Old South Pass

When I was in my first year of college at Logan, Utah, I bought an old car for a hundred dollars. I was eighteen and thought that I knew all about driving. It was Christmastime, and my parents were living on a ranch in Wyoming. I picked up my two grandmothers in Logan and took them to my parent’s home for Christmas. We had a grand time there.

When it was time to return to school, the weather had changed and the roads became treacherous. That morning, as we were ready to leave, we held a family prayer in the living room. My father prayed that we would have a safe journey. After we had loaded my car with suitcases, blankets, tuna fish sandwiches, and a thermos bottle full of Postum, Dad walked out to the car and said, “I want to talk to you.” We went over and stood by the fence. “You have a very valuable cargo,” he said, nodding at my grandmothers. “I want you to promise me that if the roads are bad and it’s snowing when you get down to Lander, you won’t go over South Pass. I want you to take the long way.” I promised him that I would. My parents kissed us good-bye, and we were on our way.

We had nice weather until we got to Riverton; then it started to snow. By the time we got to Lander, it was snowing pretty hard. I remembered my promise, so when we came to the intersection where you turn to go up the mountain, I made a conscious turn to go the long way. I remember thinking that it was going to take us five hours longer to get to Utah. I knew the road, and I was absolutely certain that I had made the right turn.

As we drove along, we were joking and laughing, although the snow was getting thicker. Then I saw a sign that read, “Historic Old South Pass City,” and I realized that I had somehow become confused in the snowstorm and had taken the wrong road! I thought, “Dad will be angry with me!” I don't know how this happened—it wasn’t intentional.

I had only two choices: I could keep on going, or I could turn around and go back. By this time, we were at the summit, so I decided that we might as well keep going and that I would apologize to Dad later. As we came down the mountain, the snow stopped and the roads were clear. We drove to Logan and then to Malad without any problems.

On my way to school the next day I happened to see the front-page headline of a newspaper: WORST BLIZZARD OF THE YEAR STRANDS HUNDREDS IN CENTRAL WYOMING. I bought a paper, and it was full of stories about people who had been stranded, lost, or killed on the road that I had promised to take. I realized that the prayer our family had offered had been answered. I knew that the Lord had gotten us on the right road, and I realized He had protected us. I was never the same after that.

F. Burton Howard