The spring breeze blew a fresh wind across the sweat beads forming on Tim’s brow. He glanced at his watch, wondering how long they had been stopped in this CVS parking lot on the outskirts of Knoxville, Tennessee. Both of them had lost count of the number of people that had approached them. The hours blended together as time seemed to stand still with every encounter and opportunity to share their stories and encourage others. One was a man by the name of Randy, enthusiastically intrigued by the rugged posse in an ironic setting such as this.
“So where are you folks staying this evening?”
“We’re not sure yet,” Lynn responded with a grin.
“Oh, you can stay with us!” Randy quickly responded. “My wife and I have plenty of room. And I know just the place we can keep the horses.”
The parking lot was thinning out as dusk set in and they knew it was time to turn in for the evening. By the time they had every horse properly watered, fed, and in place, it was everyone’s bedtime. After a brief initial visit with their kind hosts, the cowboy couple climbed into a cozy, warm bed, worn out and thankful for a roof over their heads.
They stayed the following day and decided to remain one more night before continuing on the road. As the couples were winding down on their last night, Randy walked into the room with a stack of papers in his hands.
“I want you to read over these maps,” he stated, laying them on the table in front of Tim. In big letters on the front page read MapQuest. “If you take the route down 441 out of Knoxville like you’ve been saying, I can promise you that you will die.”
His wide eyes indicated no exaggeration in his tone. Total somber seriousness. Tim didn’t miss a beat.
“We appreciate your concern, Randy. We’ll continue to pray about it through the night.”
As they carried out the last of their belongings the next morning, Tim glanced at the papers still lying on the kitchen table in the same place. He hardly hesitated as he walked past them towards the door.
Following them out, Randy stopped his car at the end of the drive and exited to say his last goodbye to these gloriously rugged missionaries.
“You have your maps?” Randy called up to Tim, already positioned in Cher’s saddle. He climbed down to tighten the last of the saddle straps.
“No,” he began, looking at Randy over his shoulder. “We’re going to go where God told us to go, Randy.”
Randy’s face suddenly contorted into a panicked cry. He took several steps towards Tim, begging him to reconsider and following him closely as he completed his final lap around the horses to be sure everything was ready for take-off. After listing every possible rationale against their suicidal mission, he cried out his one final resort.
“Can we at least pray together?!”
Lynn pursed her lips together to stifle a chuckle. She dismounted from her horse and joined the two men for the prayer. Randy anxiously grabbed both of their hands, bowed his head, and began wailing.
“Oh, dear God!” began his dramatic petition. “Just don’t let them go down this road! These people are just crazy and they won’t listen to a thing I’m telling them!”
While Randy’s hysterics were momentarily directed heavenward, Tim and Lynn prayed silently that this man would begin to grasp the concept of their trust in God’s protection. The prayer was choked out by Randy’s desperate tears and he pulled Tim toward him, continuing a soft cry on his shoulder.
Lynn returned to her horse, hunting for her canteen to begin the journey in proper hydration.
“Did we forget the water at the house?” she asked, dripping the last few drops into her mouth. Randy perked and wiped his wet cheeks.
“I’ll go get the water and the maps!” he avidly exclaimed. “You guys, please… Go left at the end of the drive.” His voice carried one last desperate plea.
“Randy,” Tim resolved. “We are turning right. You will see us on the 441.”
The Tuggles mounted their horses and tightened their pack strings. They reached the end of the drive in a few dozen yards and Tim steered his pack string to the right, entering Highway 441 out of Knoxville.
Just as Randy had indicated, the road was terribly busy. The winding curves and hills at the 50 mile-per-hour speed limit clearly posed a danger for a pack string of horses and hardly any room on the shoulder. Usually they would claim the median on a four-lane highway such as this, although this time there was no such option. Nevertheless, Tim rode on with peace in his heart that this was the Lord’s leading.
After several hundred feet, the troop came upon a pair of state workers in yellow vests on the side of the road, packing up their gear after repairing a road sign. The first worker to notice the approaching Western convoy immediately beamed at the sight.
“Hey! We saw you on the news a few days ago!” he hollered.
“Thanks for what you’re doing for our country!” the second one followed up. They waved energetically with grins as wide as their faces. Tim and Lynn gave their thanks and continued onward beyond the brief construction site. All packed up, the workers closed the truck doors and started the ignition. As the team of horses passed them, they pulled onto the highway immediately behind them. After a couple of minutes, Lynn called up to Tim.
“Does traffic seem to be passing more slowly to you?”
She looked back to see the truck following them with hazard lights on, pulling a trailer with a large LED arrow directing traffic into the left-hand lane. Her gaze then fell upon the front of the truck to see those large, excited grins on the workers’ faces.
“They’re redirecting traffic for us, Tim!” she laughed in joyous amazement. Tim watched as traffic was contained to the left lane, passing more slowly now with innumerable faces pressing against their windows to capture as much detail as possible of this strange sight just outside city limits.
Minutes later Randy came up behind the procession, marveling. For nearly ten miles the group safely winded up and down hills and around the dangerous curves. Approaching the city limits of Seymour, the curves came about less and less as the road straightened out, becoming much more manageable. The group stopped at the crest of a hill overlooking the Smoky Mountains. As they veered into a church parking lot the state workers waved, signaling the end of their security detail. Tim and Lynn yelled an excited thank-you to them as they passed, rejoicing with one another with thankful hearts for having seen yet another supernatural provision on this journey of miracles.
Randy pulled his car into the lot moments later and exited his truck next to the horses.
“I cannot believe what I just saw!” His jaw gaped open at the two of their grins. Tim climbed off the horse’s back and placed his hands on the man’s shoulders.
“See, Randy,” he began, his gaze fixed squarely. “When God tells you to do, you just do. It’s called trust.”