Nine-year-old Jimmy Anderson remembered the roaring of the flame, the angry shouts, and the windows and doors breaking. If it hadn’t been for the fire, he would still be living in Denmark, he would have shoes on his feet instead of rags, and he would have air to breathe instead of dust. …
He limped along beside his family’s wagon. A few yards in front of him, his stepmother, Caroline, walked. Snatches of her Danish words now drifted back to him. He watched as she looked up at Fader (Father), who sat on the wagon seat, driving the ox team. Jimmy heard Fader’s voice answering her. It was a comforting, familiar sound in this strange new land of sagebrush and endless miles.
“Jimmy.” Caroline’s voice woke him from his thoughts. “Run fetch that stick, please.”
Hobbling off in the direction of her pointing finger, Jimmy soon found the little sage branch. Part of it lay under a pile of buffalo dung. The animal was nearby, Jimmy knew, for this pile was not one of the dried chips used for fuel, but a stinky, fresh one. If kindling wasn’t so scarce, he would have left the branch. He picked it up, scraped it off in the dirt, and carried it to the woodbox Fader had attached to the back of the wagon.
Jimmy looked down at the rags wrapping his feet. I hope there is a stream at the camp tonight, he thought. Whenever there was enough water, he soaked his rags so that they would peel away from the sores on his feet.
“Why the long face?” Jimmy looked up to see his older brother and hero, John.
“My feet hurt,” Jimmy admitted.
John laid a comforting hand on Jimmy’s shoulder. “What’s this? Do I hear murmuring?”
Jimmy shook his head. “I was just answering your question. You’re lucky, John. You have boots.”
“Aye, little brother, but even feet in boots sometimes bleed when you’ve walked as far as we have.”
Stepping over a rock, Jimmy asked, “So what do you do when your feet hurt?”
“I think about the blessings.”
“Blessings?” Jimmy looked into John’s face. He saw a mixture of peace and conviction.
His older brother nodded. “God has restored His ancient authority, Jimmy Boy. Because of that, we can be united as a family forever.”
“One day we will be with Moder (Mother) again.” A warm feeling filled Jimmy.
John nodded. A tear seeped from his eye and rolled down his dusty cheek. “Sore feet is a small price to pay.”
“That’s not the only price, John. I still have bad dreams about the fire.”
John tipped his hat to shield his eyes from the sun. “Do you also remember what Caroline found in the ashes?”
“A lump of gold—enough to make two wedding bands and pay our fare to America.”
“See? Even in the fire there was a blessing.” John gave Jimmy an encouraging pat.
“Lars,” Fader called John’s Danish name, “skynd dig (hurry)!”
“Coming.” John ruffled Jimmy’s hair, then trotted away.
Jimmy wished for a walking stick. He shook his head. It wouldn’t do me any good, anyway, he thought. It would just be used for kindling.
Thinking about the gold in the ashes, Jimmy imagined finding a treasure bound up in his rags. He grinned as he grasped the handle on the lid of the woodbox. Hopping along on one foot after the rolling wagon, he found a good toehold and climbed up. Finally perched on top of the box, he picked at the knots in the ragged strings until he had untied them. He loosened the cloths covering his feet and peeked among the folds—nothing.
“Oh, well.” He retied the knots. “At least I got a ride—and we’re going to Zion, where people won’t burn your house down if you’re a Mormon. And there isn’t as much dust up here.”
He even smiled and waved as he looked back at Brother Bysbee in the next wagon.
“I see you found a seat, Jimmy.” Brother Bysbee laughed good-naturedly.
“It’s better than walking!” Jimmy answered. It felt good to be sitting, even though the wagon ride jolted and rattled him to the bone. He looked out over the hills of gray-green sagebrush, the home of jackrabbits, prairie dogs, and buffalo—and soon his home, too. Long before he was ready to move, he heard Fader call, “Jimmy, please get that scrap of wood.”
Jimmy sighed. He was tired. To get down, he’d have to jump. That would hurt. But Fader had called. Gritting his teeth, Jimmy leaped. As he tumbled in the dirt, he rolled out of the way of Brother Bysbee’s oxen.
Suddenly Jimmy heard a bellow of rage. He looked to the opposite side of the wagon. An angry buffalo thundered from behind a bush and charged the woodbox! Its massive head crashed into the box and splintered it. Screams, shouts, and bawling from the startled oxen filled the air. “Whoa!” Brother Bysbee called. “Whoa there!”
Stamping, pawing, and snorting, the buffalo ran past Jimmy so close that he saw the crazed look in the animal’s eyes. Gunshots exploded.
“Jimmy!” The boy looked up to see Caroline and John running toward him.
From the front of the wagon Fader called, “Are you hurt?”
“I’m all right.” Jimmy called back.
He reached out his hand, and John helped him to his feet. “You were right about the blessings, John. If I hadn’t obeyed Fader, that buffalo would have killed me!”
“Two blessings came out of that one.” John agreed. “The Lord spared your life, and He provided buffalo meat for everybody in camp.”
As Jimmy reached down to pick up the broken pieces of the woodbox, he hardly noticed his sore feet. “We’ll have a good fire tonight!”