By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
The floodwaters receded, and a sign of the divine floated to the hands of two non-believers.
This may sound like something from the Old Testament, but it's not. It's how a non-religious Temple couple came to own a 3-foot piece of driftwood that looks like Christ on the cross.
Preston Hauffpauir spotted his find at Arrowhead Point on Belton Lake not long after last year's springtime floodwaters started to recede.
'My husband - he's always looking at the driftwood,' said Holly Hauffpauir. 'He likes to carve.'
The cross's gnarled edges are what captured Mr. Hauffpauir's initial interest.
'I thought the wood's shape was beautiful on its own,' he said. 'So I took it home.' To add some shine, Mr. Hauffpauir sprayed some gloss on the wood and then hung it on their mantle at home.
'For two weeks, we didn't think anything of it,' Mrs. Hauffpauir said. 'Nothing except that it was cool.'
If their twisted piece of wood resembled anything, Mr. Hauffpauir said, it resembled a cow skull, albeit a narrow one.
But then, 'out of the blue,' his wife said a different image came to her mind's eye.
'It suddenly came to me,' Mrs. Hauffpauir said. 'It's Jesus - on the cross. And then, just like one of those hidden puzzles or abstract paintings, once you see a certain thing, that's all you see.'
The only difference between her wooden crucifixion and ones on paintings, she said, was that her 'Jesus head hung to the opposite side.' Like other representations, the Hauffpauir Jesus also has ribs and a belly button.
Once his wife shared her observation, Mr. Hauffpauir quickly agreed. He even sanded the neck area of the Jesus figure to make it appear smoother.
'I thought it would help make it stand out that much more,' Mr. Hauffpauir said.
But all it did, his wife said, was irritate her.
'I was out of town when he did that. I got upset,' Mrs. Hauffpauir said. 'I was thinking it was special because something so delicate in design appeared in nature.'
The slight change to the Christ-like driftwood doesn't diminish her appreciation for it though.
'I don't believe it's a sign from God or anything, but there are people out there who would believe that,' Mrs. Hauffpauir said. 'That's why I think they should be allowed to see it if they want.'
Mrs. Hauffpauir's Christian sister, Brandi Heinz of Houston, said she was astounded when she saw the cross.
'Instantly, I knew it was Jesus on the cross,' Mrs. Heinz said. 'She didn't have to tell me anything.'
Mrs. Heinz adores her sister, but she worries over her sister's lack of faith.
'We've had arguments before about God. It scares me that she doesn't believe,' Mrs. Heinz said. 'That cross obviously came to them for a reason. Maybe it was God trying to tell her that He exists and that He wants to be in her life.'
Mrs. Hauffpauir highly doubts it. She remains firm in her agnostic beliefs.
She and her husband don't yet have specific plans for their cross.
'I want to put it on display somewhere, and then I want to sell it,' Mrs. Hauffpauir said. 'I've heard the stories about Jesus on toast, so I know there are people out there who would want to pay to own this.'
Seeing images in driftwood is not uncommon.
'We have people come in all the time with interesting pieces of driftwood,' said Robert Adams, a conservation specialist from the Capital Regional Office of the Corps of Engineers - the group that oversees Belton Lake's upkeep and maintenance. 'They say they see snakes, roadrunners or faces. Jesus - that's a first.'