Jason C. Jones turned up the collar of his wet coat. He tried to creep farther under the bush, but the chilling rain still soaked through and found him.
Will I ever be warm again? Jason wondered.
On this cold night in November 1833, Jason thought back to that hot day in July when it seemed to him their troubles had all begun.
Jason’s father said to him that morning, “I have to ride into Independence, Missouri for supplies, Jason. Fix the broken fence. And remember you’re eleven now, and you’ll have to look out for your mother and Jane.”
Shortly after noon that day Jason was straightening a fence rail near the road when he heard the sound of running horses.
Shading his eyes, Jason looked down the road. Many men were coming toward him on galloping horses. Then he noticed that all the men had weapons of some sort. Jason saw several rifles and some pistols, but most of the riders carried whips or clubs.
The boy trembled in fright. Are they members of a mob? he wondered. He’d heard stories about men who threatened the Saints, and sometimes when his father and mother had thought the children were both asleep, Jason had heard them whisper about killings.
All but one of the riders raced past the boy. The one who stopped pulled his horse up near Jason and shouted, “You one of those Mormon boys?”
“Tell your folks to get out,” the man cried. “You’re not wanted in Jackson County, Missouri.”
Jason stood silent and the man rode away.
When his father came home, Jason told him about the men and then asked, “Why don’t the people want us here, Father? We’re not hurting anyone, are we?”
His father looked sad. He was quiet for a moment, and then he explained, “I guess folks feel there are too many Mormons coming to live here.”
Jason remembered that the rest of the summer was peaceful at their farm, but many other families had not been as fortunate. One night his father rode into Independence again. A meeting was being held so that some of the Mormon leaders and other men chosen from the area could talk over their problems.
Before he left, Jason’s father had not returned. Near nightfall that day Jason walked to the road. He peered in the direction of town, hoping he might see his father coming home. What Jason saw instead made him stiffen with fear. He raced back into the house and shut the door.
Before he spoke, he took a deep breath. “Mother,” Jason quietly said, “some men are coming.”
His mother jumped up. A shirt she had been mending dropped unnoticed on the floor. “Maybe we can get away through the back door, Jason,” she suggested in a shaky voice. “Let’s hurry and—”
Before his mother finished speaking, a huge man pushed the door open.
“You Mormons get out!” he bellowed. “We’re going to burn your house down!”
Jason could not believe what he heard the man say. Then there were sounds in the yard outside, and Jason knew the loud noises meant fences were being ripped down and the barn and other outbuildings torn apart.
Jason helped his mother find Jane’s shawl as well as her own. He snatched a wicker basket and began to throw food into it, but the big man grabbed the basket and shouted, “Go on! Get out before this place burns down around you!”
Jason and his mother and Jane ran outside and up the road. They stopped a few times to look back at the flames that licked around their home as it burned.
During the night they were joined by other homeless women and children. They crossed a burned prairie crusted with sleet. Whenever they tried to stop and rest, men on horseback drove them on.
The driven people moved northward to the Missouri River. They reached the river late one evening.
Crowded on its banks were household goods, boxes, provisions, animals, and many people waiting their turn to cross the river. Only one small ferry was available.
Shortly after dark Jason became separated from his mother and Jane. Now the rain began to fall in torrents, and Jason huddled under the bush. He was desperately miserable and lonely as he thought about all that had happened since that July day when the man on horseback had screamed, “You’re not wanted!”
Then Jason remembered what he could do. Kneeling in the mud, Jason prayed for help.
Finally he dozed. But cries from the people on the river bank soon awakened him, and Jason crawled from beneath his bush.
The rain had stopped, and everyone was looking up. Jason looked up too. The sight he saw filled him with amazement.
The heavens were a deep blue background for a wondrous spectacle of falling stars that streaked downward in bright flames. It looked as if the stars exploded in place and then began to tumble toward the earth.
To Jason, it seemed that every star in the heavens was about to land in the river beside the people.
As the magnificent display gradually stopped, Jason again remembered his troubles. He sighed and shivered as he pulled his coat about him. Just then he felt a hand on his shoulder, and Jason looked up and saw his father.
“Oh, Father,” he sobbed, “I’m so glad to see you!”
His father hugged him close. “I found your mother and Jane too,” he said. “Come.”
The man and boy walked down the river bank together. A fire burned warmly in front of a tent, and inside the opening Jason could see his mother and sister.
“With our family together again, even a tent is a home,” Father said as he gently pushed Jason inside toward his welcoming family.