Follow the Trail
March 2004

“Follow the Trail,” New Era, Mar. 2004, 42

Follow the Trail

Elder Keith Crockett

This is a story about the importance of following the prophet. It took place on the Spear Ranch in the Gila Valley of Arizona. My good friend, Jim Bryce, was foreman of the ranch. Along with his father, Ross Bryce, who was a counselor in the Pima, Arizona, stake presidency, and four Mexican vaqueros (cowboys)—Pula, José, Chino, and Javier—we began the fall roundup.

Early in the morning before sunup, at the ranch headquarters we loaded the horses into trailers and hauled them out to Nuttall Canyon. After unloading and saddling the horses, we began riding up the canyon. We spotted the first cattle as the sun lit up the east side of Stowe Knoll.

Carefully, we made our way up the rugged slope above the cattle and moved them down toward the canyon floor, letting them make their way by themselves. We went higher up the canyon until we reached a fence at the edge of a forest. Spreading out, we searched the gullies, draws, and bottom brush and began to herd the cattle down and out of the canyon. Our goal was to drive them to a corral on the other side of Left Hand Canyon, where we would earmark, brand, and vaccinate the new calves.

My friend Jim took the lead and was riding on higher ground than the rest of us so he could watch the herd of about 120 cows and calves we had gathered. Two vaqueros rode on each side, keeping the herd together, and President Bryce and I were bringing up the rear, keeping any stragglers from drifting away from the herd.

As we approached Left Hand Canyon, Jim rode up onto a knoll where he could look over the area and see what lay ahead. Since this was the first time these vaqueros had been in this part of the ranch, they did not know where the trail crossed the canyon. Jim kept motioning to move the herd of cattle towards him. The vaqueros didn’t notice his motioning, so Jim began to wave his hat and yell to move the herd towards the knoll where he was. These gestures also went unnoticed or ignored by those of us with the herd.

We soon found ourselves in a thicket of mesquite and catclaw trees amid the boulders along the edge of the canyon. The cattle were spreading out in all directions; it was impossible to keep them together. We had to get off our horses, tie them up, and crawl on our hands and knees through the brush, trees, and rocks in order to get the cattle out. At the edge of the canyon was a cliff that dropped off 15 to 20 feet to boulders below.

After losing some of the cattle in the thick brush and getting the rest of the herd out of the thicket and back together, we again heard Jim calling from on top of the knoll. He motioned to us to drive the herd towards him where we would find the trail that went down the canyon and up the other side to the corral.

Once the herd got to the trail, they followed it easily as it wound down the side of the canyon, across the creek, and up the other side, right into the corral. How easy it was to follow the trail and cross the treacherous canyon to the safety of the corral. Had we paid attention to Jim, we would not have lost any cattle and would have saved a lot of time and avoided having to crawl through the mesquite thickets and around rocks and catclaw trees to get the cattle out. It would have been easier to follow his directions and stay on the trail.

Are we like these cowboys who paid no attention to the foreman of the ranch, who knew where the dangers lay and where the trail was? We have a prophet, seer, and revelator to guide us, even President Gordon B. Hinckley. He directs the Lord’s work here on the earth. He knows where the straight and narrow way is and where the thickets of sin and temptation are. He gives us directions on how to arrive safely at our destination, which is the celestial kingdom. May we always heed his counsel and teachings.

Had we paid attention, we would not have lost any cattle and would have saved a lot of time.

Extra! Extra!

If you want to learn more about the importance of prophets, these scriptures have some interesting insights: Amos 3:7; Eph. 2:19–20; Eph. 4:11–14; D&C 1:38; D&C 43:1–6; D&C 84:36–38.

In site: See “Divine Direction” (New Era, Apr. 1998) by Elder L. Aldin Porter at www.lds.org in the Gospel Library.

Illustrated by Greg Newbold