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.



(No Comments)

  1. Great writing uncle! Your hiking story sounds exciting. When we have to bushwack, the true hiker skills get used. G.P.S. is the easy way out. How about those Brewers! I have been a Brewers fan for ten years.

    Comment by titus y — June 2, 2007 @ 12:33 am

  2. While deer seasson is still a few months away, the hunters who read this blog might find some humor in it.

    Two men were hunting in the woods. One was a fanatic who hunted as often as possible, the other was hunting for the first time, but really didn’t want to hurt, let alone, shoot anything. After a couple hours, they came on some tracks and soon caught up with a deer. The deer had one of its eyes swollen shut because of an infection, and was walking quite slowly and carefully.
    The hunter lifted his gun to shoot, but his friend begged him to stop. “Can’t you see that’s a bad eye deer?” his friend asked.

    Comment by Thorne — June 2, 2007 @ 10:02 am

  3. Enjoy your blog, Ira. I met you first when you lived with Ben S. and Emma. Who introduced you to those fine people?

    Reading your blog reminds me of Lancaster and how much I miss it. I keep hinting to Jerry we need to move there!


    Comment by Dawn (Jantzi) Kindy — June 2, 2007 @ 10:17 am

  4. The new photos look great, we look great on them too, if I must say so..To Our Florida friends, I think your housing market is kaput. Come on up for an extended stay, campings’ great this time of yr. Lots of your English neighbors are here already. About this Wolfe guy you keep mentioning, the only Wolfe I ever recall of is the one that bought Uncle Homer’s farm when they moved to Marshfield Mo. in 72′, seems to me. That guy was a farmer, maybe he switched to writing, a step down I must say…Also a thought on the Hutch, Kansas folks. Lesters and Marvins say they like it there. If we can afford the gas [or maybe buy a chip] we hope to visit there this summer. Maybe I should brush up on my Kansas talk. [It’s sure windy today, or was yesterday, or will be tomorrow, etc. etc.] No, in all truth, the ones I’ve met from there are very intelligent. I once convinced D. L. Miller from there, who was eating breakfast here at our house, to put Ketchup all over the top of his Gravy plate. I simply handed him the Ketchup bottle and asked in a loud voice, ‘You do want Ketchup on your gravy, don’t you?’..He did. He claimed he liked it, too. Good man.

    Comment by uncle jess — June 2, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

  5. Would it be too cruel to put the English person speaking Dutch reaction on America’s Funniest Home Videos?

    Comment by Glo — June 2, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  6. I’ve been married to a Wagler now for 27 yrs Jesse & I still can’t stomach ketchup on my gravy….

    Can’t wait to read Mervin’s book!!! Good job!

    Comment by wilma wagler — June 2, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  7. You did it again – another great post. Can’t wait to read the book.
    And I even got my name mentioned this time around. Now I think you would miss Patrick too if he left his job to pursue “speed”. ( :
    Your hike sounded quite eventful! Mj

    Comment by Mary June (Mr. nascar's wife) — June 2, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

  8. Ketchup on gravy is just wrong!! Right up there with packing your potato soup with crackers and dumping ketchup on that?? Who in the family is responsible for these traditions?

    Comment by janice — June 3, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

  9. I don’t mind ketchup on gravy; I just believe that a good gravy doesn’t need ketchup.
    I am proud of Mervin for the courage and candor he displays in his book. I just received my autographed copy.

    Q: what do you call a deer with both eyes punched out?
    A: No eye deer

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — June 3, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

  10. Guess I’ll add my 2 cents to the ketchup/gravy controversy.My wife doesn’t like it & I do.Somehow all 5 of our children love it!! One area they followed dear old Dad’s example….

    Comment by Bro Steve — June 4, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  11. yep, must admit to the wagler ketchup thing. that is one of my earliest memories of Ira and Nate- as a tiny little girl I remember watching them eat cornbread and bean soup COVERED w/ ketchup!

    How could I become so lucky as to get an autographed copy of the book? I would pay!

    Comment by ella — June 4, 2007 @ 3:54 pm

  12. I humbly thank you, Ira, for an honest reveiw of my book. The Wagler men are not known for taking the path of least resistance, as you write. I am proud of the book, but do certainly see where it could be improved some. I have managed to be at several multi-community youth gatherings lately, and was able to sell quite a few books there. READERS: if anyone still uses the old method of buying (sending a check in the mail), I have my book available for twelve dollars, free shipping. MERVIN WAGLER 8016 Griffith Road Worthington IN 47471. If you want quantities, call and I will cut you a deal you can’t refuse. 812 875 2520

    Comment by mervin — June 4, 2007 @ 4:10 pm

  13. I just got in from my garden, to date it has been completely covered with floods 6 times. It was totally refreshing to read all the Wagler doings, ketchup and otherwise. One strength we 11 siblings left home with, we are not afraid of strangers. They are simply friends we have not met. A question for some brainy person, how do you give that idea to the next generation??????? I’m afraid they will miss great opportunities, simply because they don’t want to meet new people. I guess this is an offshoot on the 15 passenger van thing. Keep on writing, I love this blog. Rachel from Kansas

    Comment by rachel — June 4, 2007 @ 10:03 pm

  14. Rachel: Its been my experience that openness to new ideas, education to the highest and best degree possible, acceptance of and the integration of many different types of peoples, putting the fear of the unknown behind us and embracing the possibilities of the future, a renouncement of bigotry, racism and social homogeneity and relious tolerance/understanding are some of the most critical training we can give our children. We should not only teach these to our offspring, but by practicing them as well sets the precedent and increases the chance that it will continue in future generations.

    Comment by Thorne — June 5, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

  15. Rachel-

    As I scroll through the list of my “Wagler 1st cousins” (all 60 or so), I think the 11 that left home unafraid of new challenges and searching for new opportunities passed down to the next generation an excellent heritage of love for life, talking, people, and a sometimes extreme loyalty for family.

    The thing about Waglers? They do all in their own time…pushed to do something they are not ready to do causes negative reactions- but, when they are ready they leap out and grab life with both hands and live regardless of or in spite of their fears.

    We as the next generation have you 11 to thank for the positive traditions (and the weird ones-ketchup just being one of the many), lives filled with years of memories, laughter and a few tears….We may be different from you. But we won’t take what was passed on to us for granted or forget how to be brave-

    Comment by janice — June 5, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  16. Janice, dear niece. Ketchup is never put on potato soup [Ugh,how’d you ever think of that?] Instead it’s used on bean soup.[an old & honorable tradition. certainly not wierd]. If it’s ham & Beans & water, use crumbled cornbread, ketchup liberaly sprayed on top, than eaten quickly before it sinks, [the ketchup,that is]..If it’s milk & navy bean soup, use soda crackers crumbled nicely. Than ketchup. I prefer Hunt’s brand Ketchup, in the squeezable bottle, as it leaves a nice bead, or drops of ketchup, whichever is prefered. I consider the squeezable bottles one of the great inventions of the last 20 yrs. Those of you who missed the glass bottles, they involved much shaking, then using a fork handle. Then all the ketchup would shoot out, not a nice bead at all. Ah well, I better stop this, before anyone gets bored. Happy Kettchup eating to all.

    Comment by uncle jess — June 5, 2007 @ 9:16 pm

  17. I must admit that I am completely baffled by this whole conversation of the red stuff, and am wondering if this dialog of its extreme usage is due to perhaps a recessive gene or some collective punishment by an earlier generation.

    As a non-believer of its use on anything other than a hamburger or perhaps meatloaf (OK, home fries, if we’re really pushing it), which is the product of choice – ketchup or catsup?
    I can only suppose that it is something akin to my passion for anchovies – an example might be my favorite deep-dish pizza of anchovies, peanut butter and mayonaise.


    Comment by Thorne — June 5, 2007 @ 11:45 pm

  18. I don’t know where the tradition came from, probably from an ancestor in the hills of Daviess County, Indiana, a hundred years ago. Maybe he was miffed that his wife had not prepared the proper sauce for his favorite dish, and to spite her (and in a tiff), he poured homemade ketchup all over it. Whatever happened, the habit stuck, a tradition was born and is now far-flung throughout all the land. Try it. You’ll be surprised. Only don’t buy the Heinz brand. We wouldn’t want to support John and Teresa Heinz Kerry, now would we?

    Comment by admin — June 6, 2007 @ 8:19 am

  19. Admin,
    Are you sure that in real life you’re not actually Emeril or perhaps Chef Boyardee? You almost had me convinced, but it won’t take me 57 guesses to know that you’re right (*).


    PS: * that’s “right” as in: correct and conservative

    Comment by Thorne — June 6, 2007 @ 8:45 am

  20. Admin,
    With all due respect, your tale your tale of horror and woe has a certain apocryphal ring to it. What is a man to believe? Just call me a doubting Thomas.


    Comment by Thorne — June 6, 2007 @ 9:02 am

  21. Dear Uncle Jesse-

    I have seen both Nate and Ira eat potato soup packed with crackers and topped with ketchup…and lets not forget the pepper!!

    Thorne- after reading the details of your favorite pizza, I have decided that ketchup seems to be the lesser of the 2 evils:)

    Comment by janice — June 6, 2007 @ 10:31 am

  22. Janice: I can see your point. However, if I were to include my favorite ice cream (chicken fat ripple) would I then stand a chance against the ketchup/catsup crowd? I’ve been told that if one washes both the pizza and ice cream down with an 8 ounce glass of melted butter, you’ve got the perfect meal. I can’t say that I’ve worked up to the last item, but you never know. Bon Appetit.

    Comment by Thorne — June 6, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  23. After all this talk, I’m not sure I’m going to ever eat ketchup again, but really that whole peanut butter and mayonnaise thing, I just can’t think of much worse!

    Comment by Rosita — June 7, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

  24. I always wondered if I was the only Wagler that could not live without Ketchup and now I know its not just me. I eat ketchup with pretty much everything except ice cream. Ira, on the gas saving gizmo, it will void the warranty on your truck, or that’s what the local dealership told me. Have you done any fly-fishing lately? I went to a garage-sale yesterday and bought 2 tackle boxes full of lures for 100 bucks, prolly bout 500 dollars worth of lures in ‘em. I am very suspicious they were stolen, but I dont wanna know. Keep up the great posts on your blog. Andrew Y.

    Comment by Andrew — June 10, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

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