The Picket Fence
WHEEOOH-wheeooh-wheeooh! sounded the whistle of a freight train. Little Mary Parker knew well that her father was blowing that whistle from his engineer’s cab on old Number 57.
The little girl rushed from the house out to the picket fence that enclosed the yard. Her father had removed two pickets from the fence so she could see his train coming.
Mary watched anxiously. Yes, there was the engine coming around a curve. Smoke was rolling from the chimney and the whistle was screaming again. A big, smiling man was leaning from his cab and waving a gloved hand at his little girl. And how Mary waved back! She watched the train until it was out of sight, then she ran back into the house.
"Daddy will soon be home, Mother," declared Mary.
"Yes, he will. And we will be glad to see him, won’t we?" smiled mother.
Mary nodded her curly head. "Yes," and went to play with her toys.
A few hours later Mary dashed from the house again to meet her father who was entering the yard. She ran and jumped into his arms. "Daddy, I’m so glad to see you!" she cried.
"Since I took the pickets from the fence you can see me coming, can’t you?" smiled Mr. Parker.
"Oh, yes. I can look right down into the valley and see you coming around that big curve."
"You saw me waving too, didn’t you?"
"Sure! And could you see me?"
"As plain as day!" replied the father.
By that time they were in the house where Mother was preparing a good dinner. "It will soon be ready," smiled Mother. "I know you are both hungry."
Mr. Parker talked with his family while he washed. "M-m-m," he said. "I believe I smell beefsteak cooking."
"That’s right," replied mother.
"And we are going to have ice cream for dessert," added Mary.
"That’s great," said father. "Now I will leave room for it."
It was a happy family indeed that spent Saturday evening together. "When do you have to leave for work again this time, father?" asked Mary.
"Monday morning. I am working regularly now, you know. And it will be two whole weeks before you will see me coming around the curve again."
"Won’t you go to Sunday School with Mother and me in the morning?" asked Mary.
"No, you two go ahead to church. I’ll stay at home and rest."
"But that is what you always say, Father," replied Mary. "Why won’t you ever go to church? Don’t you love the Lord Jesus?"
"I am afraid I don’t love Him as well as you do, Mary," answered father. "I have a surprise for you." From the coat pocket he brought a book entitled, "The Man from Galilee." "This is a story about the Saviour whom you love so well."
"Oh, thank you, Father," exclaimed Mary. "It is a wonderful book." She turned the pages of the book, looking at the pictures.
"Daddy, have you read this book?" she asked. "No, I haven’t."
"Will you read from the book to me?"
"Sure I will, just before you go to sleep," promised father. "Next year you will be going to school and you will learn to read, won’t you?"
"I can read some words now," smiled Mary.
That night when Mr. Parker finished reading about the Saviour, Mary said, "I wish you would give your heart to Jesus."
"There now, don’t you worry your pretty head about that," said father as he patted the wistful child. "Maybe I will some day."
Mr. Parker left early Monday morning. Father kissed Mary’s cheek without awakening her.
"Two weeks is going to be a long time for you to be gone," said Mrs. Parker.
"It can’t pass too quickly to suit me," declared the man, as he reached for his cap. "Goodbye now, and tell Mary to watch for me through the picket fence."
WHEEOOH-wheeooh-wheeooh! Two weeks had passed and engineer Parker was blowing the whistle of Number 57 again. The engine was rounding the curve. Mary would be watching and waving through the picket fence. Mr. Parker was leaning from his cab, smiling and waving. His eyes were focused on the picket fence. But Mary wasn’t there! The smile died from the man’s face as he looked hurriedly and anxiously about the yard. Mary was not to be seen.
Thoughtfully Mr. Parker sat back in his cab. Mary had never missed waving at him since he had removed the pickets from the fence. Could she be ill? Perhaps she was taking an afternoon nap. No need to worry about it, decided the father. In a couple of hours I’ll be seeing her.
When the engineer opened the picket gate no little girl came running to meet him. He saw no one. Hurrying, he opened the door. His wife was sitting at the table crying.
"Edith! Edith!" cried Mr. Parker. "What on earth is wrong?"
Mrs. Parker looked at her husband, but she could not speak because of crying. "It’s Mary!" cried Mr. Parker. "Where is she? Where is she?" The tone was loud and commanding. Mrs. Parker still couldn’t speak.
"She’s not, Edith, she’s not…"
The tears flowed faster as his wife nodded. "Yes."
"How did it happen?" The man’s voice was now subdued, as though it had to be forced from his throat.
"She had a cold, then pneumonia. The doctors did all they could. We wanted to let you know, but we couldn’t locate you. I wanted to be brave about it, and meet you at the gate as she always did, but when the time came I just couldn’t. In my memory I could see her standing by the fence waving at you."
Mr. parker sobbed convulsively. "She spoke of you, Everett," said Edith, gently. "She said, 'Tell Daddy I love him, and tell him when I see Jesus I am going to ask Him to take some pickets out of the fence so I can see Daddy coming to Heaven.'"
Tears were streaming down the father’s face as he said, "God bless our little girl. I am sure she is with the Saviour she loves. And I want to make my calling sure, too, Edith. Will you pray with me?" Husband and wife knelt in prayer.
An engineer gave his heart to God that day. And some day when he has rounded the last curve of life he will reach the great Central Station where Mary will be watching for him.