This was the story that got my roommate, Darrell, and I out of bed at 4:30am, the very crack of dawn. And on a Saturday, of all days…
We would roll out, hop in the car, head up Stretch Road, and go wake up Peter. Never was a dissenting comment made, and nobody ever griped about the early hour. We had sand to grab…
It was Pete’s story. In my mind, it will always be Pete’s story. But just as I am sure Pete received the story from someone else, I am confident that he would not mind me sharing it now.
At the beginning of the Great American push West, a man decided to move his family out to the new frontier. Being a practical man, he carefully packed his belongings and loaded his family into the sturdiest wagon he could afford. Realizing that he knew nothing of the territory into which he would be travelling and hearing tales of woeful pioneers who struck out unprepared, he acquired the services of two Indian guides.
After several days journey, the family came to a large river. They met this river at a point where crossing in their wagon would be far too risky, yet crossing without the wagon would leave them without supplies and livestock. It seemed their journey was at an end. The Indian guides, however, had a different idea, and, after making sure the family had made camp, they hiked north up the riverside.
The guides returned at dawn, bearing exciting news of finding a point along the river where it was safe enough to cross. There were stipulations though, as an Indian tribe had settled at this crossing and the guide told the settler that it would be necessary to meet with the Chief prior to making the cross. There were requests the Chief would make, they said.
Anxious to cross the river, yet hesitant to meet with the Chief of a band of Indians, the pioneer led his family north along the river with more than a little trepidation.
Arriving at the narrow channel, the pioneer, his family and the two guides were greeted with friendliness. And when the Chief arrived he had but only one request to make of the settler and his flock. “When you cross the river,” he said, “stop when you are standing in the middle, and reach into the water into the sand below.”
“Reach deep and grab as much sand as you wish, for this is a magic sand. A sand that will make you very happy, yet very sad. Do this for me, and you may cross.”
Not a superstitious man, but excited to be finally again heading west, the pioneer agreed, and followed his guides into the water. He watched the two Indians as they reached the middle of the river, and as they reached into the sand and scooped handfuls of it into their saddlebags. Amused, he shook his head at their actions, but since he had promised the Chief that we would do likewise, he cautiously reached into sand and took a passable handful and tossed it into his saddlebag as well.
Magic Sand. The stuff of nursery rhymes, he told himself.
Eventually the man and his family reached their new Western home. They settled in, built their home, established their farm and found that a pioneer lifestyle suited them perfectly. He would often think of their journey west and grin to himself.
One day he was cleaning out the barn and he stumbled across his saddlebag from the exodus west. Remembering the river crossing and the strange customs of the hospitable Chief, he opened the bag to see if the Magic Sand was still there.
As soon as he opened it, the truth of the Chief’s words became solidly apparent, because what he had fetched from the bottom of that river was not entirely sand. It was gold. Pure gold.
The Chief had told him how the Magic Sand would make him feel: it will make you very happy, yet very sad. As happy as he was to find this small fortune, he realized that if he had taken more sand, become more involved, had a little more faith, he may have become wealthier than his wildest dreams.
The story has a simple moral.
When life presents you with opportunities to experience its magic, take them and grab ahold. Grab all the sand you can, because you might not get another chance. You might not cross this river again.
It made us get up early on a Saturday morning, before the sun rose. Because we had to get to the top of Lavender Mountain before daybreak, because the sunrise was worth seeing just that much.
Grab all you wish to take.
(Originally Posted on August 4, 1999)