Haggard was born in Bakersfield and grew up in Oildale, the tracks a formative experience of his youth.
The family learned of the boxcar from a fellow church member, who asked James Haggard if he thought he could turn a surplus refrigerated train car she owned into a home, Rea recalled.
Though the house was intended to be temporary, the remodeling was a family effort: James Haggard built a pop-out dining area, a wash house and a hand-poured concrete bathtub and front steps; his wife, Flossie, planted fruit trees, climbing roses and a backyard grape arbor, drying raisins for pies on the roof.
The "saints," as Haggard refers to them, are a lively and bighearted group, not exactly the lepers of Colorado Springs--even though Haggard likes to think of his flock as progressive misfits in the heart of American evangelicalism.
Later, at an after-service barbecue in the backyard, I tell Haggard about the snake as he mans a popular snow cone machine on the deck.
Forget where Haggard was, and that this 54-year-old father of five and grandfather of two once headed the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals and spoke to Bush White House liaisons on a weekly call of conservative religious leaders.
The motel prohibits microwave ovens, refrigerators or hot plates, which makes it a challenge for Haggard to feed her sons, especially 6-year-old Joey, who is a picky eater but likes plain chicken and ready-to-eat Vienna sausages out of the can.
Breakfast for the Haggard boys is usually something bought at a nearby minimart.
I can't cook them dinner, and they are constantly fighting because of the enclosed space,'' said Haggard, whose sons spend much of the time watching TV and roughhousing in the $140-a-week motel room.
But things changed in 1904 with a strange incident involving what Haggard thought to be spiritual communication with his daughter's pet.
What happened was this: on the night of 9 July 1904, a Saturday, Haggard was awakened from a terrible dream by his wife whereupon the vivid memory of it quickly faded, and all he was left with was:
Haggard recalls how, thinking the whole thing no more than a nightmare, he told the story around the breakfast table the next morning.