Hattie leaned against a trunk in the back of the wagon and watched the woods recede behind them. A sudden gust of wind made the tree branches sway and the green leaves quiver. The trees are waving good-bye, Hattie thought, blinking back tears. I can’t believe I’m leaving the only home I’ve ever known.
Hattie’s Uncle Jed was leading her family to Winter Quarters. From there they would cross the plains to join the other Saints in a barren desert. What would they do without trees? How could they build another log cabin? Where could they hang a swing?
Suddenly the wagon stopped.
“Hattie, are you awake? Come and see this,” her father called.
Hattie climbed slowly out of the wagon and walked around to the front. When she looked up, she gasped. She saw grass, miles and miles of it, taller than she was. It began a little in front of their wagon and stretched clear to the horizon, where it seemed to reach up and tickle the sun.
“Well, Hattie, what do you think?” her father asked. “It’s the beginning of the tallgrass prairie.”
Hattie swallowed hard. “Do we have to go through it?”
Uncle Jed laughed. “Don’t you worry, pumpkin. We’ll sail right across the top of it in our prairie schooner. Trust me.”
Father shaded his eyes against the slowly sinking sun. “However, we’d better set up camp here tonight and start that voyage tomorrow.”
“Hat-tie! Hat-tie!” Violet called from the wagon. Hattie lifted her three-year-old sister to the ground. When Violet saw the tallgrass, she spread her little arms as if greeting an old friend and let out an exclamation of delight.
Hattie grabbed one of her hands. “Come on,” she said gruffly. “We have to gather firewood before we get into the grass, where there won’t be any.”
Violet would not be hurried. She stooped to examine anything that caught her eye. Fortunately there was plenty of dry wood around, and Hattie soon had her apron full of sticks. Then she saw a good-sized branch a few yards away.
“Stay right here,” Hattie said to Violet, who was entranced by a butterfly. Hattie ran over as quickly as she could, snatched up the branch, and ran back. But Violet was gone!
Hattie looked around in panic. Then she saw Violet where an animal’s path led into the towering tallgrass. “No!” Dumping her load of wood, Hattie ran!
Violet gave a shriek of delight and disappeared into the grass.
“Stop, Violet! This isn’t a game.” Hattie took a deep breath and plunged into the grass. Grasshoppers exploded from beneath her feet. Pushing her way down the narrow path, she soon discovered other paths crisscrossing the first. Violet’s laughter always guided her toward her sister until one terrible moment when Hattie could only hear the wind and the insects. Then she heard Violet’s voice so close by that it startled her.
Hattie pushed aside some grass and saw Violet clutching a blue flower.
“Look, Hattie,” Violet said. “Pretty flower.”
“You and your flowers,” Hattie sighed. “Come on. Let’s take the pretty flower to Ma.”
“OK! Let’s hurry.”
But Hattie had no idea which way to go. Each time they tried to find the right path, they seemed to be going in circles.
Hattie yelled for help, but the curtain of grass muffled the sound and threw it back into her face.
Hattie put Violet on her shoulders and stood on tiptoe. “Violet, can you see over the grass?” she asked anxiously. “Can you tell me where the trees are?”
“Giddap!” Violet bounced on Hattie’s shoulders and pulled her braids.
“Ouch!” said Hattie. They both tumbled backward into the soft grass. Violet was laughing, but Hattie was on the verge of tears.
The clouds above the tips of the tallgrass were edged with pink from the sunset. Hattie knew it would soon be dark. She knelt quietly in the grass.
“We need to pray,” Hattie said. Violet snuggled beside her and squeezed her eyes shut.
“Help us, Heavenly Father. We’re lost and don’t know what to do. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Violet opened her eyes and smiled. Hattie smiled back. She felt much better. “We’ll be all right,” she assured Violet. “Someone will find us.”
The air was cooler at the base of the grass, and the ground was spongy. Hattie could almost imagine that she and Violet were lying in the hayloft at home. As the sky darkened, the sounds of the insects changed to a gentle chirp and the wind whispered a lullaby.
When Hattie awoke, it was early morning. A bird sang joyously above Hattie’s head, and sitting in front of her was Uncle Jed.
“Oh, Uncle Jed!” Hattie threw her arms around his neck. “I knew you’d find us.”
“Hold on there, pumpkin. I can’t take credit for finding you. I had to ask Heavenly Father to show me the way.”
“And He did,” Hattie said.
“Yes, Hattie, He did.” Uncle Jed climbed up on his horse, and Hattie handed him a sleepy Violet. Then he reached down to help Hattie up on the horse. “From up here you can see everything.”
Hattie shook her head. “I’ll walk behind you,” she said. “I don’t really need to see everything, when I know there’s someone I can trust leading me.”
As Hattie walked through the tallgrass, gathering prairie flowers, she wondered what kind of flowers they’d find blossoming in the desert Heavenly Father was leading them to.