AN UNEXPECTED MIRACLE
In this time of the pandemic, in the midst of suffering, people are reaching out to others. People are helping strangers in very loving ways. I had a similar experience in an April snowstorm of 1956.
At that time, I was working for Marathon County Schools as a speech therapist for the 124 one-room schools. I had agreed to take children to the University of Wisconsin in Madison for possible admission into their summer speech therapy clinic.
It was a different time from now. It was an era of greater trust when folks didn’t worry so much about accidents, mechanical failures or other things that might happen. I picked up the children from their homes in the early morning. I was driving my nearly brand-new 1953 Ford V8 Business Coupe. It was my first car!
The testing was soon over. We started our drive home and noticed snowflakes. Further on, the wind started to blow hard from the south east. Pretty soon we were in a blizzard. Fishtails were building across the road. It was a challenge to drive through fishtails with snow flying in all directions.
We made it through blizzard conditions to the home of two of the children. We got stuck in the driveway. The father, a happy and helpful person, got us pushed back to the road. We continued with more miles of blizzard driving to get the last two children safely home.
Highway 29, east of Abbotsford, was filling with snow, but the traffic had left paths for my car to stay in. However, the visibility was poor. We turned north on Highway E going to Milan. Fishtails had become worse but I was determined to get the two children home safely. Ahead was a huge fishtail or drift. I gunned my Ford V8 motor, and whomp! We were solidly stuck.
First thing I did was turn off the motor for fear of carbon monoxide. Of course, the heater, which was never very effective, stopped also.
All three of us were getting colder. I told the children to bundle up. I had to get help, but hated to leave the children, but I had no other choice. I had seen a farmhouse about one-quarter mile and I struggled through the blizzard to the house.
At last I reached the house and went to the back door. I knocked, waited and hoped somebody would come. Fairly soon, a pleasant-looking man opened the door. His name was Joe Hanke. I asked if we could be taken in for the night.
He replied, “Sure, bring the kids in. You are welcome!”
I returned with the children and we were finally safe in a warm home The Hankes had set up a table for us with coffee, milk, homemade bread, cheese, jelly and peanut butter. We were very hungry and the food tasted great.
Joe and his wife prepared a bed for the children. There was a bed in the attic for me, with warm blankets. As I fell asleep, listening to the whistling sound, I thought of my Ford V8 outside, all alone in the blizzard.
In the morning, I quickly got up and was welcomed for breakfast. Then I checked my car. When I lifted the hood, snow had completely filled all the space under the hood. It was packed solid. I scooped handfuls out. I cleaned out as much as possible. It was time to see if the car would start. Bad decision!
The starter worked well, but the belt broke. Joe was in the house when I returned. He offered to pull me out of the drift with his tractor and tow me to the Milan garage. I returned with him on his tractor.
I was able to get to a neighbor’s home which had a telephone. (Having a telephone on the farm in the 1950’s was unusual.) My wife had not heard from me since early morning the day before. She was very relieved by my call.
Joe took me back to the mechanic. The mechanic had dried out the engine, checked the pulleys, and replaced the broken belt. He added a fluid to the gas to remove any moisture. He only charged me $10. I don’t think he charged for labor.
Back at the Hankes we talked about how to get the children home. The road to their farm was still unplowed. Joe and his wife cared for the children for two more days, until the road was plowed.
I made it home safely and was happy to see my wife and my one-year-old son. Lots of warm hugs!
The next day, I explained the entire situation to my boss, Mr. Bill Moore, Superintendent of Marathon County Schools. He said I should return to the Hanke farm and pay for all of their help. I did that.
I was moved by the Hanke response. They said, “we cannot ask for any money. We enjoyed helping you. We would ask one thing. When you see somebody in need, help them for us.”
Suddenly I understood that I had seen love, real love in action. I remembered the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I saw that love in action. That same kind of love is happening all over the world, during this pandemic.