It was spring and the red sandy mountains around Kanab, Utah, shone in the warm sunshine. The boys were glad their father had sent them on an errand to the Indian camp several miles beyond the fort. It was fun riding their ponies through the green gray sagebrush instead of weeding the vegetable garden as they would have had to do if they had been at home.

As the boys rode, they were leading a horse to be traded to the Indians. They talked little, each one just enjoying the beauty of the world around them on the soft spring morning. It was good to be alive!

An old Navajo chief named Frank came out to greet them as the boys rode into camp. The day before, he had told their father that he wanted a good horse and so he had been expecting someone to come with one. Chief Frank helped the boys off their ponies, looked briefly at the horse they had brought to trade, and then waved toward some blankets a short distance away.

The colors and designs of the blankets were especially beautiful, but ten-year-old Jacob had warned his little brother Walter that they must act grown-up and make sure the trade they made was a good one. They shook their heads and Jacob told the chief he would have to have more for the horse he had brought.

The old Indian hesitated only a minute and then brought out two buffalo robes and more blankets. The boys were wide-eyed with surprise at the generosity, but they said nothing. They rolled up the robes and blankets, laid them across the ponies, and rode home full of pride over their sharp trade.

Father was waiting as they came into the yard. His eyes widened in surprise as he lifted the heavy loads off the ponies and unrolled the blankets, but he said nothing. He carefully looked at the blankets and robes, dividing them into two piles as he did so. His sons waited for him to speak but he worked in silence. When he had finished, he carefully rolled up the blankets he had put into one of the piles and told the boys they must return part of their trade.

The day seemed dark to Jacob and Walter as they rode back into the Indian camp, wondering how they could ever explain why they were there. But Chief Frank welcomed them with a warm smile. He lifted up his old arms to take the roll of blankets and then before any explanation could be given, he said, “I knew you’d come back. Your father is an honest man and I knew he would not keep all the blankets. He takes care of us. He is a father to us also.”

Suddenly the spring day seemed bright again and more beautiful than ever as the boys began to appreciate what a wise and beloved man their father, Jacob Hamblin, really was.

[illustration] Illustrated by Jerry Thompson