Manna Weed

by Erin Christison

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    It was a lifesaver, it was tasty, and it grew like, well, like a weed.

    Author’s Note: This is based on a true story from my ancestor.

    Herding sheep was not Walt Cox’s idea of fun. Every time he walked down this dusty road to help his father, it seemed to get longer. Daydreaming as he walked, Walt found himself wandering near temple hill, looking for something new.

    He heard a low rumbling noise and looked around, but it wasn’t a thundercloud or an approaching wagon. Walt realized that it was his stomach. Again. Times were hard in Manti, Utah, because the crops were not producing. Walt found himself talking aloud even though no one was around to hear.

    “I’m sick of living on bread crumbs,” he said.

    Walt tried to forget his hunger pains and began racing along the hill. He noticed a patch of green plants growing at the base of the temple hill. They looked different than anything he had seen before, so he carried an armful home to his mother.

    Surprised to see Walt coming home so soon after she had sent him to help his father, Pamela arose to see what he had in his arms.

    “What have you gotten into now, Walt?”

    Without saying a word, Walt handed her the green plants.

    Careful experimentation showed that the plants had a delicious flavor, and when eaten, produced no ill effects. They found the greens superior to any they had tasted before. Pamela kissed Walt on the cheek and then sent him off to spread the news to their neighbors about the amazing discovery Walt had made at the base of the temple hill.

    Every day the greens were carefully cut to the ground. Each morning they had grown enough for another day’s cutting, and the people gave thanks to the Lord for the “manna weed.” Everyone was surprised to find that during the long season, the greens never made anyone sick, and no one really seemed to tire of their flavor.

    The next spring, when the gardens produced abundantly, the greens stopped growing in their spot on temple hill.

    Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh; lettering by James Fedor