For my 17th birthday, my dad presented me with his old Volkswagen. I was ecstatic. Imagine—my very own car! I was anxious to take a drive. A long drive. Somewhere. Anywhere. I suppose my excitement was, in part, a result of a boyish, budding sense of independence.
The long-awaited and sorely anticipated journey finally arrived the following summer when my parents gave me permission to drive a few states away to visit a cousin. My 15-year-old brother, Tom, accompanied me. My dad hugged me and cautioned, “Keep your sense about you, Ray. And be careful.”
It was a memorable trip, mainly because it was my—rather our—maiden voyage, of sorts. Our first real time away from home. That, in itself, was the real adventure.
As with all adventures, this one came to an end, and it was time to go home. We were tired and ready to return to the comfort of our own beds.
Tom was asleep in the backseat of the car as I snaked my way through the mountains on a high, narrow road. I had been driving all day, and it was late, so I couldn’t wait to get down off that mountain, pull off the road, and get some sleep, at least enough for a brief respite before finishing the final leg of our journey.
Being saddled with an aching want for sleep, along with a youthful helping of inexperience and irresponsibility, I was driving too fast for the conditions of the road. The night was blacker than a bad tooth. The sickle-thin cut of moon in the inky sky and the feeble, confetti-like throw of star glow provided scant illumination on the dark road. I negotiated the narrow, serpentine roadway using the almost-just-as-meager aid of the vehicle’s headlights.
Just as I was about to round yet another sharp curve, I heard a voice within me say, “Slow down. There are two deer around the corner in the road.”
Driving as fast as I was and already upon the turn, I had only time enough to react—to either ignore the voice or hurriedly follow the instruction.
I chose the latter, quickly slowing down as I took the blind curve. And there, just as the voice had forewarned, standing in the middle of the narrow roadway, were two deer, blinded by my headlights and too startled to move.
Had I not heeded the voice, I would have swerved to the left and driven off the edge of the huge drop-off.
After maneuvering around the deer, I proceeded on our route. It was good to be home again. As I lay in my own bed with my hands tucked under my head, I realized that as much as I looked forward to the notion of one day being on my own, I hoped that wherever life found me, I would be living righteously enough to always have the companionship of the Holy Ghost.