Last night, on my way back into town from the mountains, about 10pm, I’m stuck at the bridge leading into town. The river had swollen over. There are two trucks waiting ahead of me. The Dominican truckers are big 'macho' men, they're even carrying pistols. I say that not to indicate danger but to describe a certain mentality. They're the type you would think are ready to take matters into their own hands. Well, we wait an hour for the water to subside. Now, we can see that the river left us some gifts, big trees over the bridge making passage for the trucks impossible. None of them are willing to investigate further. So, I waded out over this bridge, the water was about calf high, but not rushing over the bridge. This inspires a few to follow. I begin to move a few logs but we are definitely in a fix. The only thing they can think of is, 'Father, the church has a tractor, you do something.' This is a familiar line of thought among the folks down here. It's always up to the church, or you Americans. It looked to me as if these trees weren't going to budge, so I succumbed to their line of thinking and began my three mile hike in the dark to get our tractor. I stopped to talk to a few border guards, but they were unwilling to help or get help. The idea of waking some locals up to help was out of the question in their minds. These are the same people who have no problem partying all hours of the night. Well, with no one willing to give me a ride, I started on my mission—11:30pm. By the time I arrive back to the bridge with the church tractor, the operator and an assistant, at that very moment our bridge comes into view, two trucks and my pickup are coming across—1:00am.
See, I left behind an American volunteer, Pete Benedetto, who is helping us put in acquaducts in the mountains. Pete had spent his whole day hiking in the mountains with me and two nuns. There wasn’t a descent meal involved and it rained half the time. Pete is a tall guy but not burly like our truckers sitting high and dry in the truck. But with dogged determination he heads out onto the bridge. Not knowing enough Spanish to move the men but being the engineer he knows one can move the world with a lever. He employs some of the debris to the logs and with persistence he's able to give these guys the hope that they can move these obstacles and they eventually join in to help.
An earlier bridge crossing. Yes, there is a bridge which will apear an hour later.
fyi - it looks like our internet, due to some issues with the brazilians and americans, will be down for an undetermined time beginning on june 30th. so, we will basically be out of communication for "God only knows how long"; i suspect at least a week. therefore, in case of any emergency there is really nothing we can do. so everybody stay healthy and we just won't have any surprises when we get back online...
it's scorching hot down here. egg-frying on the hood of the truck hot. pray for some rain.
this evening we will receive a visitor and then a slew of them come down. i believe we'll have guests until august 3rd or so, so please keep them in your prayers.
The works were in place. Fr. Gee made arrangements with the hospital to have the ambulance ready and some unlucky policeman drew the small straw to ride shotgun. The only problem…How to get him inside the truck? Since, the hombre, the one they called, El Loco, was presently menacing Pedro Santana, the lot fell to the newly appointed pastor of the victimized village—Fr. Murphy. So armed with the only weapons he had, his wits and pack of sleeping pills he rode into town.
It was a typically, sultry afternoon, the tropical sun nearing its summer solstice. The town had few folks about, some itinerant Haitians and young boys enjoying school’s end, riding their bikes in the empty streets. At the general store I explained the plan to the proprietor who was known to supply El Loco with his daily victuals. I was in luck; he liked Coca Cola. We conspired to dose a bottle of soda and wait for him to come around. Unfortunately, the clerk was heading out of town and his wife wanted nothing to do with our man. So, I took my tainted bottle and I went to wait for the right opportunity. I figured it wouldn’t take long. All I needed to do was open the church and hang around. He always felt a need to check out what was going on in our place of worship and sometimes would enter the sacred space while I offered Mass. Without fail, like Moses parting the sea, my flock would fill in the spaces up front as he walked down the aisle.
As I suspected, he made his rounds; attired with his customary rags about his feet, soiled clothes, a head styled yellow from mango and dust with which he groomed himself. I sat astride my motorcycle parked in front of the church gate. I made like I was busy. At the right moment I took a draft from my canteen and bade him a “Buenas tardes.” I had his attention and tried my best to give him a thirst quenched satisfied look. It worked, he asked me for some pesos. And according to my policy, I said, “No.” Before he left me disappointed, I reached into my bag to reveal some nice cold refreshment. His eyes lit up. He took the bait. Now, the fear was for him to walk away, take his medicine and take a siesta in some secluded den we never find. The local street urchins were deputized on the spot. They were to be my eyes and stay on his trail while I went to get the wagon (ambulance) in Bánica.
I only pray Fr. Gee and I never have to depend on our local ambulance service for serious medical treatment. Getting this operation together is like readying a shuttle launch. Of course, they were in no hurry. They were not looking forward to an hour and a half ride to San Juan with El Loco. When I returned my ‘Little Rascals’ had followed the man out of town. He was still going strong an hour after imbibing his special draught. I rallied the boys back to town with the hope that the police would pick him up along the way. When I got back to the scene, I met the police and ambulance driver coming my way without the prisoner. Their only excuse, “He’s still walking.”
I don’t know if I’ve made this clear enough. One man, who has menaced two towns of about 1,100 persons each for over a month still isn’t sufficient grounds for the locals to do anything themselves; it’s up to the priests.
By the time we organize a posse large enough to induce sufficient courage in the local populace, our man is gone. Fortunately, they were on his trail in under a half hour. With ropes to bind him and at least ten men, they got him in the truck.
I must admit, I was a little sad at this moment. May be it was a little remorse from having laced somebody’s drink—that wasn’t in my list of expectations for pastor’s duties. Or may be, it was to see this man, who admittedly was seriously deranged, be deprived of his freedom. I’m mean if you can’t be a vagrant here, where can you be?
It seems the story is heading for a positive finish. He slept on the way to San Juan where he was admitted to the hospital to their psychiatric ward. We had thought they would need to relay him to the capital. But thankfully that may not be necessary as he is now under a physician’s care.
if you look carefully at the pictures below you will see that the box is designed with safety in mind. the bottom has full bracing and support in case of a side crash/fall, which would keep the back of the motorcycle higher off the ground, thus providing more space for my potentially trapped limbs. as for a head on crash, well, the box is attached to the motorcycle and i am not, so i'd be flying and the box couldn't possible catch up with me. as for the rear collision, please notice that the top section of the box has no lateral bracing, thuse creating a crumple zone that should take some of the force of the rear impact. once again, thanks for your concern.
as for those interested in the environmental impact, the box acts as both a rear spoiler and an effective slipstream creater, thus giving me a great glide co-efficient and saving gas.
as for those interested in the cargo carrying ability, it fits a full case of beer...
a basic update: as usual, most systems here in banica are a go, but we do have the occasional breakdown as you all know. my saddlebags failed the other day. the motorcycle mounted cargo-carrying apparatus is critical for lugging around my Mass kit, tools, mangoes, ducks, and any other sundries that come into my possession. so, i decided to engineer a different method. based loosely on the pizza box delivery boy model, i came up with the following: (the trick was to get it mounted on a metal grate. it requires three boards between the grate and the fender, screwed from the bottom up - i.e. three small boards on the bottom screw into another board, thus securing a board to the metal mount. then the box gets 4 through bolts into the top board. the box is made from plywood with 1x1 bracing. notice the rubber insulation as well. so far it seems to be able to take the worst the roads can offer, so i have high hopes for it. i stuck 30 pounds of mangoes in there the other day and made it back without any problems.)