Yesterday, exchanging stories while visiting with friends over a meal, we were reminded of one of our family stories--the one we likely would vote as our "most incredible" story, were we voting.
It all began the day, years ago, that our family realized we needed a new vehicle before leaving on a trip to help care for a family member. We had very litle time to look for a vehicle, and limited funds to purchase one. When we received a tip from a helpful friend about a minister they knew several hours from us that often had good quality vehicles at a fair price, we jumped.
Paul called the minister, and he told us that while he didn't have a lot on hand that would meet our needs, he did have a black mini van he had actually driven himself for about a year, after purchasing it at an auction. He felt it was road worthy, as far as he knew, and would serve us well.
So, we went to look at the van, and ended up purchasing it. The minister belonged to a religious group that felt that their vehicles should all be black--bumpers included, and so since he was driving the vehicle, he had dutifully painted the bumpers a nice black. The entire van was black.
Our children at the time, Todd and Charity, were excited to have more room to spread out while traveling, and though we noticed a few "interesting" things about this vehicle, such as how very worn the driver's seat was compared to the rest of the vehicle, and the fact that one of the grills for the heating and cooling system along the side of the van was missing, we still pronounced it satisfactory for our needs.
We went on our trip, helped with the care of our relative for a number of weeks in Wyoming, and then wended our way farther south to visit Paul's family in Oklahoma, and then trecked home. As I recall, I think we were gone easily 6 weeks--maybe a bit longer, and the van had many, many more miles put on by the time we arrived home than it had when we left.
By the next spring, we knew we wanted to improve the air conditioning system before the heat of summer hit. Being a solid black vehicle, the van was a heat magnet, so a well functioning AC was essential for parental and child happiness while traveling.
Paul took the van into our local friendly shop, and explained what issues the van had with both the front and the rear systems. The mechanic looked at Paul and told him, "I"ll take care of the front, but you do the back! I don't want to mess with the back, and you can do it yourself."
As Paul was re-telling this to me, I could see the puzzle this was to him on his face. I was puzzled as well. This shop had worked for us before--we had always paid promptly, and there were no issues, so we couldn't figure out why they refused our offer of work. However, Paul tackled the rear aconditioning system himself, not wanting to push the gentleman.
That night, Paul came into supper, and over food, he began telling me that he was sure surprised after he took off the rear side panel to find not only the grill for the vent shoved down into the wall, but also that the people who owned the van before us must have thought it stunk and needed to have baking soda put into it, but he couldn't figure out how their idea would have helped improve the van's smell because the baking soda was in sealed zip lock baggies, and two of the bags, it was strange and looked like it was in a brick.
Immediately, I began laughing. "Oh Paul!" I exclaimed, "I don't think you found baking soda, dear! I think you found cocaine!"
He looked at me a bit stupified, and insisted that he thought it was baking soda. I told him to let me look at it after supper, and I would tell him whether it was baking soda or not, but I was quite sure it would NOT be.
So after supper, we all trooped out to look at the baggies. I looked through the plastic, and could see right away that the composition of the white "stuff" was NOT the same as baking soda. It was a larger, grainier, more crystal like powder. I gingerly opened one of the bags with the brick and sniffed tenatively. Uggg--it STUNK horridly! "Paul, baking soda does NOT stink like this! And look at how it almost glitters--this is NOT baking soda. I still think you found cocaine! This was a drug runner's vehicle before the minister purchased it! That explains the worn out driver's seat, and the relatively high mileage for as new as it was! Somehow, they lost some of their drugs in the wall!"
(All the bags in our vehicle contained much, much more than this photo, taken from http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/show_image.php?i=cocaine/cocaine_powder__i2006e0373_disp.jpg shows.)
"Well, yes, the bags were pushed way up where you couldn't have gotten to them without taking the panel off, " Paul explained.
"I think we should call the police and let them deal with this!" I told Paul. He still wasn't ready to believe me that he had actually found something illegal in our vehicle. He didn't think the police would want to be bothered, so told me he was just going to pitch the bags into the trash and burn them, which he did.
Some time later, when telling a police man friend of ours the story, he backed up my belief that we'd found cocaine as he said my description matched closely enough that he was sure too it was what it was. He explained that had we called the authorities, they would have investigated us, but then would also have kept investigating backwards to find the owner who had been using it as a drug running vehicle--maybe even been able to make an arrest.
The most sobering and NOT.FUNNY.AT.ALL. part was when we realized what havoc our little family could have been thrown into had the mechanic at the air conditioning shop agreed to fix the rear air conditioning. When Paul told him the story later, he was in shock, and said he had NEVER had something like that happen to him before, but he would have called the police, suspecting as I did what it was. Stop and think--our vehicle--found to possess what at the time was around $7,000 worth of street value cocaine. It's possible we would have been arrested till every thing was sorted out. Our children would likely have been removed by CPS. At the time, both of them were very young, and emotionally extremely dependent on their parents.
Or--all the traveling we did during the previous year-through states that are known to set up road blocks and conduct drug searches with dogs! Can you imagine the terror and fear for our family?! Our children ripped away from us while we were handcuffed and thrown into a squad car till the whole thing got sorted?!
Paul asked the mechanic, "Why did you refuse to fix the rear AC?" The mechanic looked at Paul and said, "I don't really know. I just figured you could do it yourself so I would let you do it. I don't usually turn down work."
Later we shared the story with the minister who sold us the vehicle. He was shocked as he too had driven the van for a year. As he began thinking about how it could have impacted his family's life, he was so thanful with us that God preserved both of our family's from harm in any fashion.
So, hidden in that black bumper van was a very unusual surprise for us that day. We are thankful that it ended as well for all of us as it did.
Needless to say, we never relax on any vehicle purchases since until we have examined the side panels. I think we'd do well to have our own drug sniffing dog. What do you think?!