By: Neoma Foreman
I sure made a mess of things, Mike thought, blinking away the tears that stung his eyes. Grandpa is hurt bad, and it’s all because I didn’t wear the right shoes like Grandpa told me to. Mike picked up a rock and hurled it halfway across the stream that soaked his flipflops. He wiped his tears with the back of his hand as he squatted by the smooth-flowing creek. Cupping his hands, he picked up what water he could hold in his hands and dripped the water on Grandpa’s lips.
Every year during spring break, Grandpa and Mike went camping. They rode horses into the mountains and camped in their favorite spot. Grandpa insisted that Mike wear his boots, and he did when he rode his horse. But when they made camp, he chose to wear flip-flops.
Two days before, a snake had slid across his feet. Startled, Mike screamed and kicked at the snake. The snake landed on his horse’s back. His horse had bolted and scared Grandpa’s horse as well.
Grandpa had been holding his horse’s reins. The horse dragged him across a huge rock and slammed him into a tree. He couldn’t move his leg. Now, here they were almost two days later—no food, no horses, and 10 miles from their ranch home.
Grandpa flinched and muttered. “Got to get help, Mike. Whistle for the horses.”
Mike whistled and whistled, but nothing happened. Mike went back to the creek and lifted water to his own dry lips. It helped his dry throat, but did nothing to calm his fears.
He bowed his head. “Please, Jesus, heal Grandpa. Don’t let any wild animals hurt us, and let me find our horses today. Amen.”
Mike sat down beside Grandpa. “I could walk to the ranch, but I’m afraid to leave you.”
Grandpa groaned as he tried to change positions. “If those horses went home, someone will come looking. I don’t want you traipsing off by yourself. You might get lost.”
He closed his eyes. “If I had a horse, I could build a travois (stretcher). We just built one in school. I think I’ll make one anyway. I have to do something. I can pull you by myself if I have to.”
Mike searched until he found two long, straight tree limbs that were strong. He spent the early morning wrapping a rope back and forth between the two branches and adjusted the limbs to his shoulders.
I can do this for Grandpa. I have to. It’s not good, but it’s the best I can do. If there is no sign of the horses by noon, we will start.
Mike sat on the hillside. It was one of his favorite spots. He liked to stand on this hill and look across the valley. Spring was the best time to enjoy this view. White and yellow wildflowers peeked at the sun as if praising God. He breathed deeply.
Mike’s heart jumped at the unnatural crack of a twig. Brown ears came over the
brim of the hill behind him. A horse lumbered into sight.
“Bumper!” Mike jumped to his feet. “Are you OK?” He ran his hands over his horse and found nothing wrong. “Thank You, Jesus. Oh, thank You, he still has my canteen and food and my other rope.”
Mike attached the long poles to either side of Bumper and lashed them to the pack on the back of his saddle. After walking the horse to get it used to its strange load, he tied him to a tree. Mike got some food from his pack. He warmed a can of soup over the fire.
After it was warm, he took some to Grandpa.
“Grandpa, Jesus is taking care of us. My horse came back, and we have food.” He held a tin cup to Grandpa’s mouth and helped him take a few swallows.
Mike let Grandpa rest a bit before he fed him the rest of the soup. “We can head for home, Grandpa. I made a travois like we learned in school.” He put the stretcher by Grandpa.
Grandpa looked up, his eyes brighter. “It will be hard,” he groaned. “But with God’s help, we can do it.” He gritted his teeth and pulled himself toward the travois. Mike helped and finally got Grandpa onto the blanket. Mike got on his horse, and they headed toward the ranch.
The sun was setting when they arrived at the ranch, but people were everywhere. Grandma had called in friends and neighbors when Grandpa’s horse had wandered onto the ranch an hour earlier. They had planned to start searching as soon as the sun came up the next morning.
Instead, a neighbor drove Grandpa to the hospital, where his leg was set in a cast. The doctor kept him overnight and then sent him home with a set of crutches.
Mike helped him into the house. “I’m sorry, Grandpa. If I had worn my boots like you told me to, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Grandpa threw his arm across Mike’s shoulders. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. It might have happened anyway. With God’s help, you managed to get me back to the ranch.”
“Maybe so, but it was a floppy choice that I won’t make again,” Mike said.
Grandpa chuckled. “Floppy, huh? As in flip-flops?
Mike grinned and nodded.
“Now you know why I don’t think flip-flops are proper shoes for camping. Parents—and grandparents—usually have good reasons why they tell you to do something. I doubt you will wear them next year.”
Mike gave Grandpa a hug. “No I won’t! I don’t want to have this kind of camping experience ever again.”