Safely Home

Voices in the front room awoke Sherrie. Through her outside window she could see nothing but blackness. It can’t be morning already, she thought. Listening, she heard Mama say, “Perry, please don’t go. Storm warnings on the news are urging people not to travel today unless absolutely necessary.”

“It is absolutely necessary. If I can pick up this load of freight, it will get us out of a bind.”

“Perry, please. A couple of days won’t make that much difference.”

“I might be able to beat the storm if I go now. It isn’t supposed to hit the Wasatch Front until this evening.”

Sherrie heard Daddy tell Mama goodbye, the front door open and close, and Daddy’s big truck rumble out of the yard. Turning her face to her pillow, she prayed softly, “Dear Heavenly Father, take good care of Daddy, and bring him safely home.” Then she drifted off to sleep.

By early afternoon, the heavy clouds had turned to snow. Sherrie ran home from school through swirling flakes—a rare and exciting thing. It practically never snowed in Hurricane, Utah, for just like nearby St. George, this was “the place where the summer sun spends the winter.”

When Mama turned on the TV to watch the six o’clock news, the newscaster was announcing that the blizzard had arrived hours earlier than expected and that Salt Lake City was snowed in. Pictures showed trucks and cars stalled in the snow.

“Mom, there’s Dad’s truck!” Clay shouted, pointing to the TV screen.

“Ah, it just looks like it,” Annie disagreed. “Lots of trucks look like Dad’s.”

Sherrie saw the worried look on Mama’s face.

When it came time for family prayers, Mama said, “Sherrie, I believe that it’s your turn tonight.” Everyone silently knelt and bowed their heads.

“Heavenly Father,” Sherrie began, “thanks for the snow to play in, but we’d like to have not so much of it for the people traveling on the roads. Take good care of Daddy, and bring him home safely. And if Thou would, please send a bright angel to protect him from danger, and help him to return soon. Thanks for taking good care of us and keeping us well. We love Thee, Heavenly Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

“How come you thought of a bright angel?” Clay asked.

“It’s because I like them. Daddy sang about them when he rocked Suzie to sleep last night. He used to sing it to me. Do you know the one I mean?”

“I do,” Annie said, and she began to sing: “‘Lullaby and good night! / Those blue eyes close tight; / Bright angels are near; / So sleep without fear. / They will guard thee from harm, / With fair dreamland’s sweet charm; / They will guard thee from harm, / With fair dreamland’s sweet charm.’”

“I remember,” Clay said, “but have they ever made you sleep better, Sherrie?”

“Oh yes. Whenever I hear scary noises in the night, I think about an angel guarding me, and I go right back to sleep.”

“Isn’t it funny how night sounds can be so scary or so nice,” Annie said. “The other night a knocking outside my window woke me up. I shivered, too scared to move. It kept knocking and knocking, and then there was a bang. When I realized that the wind was just rocking a patio chair against the house, I giggled. It was funny to think of the wind sitting there in the dark, rocking and rocking.”

“Just knowing what’s going on helps,” Clay said. “One time when I was with Dad on the truck, he suddenly slowed down. When I asked why, he said, ‘I have a feeling that there is trouble ahead.’ And sure enough, just around the bend was a wreck. He could have plowed right into it. Dad said that he had been prompted to slow down. He said that someone was looking out for him.”

Morning brought the sunshine. The storm was over, and Hurricane’s skift of snow was reduced to tiny white patches in the shade. Good! Daddy will have safe traveling today, Sherrie thought. But when she came home from school, his big truck wasn’t in the yard.

The evening news showed that weather conditions were still bad in northern Utah. Mama looked out the window often as she prepared supper. “Sherrie, please help Annie set the table,” she said.

Sherrie set Daddy’s place first. Then she drew little flowers on a card and wrote, “We love you, Daddy,” and put it by his plate.

Mama was just taking a pan of biscuits from the oven when Daddy’s truck rumbled into the yard. A stampede of children greeted him as he came through the door. It took some doing to hug his way through them before he could greet Mama. Happy faces surrounded the table, and Mama put on the roast and the vegetables. She had even made Daddy’s favorite lemon pudding.

“Dad, did an angel guard you on this trip?” Clay asked. “Sherrie prayed for one for you.”

As Daddy looked up from his plate, Sherrie shyly ducked her head. Daddy regarded her tenderly.

“Yes, Sherrie, an ‘angel’ did guard me. You see, snow and ice aren’t the only dangers on the road. My rig held the road just fine, but something far worse than a breakdown almost happened. On my way home I stopped on the outskirts of Salt Lake to gas up the truck and get a bite to eat. Then I pulled out onto the road. After I had gone a mile or two, a man rose up in the sleeper behind me and jabbed a pistol in my back.

“‘Pull over,’ he demanded. I stopped as soon as I could. Still keeping me covered, the man climbed onto the seat beside me. ‘Do as I say,’ he ordered, ‘and I won’t hurt you. But if you give me any trouble, I’ll shoot you.’ Then he barked, ‘Empty your wallet, and be quick about it.’

“Since I was looking down the barrel of that pistol, I didn’t argue. I dug my wallet from my pocket.

“‘Hand me the money first,’ he ordered, ‘then I’ll look at the credit cards.’

“I handed him the money I got for delivering the freight, about two hundred dollars in bills. Then, as I started to pull the cards from my wallet, Sherrie’s picture fell, faceup, onto the seat beside the man. He gasped. Like a man hypnotized, his gaze was riveted on Sherrie’s picture. The pistol fell from his limp fingers, and the money scattered to the floor. He buried his face in his hands and shook with deep, anguished sobs. Speechless, I watched him. Time seemed to stand still. How long I watched that big, burly man shaking with sobs, I don’t know. It seemed quite a while, but it must have been only minutes. Finally he raised his face, took another look at Sherrie’s picture, and asked hoarsely, ‘Is that your little girl?’

“‘Yes,’ I replied.

“‘She reminds me of my own little girl. I can still feel her arms clinging around my neck, and I can hear her crying and begging me not to leave her and her mommy. I’m no criminal. I’ve never robbed anyone in my life. But today I was desperate. The picture of your little girl has brought me back to my senses. Forgive me, please.’

“Perspiration stood out on the man’s forehead. He wiped his face on his sleeve, opened the door, and got out. ‘Hey, mister, don’t you want your pistol?’ I asked. Reluctantly, he picked it up. ‘Here,’ I said, handing him a couple of twenties. ‘I’m sure that you can use this.’

“He looked at me with disbelief as he took the money, then, swallowing hard, said, ‘Sir, you’re a lifesaver. You can’t possibly know what a difference this makes. God bless you.’

“I watched as he cut across a field toward a cluster of houses, and then I gathered the rest of the money from the floor. Sherrie’s picture still lay on the seat where it had fallen. As I picked it up, her smile danced in front of me through a river of tears. Over and over I whispered, ‘My angel, my darling little angel.’ My heart is so filled with thankfulness for all of you. Surely I am blessed.”

The sweet silence that filled the room seemed too sacred to be broken. At last Sherrie said softly, “Heavenly Father let my picture fall onto the seat by that man, didn’t he, Daddy?”

Stroking her dark curls, he replied, “Yes, Sherrie, my precious, bright angel. I’m sure that He did.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by G. Allen Garns