Sand Trap
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“Sand Trap,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 44–46

Sand Trap

One Saturday morning many years ago, my brothers and sisters and I scurried around the house, doing our chores early. We were excited because Dad had promised to take the family for a ride in the five-year-old station wagon he had recently bought. We had wanted him to get a newer vehicle, but he said a newer car would be too expensive. Besides, he said, the one we bought was heavier and would be safer in an accident. That was an important factor for Mom, who had recently been in a terrible head-on collision and had almost died.

Once we had finished preparing everything, we all piled into the car—Mom, Dad, and seven children, including my baby brother. Since we were only going out for a Saturday-afternoon drive, we didn’t pack a lunch or take anything to drink.

We made our way out to the highway and headed north. Being early fall in Needles, California, it was hot, and this was before cars had air-conditioning. The vista around us was the bleak, open desert, with scattered plants, an occasional outcropping of rock or a telephone pole, and the low-level mountain ranges on the horizon. Despite the heat and barren scenery, we were content to be on a fun family outing.

The mood of contentment was broken, however, by an apprehensive whimper from my mother. The memory of her accident was still fresh, and the sight of oncoming cars frightened her terribly. Dad decided that for her sake he had to get off the highway. “Here we are,” he said in a cheery voice as he turned onto a dirt road that followed a row of huge power lines. Leaving a cloud of dust behind us, the car whistled down the old road, and to my 13-year-old mind this was all great fun.

Enjoying the ride, none of us children noticed the troubled look that came to Dad’s face. But my mother knew something was wrong. “What is it, Anthony?” she asked.

“Well,” he answered, “it’s probably nothing, but that sand out there looks treacherous. We had better head back.” With that, he found a wide spot on top of a little hill and turned the car around.

We started back down the small incline and headed up the next little hill—and then it happened. The car sank in soft sand. Several of us got out and pushed as hard as we could, but it would not move forward. We managed to back it up onto some solid ground so that Dad could get a run at the sandy area and try to drive through it. His repeated attempts at this failed, however, especially since he had to be careful not to back up too far into another sandy place. Each attempt moved the car a little ahead, but then it would sink even deeper into the soft, powdery sand.

The girls started to cry now. “We’re thirsty, Mom.” As the hot afternoon sun beat down, we could see heat waves coming up off the sand, distorting the view of the mountains on the horizon.

Then off in the distance we heard a faint sound coming toward us. The drone of a single-engine aircraft grew louder and louder as it approached our position. “Oh, we are saved!” I cried as I saw the airplane coming. “Let’s all wave him down!” Frantically we waved our arms. This was the airplane that inspected the power lines, and the pilot flew so low that we could see him leaning out the window. He was returning, with a vigorous wave of his own, what he must have thought was a greeting from us. As the plane flew off into the distance and the sound of its engine faded softly away, we knew we were on our own again.

The situation was growing desperate. We had no food or water, my mother was struggling with a now hysterical infant, the four girls were crying, and even my brother and I began to doubt our chances of getting home safely.

Dad called us together and said, “We have only one thing left to do. Let’s ask Heavenly Father for help.” We all knelt down in the burning sand and bowed our heads as Dad poured out his heart in behalf of the entire family. He explained our situation in detail to the Lord, including all of the things we had done to free ourselves, and then he pleaded for help.

After the prayer we stood, and Dad said, “Let’s try it one more time.” He had all of us stay out of the car while he backed it up to make one more run. The engine roared as Dad took off as fast as he could. The car hit the sand, but this time it kept going as if it were floating. Dad drove to the top of the next hill and stopped on solid, rocky ground. We all cheered and ran toward the car. When we reached it, Dad was still sitting at the wheel, shaking and sobbing, something I had never seen him do before. When we asked him what the matter was, he looked up and said that it seemed to him as if the car had been lifted and carried over the sand by an unseen power.

It was a quiet ride home as the bright orange colors of the setting sun shone in the western sky. No one spoke, as if not to disturb the reverent feeling that lingered among us in the car. While I recognize that answers to prayers come in various forms and are not always dramatic, I am grateful to Heavenly Father for the blessings of that day.

  • Gary M. Johnson is a member of the Needles Ward, Lake Havasu City Arizona Stake.