Kenny leaned against Sly’s shoulder, feeling the warmth of the animal in the cold winter air. “You’re a regular stove, Sly,” he said. The black horse flicked his ears and kept eating. Kenny threaded his fingers through the horse’s silky black mane and looked across the corral at the huge mounds of snow heaped along the fences. His father said it was the most snow they’d had in 14 years.
Picking up the pitchfork, Kenny went to feed the rest of the animals. For the past three days, he’d had to do all the chores by himself. His dad was sick with a high fever, and it was hard for him to breathe.
He looked up to see his neighbor standing at the gate, bundled up so just his eyes showed. He’d been sick too.
“When’s your father going into Ely next? My wife is real sick and we could use some medicine.”
Kenny’s father was a teamster as well as a farmer. Every few days he drove his wagon and team of horses from Lund, Nevada, to Ely, taking milk, grain, and other produce raised by the farmers in Lund. He brought back the mail, medicine, and other needed items.
“I’ll tell him you were asking,” Kenny said. Then he trudged back to the house through the snow.
His mother stood at the stove, fixing breakfast. “Your father wants to talk to you,” she said.
Kenny took off his hat and gloves and walked into the other room. In the dim light he could see his father’s face against the pillow.
“Did it snow again last night?” Father asked.
“Some. But the sky’s clear this morning.” Kenny hesitated, not wanting to tell him that the neighbor was asking about medicine from Ely. Father was too sick to go anywhere, and it would just worry him.
But he seemed to already know. He pushed himself up on one elbow and looked at Kenny. “What do you think about riding Sly into Ely? People need medicine, and the mail needs to go through.”
Excitement stirred in Kenny’s stomach. Ride to Ely? By himself?
“Sly is our best horse,” Father said. “He hasn’t been to Ely much, but you know the way.”
Kenny nodded. He had ridden to Ely in the wagon with his father lots of times. “I’ll do it,” he said. Fear was only a tiny fist curled deep in his heart. He hardly paid attention to it.
When Kenny awoke the next morning, it was still dark outside. His mother had hot mush, eggs, venison, and thick slices of buttered bread ready for him. In a cloth bag was more food for him to eat on the way.
“You spend the night in Ely with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Rod.” She laid a small stack of papers tied with string on the table. “Here are the names of medicines that you will need to pick up.”
Kenny tucked the papers in the saddlebag along with the mail. His little sisters watched with solemn eyes.
“When will you be back?” Thelma asked.
“Tomorrow night,” Kenny replied.
“Stay on the road,” his father warned. “Don’t take any shortcuts. The snow will be drifted bad in places.” Then his family knelt for morning prayer, and his father asked for a special blessing on Kenny and Sly.
The air was icy when they set out. It was still dark, but a rim of light showed along the eastern horizon.
Someone had already broken a trail through the flats, so the first part went smoothly. But when they reached the hills, the trail ended. Kenny looked at the untracked snow that lay glittering before them. If he squinted, he could see a slight indention where the road wound through the hills.
“Here we go,” Kenny said and nudged Sly in the ribs. The horse stepped forward, the soft snow giving way under his hooves. In some places, it was so deep it came up to the horse’s belly. Sly would paw at it, breaking a trail and moving forward.
When the sun was somewhere near the top of the sky, Kenny pulled Sly to a stop to eat lunch. His mother had packed sandwiches and apples. Kenny gave the apples to Sly, who munched them happily, the juice dribbling off his floppy lips. Then they set out again.
As they climbed higher in the hills, the indention in the snow that showed the road grew fainter and fainter until it disappeared. Snow was drifted in huge mounds, creating hills where there had been no hills and smooth places where there had been ravines. Kenny reined Sly to a halt and looked around. It was as if he had turned a corner and found himself lost in a completely foreign world. The tiny fist of fear in his heart suddenly grew large.
“Heavenly Father,” he whispered, “I don’t know which way to go. Please help me.” He took a deep breath and urged the horse on.
Suddenly Sly sank up to his neck in snow. Kenny panicked, his head pounding. “Please, Heavenly Father, please help us.” Desperate, he looked around at the flat whiteness imprisoning them. He gripped the reins, fighting an impulse to jump off the horse and run. Common sense told him he wouldn’t be able to run. He’d be completely buried.
Then suddenly he could feel Sly’s muscles moving underneath him. Sly was slowly, patiently pawing at the snow, digging his way out. Kenny reached down and began moving the snow burying his own legs.
It seemed like hours before he and his horse had cleared a space around them. Sly stood for a moment, panting, then lunged heavily to the right, stumbled, and caught himself. Finally they were standing on the road.
Kenny looked around him. They could turn around and go back home. He could tell his father he couldn’t go any farther. He’d understand. But Sly started walking again, carefully placing each hoof. Again Kenny prayed. “What shall I do? Shall I keep going or turn around? I think I’m lost.”
A quiet voice said, “Look up at the mountains.”
Kenny looked up past the hills to the mountains that surrounded their valley. The mountains hadn’t changed. They were right where they’d always been—familiar, sturdy. Suddenly Kenny knew where he was. It was as if he could see the road the way it looked in summer. There were the mountains, there were the hills, and there was the road. He could imagine how it wound up the hill.
“I think we’re supposed to keep going,” he said to his horse, but Sly was already going.
The sun was beginning to set when, at last, Kenny saw what he’d been looking for—a clear indention in the snow that was the road. And farther on, he saw something even better. Someone with a sled had driven down the road, packing the snow and making a clear trail all the way to Ely.
It was well past dark when Kenny knocked on Aunt Sarah’s door.
“Kenny! What are you doing here? You look frozen solid.”
“I’m OK,” Kenny said, his knees trembling. “But I need to take care of my horse.”
Later, over a bowl of warm stew, he told his aunt and uncle about his ride to Ely, and how his father and others were sick and needed medicine.
“You get some rest tonight,” his uncle said. “We’ll get the medicine first thing in the morning. Going back will be easier because you’ve already broken a trail.” He looked at Kenny hard. “Grown men have gotten lost or stranded in that deep snow.”
Kenny laid his spoon beside his bowl and looked at his uncle. “I had help,” he said. He thought about the quiet voice and the mountains and how Sly seemed to know just what to do. Heavenly Father was watching out for them.
“Never fail daily to seek for help through prayer. … You shall be warned of dangers and shall be guided through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.” President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Ensign, May 1996, 19.