Get Off the Tracks!
January 1988

“Get Off the Tracks!” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 50–51

“Get Off the Tracks!”

The Wyoming winter had been so long and cold! It was January, and the snow was piled up to the eaves of the porch, packed solid from the weight of each successive storm.

The barn doors had long since been drifted shut. The pasture was so deeply covered with snow and drifts that a snowmobile was the only way to take the horses food and water. The horses had to stay out in the raging elements, but they didn’t really seem to mind. Since the fence that contained them during the summer had been buried under frozen mounds of white for several months, they could roam at will. Their wanderings included straying along the extremely busy railroad tracks.

The ring of the telephone would alert us, again and again, that our horses were on the tracks. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t keep those single-minded animals corraled.

One January evening brought, at last, some peace and quiet, and for a change, no wind. The house was warm, and the children laughed and played, making bedtime preparations a little more joyous than usual.

Then the phone rang—the horses were on the tracks again. “How am I supposed to get them back where they belong?” I thought. “My husband is at work, it’s dark outside, and I don’t have any transportation except for the snow machine.”

I grabbed Burt’s big, brown insulated coveralls and my black overboots, wrapped a scarf around my neck, slipped a helmet on my head, and went off to chase those ornery critters back where they belonged.

I rode along, thinking I would soon find the horses. I didn’t, so I decided to cross the railroad tracks, hoping to find them already back in their pasture. The tracks had been snow-packed all winter, so we had been able to skim right across. As I approached them I gave the sled full throttle so I could cross in a hurry. I will never forget what happened next.

It was too dark for me to see that the weather had warmed just enough to melt all the snow from around the tracks. I slammed to a stop, sitting crossways on the tracks, with the sled’s skis firmly wedged underneath the track.

I knew I had to get that snow machine off the tracks. I pulled it, straining every muscle, all the while praying, “Help me, Heavenly Father, help me!” I pulled, looked for a train, then pulled again.

A thought came to my mind: “If a train comes around that corner you’ll never hear it until it’s too late. Get that helmet off your head!” I tore the helmet from my head and reached for the snowmobile again. Suddenly, the light of a freight train appeared around the bend. Then, very distinctly, I heard, “You have three children at home. Get off the tracks!” I immediately began to run, fearing the train would throw the sled sideways at me. The next few moments seemed like an eternity. I turned around just as the train came hurtling past. I watched it plow into the sled and throw it, like a child’s toy, 150 yards down the track.

I was stunned, and for a moment, couldn’t move or react. I felt sick inside, and helpless. Then came violent trembling and tears. I began walking numbly toward home, not feeling the chill winter night on my cheeks or the ice-packed road beneath my heavy boots. When I reported to the line foreman what had happened, he and his wife stared at me in disbelief. They couldn’t believe I had walked away, completely unharmed, from such an accident.

The next morning, our family went to find the snow machine. Pieces were strewn everywhere. Only a twisted part of the body of the sled remained intact. Our children were very sober when they learned what had happened—and what could have happened. Our four-year-old, Travis, said in his bedtime prayer, “Thanks for keeping Mommy safe.”

I know our Heavenly Father answers prayers. I also know that our prayers are not always answered in the way we expect. But in my case, I was given what I really needed. My prayer for help did not allow me to save the snow machine, but it did save my life.

  • Wendy R. Rudder, a homemaker, is a Blazer A teacher, a visiting teacher, and the secretary to the Cub Scout organization in the Lake Elsinore Second Ward, Corona California Stake.