The 1916 Model T Ford chugged merrily along the graveled country road, its brass radiator shining in the morning sun. It was headed toward the town of Glendive on the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana.
Marie and Claudette, the fifteen- and sixteen-year-old occupants of the Ford, were feeling lighthearted, for this day held promises of being exceptionally pleasant. Their older sister, Leona, a telegraph operator, would be coming into town that morning and leaving on the late afternoon train. This would give the three sisters several hours to be together—a privilege they felt came altogether too seldom.
As they were crossing the bridge that spanned the Yellowstone just before entering Glendive, loose planks rattled noisily beneath the wheels of the Ford. Marie shouted above the racket, “It surely will be a relief when the repair work is completed on this bridge!”
Soon Claudette, the older of the two, had parked the car on the main street, and the girls eagerly started looking for Leona. There she stood waiting and watching for them in front of the department store.
After excited greetings were exchanged, the girls were off to spend a happy day together.
All too soon it was time to take Leona back to the train station. As she boarded the train, she paused for one more farewell wave to Claudette and Marie. Standing on the station platform, the two girls shed a few tears as they watched the train disappear down the tracks.
“We can’t just stand here. It is time for us to go home,” Maria said, breaking the silence. In their little Ford they headed toward the bridge and home where their mother would be waiting to hear a full report of the day’s visit with Leona from them.
As they were nearing the bridge, a row of red lanterns hanging from a low frame blocked their way.
“What’s happening?” both girls exclaimed at the same time. Ahead on the bridge they could see workmen busy with crowbars, hammers, and other tools as old worn planks were being removed and new ones laid in their place. No traffic whatsoever was able to cross.
A groan escaped Claudette’s lips as she pointed to a large sign which read simply, “Bridge closed for repairs between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Now why didn’t we read that sign when we came into town this morning?” She scolded. “We’re in a real predicament.”
Marie’s eyes were big and round, and her voice was full of concern as she asked, “Whatever are we to do? We’ve got to get home. Mother will be worried sick about us, and there’s no way of getting word to her.”
Claudette did not answer right away. She was thinking and praying. Finally she said, “We have no choice but to walk. We’ll park the car back in town and start walking.”
“Oh, no!” Marie exclaimed with a shudder. “Four long miles—and it will soon be dark.”
“We have no other choice,” Claudette reminded her. “It may get dark, but we just have to pray and trust that the angels will walk by our side.”
After leaving their car, they took a shortcut through the railroad yard. Darkness was closing in on them, and they must not lose a moment. They ran over many tracks and finally came to the main line. Only two more rails to cross. But a big round headlight glaring at them from up the track and the cry of the whistle warned them that a train was traveling on that main line.
“It might be a long freight train,” Claudette panted. “We’ve got to be quick and get across the tracks ahead of it.”
With the one thought in mind of reaching home as quickly as possible, they both darted forward in spite of the warning whistle and the clanging of the bell.
Marie made it safely across, but poor Claudette—tired and anxious as she was—stumbled and fell headlong between the two rails. There was no time for Marie to give her a helping hand for now the fast-moving train appeared only a few yards from her sister’s prostate form.
“Oh God, help us!” Marie pleaded in utter helplessness.
The mighty engine roared by with its long string of box cars trailing noisily behind—but Claudette had managed to scramble to her feet and land beside Marie, unharmed! Severely shaken by the near tragedy neither girl spoke a word. They could only clasp each other’s hand, and turning toward the bridge, they pressed on in silence. They knew that it was the protection of their guardian angels that enabled them to cross unharmed.
Arriving at the bridge, they threaded their way over the torn-up planking and through the groups of working men to the far end. Once they had crossed the lighted bridge, the roadway ahead of them loomed dark and forbidding. They were in the country now with no street lights or even a lighted window to make their going easier.
“Claudette,” Marie ventured to whisper, “it’s terribly dark, isn’t it? And such a long way for us to walk alone.”
“No, not alone,” Claudette offered. “After what just happened in the railroad yard, I feel God is surely watching over us. Maybe after this experience we’ll remember to pay attention to signs and warnings.”
The freshly graveled road made walking a difficult. It crunched loudly under their feet. As they walked they suddenly heard the sound of footsteps, behind them. Turning quickly, they saw a shadowy form moving steadily toward them. They tried to scream, in hope of being heard by the workmen on the bridge, but their throats were paralyzed with fear.
As the shadowy form drew nearer, it proved to be only a large, friendly dog. In a gentle manner he walked directly up to the girls and quietly stood beside them.
Claudette started to wonder out loud, “Whose dog can he be? There are no farmhouses near here.”
“He could belong to one of the men working on the bridge,” Marie suggested in a quavering voice.
“Then we should try to send him back.” With that Claudette pointed back toward the bridge and commanded, “Go back, boy, go back.”
But the dog did not go back. He waited patiently until the girls decided they should not spend precious time arguing with a dog. They were actually thankful that the dog stayed as it didn’t seem nearly so dark and lonely with him trotting along by their side.
Onward they trudged. From sheer weariness their stride had slowed down; but as they neared the last hill between themselves and home, their energies seemed to revive, and they were again walking with lively steps. Over the hill, they could see below them the lighted windows of home. With a surge of joy they were ready to break into a run when they noticed Mother standing in the lighted doorway. They knew she was anxiously listening for the sound of a car motor or the sight of car lights steadily descending the winding road.
Through cupped hands the girls called out, “We’re coming. We’re all right.” The girls were so happy that they began singing cheerily. “There’s a light in the window, there’s a light in the window, there’s a light in the window for me.”
Soon they were in the house giving a detailed report of the happy hours spent with Leona, the closed bridge, the sign they had failed to read, and the shortcut through the railroad yards with its horrifying experience. At this point Claudette said earnestly, “I was sure it was the end for me! There wasn’t possibly time enough to scramble to my feet and get off the track. I felt an overpowering impulse to make a quick roll, and the next thing I knew I was over the rail just as the flashing wheels of the engine went by. I’ve been thinking about it all the way home, Mother, and I can see only one explanation—it had to be my guardian angel that helped me over that rail, for I couldn’t have done it by myself.”
With tears of deep gratitude Mother responded, “Surely God has given us proof of His loving kindness tonight.”
Gently patting the dog’s head that had followed them along the way, Marie added solemnly, “And couldn’t it be possible that even this wonderful dog was a part of God’s kindness too?”
Claudette nodded in agreement as she too gave him a pat.
In every difficult and trying circumstance we may face in life, God has promised the protection and comfort of His angels to be with us. Let us thank the Lord for His daily protection and watchcare over us. He sometimes sends help in mysterious ways, but He knows where you are and sees your needs. Just trust Him. “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24