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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Dave Free on 11 December 2006 - 3:58pm.

It took Steve a couple of days before he could remember the names of all the people in his tent. It took the others until Sunday evening before they accepted him as their president. That was when the storm hit.

The day had dawned clear and hot, just like every other day, but by late afternoon a slight breeze began blowing. Steve had spent most of Sunday afternoon with the O’Malley’s. Maeve’s fever had not improved at all, but she seemed happy to have Steve around and he felt comfortable with “his” family. Towards late afternoon, Steve decided he had better return to the river for his work clothes and bag before it got dark. As he returned from the river he noticed that the weather was beginning to change.

It was a nice change. The heat had broken and a brisk breeze was beginning to blow. Steve felt good to be out of the suit and back into the more comfortable, and now clean, work clothes. Whistling a tune his dad used to whistle, he made his way to the corrals to see if Brother Webb needed any help feeding the horses.

He found the corral area empty except for a young boy sitting on the top rail of the makeshift fence watching the animals intently. Steve walked up and leaned on the rail next to him. “Where’s brother Webb?” he asked.

“Stock’s nervous.” was the boy’s reply.

Steve looked up at the horses who were running back and forth in the small corral. The fresh hay in the corner crib was left untouched.

“Why?”

“Storm.” the boy replied.

“Do they always get this nervous when a storm is coming?” Steve asked with curiosity.

“Nope. Just the big ones.” The boy replied calmly.

“So where’s brother Webb?” Steve asked again.

“Gone to warn the others.”

The breeze had now become a wind and as Steve looked out across the camp toward the south. He gasped at the site. A huge wall of black clouds had formed and was moving toward the camp. Dust and other debris blown up by the wind in front of the storm formed a grayish brown cloud on the ground just in front of the storm. The sun illuminated the dust cloud giving it an eerie, incandescent appearance.

Steve left the boy on the rail and ran toward his tent. A few pioneers were busily scurrying around their tents gathering up clothes that had been left out to dry. Steve began shouting at the top of his lungs. “Storm! Storm! A big storm’s coming!”

When he reached his tent, Steve took a quick head count and was relieved to find that all of his people were there. He quickly assigned Samuel and Robert to help him check the tie lines outside and asked the two adult brethren, Aaron and John, to make sure all the supplies were inside the tent.

The wind that preceded the storm had now reached the camp and the canvas of the tent was snapping back and forth under its force. Though the sun was still high in the sky, it became dark as night as the storm came over them. Steve was the last one inside the tent and tied the door flap shut behind him. The darkness made it almost impossible to see inside the tent, and the flapping of the canvas made it as equally difficult to hear. Steve fumbled his way to the supplies and finally found a lantern. He searched a few more minutes for matches before remembering that there probably wasn’t any such thing.

“Can somebody help me light the lantern?” He called at the top of his lungs to be heard over the commotion of the storm. In a few minutes, the men of the tent had created a few sparks with some flint and steel and created enough of a flame to light the lantern.

Steve held it aloft so he could see how everyone was doing. Nineteen terrified faces looked back at him. “Why is everyone so quiet?” Steve yelled, “This is the best part of camping, sitting inside a nice secure tent while the storm rages on outside.” Steve grabbed the center pole and gave it a good shake to prove how sturdy it was. Just as he shook the pole, lightening flashed and thunder cracked almost instantaneously. Steve jumped in surprise and the terrified look on the faces grew even worse.

“Maybe we should pray, Elder!” Annie shouted from where she was huddled with the other single sisters.

“Pray. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s pray. Annie will you lead us?” Steve dropped to his knees and motioned to the other saints to do the same. After the prayer someone started singing and slowly the rest of them joined in. The storm continued to rage outside, but inside the spirits began to lighten.

The rest of the company didn’t fare so well. The initial gusts of the storm brought many of the tents to the ground. Others never fell but the canvas walls which weren’t anchored blew freely in the wind providing no protection from the rain. As the storm continued through the evening and into the night, new streams and rivers formed and flowed through the camp--many directly under the tents that had been set up on lower ground.

Steve, and the members of his tent, had no idea what the rest of the company was going through until Des, O’Malley’s son, stuck his head through the flap of the door. Water was dripping from his face and hair and he was gasping for breath.

“Elder! Come quick! Maeve is worse and our tent is down!” Without waiting for a reply, he pulled his head from the tent and disappeared into the storm.

Steve and the other men and boys in the tent jumped to their feet in unison and headed for the flap of the tent. Steve turned to Annie as he went, “You’re in charge! Come get me if anything goes wrong.” She nodded and he followed the others out in to the storm.

The regular bursts of lightening provided ample and eerie light to view the destruction of the ongoing storm. Steve ran straight for O’Malley’s tent. The tent had completely collapsed. Someone was under the canvas apparently trying to put the center pole back in place and many others were holding on around the edges fighting the wind to hold the tent in place. Steve found Des among those holding on around the edge.

“Where’s your mom and Maeve?” He had to shout to be heard over the storm. Des continued to hold onto the canvas with both hands as it was pulled and tugged by the wind but nodded to the log under the tree.

“Over there!”

Steve turned and ran the direction Des nodded. A new blast of lightning revealed several women with blankets and shawls held over their heads and those of their children huddled together under the tree. Steve picked out sister O’Malley and ran to her. She held Maeve tightly in her arms like an oversize baby doll trying to protect her from the rain. Steve grabbed her by the arm.

“How’s Maeve?”

Sister O’Malley just shook her head.

“Come on, our tent is still standing. You’ll be dry there!” Steve bent over, took Maeve from her mother’s arms and motioned for the other women and children to follow. At first he tried to go slow enough for the others to follow but when he felt Maeve’s body shudder with the chills, he forgot about the others and raced for the tent.

“Quick, she needs dry clothes and some warm blankets!” Steve shouted as he burst through the tent flap. Annie and Lydia jumped to their feet and took Maeve from his arms.

“Others are coming, we need to make space for them!” Even as the words left Steve’s mouth the tent flap was pulled back and Sister O’Malley and the others looked in with hope and question on their faces. The sisters of Steve’s tent quickly moved closer together and made room for the newcomers.

“Come in! Come in!” Steve went to the flap and took Sister O’Malley by the arm pulling her into the tent. The others quickly followed.

“Get you and your children out of their wet things.” Steve ordered. “You can use our blankets to cover yourselves.” He then turned back to Maeve who was being tenderly undressed by her mother, Annie and Lydia. Steve put his hand on her head.

“She’s burning up! Have you given her any Tylenol?” then caught himself and added, “No, of course not.”

The women ignored him as they quickly dried her off and wrapped her in a borrowed night gown and then a blanket. Lydia took her in her arms and rocked back and forth while sister O’Malley began to dry herself off. Annie touched Steve on the sleeve and motioned for him to follow her. They stepped over and through the many wet pioneers and made their way to the flap. Annie pulled it back and was greeted by a blast of wind and rain. She quickly pulled it shut again. Steve made his way to her side.

“I’ve got to go back out and help get the tents set back up.”

Annie nodded but replied, “There is a Sister Reed in the company. You need to find her and bring her here first. She’s the nearest thing we have to a doctor.”

“Is Maeve that bad?” Steve asked with sudden concern.

“I don’t know.” Annie replied, “It’s Margaret I’m worried about. She’s having regular pains, I think her baby will come tonight.”

“What?” Steve scanned the faces of the sisters and found Margaret laying on her side near the pole. She looked calm enough but Steve could see beads of sweat on her forehead. He turned back to Annie. “How much longer?”

“I don’t know.” Annie replied, “not long. You better see if you can find John as well.”

Steve nodded. “Sister Reed and John. I’ll be right back!” He turned and ran into the night, grateful to be the one out looking rather than one waiting and wondering in the tent. He quickly found John helping with the O’Malley’s tent, which was now tethered securely in place.

“Go back to the tent! Your wife is having her baby! Do you know which tent Sister Reed is in?” John was gone before Steve finished the last question. Seven tents later, Steve finally found Sister Reed, the doctor lady. Upon hearing the situation, she wrapped a shawl around her shoulders, grabbed her bag, and followed Steve out into the storm.

By the time they got back to the tent, Margaret’s labor was well advanced. She was now laying on her back on a bed of pine boughs covered with a blanket. John was kneeling on one side of her holding her hand and Annie was on the other side. The other occupants of the tent were huddled on the opposite side of the tent. The mothers were attempting to sooth and distract their children who looked with wide eyes toward Margaret.

Sister Reed went straight to Margaret and began to make preparations for the birth. Steve turned toward the children and on an impulse began to sing a song his little sister Jessica used to sing.

“Willabee, wallabee, woo, an elephant sat on you!” He pointed at one of the little boys and a few of the children giggled. Steve continued, “Willabee, wallabee, wave, an elephant sat on Maeve!” He walked over and put his hand on Maeve’s forehead as he sang. Her skin was hot to his touch, but her eyes flickered open and smiled at Steve. Steve’s thoughts of concern were interrupted by Margaret’s groans of pain. He started singing again, this time louder.

“Willabee, wallabee, wizabeth, an elephant sat on Elizabeth!” He scooped up Elizabeth, Margaret’s four year old daughter and held her head to his chest until Margaret’s groaning past. He handed little Elizabeth to Lydia and motioned to the others to join in singing, “Willabee, wallabee, wash, and elephant sat on Josh!”

“Elder, I need more light.” Sister Reed called out.

Steve took the lantern off it’s hanger on the center pole and took it over and set it down on the ground next to Sister Reed.

“That won’t do, you’ve got to hold it up!” Margaret began to groan again.

“This is it! This is the one! Push sister, push!--Elder hold up the lantern!” Sister Reed barked out instructions and Margaret and Steve obeyed.

“It’s a boy!” Sister Reed announced as she pulled the little infant clear of its mother and gently wrapped him in a blanket before handing him to his weakened but peaceful mother. “A beautiful, healthy little boy.”

Steve slowly returned the lantern to its hanger on the center pole. Somehow the other children in the tent sensed the miracle that had just occurred and they all sat quietly as the baby took his first gulps of air and let out a cry.

Steve had never been so close to a new little spirit coming through the veil to this world and the miracle of it was overwhelming. He was to have two experiences with the veil that night. The first was the arrival of Margaret’s new infant, the second was the passing of little Maeve to the world beyond.

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