“Here are all the sego lily bulbs I could find today,” Shaquana said, carefully untying a pouch to reveal seventeen of the small roots. “They’re getting mighty scarce.”
“You did fine, dear,” her mother replied. “I’ll take them inside and get supper started. You go on out and help your pa with the watering.”
As Shaquana turned to go, her mother stopped her. “I don’t know what we’d do without you, Quana.”
“Thanks, Ma,” Shaquana said, walking toward the field. When she saw that her mother had gone inside, her steps slowed and her shoulders drooped in weariness. She was hungry. Her bare feet were cracked and bleeding. Her dress was so threadbare that it wouldn’t take another washing.
Haven’t we suffered enough, Heavenly Father? she prayed silently. We’ve been mobbed. We crossed the country in a wagon. Ma lost two babies. We’ve done all that was asked of us, and yet now we’re facing a drought and everyone is so hungry. Please help us!
Seeing her father, Shaquana straightened her shoulder and tried to look strong.
“There you are,” her father said. “What kept you?”
“I had to go much farther for segos today, Pa.” She took a dipperful of water from the barrel and gently poured it on one of the plants. Each one had to be watered by hand so that not a single drop of precious water would be wasted. No one knew how bad the drought would be this spring of 1848.
“If this keeps up, are we going to make it?” she asked.
“God will provide, Shaquana,” Pa said. “We must have faith.”
“You, Ma, and the Elders all keep saying that, but things just get worse.”
Shaquana’s father patted her shoulder. “Yes, it is hard right now. Everyone is hungry, and clothes are wearing thin. We all need to muster as much faith as we can. Heavenly Father loves each of us. We’ve obeyed His commandments, and He will take care of us.”
Shaquana had always loved these talks with her father. He had such solid faith, no matter what trials came their way. Lately Shaquana’s faith had clashed head-on with her hunger and exhaustion.
As she was watering the last plant, she looked toward the foothills. The darkest cloud she’d ever seen was coming their way. “Look, Pa, rain’s on its way!”
Her father’s face paled as he looked at the dark mass moving quickly toward them. “That’s not rain! Go get your mother and some gunnysacks. Hurry!”
As Shaquana began to run, crickets descended from the sky in droves. She felt them squish under her feet.
“Ma, come quick!” she yelled when she was near enough to be heard over the deafening sound of the crickets. Grabbing some gunnysacks and sticks, she followed her mother back to the field, where they tried to beat the crickets off the crops.
Hour after hour they flailed at the insects, praying all the while for deliverance from them.
“How can we win?” Shaquana cried. “We kill some, and more take their place! It’s hopeless.”
“You go get something to eat and some rest, Quana,” Pa said. “You’ve worked long into the night. We can fight them again in the morning.”
Shaquana nodded and obeyed. “Oh, Heavenly Father,” she prayed before falling into exhausted slumber, “why aren’t we getting any help?”
Each day was the same. They beat back the crickets and prayed. Shaquana was so tired that at night she’d sob herself to sleep. I wish we’d never left our nice home back east and come here, she thought constantly.
They heard from the Elders that the crickets were infesting the entire Salt Lake Valley.
Sunday morning Shaquana slowly got out of bed. She dressed and picked up her gunnysack.
“Not today,” said Pa, “It’s the Sabbath. We’re going to church and hear Brother Charles C. Rich speak.”
“Church? Oh, Pa, I just can’t go sit in church as if all is well. I’m sorry—I just can’t.” Shaquana ran to her bed, flung herself across it, and sobbed.
Pa sat on the edge of her bed and patted her back. “That’s it, Quana, let it out. Maybe you should stay home today and sleep. I like the family in church together, but this once you stay and rest.”
After her parents left, she lay on her bed and prayed aloud, “Heavenly Father, why hast Thou forsaken us? I don’t understand anymore. I’m so hungry and tired, I just don’t …” Before she could finish, she was sound asleep.
She awoke with a start. A strange new cry had joined the whir of the crickets. She ran to the door. Everywhere she looked, there were seagulls!
“Now what?” she cried. Grabbing a gunnysack, she went out to meet this new menace, then stopped in mid-stride and stared. The seagulls were eating the crickets! They weren’t hurting the crops at all.
She quickly dropped to her knees. “Thank you, Heavenly Father!” she said over and over.
When her parents came home, she yelled, “Pa, Ma, look what happened! Heavenly Father sent the seagulls to eat the crickets. They gorge themselves, fly away, then come back for more!”
With tears of gratitude, she confessed, “Oh, Pa, I was so close to losing my faith! I was angry. I thought God had forsaken us. Now I feel ashamed.”
“A lot of folks felt the same as you,” Pa said. “The same things were being said by some at church. And now this miracle! You should write down what you’ve been through. It will help you in other times of trial. Everyone gets discouraged now and again. Sometimes our faith isn’t as strong as we’d like. Remembering the crickets and seagulls may help you get through other rough times that will surely come.”
Shaquana threw herself into her father’s arms. “I’m so glad you understand, Pa!”
He hugged her tight. “And I’m glad you found your faith again. If you water and nurture it as carefully as you have these crops, it will grow strong.”
“I will, Pa. I will.”