No Ordinary Name

By Arnold Grundvig, Jr.

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    The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name (D&C 122:1).

    Usually when Floyd and Dad were riding in the car, they had a lot to talk about, but not today. They had driven over to see Floyd’s new school, and Floyd hadn’t said a word all the way back. Dad broke the silence and asked, “What’s the matter, Son? Are you worried about going to a new school?”

    Almost in a whisper, Floyd answered, “Yes.” This would be his fourth school, and he was only in the sixth grade. Dad was an electrical engineer, and his work required that they move often. “It’s always the same, Dad. I hate it.”

    “Why don’t you tell me what you don’t like about it. You always do well in school, and you have friends and pen pals all over the country.”

    Floyd didn’t want to answer. It would only embarrass him and probably cause trouble, but before he knew it, the words came tumbling out. “When I get there, I’m going to meet a bunch of Jims, some Mikes, a lot of Johns and Bobs, a couple of Garys, and a Steve or two—ordinary guys with ordinary names. I’ll be the only Floyd, and I’ll hear Floyd jokes for months. Why couldn’t I have an ordinary name?”

    Dad knew what Floyd was talking about; he had heard about the jokes. “You’re right,” he said, “Floyd is no ordinary name. Do you know where your name came from?”

    “From someone named Floyd who lived a long time ago when there were lots of Floyds and other weird names!” He said it before he could stop himself. Now I’m in trouble for sure, he thought. He knew better than to talk that way, but it had been bottled up inside for too long.

    “You’re right again,” Dad replied evenly, “but there’s a lot more to it than you realize. Would you like to hear about a young man named Floyd who was not very ordinary?”

    Surprised that he wasn’t in trouble, Floyd blurted out, “Sure!” But he wasn’t as excited as he sounded. How could anyone named Floyd be interesting? he wondered.

    “Your name has belonged to some great men,” Dad began. “That’s why we gave you the name. We weren’t worried about anybody making jokes. That’s no big deal. Your mother and I hoped that having the same name as a great man might help you be a little like him. I want you to remember this story, Son,” Dad said as he pulled into the driveway of their new home. “My great-grandfather told me this story when I was about your age, and I’ll never forget it. …

    “It was in the fall of the year 1857, as I remember, and a small group of Mormon pioneers were late starting across the plains. They got caught in an early snowstorm, and it slowed their travel. Many of them had become ill with colds, fevers, and pneumonia. They traveled as fast as they could, but because of the cold and sickness, they were just plain worn-out from pulling handcarts and carrying the smaller children.

    “One day they came to a river that they had to cross. Everyone was so tired that the river seemed an impossible challenge. It seemed too wide, too deep, and too cold to the exhausted pioneers. One weary lady stood on the bank of the river, holding her baby as the tears silently streamed down her face. She didn’t have the strength to face one more trial that day. For a minute it looked like the journey might end right there for the small band of weary pioneers.

    “Then, without saying a word, a young man waded into the cold river and made his way to the other side to see how deep it was. The icy water came up to his waist. He was certain that the handcarts were too small and too heavily loaded to carry children and those who were sick across safely. He knew what needed to be done, and he didn’t have to be asked. He knelt down with the rest of the pioneers and led a prayer, asking for strength to get everyone across safely. He was seventeen years old, and he was tall and strong, but he knew that he would need the help of the Lord to deal with the numbing cold of the river.

    “The boy jumped up from the prayer and carried his sick mother across first, then his younger sister, and finally his three-year-old brother. When they were safe, he started carrying other children across. Another boy, a little younger but just as strong and nearly as tall, joined him in the cold river. The two youths carried across all the children and others who were too weak to make it through the icy water on their own. When everyone else was safely on the other side and the handcarts were across, the boys came out of the river to get dry and to warm themselves by the fire.

    “Their legs and feet were blue from the cold. They got into dry clothes and wrapped up in blankets. Everyone thanked them for their help, but the boys said that they had just done what needed to be done. That night they sent everyone else to bed while they stayed by the fire to get warm. They talked about how things were going to be when they got to their new homes, but their conversation was often interrupted by muscle cramps and violent shivers. The cold water had chilled them more than they thought possible. The next morning they were still sitting there, wrapped in their blankets. When the leader of the group walked over to talk to them, he was saddened by what he found. During the night the boys had both died as they sat by the fire.

    “The youths were buried right there on the edge of the river. They had lost their lives while helping others. The older boy, the one who had prayed for strength to get the others across safely, was one of your relatives. His name was Floyd. His three-year-old brother was your great-great-grandfather. When I was a little boy and Grandfather was in his nineties, he told me this story. That was when I learned that Floyd meant courage, relying on the Lord, and helping others.”

    Floyd looked out the window at the old tree in the front yard, trying to keep the tears from overflowing his eyes. He couldn’t think of anything to say other than “Wow!”

    Dad paused too. He couldn’t tell the story without getting tears in his eyes, either. Then he said, “That brave lad named Floyd is part of you. And you certainly were right—Floyd is no ordinary name! It’s a name to be proud of, and it’s a name for you to live up to.”

    “I don’t know if I can be as brave as he was,” Floyd said with conviction, “but I’m going to be the best person that I can. And, Dad, I’ll tell you something else: When I go to school in the morning, I’m going to tell them that my name’s Floyd and that Floyd’s no ordinary name!”

    Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett