It came up out of the field. There was no way of knowing what the road was like underneath it. That was AR 140.

Going back to Lepanto, he tried going north on AR 135. Not far from town there was a bridge and the bridge had been torn apart by the quake. Looking across the bridge the road seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Tomorrow he would go north on US 63 to AR 69, go north on it to Bowman, from there go east to Black Oak where he could get on AR 135 and go south on it. If AR 135 was passable going south back to the bridge, it would just be a matter of putting in a temporary bridge like the Army Engineers put down.

While he was on the north side of the river, he would find out if the road from AR 135 to Victoria was passable. That was going to be a lot of driving. He decided to fill up his tank with diesel fuel, buy a sleeping bag and some food like hikers carry, plus several gallon jugs of water.

On Thursday Karl was able to get back to the north side of the ruined bridge on AR 135 by going up US 63, AR 69 and then east to Black Oak and coming south on AR 135. By then it was afternoon. He knew that if he simply retraced his route that it would be late at night by the time he returned to Marked Tree. He decided to drive north on AR 135 to the road which leads to Victoria.

He was able to go past the road to Whistleville and thought that he was going to make it to Victoria. Suddenly he came to a deep chasm in the road. He got out of the truck and looked down into the chasm. It was so deep that he couldn’t see the bottom. They could probably put one of those bridges like the Army uses across that chasm, but it was really scary to look at it.

By now it was dark. He had to back up a long way before he came to the dirt road leading to Whistlevile. He pulled up beside the cotton gin, parked the truck, took his flashlight and went looking for his father-in-law’s A frame cottage. He found it and it was open. He saw two oil lamps and lit them. He walked back to the truck and got his sleeping bag, food, and water. It wasn’t cold enough for a fire. He settled in for the night.

To think that just weeks ago Dana had found shelter here from the quake, had spent several nights here with her grandfather shortly before he died. How did she get across that chasm when she was running away from Victoria? How did men get a pickup truck across that chasm on their way to Whistleville to pick up Dana and her grandfather and how did they get across it on their way back to Victoria?

Friday, Karl arose early, put his things in the truck, drank some lukewarm, day old coffee from his thermos, and ate a couple toaster pastry bars. He remembered the stuffed animals Dana mentioned and went back into the house for them.

 Just as he was about to step up into the truck, the ground started bucking and heaving like an untamed horse trying to throw its rider. The A frame cottage came down in dust and splintering wood. The cotton gin collapsed with the rattle of tin and the grinding of steel against steel. When the quake subsided, Karl drove out to the road AR 158 which he had come in on. Looking to the west, which is the direction of his return, a huge section of the road had crumbled into the field on the south side.

He knew that east on AR 158 he would come to that huge chasm about where the National Ditch #6 crossed it. He decided to drive down that way. When he reached the chasm, it seemed to have come together. It could still be seen in both directions, but where it crossed the road it was only a foot wide. Karl knew that it could crumble away and become much wider if he crossed it in a vehicle, but he decided to try it anyway. He put the truck in four wheel drive and drove across it quickly. The rear wheels started to drop down, but with the truck’s momentum and the front wheels pulling, he made it across.

Karl realized that he would now have to go south on AR 181 and then west on AR 140 which would bring him to that big pile of dirt. He decided to go into Victoria before going south on AR 181.

Mary wanted the picture albums. He drove to the trailer. It had been rolled over on its side. The roof looked like a giant can opener had cut it out and rolled it back. Karl went to their bedroom. Everything was strewn around on the wall which was now the floor. He stooped and crawled to the dresser but he couldn’t move it or reach the drawers. Going back to the truck he got a nylon rope. Forming it into a lasso, he fitted it around the dresser. Then he tied the rope onto the ball hitch of the truck. He slowly moved the truck forward. The rope got so tight that he was afraid it would break. Suddenly the dresser came flying out of the trailer and landed in a mound of splintered wood and clothing. Karl left the clothing and retrieved the picture albums. Then he drove away.

Going down AR 181 and then on AR 140. National Ditch #6 crosses AR 140 east of Atheistan, but Karl saw no evidence of the chasm. Approaching Lepanto he kept watching for the twenty feet high “dune”. It was still there but the bulk of the dirt had shifted onto a field east of the road. The “dune” was now only five feet high. Karl knew that it would be loose dirt and that he could get stuck. If he did, he could walk the last couple miles to Lepanto. He put the truck in four wheel drive and got a running start. Going up the dune, the truck went slower and slower. Near the top it almost stopped, but it reached the top, tipped onto the downward slope and then the task was to keep control of the steering.

In Marked Tree he picked up his belongings and checked out of the motel. He drove straight to Little Rock and arrived at the shelter about 6pm. The men were about to go out to eat. They had decided to go to Jimmy John’s which claimed to have the best sandwiches in town. They all jumped into the crew cab truck and Karl drove them there.

They had all been trying to locate their families. Jack Raymond’s wife and two children were in a shelter. He wanted to take them with him to Marked Tree. Shorty’s wife was in a hospital in Fayetteville. He was going up there tomorrow to see her. One of the men was called “Snuffy Smith”. The Red Cross had no information on his wife so far.

Harry Davenport called his in-laws who lived in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife and three children somehow got away from Gosnell in their car. His wife had driven to her parents and didn’t know if he was living or dead. She didn’t know who to ask to find out. He told her that he had a job starting Monday. As soon as he had the money, he would fly up or somehow get up there to see her and the kids.

Slim Sam Walters was told by the Red Cross that they had no information on his wife so far.

After they ate, Karl took them back to the shelter and then went to the Stauers’. He told Dana that he would pick her up at 1pm to go see her mother. Then he asked to speak to Mr. Paul Stauer and Clifford.

He told them about what he had found – the dune on AR 140, the bridge that is out on AR 135, the section of AR 158 that collapsed. He told them about the chasm along National Ditch #6 which was open and then closed after a second quake.

“Our men can do the other road repairs, but we would need the military to come in and put down one of their temporary bridges on AR 135 and probably over the chasm. We would need permission from the State to make temporary repairs to their roads.

“If you want to go ahead with your plans to reopen Wesson Farm, you will need government cooperation and it will cost a lot of money. I have asked the five men who worked with me in Blytheville. They want $35/hour and full health insurance – no copay – because the hazard of working with the earth while it is still unstable.

“This near to the event is the best time to get government aid and approval for rebuilding. On the other hand, there is something to be said for waiting several years until the earth has quieted down below.”

The elder Mr. Cartright said, “People who are cautious never make any money. I don’t think that we are being reckless. We have 8,200 acres that are losing money as long as they are idle. Clifford, do you feel up to going up there with him on Monday.”

“I’ll be ready, sir.”

“Take the checkbook with you and I will be busy calling the Governor and some legislators – state and federal.”


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 20

On Thursday afternoon Dr. Kubicki came to Mary’s room.

“I’m going to tell you something that even your husband doesn’t know yet. On Monday you are going to be moved to St. Vincent’s residential physical rehabilitation center in Little Rock. I just got off the phone with Sister Catherine. Your husband had an interview with her this morning and she told him that she would call him when a decision had been made.

“After talking to me, she decided that they would admit you even though there are some on the waiting list ahead of you. I told her how highly motivated you are, how cooperative you have been as a patient, and what difficult obstacles you have overcome in just less than three weeks.

“The whole process of being fitted with a prosthetic leg, learning to put it on and take it off, learning proper care of the stump, and learning to walk with it on crutches and then with a cane can take as much as six months. A very few accomplish it in three months. Most take four to five months.”

“I want to do it in three months.”

“I’m sure that you, God, and Mamaw working together can do it.”

After supper Mary went rolling down the hall. She stopped at the nurses’ station and told Shawnda and Shawanda that she was leaving on Monday. She asked them if they were planning on going mudding this weekend.

“What? Do you think I’m a slow learner, Girl?”

Mary laughed. Further down the hall she stopped at Miss Helen Brumstel’s room.

“How are you doing, Helen?”

“How does it look like I am doing?”

She still had both legs in casts, suspended in the air.

“How are you passing the time? Do you play any of the games or read any of the books on the Kindle?”

“No, I don’t know how to use it.”

“I’m sure any of the nurses would show you how to use it.”

“Yeah, sure, when monkeys fly.”

“You can send emails on it also.”

“I wouldn’t know anybody to send an email to.”

“I’m leaving Monday to go to a residential physical rehabilitation center in Little Rock. I’ll send an email to Shawnda, she can get my address off of it and give it to you. Then if you send me an email, I’ll have your address and then I can write emails to you.”

On the way back down the hall Mary told Shawnda about her conversation with Helen. Shawnda wrote down her email address and promised to show Helen how to use the Kindle. Shawanda overheard the conversation and handed Mary her email address.

“You’d better send an email to me if you send one to Shawnda.”

The next day Dana came with Karl. While they were there and even after they left, the fireworks in her heart were brighter than all of the fireworks in the skies over Monroe and Little Rock that night combined.

On Saturday afternoon Rev. Rowell came by to see her.

“Reverend Rowell, I am so glad you came today. I am leaving Monday morning to go to a residential physical rehabilitation center in Little Rock. I want you to pray with me in thanking the Lord for all His blessings to me. They have just rolled in like white fluffy clouds in a blue summer’s sky. My family has been found. My husband and daughter were not harmed in the quake. My kidneys started working again. I am going to be closer to my family. I have so much to be thankful for to the Lord.

“After we pray, I wish you would go in to see Miss Helen Brumstel. She was injured in the same beauty shop as I was. She is so lonely and blue. I wish she knew the Lord. Tell her you are a friend of mine and that I sent you.”

Rev. Rowell prayed with Mary. After her prayers of thanksgiving, Mary asked the Lord to make Helen happy and help her to find Jesus as a Friend.

Sunday was the last day Mary would be in the hospital. She had said goodbye to Wanda, Ilene, Shawnda, and Shawanda. She hoped that Merrybelle would be working tonight. She had meant so much to her. She had turned her and treated her with special gentleness when Mary was still in a lot of pain.

Finally, Monday morning came. Mary was surprised how quickly everything happened. She had barely finished her breakfast when the men from the ambulance company came to transport her to Little Rock. They were as rough as Merrybelle was gentle. She was loaded onto a stretcher or maybe it was a gurney. It had a mattress pad that felt like it was an inch thick.

They stopped on the first floor. Someone from the hospital office signed some papers. Mary had to sign a paper. Then on out to the ambulance they rolled her. When they lifted her up into the ambulance, the wheels folded under the stretcher. Mary felt them when they hit the bottom of the pad. The ambulance did not ride like a cloud. Mary felt like a sack of potatoes in the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. There was a man riding in the back with her, but he never said anything. It seemed like he was having a hard time holding on.

When they arrived at St. Vincent’s there were more papers signed and exchanged. Then she was lifted from their stretcher into a wheelchair. A pleasant looking blonde nurse introduced herself as Sally Outlaw. She was wearing scrubs and tennis shoes.

“Mrs. Cusak, that will probably be the last time you will be lifted by someone else while you are here. I am going to take you to your room and then I will go over the program here.”

She walked ahead and let Mary roll the wheelchair herself. Mary had never maneuvered a wheelchair onto an elevator before, but Sally stood aside and let Mary figure it out on her own. Mary rolled into the elevator and turned the wheelchair around so that she would be headed out of the elevator when the doors opened again.

“Very good. You must have done this before.”

“No, ma’am. This is my first time.”

“Really? Hey, we are going to get along just fine.”

In the room Sally had Mary demonstrate how she moved from a wheelchair into the bed and then how she moved from the bed to the wheelchair. Next she had her demonstrate moving from the wheelchair to the toilet.

Mary said, “Good. I had that three hours ride in the ambulance and I have been dying to pee.”

Sally laughed. “I like you Mary.”

When Mary came back out into the room, she and Sally sat at the table.

“I have called down for a tray because lunch time is over. Normally, you will eat your meals in the dining room. This facility is very different from a hospital. We make you do everything for yourself that you are able to do. You will see people crying and saying they can’t do something. We just cross our arms, wait for them to quit crying, and tell them again to do it. You won’t be spending much time in bed. You won’t have an afternoon nap unless the doctor orders it. You will be busy all day.

“Everyone’s schedule is different except for meal times. That is because the doctors have to see you individually. You will have one hour a day with one or two physical therapists. They work with you individually.

“You will have time each day with a prosthesis specialist. He will determine when your stump is ready. At first you will just wear a leather cuff, then there will be a weight attached to it. You will work up gradually to wearing an artificial limb. Even after you are wearing a limb, you can’t put any body weight on it for a long time. That means that you have to learn to get around on crutches.

“You have a lot else to learn here. For that reason there are only two hours on Saturday and two hours on Sunday when your family can visit. Do you have any questions?”


“Good, because I hear them bringing your tray. When you are finished eating put all the dishes, utensils, and uneaten food on the cart outside your door. No food is allowed in the room. I’ll go and call your family. They can visit with you for one hour.”

Mary’s head was spinning from all that had happened so far that day and all that Sally told her. She hungrily ate her lunch and went into the toilet to wash her face and hands. She tried combing her hair with her fingers.

Karl and Dana came about an hour later. She tried to recap the things Sally had told her about the program. Karl and Dana brought her up to date on their life especially that they would probably be moving up to Marked Tree or Lepanto and that Karl would be working in Victoria.

“Karl, see if you can get our photograph albums out of the mobile home. They were in the bottom drawer of the dresser in our bedroom. Also, ask Melodie to go to the store and buy me a comb, a hairbrush, a tube of medium red lipstick, some face powder, some hand cream, some shampoo, some tissues. She’s a woman; she’ll know what I need. You can bring them when you come on Saturday. I expect Dana will need some toiletry items also.”

“Daddy gave Melodie $200 to buy me some clothes. She left me to choose what I wanted and I stayed within the $200 limit.”

Exactly one hour later Sally was at the door.

Karl said to Sally, “I know that we can’t visit again until Saturday at    2 p.m., but my wife asked me to buy her some toiletry items like a comb, a hairbrush, toothpaste and toothbrush, and so on. Is there some place that I could leave those things for her tomorrow?”

“Sure, just leave them with the receptionist with your wife’s name on the bag.”

In the time remaining before supper, Sally brought me six elastic bandages.

“These will have to last you until next Monday. I want you to get whatever you need from the bathroom, move up onto the bed, remove the elastic bandage that you are wearing, wash the stump, put on one of these elastic bandages, then wash the bandage you are wearing now. Be careful to rinse out all the soap so that you won’t get a skin irritation on your stump. Then I will show you how to lay out the wet bandage to dry in such a manner that it won’t lose its elasticity.”

Sally was satisfied with how Mary wrapped the stump with the new bandage and how she washed and rinsed the old bandage.

“You don’t have to use this again. It is a cheap one-use bandage, but I can use it to show you the proper way to dry them and when it is dry, you can save it to use as a spare. When you dry them, lay them out on a flat surface with no wrinkling. Never let them hang down over something. If you do they will lose their elasticity. Put them away someplace safe. There are always people who would rather steal a clean bandage than to wash one.

“It is time for supper. Go down to the basement on the elevator, then follow the signs to the cafeteria. Show the cashier this card so she knows you are a patient and you won’t have to pay.”

Mary thought, “She really meant it when she said they expect you to do things for yourself. I am going in a wheelchair down to the basement on an elevator, then look for signs to get to the cafeteria. Once I am in the cafeteria, how will I manage taking a tray through the line and maneuvering a wheelchair?”

Mary found the cafeteria. Then she found several tables marked “For Wheelchair Patrons Only”. She saw a lady sitting at the end of the table and said to her,

“Excuse me, this is my first time. How do you manage to get food on your tray and your tray to the table in a wheelchair?”

“It isn’t as hard as it seems. Roll over to the beginning of the line, get a tray and silverware rolled in a napkin. Put them on your tray, then put your tray down on the bars in front of the line and slide it along until you see something you want. Point to it and the server will put it on your plate and he will wait until you have pointed to all the things you want. He’ll put the plate on your tray and 99 times out of 100 he will carry it to the check out line. You pick up a roll or bread and put them on your tray and get whatever drink you want. You show the cashier your card and she will ring it up with a code so the center pays it. Then she or someone else will ask where you are sitting and will carry it for you.”

“That is awfully nice.”

“Yes and that way they don’t have a mess to clean up if you drop your tray.”

Mary sat beside the lady, whose name is Nelly Lambeth. Nelly has diabetes and had lost a leg because her leg became infected and the poor circulation and poor healing caused by diabetes had allowed the infection to become gangrenous.

Observing other people at her table and nearby tables, Mary could see that some had spunk, some were whiners, some were depressed.

When she returned to her room, Mary found a pamphlet about the proper care of a stump lying on her bed with a note: “Read and study this. You will be given a test on its contents sometime tomorrow.”