Our adventures were so unique that once my fourth grade teacher asked to meet with my parents out of her concern that I was fabricating tales about the family adventures we would take over the weekend. At a parent-teacher meeting my mom asked the teacher to share some of the stories I had shared in class that the teacher felt were the result of my young imagination. Mom listened patiently and then said, “All those stories are all true.” I grew up with wonderful family adventures.
On one such adventure we traveled to the east slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along the West Walker River. We camped at Leavitt Meadows. Early the next morning we hiked across the bridge that spanned the river onto a trail we were told would led to some small lakes a mile or so from camp.
In our hiking party were my parents, my brother and me and our German Shepherd dog, King. It was a beautiful hike. The small lakes were filled with trout and the snow banks soon were lined with the fish we caught. It was a perfect day.
After lunch, my mom complained to my dad that her feet were hurting and were beginning to swell. Mom had worn some thin canvas shoes for the hike and realized that they were no match for the terrain we had just crossed. With that in mind, dad thought we might find another river crossing that was shorter a short hike somewhere downstream.
When we finally made it back to the West Walker River dad realized the mistake he had made. There was no other crossing. It was late in the day and the sun would set soon. The run-off from the snow was making the river run high. There was no way dad could get his wife, kids and a dog across. We couldn’t retrace our steps because of mom’s swollen feet and the impending darkness.
Dad remembered passing the Marine Corp Mountain Warfare Training Camp on the highway earlier on the day when we first arrived. This is where Marines train for warfare in mountainous terrain. He talked it over with mom and decided to go to the Marine camp to get help.
I remember all of us worrying about dad trying to cross the river all by himself. He found a long stick to use as a crutch to help work his way across the current. He started his watery journey navigating over the more shallow parts of the river. At some points the water was waist deep, but dad held his ground. All his years as a fly fisherman crossing streams and rivers paid off.
Once he made it to the other side dad waved and began his hike to get help. There we sat – mom, my brother, our dog and me. It was lonesome and scary for an 11 year- old boy. The evening shadows began to settle in around us. An hour later, as the last of the sunlight was passing we saw dad hiking towards the far side riverbank. With my father were six Marines. They waded across the river and met us on our side.
After the Sergeant in charge of the unit gave his men some orders they began our evacuation. The Marines carried my mom across and my brother and I were told to jump on the backs of two Marines as they carried us across the swollen river. The Marines delivered us back to the Leavitt Meadows campground where our pickup truck camper awaited our return. I felt like I had traveled to the moon and back that day. I slept the exhausted sleep of one who had just been rescued.
In the many years since that event I have reflected on what happened. We got caught in a situation we did not know would take place. It was an innocent mistake that could have turned serious had not my father found a way for us to survive.
Spiritual fathers and mothers do the same for those they love. When they find their children in a place of jeopardy they will do anything in their power to deliver them onto a safe shore. Too many times we want to place blame on how and why we find ourselves in threatening situations. In these situations no one gets rescued. Blame is passed around and relationships die. Love finds a way across barriers.
Fathers are willing to forge through challenges to bring back help for their families. They put themselves at risk for the ones they love. This is the nature of a father’s heart. This is also the nature of God Who took on the body of a man and lived a life none of us could live and then returned from death and led us across death’s barrier into resurrection life.