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On A Wing And A Prayer With No Spare

Columbus Day of 1996 around 9:00 a.m., my dog and I set out for Corpus Christi, Texas. I had scheduled job interviews in anticipation of moving there after closing the sale of my house in Forth Worth. We were traveling on I-H 35S. I was enjoying the drive until my dog, Princess, tugged on my arm with her right paw. I exclaimed, "You want to go out?" She barked. As I began to slow down and look for a place to pullover, I said, "In a moving car you want to go out?" She barked again; but by this time the car was engulfed in smoke and had lost power. A discomforting feeling hit me because we were now coasting in the middle of no where with few travelers on the road. I managed to direct the car off the road onto the grass. After cracking a window, I took Princess and got out of the car. When I raised the hood, the heat was unbearable. Fortunately, a gentleman saw my distress and parked next to my ailing vehicle. He offered to use his cell phone to call a wrecker. I agreed. The wait was the beginning of an adventure that would be unforgettable. Princess and I rode in the wrecker and my car was towed to a salvage yard in Jerrell, Texas. The owner of the salvage yard made a phone call and then told me it would cost $895.00 to repair the cracked head. Damages apparently began a week earlier when someone had stolen the radiator cap. He recommended replacing the timing belt. Considering the value of the car, hail damage, and vandalism, I was hesitant to consider repairs. Frantically I called my brother in Austin but got his answering machine. I called my son in Arlington but he was at work. In the confusion I must have left a wrong number because neither were able to reach me. Neil, the salvage owner, had a ’79 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a T-top. He had it priced at $600.00 but offered it to me for $400.00. Then he offered $100.00 for my car, an ’88 Mazda with a moon roof. He promised to send the money after the title transfer took place and there would be no towing fee. I had placed a call to my realtor. She was the only person to reach me and agreed this offer was the only obvious choice I had for wheels. She promised to wire $400.00 to me in Corpus Christi. I used my money for an apartment to pay for this Olds’. Neil said, "I guarantee you’ll make money off the sale of this car. Somebody will buy it to make a low-rider." I thought, "Get real! You gotta be kidding!" "What’s a low rider?" The T-top didn’t impress me! There was a hole instead of a lock on the trunk. The radio stuck out; apparently it wasn’t correct for this car and it didn’t work. The 60/40 front seat had to be hot wired in order to move the driver’s seat forward so I could reach the gas pedal! To go in reverse, the gearshift had to be carefully held in place. The power windows were unreliable so I left them up. Neither the speedometer, air-conditioning, nor the gas gage worked. Later, I learned the steering column was from a Monte Carlo. I was to believe I could make a profit off this car? Around 9 p.m., Princess and I were on our way again. The drive to San Marcos was uneventful. However, as we were leaving San Marcos, I discovered I didn’t have headlights! Until now, the road was well lit by streetlights and lights from the traffic. I could barely see the road and certainly not the exits. Anxious, I began crying and singing praise songs. As I watched in my rearview mirror I cried, "Please, Lord, may that 18 wheeler see me and pass around me." Fortunately traffic managed to maneuver around me safely. As soon as I could see an exit clearly, I pulled in to a service station. There was a Constable inside who volunteered his help. He checked the fuses. They were good. Then he told me, "Start the engine and turn on the lights." I had lights! "Now flip the dimmer." Oops! The lights went out. Apparently there was a short in the wiring. I turned the car off and restarted it. With bright lights, Princess and I were on our journey again. We arrived at Howard Johnson’s about 1:40 on Tuesday morning, almost seventeen hours after leaving home. I checked in at the hotel and went to bed. I had a 10:00 job interview the next morning. Tuesday morning I received my wake-up call. After the complimentary breakfast I prepared for my interview and left the hotel. When I got to the car, the trunk was open. The only thing in the trunk was my dog carrier. It was still there. The key didn’t unlock the doors! What to do? I went back to my room and called a guy who had responded to a single's personal ad I had placed in the Caller Times. He came to my rescue and used a clothes hanger to unlock the door. This was our first time to meet! Our only communications were by mail and phone calls. Thanks Tom! I now altered all my plans. The next morning, an apartment locator provided transportation to view apartment complexes. I acquired a money order to place a deposit. Apartment secured and a quick lunch, by 1:30 that afternoon, Princess and I headed back to Fort Worth. Not trusting the headlights on this Olds’, I planned an overnight stay in San Marcos. So far, the return trip was uneventful; but we weren’t disappointed! South of Jarrell (yes again), I heard a roaring sound. I spoke out loud as I frequently do and asked, "Is that the road or is it my tire?" Roar roar again! There was road construction. Once more I asked, "Lord, is that the road or it is my tire?" A small voice inside me said, "It’s your left rear tire!" Immediately I began looking for a service station. I pulled in at the first one I saw. When I checked my tires, I noticed the left rear tire was literally coming apart! So that still small voice was correct. The station attendant told me I should be able to get a used tire at the barn next door. I drove next door and the man had a tire he’d sell for $20.00. As I walked around the car, I discovered the right rear tire was balding. I asked if I could buy two tires at which time the man looked in the trunk. He said, "Lady, you don’t even have a spare! I’ll give you a rim and put the bald tire on it so you’ll at least have a spare. Actually, you have three different sizes of tires on this car." So what else is new? Princess and I were traveling on faith with no spare! I needed to get away from stalkers and I trusted God to protect us! Thank God the odometer worked! I could at least calculate mileage! In Salado I stopped to fill the car with gas. Then the car would not start. The battery was dead. I managed to borrow a set of jumper cables and asked three guys who pulled up in a Mustang, "Would you please help a lady in distress?" Reluctantly, one guy got in my car with my dog. They got my car running again! I said, "Thank you!" and left. I thought, "Okay, Lord, I should have enough gas to at least get to Fort Worth where I can call someone if I have problems again. And please, no more potty stops! I arrived in my drive-way at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday with no concept of the time it takes to get from Fort Worth to Corpus Christi or vice versa. There had been too many delays to calculate accurately. Friday morning I checked with my neighbors hoping one had jumper cables. Nobody had cables. My neighbor across the street brought me to buy jumper cables where I also received a certificate for $5.00 off on my next purchase. Back at my house, I connected the jumper cables and we got my car started. As I was backing out of my drive, my neighbor’s son exclaimed, "You’re not going any where. Your right rear tire is flat as a pancake!" I pulled back into the drive. Disgusted, I went in my house and made arrangements with a nearby Texaco Station for a service call on Saturday morning. The fee for the jump was $20.00. After Saturday’s service call, I went to the battery store. The cheapest battery was $35.00. I used the certificate. Thus far I had $470 invested in this Olds’. The car ran fine with the new battery but the other problems still existed. On Monday I called the Star Telegram and placed an ad for this Olds’ to begin in Wednesday’s paper. The first day of the ad I was awakened by calls for this car! I couldn’t believe the number of calls! One guy wanted me to bring the car to show to him. He seemed real interested so I agreed and I took Princess with me because I was going to an area of town that was not safe for a woman alone. Arriving at this guy’s place, he met us in his front yard, beer in hand. He walked around the car asking questions. I was truthful about the car’s faults, which didn’t bother him. He claimed, "I can work on this myself." His body language told me he was hot for this car! He asked, "Would ya mind bringin’ the car to where my brother stays? He’s gonna buy it for me." I asked where his brother lived and was told near Uncle Julio’s Restaurant. I knew the apartment complex. It wasn’t far. He locked the door to his home and got into the front seat of this Cutlass, his beer in hand and my dog, Princess between us. I drove to the apartments and he got out and went to get his brother. As the brother came walking toward the car, I could see he was tall, over six feet, and husky. His Wendy’s uniform was a little comforting to me. The brother looked the car over with less enthusiasm. Then his ride drove up. The potential new owner told his brother’s ride to go on; we would take him to work. Alright, I agreed. If he had the money, the drive might be worth it! Arriving at Wendy’s, the brother wrote a personal check for $600.00. This guy banked where I did! What a relief! I left the brother there and drove back to my house where I gave the key to the new owner, Bobby. After saying my good-byes to Bobby and (chuckle) the Cutlass, I went inside my house. Next, I called the bank to be sure the check was good. As soon as I hung up the phone, me realtor called and asked, "What are you doing?" What timing! I exclaimed, "I’m getting ready to catch the bus and go to the bank to cash this check for the car." She was excited that I sold the car and offered to take me to the bank. By 2:00 p.m., I had the $600.00 cash in my hands. What a surprise! My brother had told me, "Somebody will buy it to make a low-rider. You should at least get your money back." Sound familiar? Amazed, my brother said, "Only you could that happen to." God turned a mishap into a profit! This was literally a trip made on a wing and a prayer with no spare. It was my brother who told me to write the story and he also gave me the title. I owe him a gratitude of thanks. The story was published online in the Canine Times from October of 1998 until March of 2003 when the site was removed for unknown reasons. I was published with my first submission of this story. However, the story does not end here. Continue reading what happened next on our actual move to Corpus Christi. FYI: I never saw the title to that car. Neil learned he had to do a title search. I gave the address of the new owner to Neil, the salvage guy.

 

And so the story continues... On the trip back to Corpus Christi, I was driving a 27-foot diesel U-Haul truck with all my belongings in it. There was a long delay getting through Austin due to an 18-wheeler accident. That was approximately two hours. It would be later that I would learn that my brother was in the northbound lane thinking he was glad he was not traveling south. He claimed it was the biggest pile up he had seen in all the time he’d lived in Austin. As we were nearing San Marcos, once again Princess tugged at my arm. Once again I asked if she wanted to go out in a moving vehicle. And once again she barked the same familiar bark. Only this time, it was after 11 at night and we were traveling alone. I found a food store service station to pull in to but stopped short of a dumpster by about three feet. The brakes on this U-Haul truck were failing. I made an emergency call to U-Haul. The wait for a repairman was almost two hours. The station closed. There was no place to walk to. The service repairman for U-Haul said the brake line had been bled of pressure. There was no way to tell if it had been deliberate or not. It took a little over an hour to make the repair. As for Princess, she actually saved my life on both of these occasions. I can only summarize that she smelled the odor of the heat when the car over heated and the brake line must have emitted an odor. I praise God daily for my little royal lady. Princess was a gift to me from my daughter in June of 1994 a few days after I had put a boyfriend out of my life. What an exchange! Princess came from an accidental breeding of two championships show dogs. Her dad was an Italian Greyhound and her mother was a Finnish Spitz. Not only has Princess protected me in these two incidents, but she has been help in recognizing when I needed to rest when I was having grand mal seizures. She would direct me to bed. When I seizured, she would lay across my body and dare anybody to touch me. To date, she has bitten six people who were trying to help me but she didn’t understand that because they would take me away. This would be the ambulance crew. Princess came out of her collar on one occasion when my aunt tried to hold her so the emergency crew could take me to the hospital. Princess got loose and lay across my body. The first year I had Princess I had 48 or more seizures in a few months time. The many men (the rescue team) that would take me away, sometimes for hours, frightened her. She was less than a year old, still a puppy. Then too, she has met my intruders face to face having been shut up in a room with no food and water for hours before being found. I had gone on a trip and a neighbor was tending to her and found my home to have been invaded and Princess shut up in the spare room. Princess also apparently tugged at an intruder because I still have a piece of their clothing. Instead of barking at any unusual noises or people who were not invited over, she gnaws on my hand and directs me toward the noise or the odor. Cats and squirrels are another story. She does bark at them! I give credit to Princess for saving me from my stalkers and the two vehicle incidents. Some day, hopefully, the stalking story will be published in a book called, To Dance with A Stranger. Daily I pray over Princess and praise God for my little Princess! Copyright © October 1998 By: Carolyn Bigler aka moonlightflower As publishsed in The Canine Times online in 1999 with the first submission. I received many compliments from other authers in that website. It took them several submissions to get accepted. That website no longer exists. A side note here: My neighbor kept Princess at her home in the daytime. She had a small dog that Princess would play with and she played with Princess. She left Princess at our home at night to be in familiar surroundings and in her own bed. It was the morning I was due back home that my neighbor had gone to get Princess and my alarm had gone off. She found Princess shut up in the second bedroom. The police did not want to believe me and refused to make a report. I had to go to the police station and bring my security box which had been broken in to before a report would be made. This was not in the story because I was limited to the number of words. I still have the piece of fabric from an intruder and a small screw driver that an intruder left. There were finger prints on a bedroom window on one occasion yet the police refused to be cooperative. There is so much more to tell. And the police were not cooperating because nobody had been murdered. Get real. Daily I prayed over Princess morning, noon, and night. I did not want to have to put her to sleep. That too will be yet another story I will put in my website, the abuse she got from her veterinarians who we were supposed to trust. She was getting up in years and I knew she would eventually die of old age but to put her to sleep because of what her vets did to her, that hurt deeply. You need to know that story, especially if you have pets. Princess was a Service Dog. Princess was indeed a big blessing to me thanks to my daughter, Lydia. About the author: I am an ex member in good standing for Composers, Authors, and Artists of America, the Fort Worth, Texas chapter. I won the poetry and the prose division for their 1996 literary contest. I won seven of the eleven awards to be the overall winner for both poetry and prose. Plus I came in first for haiku. I cried when I had to read my first place entries. I came in second for photography. That made for ten awards total two of which are medalion necklaces. CAAA is for professionals. They had me listed as an artist and an author because of my sewing and clowning for the artists, I also do sketches, and I had my own byline in several small town newspapers. My passions are photography and writing. The good Lord has truly blessed me. In 2009 I completed my book about Princess. It was published in 2011. The book is available as a soft back or a nook and can be purchased at: lulu.com, amazon.com, or barnesandnoble.com Princess and the Caterfly: life as a blind service dog and cancer survivor. I wrote it like she is telling the story. It includes information about seizures. There are a lot of color photos plus some sketches done by me. She posed about twenty minutes for the cover photo. MLF stands for Moonlightflower. CAB stands for Carolyn Ann Bigler Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
 
My sketch of Princess and sketches of what her parents probably looked like:
 
       

 
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