June 1, 2007

Mervin’s Odyssey, Performance Products, and Gas Mileage

Category: News — Ira @ 7:04 pm

A good portion of the men of the extended Wagler clan have an intemperate inclination in their youth to cast away the time-honored teachings of their fathers and forge their own trails, often winding up at desolate and obscure destinations. What their hands find to do, they do with all their might, with little visible regard to costs or consequences. The blood runs wild and harsh, and they will stubbornly and silently follow their chosen paths through brambled fields and over steep and rocky terrain to the black and bitter end. Behind them, a twisted mass of emotional and spiritual wreckage marks the only vestige of their passing. Barring intervention or a miracle, they are lost.

My nephew, Mervin Wagler, was one of those. To me, Mervin was always a quiet spindly kid; I had fled the Amish scene long before he sprouted into a seething young adult. The fourth son of my oldest brother, Joseph, an Amish preacher in Bloomfield, Iowa, Mervin wrestled with the latent demons that seem to stalk the Waglers: a keenly intelligent and inquisitive mind balanced with a robust but vulnerable conscience, choked to rebellion by the intolerable confines of unbending Amish law. Eventually, after an exhausting internal struggle, he was driven by a fierce and powerful determination to hack and smash his own course his own way, even if his soul might be required as the ultimate price. As is so often the case for young men who depart from the Amish lifestyle, there were no barriers after the major step of leaving home.

Mervin Wagler (Left) and Steven Marner

After choosing to follow that familiar destructive pattern, Mervin rapidly surrendered to the seductive lullabies that lured him deep into the savage and hopeless underworld of hard-core drugs. By his late teens, he was hooked on meth. He wandered, lost and alone, through a desolate spiritual wilderness few of us ever traverse, from which fewer still emerge to tell. But God’s Love never withdraws from or rejects a seeking heart, and through a series of miraculous events, Mervin did escape from that bleak and lifeless wasteland. At the age of 25, he has detailed the account of his unique and astounding journey in his first published book, “The Odyssey of a Heart: Innocence, Drugs, and the Pursuit of Freedom.”


The book is a bit rough in patches and could use a little more editing. Some will find it overly didactic. Despite that, it is honest, raw and piercing throughout in its description of the pitch-black abyss of hopeless despair, followed by the incredible, almost incomprehensible joy of salvation and new life in Christ. Mervin holds nothing back, and writes simply and candidly of his prolonged struggle to truly break free from the bonds of addiction after his conversion. His observations will bring every reader to a fuller understanding of how to deal with those lost souls who seem utterly unsalvage-able. He writes with conviction of what it means to grasp each moment of the here and now and live with a full heart. This book will be beneficial to all adult readers, especially young adults. It should definitely be read by every Amish father. I also recommend it to those (of any age) who are (or know someone who is) attracted to or already inhabiting the dangerous and baneful world of hard drugs. The book is available at Amazon.com on the following link: Amazon.com; Mervin’s book This link will be permanently listed on my Links page as well. As he matures and polishes his writing craft, I look forward to a stream of increasingly productive material from Mervin in the future.

After deciding to keep my gas-guzzling truck, I made the decision last week to install a Super Chip on the truck to get better mileage. AJ Williams, one of my workers at Graber Supply (and a semi-professional rodeo rider/roper) installed one on his dually GMC diesel and told me he gets 20 mpg since installation. So last Saturday (5/26), I set off with my mechanically-minded, gearhead buddy Paul Zook, to the Liberator Specialty Shop in Carlisle, PA. I wanted Paul along just in case; I know nothing of these things and could easily be ripped off.


The Super Chip is a little digital gizmo that plugs into the electronic schematics of your truck and you can manipulate the computer for better mileage or more power. Paul seemed impressed, so I bought it. I told Shawn, the installer, that I wanted economy settings all the way. As he installed it, he explained how the gizmo works. He punched all the settings in their proper modes. I also bought a High Performance Green Air Filter made of cotton, not paper like regular air filters. It is supposed to allow the truck to breathe much easier and will last forever with annual cleaning. Total cost: Just over $500.00. By my calculations, if I save 10 gallons of gas a week for five months, it will be more than paid for. I immediately noticed that the gas gauge crawls to the left much more slowly than before. As of the time of this post, I am getting 14 mpg, a dramatic improvement from the 10 to 11 mpg before. And this is local driving with much starting and stopping and turning. Anyone can purchase and self-install the Super Chip. It is available at the following link: Liberator Performance

We may soon have a new Nascar driver to cheer for. Last Saturday, Patrick Miller, investor at Graber Supply (and my new boss), went to the Pocono 500 track and rode a stock car around the track for several laps. Patrick claims the experience was quite heady, even with the G-forces of the hard turns, but some doubt remains as to whether his wife, Mary June, is quite ready to allow him to pursue a new career as a stock car driver.

pat-pocono-2.jpg Patrick Miller

On Monday afternoon, I hiked the Susquahannock State Park, which is located south and east of the Buck in southern Lancaster County. Monday morning was still dreary and overcast from the previous night’s rain, but by the time I got to the park, the day was clear but muggy. A large flock of Amish youth was picnicking and playing ball at the park, as Memorial Day this year also happened to be Pentecost Day (Pingst Montag), an Amish religious holiday. Small knots of Amish girls rolled and swept along like waves from point to point, giggling and chattering. The park has several hundred acres of woods and half a dozen trials. I started down a trail skirting the park’s perimeter. About ten minutes in, just after the trail turned tough and steep, I heard children’s voices approaching from the opposite direction. Around the bend came a bent and weary Amish lady with four young children, the smallest probably four years old. They seemed startled to see me. “Interesting trail,” the Amish woman remarked tiredly. “Yep,” I replied, resisting the urge to say something in PA Dutch and truly freaking her out, “steep too.” They clamored away. How she got those kids down and up that rugged, rocky trail is beyond me.

I stumbled across this stone structue in the woods, away from the trail.

Straight up.

Though the trails are marked in the park, I always seem to wander off the path. Same thing happened this time. I did follow a path, but suddenly realized there were no painted trail markers on the trees. I kept going until the trail ended in some farmer’s meadow. It was a deer path. I decided to strike out through the woods until I stumbled across a marked path. It took some doing. I went straight down a ravine, crossed a small creek, then straight up again, smashing cautiously through thick brush and many sharp and cutting brambles, stepping over logs, and generally attracting who knows how many deer ticks with Lyme’s disease. Finally I stumbled onto a trail and followed it for another fifteen minutes. Eventually, two hours after entering the woods, I straggled from the brush, right beside a ball field where the flock of Amish boys was slugging it out with much hollering and whooping. I visited briefly with an Amishman standing off to one side. He told me the youth group comes every year on “Pingst Montag” and divides up into teams and plays round robin until only one team is left. Dirty and scratched, with soaked shoes and muddy pants from fording the creek and sloshing through mud holes, I walked the half mile to where my truck was parked and left. Upon arriving home, I threw all my clothes, including my hiking shoes, into the washer and took a long and thorough shower to get rid of any ticks.

A flock of Amish on the ball field.

Anyone following the Stanley Cup playoffs? It’s about the only time of year that I pay any attention whatsoever to hockey, although my brothers and I grew up as rabid hockey fans in Canada. I transferred my affections to football over the years, I guess. This year the Ottawa Senators are playing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for the Cup. I’m for the Mighty Ducks, because any team that has to bear such a moniker (they probably get derisive comments from opposing teams) all season long deserves to win it all. As of the time of this post (6/1), the Ducks are leading 2 games to none. But I really have no duck, I mean dog, in this hunt.

Before the next post, my site should get its 10,000th hit. That is a remarkable achievement for a site that was launched eight weeks ago on Good Friday, April 6th. I continue to be amazed that so many of you keep coming back each week, and I am grateful to each and every one. I would still post regularly if far fewer read this, but it makes my task of writing a weekly blog a lot easier knowing that you, all of you, are out there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And I should mention again that anyone is welcome to comment. You don’t have to agree with me; disagreements are interesting. Use your own voice and don’t be intimidated by other commentators and hifalutin’ writing. And you don’t have to write a dissertation. (Unless you want to, of course. This is cyberspace. There’s room in the comment section for a book.) All comments are deeply appreciated. Finally, if the person who makes the 10,000th hit emails me his or her picture, I will post it on my next blog with great fanfare.