Sarah walked along the wagon rut. She could see the dust from the wagon train in the distance. Granny Glover walked beside her in the parallel rut. The two lines of wagon tracks wound ahead through the prairie grass as far as they could see. Sometimes I feel like I’ll be walking in these ruts forever, Sarah thought. She and Granny had been walking since their family left Florence, Nebraska, three weeks earlier. Sarah looked out for Granny; Granny looked out for Sarah.
“Put your bonnet on, lass,” Granny said. Her Scottish brogue rolled across the emptiness of the prairie and was lost in the sway of the grass. Sarah pretended not to hear. “Sarah Jane Skelton, put your bonnet on your wee head, before you’re cooked like a bit o’ back bacon.”
“Oh, wouldn’t back bacon taste good right now?” Sarah exclaimed, looking up at the sky as if she was searching for bacon in the clouds.
“Aye, lass, it surely would.” Granny followed Sarah’s gaze to the clouds. “But we’ve got naught but dust to eat for many a mile, so slip that bonnet back on your head or you’ll be seeing stars long afore the sun goes down.”
Sarah dutifully pulled her bonnet back onto her head. “Granny,” she said, “what day is it?”
“It’s Saturday. Tomorrow we rest.”
“Do you think we’ll get into camp early enough to wash in the river? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wash this dust away?”
“Aye, lass. Surely it would be fine.” They walked on in silence.
At first, Sarah’s mother had insisted that Granny Glover ride in the wagon. However, the first day’s ride bumped and jostled her so much that by the end of the day she could not stand.
“I’m old, but I’m not feeble,” Granny had said the next morning. “I’ll walk if you please.”
“Sarah, stay with Granny,” was all Sarah’s mother had said. So Sarah walked every day with Granny. She longed to play alongside the wagon with her younger sisters or watch the hens with the other girls her age, but her mother said that Granny must not walk alone. Granny walked even more slowly than the oxen pulling the wagons. When the wagons stopped for the night just before sundown, Sarah and Granny usually had an hour’s walk in darkness before they made it to camp. The sounds of the songs of Zion often greeted them long before they reached the wagon train.
The first week, Sarah was so tired and her body ached so much that all she could do at day’s end was eat a bit of biscuit, wrap up in a quilt, say a short prayer, and fall asleep. Now she was much stronger. She knew that the Lord was helping her and that if she had to, she could walk across the prairie forever. But she dreamed of the day they’d reach the Valley. Her Uncle William was already there. He had written to them about the Zion the Saints were building “in the tops of the mountains.”
A comfortable quiet settled over the prairie. Sometimes Granny talked about the days when Sarah’s mother was a little girl and they were homesteading in Nova Scotia, Canada. Sometimes she told of her own lively childhood in Scotland. Often they sang their favorite hymns and folk songs. Or Granny recited one of the poems of Robert Burns; she was teaching them to Sarah.
Today they were happy to just walk quietly together. Sarah pushed her bonnet off her head, letting it hang down her back. Granny Glover pre-tended to not notice.
Granny and Sarah kept up their slow, steady pace all day. The sun sank lower and lower in the prairie sky. “Do you see the wagon?” Granny asked when it was just about sundown. Sarah’s sharp eyes scanned the trail ahead.
Sarah’s parents pulled out of the wagon train and waited for Sarah and Granny whenever they could, but Mother was expecting a baby, and Sarah’s three younger sisters were often hungry and tired at the end of the long day’s march. Father had camp duties to attend to on many evenings.
“No, Granny, just dust.”
The sun slipped beneath the horizon, and darkness blanketed the prairie. It was hard to see in the dim starlight. Granny stumbled, and Sarah took her arm to steady her. “Thanks, darlin’. It won’t be far now,” she said.
They walked slowly on through the darkness, carefully following the wagon ruts. In the distance a mournful howl broke the silence. One wolf. Then another. Then another. A chorus of howls filled the lonely night air.
Granny and Sarah continued their slow pace. The wolves howled again. Sarah gripped Granny’s arm tighter. “Oh, Granny,” she said with fear in her voice, “please hurry. The wolves will get us.”
Granny placed her hand over Sarah’s and squeezed. “Don’t worry, lass,” she said. “The wolves won’t get us.”
Sarah turned and looked at Granny. She could see her calm green eyes looking intently at her through the darkness. “We’re on the Lord’s errand, lass. The wolves won’t touch us. There be angels a-guardin’ us all the way to Zion.”
A calm, peaceful feeling flooded through Sarah’s body, washing her fear away. The wolves continued to howl, but their eerie music no longer frightened Sarah. The peace that enveloped her crowded out her fear. From a distance they heard the Saints singing, “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear,” * and saw the flickering campfires glowing against the darkness.
“All is well, lass,” Granny said. “All is well.” Sarah smiled, filled with a happiness and peace she had not known before.