“Dandelion Seeds,” New Era, Aug. 1981, 46
There it was. Dead ahead of us. Stopped totally and completely. It was a train. As far as we looked in either direction we saw only boxcar after boxcar with no hint of either engine or caboose. Dad parked the car. One more problem on a day like this was something he did not need.
We had been late leaving, as is our norm for vacations. Dad’s inspection of the new high school he was building in Pekin, Illinois, was not made any easier by the curiosity of six young children who wanted to “help” in any way they could. Finally, however, we were on our way to Nauvoo, Illinois, via some of the state’s seldom-used country roads. Our white station wagon was large, but we were still crowded with three adults (our grandfather was visiting us from Salt Lake City) and six wriggling kids. Gradually, the number of shoves, pinches, and whispered threats from the back seat grew.
Just when the situation was ready to erupt, we saw the train, directly in front of us. When dad got out to see what was wrong, we clamored to get out with him. He gave an emphatic no. “I’m just going to go see why it’s stopped. If any of you step out of this car …” He let the threat hang.
The most unnatural thing in the world is for a child to be in a stopped car on a spring day when he can see the sun outside sparkling its welcome. We endured it, but not too gracefully. Dad returned from his lengthy conference with the switchman with bad news. “They say it will be at least 15 minutes before they can move.”
My oldest brother, David, pleaded, “Can we get out then?”
Mom, who had been trying to restrain us from mortally wounding each other, looked at dad imploringly. His stern face melted.
“Well, I guess so,” he finally conceded. With a shout of triumph we literally poured from the doors and windows of our car.
“Look!” It was 11-year-old Jim’s discovery. “Dandelions!” Dandelions there were, seemingly acres and acres of them, some gone to seed, others with their brilliant yellow blossoms. We happily raced to the fallow field that promised so much fun for us, the adults following with not much less enthusiasm. We blew the seeds into the air, trying to catch the lucky ones that hadn’t touched the ground yet. My older sisters, Lisa and Joanne, me, and almost unbelievably, my mom, made dandelion chains. As we draped the fragile jewelry around each other’s necks, we almost forgot that mom was a grown-up. Grandpa sat in the midst of it all, blowing dandelion seeds far and high for us. Tiny arms that had been afraid of grandpa’s gruff voice wrapped themselves around his neck.
The switchman returned with a progress report. It might be another half hour before they could get the engine fully repaired. No matter! This newfound friend told us of the places this never ending track led.
At last, as the crew had assured us, the train was ready to resume her delayed journey. Dad, carried back to his boyhood days in Salt Lake City where the Bamberger Railroad served as inter-city transportation, recalled a favorite trick. He pulled a penny from his pocket and laid it on the train track. We watched in amazement as the accelerating train reduced it to a steaming mass of shiny copper. Joanne and I shivered in delighted suspense as we wondered if a U.S. marshal would suddenly appear from nowhere and commandeer our father for defacing American currency. David and Jim ran through the fields trying to keep up with the quickly moving train, if not outrun it. I helped little Stephen count the cars as they whizzed by.
When the last click of the turning wheels had subsided into the distance and the train was only a faraway speck, we climbed back into our car, an hour late but eons happier.
As I think about it now, it seems a little strange that one of our family’s fondest memories is of sitting around in a farmer’s weed patch waiting for a mechanic to finish his job. It does, though, make Doctrine and Covenants 64:33 a little easier to understand: “And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” [D&C 64:33]
We did eventually make it to Nauvoo. I am sure that the time we spent there was fun and even inspirational, but no one seems to remember much about it. On the other hand, whenever we’re busy pulling pesky weeds out of our garden or if we must pause at railroad tracks as a train passes, someone is sure to say, “Remember the dandelions?”