We Fly High!—Daniel, Steven, and Alysa Smith of Julian, California


We Fly High!—Daniel, Steven, and Alysa Smith of Julian, California

A sign in the Smiths’ front yard says “Smiths’ Blissful Acres.” Blissful means “happy,” and the Smiths have found that working and playing together make them happy. They live in a house that was once a barn on 10 acres (4 ha) amid brush-covered hills. Here you’ll find a tree house with a rope swing, a pond with canoes, a vegetable garden, a fruit orchard, steers, chickens, and a big dog named Rascal. You’ll also find ten-year-old Daniel, eight-year-old Steven, and six-year-old Alysa Smith. They have four older brothers, an older sister, and lots of cousins. They love being part of a large family.

On Saturday, October 25, 2003, a small fire started 18 miles from the Smiths’ home. But in a few days the wind had turned the small fire into the largest fire in the history of California. By Tuesday, the fire was burning toward Smiths’ Blissful Acres.

“The sky was orange,” Alysa says, “and the sun looked dark red. We wore masks over our noses and mouths because of the smoke and ash in the air.”

Daniel, Steven, and Alysa packed their clothes and stuffed animals. Because it feared the fire, “one of our steers broke the chain on his halter and went under the fence,” Daniel says. “Rascal helped us get the steer back into the corral.”

When the Smiths had to evacuate, they had to leave the steers and chickens behind. “We raise the steers to sell and pay for our missions,” Steven says. “We were scared that everything would burn.”

Before they left, the Smiths knelt in family prayer. “We prayed for the Lord to bless us and our house and animals,” says Daniel, Steven, and Alysa’s dad, Jeff. “We had done all we could do and then left it in Heavenly Father’s hands.”

“We felt better after our prayer,” Steven says. “I felt the Spirit. Mom helped us feel calm, too.”

At 7:30 p.m. the Smiths got into their two cars and a truck to drive the 30 minutes to a friend’s house in the desert. “Rascal wouldn’t get in the car,” Alysa says. “Some of us were crying, and we were scared Rascal would die in the fire.”

The firefighters worked for four days to protect the town of Julian from the fire. One firefighter died. More than 700 houses burned in the hills around Julian, but the town was saved.

Though the roaring fire raced toward Smiths’ Blissful Acres, the firefighters stopped it two miles before it got there. When the Smiths came home on Saturday, they were so happy that the animals and the house were safe. But Rascal was still missing. Five days later, a man from the animal control center called and said Rascal was there.

“When my mom brought Rascal home, we all jumped on him and hugged him,” Daniel says. “We were so happy.”

During the weeks after the fire, Daniel, Steven, and Alysa helped at the disaster center in Julian. As people donated clothing and supplies, and others sorted the donations into boxes, the Smith children carried the boxes up or down the stairs to the assigned areas.

Since the fire, the Smiths are more grateful than ever for their family, home, and the Church. They express gratitude in their family prayers at the beginning and end of every day. After the prayer, the Smiths have a family tradition. They put their feet in the center of the family circle, pile their hands on top of each other’s hands, and say, “We love everybody.” Then they raise their arms and hands over their heads and shout, “We fly high!”—a reminder that with the gospel and each other, they can become better every day.

And Daniel, Steven, and Alysa do “fly high” because working and playing together makes them and their family strong.

[photos] Photography by LaRene Porter Gaunt and David C. Gaunt

[photo] Top: Daniel, Steven, and Alysa love their dog, Rascal.

[photo] Above: Steven on the rope swing at the tree house.

[photo] Alysa and Steven climb the ladder to their tree house.

[photo] Daniel and Steven help take care of the chickens.

[photo] The Smith family