Glacier park mountains.

One Mountain At A Time

"That's it! I'm through! I'll not take another step!"

William threw his tired teenage body to the ground in the sparse shade of the first tree they had seen in several days. Caroline stood beside him anxiously, torn between love and loyalty for her older brother and the fact that the pioneer wagon train was moving on without them.

She nudged him gently with her foot. "Come along, William. We don't want to fall behind."

"I don't care. Let them go. I'll just stay here the rest of my life."

"I shouldn't think that would be very long, since you have no food or blankets."

"I don't care," William said, closing his eyes against the dust and heat and, perhaps, life itself. Then he added softly, "It's too far. I can't do it."

Caroline was startled by what she was hearing from her brother. They had been through so much together -- their mother's death during childbirth in England; the family's immigration to America via a perilous ocean voyage during which their younger sister died; working with their father to build a new life for themselves in America; and then their father's accidental death just a few weeks before the start of the trek west.

They had walked, side-by-side, every step of the way from New York to... well, wherever this place was. And through it all, William had been strong and courageous. Caroline had leaned on his strength, even come to depend upon it. But now, she had to be the strong one.

"You can't leave me alone, William," she said. "Not now."

"I'm not leaving you," William insisted. "I'm staying. If you go, you'll be leaving me."

She paused a moment, watching the dust settle on the parched ground behind the last wagon as it rumbled up the trail.

"All right," she said at last. "But at least walk with me the rest of the day. Then you can come back here, if you like."

That seemed like a small request to William. Surely he could walk just one more day. It was the least he could do for Caroline.

"One more day," he agreed. "Then I'm through."

When he arose the next morning, Caroline wasn't in her blanket. He finally found her on a small rise just outside the camp.

"See that hill off in the distance there?" she said as he approached her. He turned to look.

"Yes," he said. "I see it."

"I wish you would walk that far with me," she said. "Then you can go back to your tree."

William continued looking at the hill. It didn't seem to be such a great distance. Surely he could walk with Caroline that far. She was, after all, his sister.

"I'll walk with you to the hill," he agreed. "But no further."

It took two days for the pioneer company to reach the hill, and by then Caroline was focused on a range of mountains looming out there on the western horizon. She persuaded her brother to walk with her "just that far." And then to a distant grove of trees beyond that. And then to the river beyond that. And then to the next range of mountains. And then, suddenly, their journey was over. Caroline had coaxed William into walking with her more than 1,000 miles.

She didn't do it by convincing him to walk 1,000 miles all it once. She did it by urging him to walk with her one more day.

Life often confronts us with journeys that seem long, and obstacles that appear to be overwhelming. It can be discouraging to look down the road at the enormity of the task before us and to consider all that needs to be done. We need to remember that we rarely accomplish any great thing all at once.

Rather, we do it just as Caroline and William did. One hill, one river, one mountain at a time.

~ Joseph Walker ~
Copyright © 2010

Joseph Walker began his professional writing career as a staff writer for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, eventually becoming that newspaper's television and live theater critic. Since 1990 he has written a weekly newspaper column called ValueSpeak, which has appeared in more than 200 newspapers nationally. His published books include How Can You Mend A Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World for Deseret Book, The Mission: Inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for Warner Books and three ghost-writing projects.  Please take a minute to let Joe know what you think of his story:  Joseph Walker
[ by: Joseph Walker Copyright © 2010 ( ) -- {used with permission} ]

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