“Nephi’s Bow,” Friend, June 1998, 28
In the Crandall family were three redheaded brothers. Matthew and Mark were ten-year-old twins; Luke was eight. The three boys shared everything, including a basement bedroom and the battered blue bicycle with the bright red seat. They often put their three red heads together to make the best and most spectacular plans.
One summer day when the boys had exhausted every idea for adventure, they sat dejectedly in the shade of a maple tree. “If only we each had our own bicycle,” Matthew sighed. “We could explore the whole town.”
“Yeah,” Mark and Luke moaned in unison.
Suddenly Matthew sat up straight. “Listen!” he exclaimed. “There’s our answer!”
Mark cocked an ear. “That’s just Mr. Brown starting his lawn mower.”
Matthew punched the air. “Exactly!”
Mark and Luke exchanged bewildered glances.
“Remember the Petersons’ rummage sale?” Matthew said. “No one bought those two used lawn mowers.”
Mark nodded. “Mr. Peterson said we could have them to make go-carts.”
Matthew continued breathlessly. “Go-carts can wait. We’re going to start our own lawn-mowing service! We’ll earn enough money for three brand-new bikes!”
“Yippee!” Mark yelled.
Luke’s eyes grew as round as baseballs. His very own bike? Just by mowing a few lawns? “When do we start?”
They agreed on a plan: Matthew and Mark would get Mr. Peterson’s mowers humming again. Luke would use Dad’s new mower. Searching through a thick department store catalog, they selected the bicycle of their dreams—the Deluxe Sun Racer for $129.95. Matthew brought out his calculator. With sales tax, each boy would need to mow thirty lawns at five dollars each.
“Thirty lawns? How are we going to find thirty lawns to mow?” Mark asked.
“Tomorrow we’ll go door-to-door,” Matthew explained. He looked at his younger brother, who was nervously biting his lower lip. “Don’t worry, Luke. We’ll all go together. Mom always says that three redheads are better than one!”
Mom was right. People found it hard to refuse the three redheaded brothers with shiny, scrubbed cheeks and sparkling green eyes. By the end of the day, they had appointments for twenty-six lawns. The next day added even more customers, and Matthew announced that the mowing would begin Saturday morning. “Mark, you’re scheduled for five lawns in Jimmy’s neighborhood. I’ll do five in the Petersons’, and, Luke, you’ll do five in our own.”
Luke gulped. Five lawns in one day? Was it possible? “Are you sure we can—?” he began.
“Of course!” Matthew said brightly. “It’ll be easy! Plan on half an hour for each lawn, and we’ll be home in time for lunch!”
Luke still felt doubtful, but when Matthew opened the catalog, now permanently creased at the Deluxe Sun Racer page, his excitement quickly returned.
Saturday morning arrived under a cloudless sky. The first three appointments were for nine o’clock sharp, and the three brothers parted at the corner. “You’ll do great, Luke!” Matthew called over his shoulder. “Just concentrate on that new Deluxe Sun Racer!”
Luke waved and tried to smile. He looked at the list Matthew had given him. “Johnson, Taylor, Parker, Martinez, Hall.” Five lawns. Luke studied Mr. Johnson’s yard. It was nice and square, with one tree in the front yard and one in the back. Easy as pie.
But it was ten fifteen when Luke, red-faced and sweating, finally moved on to the Taylors’.
Dad came by about ten thirty to bring him a snack. “Luke? I thought you’d be at the Parkers’ by now. Are you all right, son?”
Luke nodded and blinked back weary tears. He took a long drink of the ice water Mom had sent, and wiped his face on his sleeve. “Don’t tell Matthew, Dad. I’ll catch up. Look at the Halls’ yard. That one will be a cinch!”
Luke carefully turned the mower around a sprinkler head. Maybe Matthew hadn’t figured on the extra time required for things like sprinklers and flower beds and little toys scattered around that had to be picked up. At this rate, Luke might be finished by dinnertime—or bedtime.
About twelve-thirty, disaster struck. Luke was puffing along the side of the Martinezes’ little red-brick house when something clanged and snapped, and Dad’s mower came to a sickening, grinding halt. “Oh, no!” Luke groaned. It couldn’t be a sprinkler head, and it wasn’t a ball or toy. Making sure the engine was off, he tipped the mower onto its side.
It was horribly terrible. It was terribly horrible. It was worse than anything he could have imagined. There, with a clump of freshly-mown grass clinging to it, was the mower blade, bent and twisted, barely hanging by one crooked bolt to the motor.
The culprit was a gleaming piece of steel the size of a ruler that had lain buried in the blades of grass, waiting to attack Dad’s mower. Luke fell backward on the soft grass and put his arms over his face in horror.
“Luke? What’s wrong?”
It was Mr. Martinez. He looked pale and frightened. Luke stood up. “I’m OK, Mr. Martinez. It’s the mower. I’m afraid it’s wrecked. I’m sorry, but I’ll have to come back another time to finish your lawn.”
Mr. Martinez patted him on the back. “Don’t worry. You were almost finished. I can cut the rest myself.” He tucked a crisp five-dollar bill into Luke’s shirt pocket even though Luke protested. “You earned it, Luke. I’m proud of you.”
Luke shook his head and trudged home. There would never be a Deluxe Sun Racer with his name on it now.
Parking the broken mower behind the garage, he slipped down to his room and curled up on his bed. Why me? he thought.
He wasn’t in hiding very long. “What have you done, Luke?” Matthew yelled bursting into the room. “The best mower we have is now a pile of junk!”
Mark was right behind him. “You only finished four lawns! Now we’ll have to do your last one another day!”
“If there is another day!” Matthew raged. “Mr. Hall said he’d wasted a whole Saturday waiting for some pip-squeak to mow his lawn! You really blew it this time, Luke!”
Luke was sick. He had blown it. That night he had nightmares of metal monsters in a sea of grass. His brothers were flying over him on their slick new bikes as he pushed five, six, seven mowers until—crunch—they all turned into knots of tangled steel.
The next morning, his brothers were still angry. They ignored him as they dressed for church. They ignored him during breakfast. They ignored him when they walked to the meetinghouse.
In class, Luke sat with his eyes on the floor. Sister Harding asked him questions, but he only shrugged in reply. She was talking about Lehi’s travels through the wilderness. She paused a moment, searched Luke’s troubled face, then asked, “Luke, you have older brothers, don’t you?”
Luke’s eyes flashed. “Yes.”
Sister Harding leaned forward. “So did Nephi, Luke. What is it like to be a younger brother?”
Luke looked around at the other kids. “It isn’t always fun. They like to boss me around, and … they get mad if I ruin their plans.”
Sister Harding smiled softly. “You and Nephi are a lot alike, Luke. You see, there were many times when Laman and Lemuel ‘bossed’ Nephi around, especially when there was work to be done. Once, when the family was in the wilderness, it was Nephi’s job to help hunt for food. He had a very fine bow made of steel, but on one of his hunting trips, his bow broke. When his brothers found out, they were very angry at him. Their own bows had lost their spring, and without bows, they were afraid that they would starve. So they were mean to Nephi.”
Luke’s eyes grew wide as he listened to his teacher. Nephi and Laman and Lemuel sounded just like him and his brothers!
Sister Harding went on, “Nephi didn’t yell at his brothers. Instead, he built another bow out of wood and made an arrow out of a straight stick. He also made a slingshot and gathered stones for it.”
Luke listened quietly.
“Nephi asked Lehi where he should go to get food for their family,” Sister Harding continued. “Lehi prayed, and Heavenly Father showed Nephi the place to hunt. When he came back with plenty of meat for everyone, his brothers were sorry that they had been so mean. And Nephi forgave them.”
Luke thought about Nephi and the broken bow all day, especially when Matthew and Mark sneaked off after dinner to make new plans without him. Fine, Luke thought. I have plans of my own to make. And he didn’t forget to say a heartfelt prayer before he climbed into bed that night.
The next morning, he called Uncle Tim, who worked in a salvage yard. He often helped the boys find parts for their old blue bicycle. “Uncle Tim? I need a mower blade.”
Uncle Tim laughed. “One of those old mowers needs a new blade already, huh?”
“No, it’s for Dad’s mower. I sort of … broke it last Saturday.”
“Oh.” Uncle Tim was quiet. Luke could hear him turning the pages of the big notebook where many of the parts in the yard were listed. “It looks like I might be able to find one for you, Luke,” he finally answered. “Come by in about an hour.”
Luke gripped the telephone receiver. “Uncle Tim? How much will it cost? I only have two dollars and thirty cents.”
“Well, I’ll find the best one I can for that price.”
For the next hour, Luke worked on getting the twisted blade off Dad’s mower. It was hard to turn the wrench. The bolt was bent, and he had to pound on it. His arms began to ache, and he felt a blister bubbling on his palm. Still, he couldn’t quit until the blade was off. It finally fell with a clunk to the cement, and Luke sat back, trying to catch his breath.
On his way to the salvage yard, Luke saw his brothers playing kickball with Jimmy in a vacant lot. They didn’t pay any attention to him as he passed by.
Uncle Tim was waiting for him with a blade that looked perfect. “I’ll let you have it for … let’s see—one dollar ought to do it.” He wrapped the mower blade in an old newspaper.
Next, Luke took the twisted bolt to the hardware store. He compared the oily, bent bolt to each bin of shiny, silver ones until he found its exact match. Luke handed over his last dollar for the new bolt and pocketed the change triumphantly. He carried his two packages home like prizes.
All through dinner, Matthew and Mark sulked over their spaghetti while Luke looked impish. “Boys,” Dad announced, “I called the hardware store today. It will cost twenty dollars for the parts to fix the mower. I’ve added five of my co-worker’s names to your mowing list. With two working mowers, you should be able to earn the extra money in a day.”
Matthew and Mark moaned loudly. “It’s too hard! We might as well forget the whole idea!” Matthew said.
“No!” Luke cried. “Dad, I fixed your lawn mower today. Uncle Tim helped me find a good blade in the salvage yard.”
Dad stared at him. So did Matthew and Mark. Mom asked, “Does it work?”
Luke nodded and laughed. “I cut the grass out by the street. It works great!” He looked at his brothers. “I promise I’ll make up the lawn I missed Saturday. From now on, I’ll do my best to keep up with you guys.”
There was silence. Then Matthew looked at Mark and said, “Luke, I’m really sorry we got so mad at you. We know it wasn’t your fault. Mark and I have decided that we’ll only do a few lawns a day. So what if it takes longer to get our new bikes? We’ll still have them in a month or so.”
Mark was nodding. “I’m sorry, too, Luke.”
So, Luke thought as he watched his father check out his work after dinner, this is how Nephi felt when he came back with food.
The good feeling lingered even after the three redhaired Crandall boys had ridden their new bikes around town. When they came back, they perched in the tree in their front yard to make more of the best and most spectacular plans.