Friday, September 09, 2005
Dude...really do wish you could come with me on this adventure. We could do some serious good. Guard all them hens and I'll contact you via one of my e mail hook ups as soon as possible. -- Dad
The e-mail brought a smile to my face, as I knew Dick Carney was right where he wanted to be. Just last weekend, the man responsible for half my DNA recoiled from the images of anarchy radiating from the Gulf Coast. Desperate to help, he posted his wish to assist on a Presbyterian website. Twenty four hours later his phone rang. The feeble voice on the other end identified himself as the preacher of a 120-member church in Thibodaux, Louisiana. ‘Did he really wanna help?’ the preacher asked. Dick assured him he did, quickly agreeing to come spearhead recovery efforts and help locate the many missing members of the Thibodaux First Presbyterian Church. The preacher soon hung up, a bit relieved perhaps, but in no way aware of the force of nature he just released by challenging a Carney to come lend a hand.
But the Old Goat knew he couldn’t do it by himself. So he pressed friends and strangers into service, accosting everyone he ran into around Pitt County with a no-nonsense dare to help make a difference. By the end of the week, he’d coerced elementary kids, car dealership owners, local politicians and retailers big and small to donate something, anything to the cause. Boy did they. With more supplies than he thought he could transport, plus a growing pot of more than ten thousand dollars, Carney knew it was time to saddle up. First though, he had to upgrade his mission’s communications base, so he barged into the nearest Sprint store and declared a state of emergency. Thirty minutes later, he walked out with a sweetheart deal on a cell phone package and a discounted ‘air-card‘ for his trusty laptop. When the local newspaper sent a reporter over, he didn’t hold back when praising the people of Pitt County.
"When this thing first kicked off, we didn't expect this kind of response," Carney said Thursday. "The volume of what we've been given has snowballed. I usually have a pretty good feel for what the community will do, but I've been overwhelmed with what the community has done."
Friday morning, Dick Carney, three other volunteers from area churches and a reporter/photographer named Paul Dunn steered their small convoy out of town. Two hours into the 1,500-mile trip, Carney dialed up his youngest son’s cell phone number, reporting in from the rumbling cab of a dangerously-overstuffed Ryder Truck.
“What ya got in the truck?” I asked from my desk in the newsroom.
“What have I got in the truck? What ain’t I got? 600 pounds of laundry detergent, 40 cases of bleach, generators, chainsaws, boxes and boxes of canned food, Pampers, Depends, motor oil, clothes, shoes, toothpaste, toys, tarps, toilet paper…”
I laughed at the alliteration and he chuckled along with me.
“I’m telling’ ya boy - there ain’t no flies on this operation!”
‘No flies‘. That’s ‘Carnese’ for ‘quality endeavor‘. Enjoying the excitement in my old man’s voice, I listened a while longer before bidding him adieu. ‘Pace yourself’, I told him. ‘And be easy on that reporter dude ridin’ shotgun’. He assured me he would and hung up. Shortly after dinner, he called me again. He and his ‘Cajun Convoy’ were inching through Tuscaloosa, Alabama - with plans to bed down in Meridian, Mississippi before making the final five-hour leg Saturday morning.
Brace yourself, Thibodaux - you’re about to meet a character you’ll never forget.