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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.
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”
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….”