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The Tractor Test

A man who doubts the existence of angels has his faith restored…

Guardian angel restores man's belief

What made me ask my wife about angels that Saturday morning, I couldn’t say. Anne and I were just finishing up our breakfast in the kitchen. “Honey, I have a question for you,” I said, looking her in the eye. “Do you believe in guardian angels?”

Anne seemed puzzled for a moment, then regained her composure. “I believe in myself!” she announced.

Between the two of us, Anne was the practical one. She had a good sense of her own abilities, and there was very little she couldn’t handle. I, on the other hand, had always relied on higher powers to keep me in line. Ever since I was a child I’d felt God and his angels watching over me, protecting me from troubles I might fall into if left to my own devices.

Anne didn’t laugh at my question. She respected my beliefs, even if she never thought much about angels herself. But as I watched her go to the sink to wash out her dishes, I started to doubt myself. Why did I believe in angels anyway? Just because somebody told me they were real when I was a kid? It’s not like I’d ever actually seen one. Nor did I even know of anyone who’d seen an angel.

The idea nagged at me as I went out to the stable where I kept the horses I trained for barrel racing. Sure, angels seemed real when I was a child, I thought, but so did Santa Claus. Was this just another innocent belief I should have outgrown by now?

I was still contemplating angels on Monday morning when I got in the car to go to my day job. Usually I listened to the radio while I drove. Today I used the time to think some more about my angelic dilemma. “Let’s be realistic, Wayne,” I said to myself. “Angels are no more real than leprechauns or the Easter bunny.”

A truck passed by me in the left lane. The driver glanced over at me. He gave me a funny look. Did he know? I ducked my head a bit, feeling embarrassed. It was as if the man could tell that up until now I’d been walking around believing in angels. Me, a grown man! Well, that’s it, once and for all, I decided. Angels definitely do not exist!

All week long I reminded myself of that truth. I refused to lapse back into my old childish habits. When I got into my car to go to work in the mornings, I looked at myself in the rearview mirror and said, “Good morning, Wayne. Do you still believe in angels?” On my way home I asked myself, “Hey, Wayne, seen any angels today? No? Well, of course not! Angels do not exist.”

If Anne noticed my new, grown-up attitude when we sat down to breakfast the following Saturday, she didn’t say so. It had been exactly a week since I’d asked her that fateful question, and I was feeling quite proud of myself.

“Do you have any plans for today?” Anne asked me.

You mean besides not believing in angels? I laughed to myself before answering. “Sure do,” I said. “Jim’s coming over to help me get started on that round training pen for the horses. I’ve got the cedar posts outside and the oak boards ready to nail onto them. I rented a good, heavy auger to put the posts in.”

My brother, Jim, pulled up outside the house. No way he believes in angels, I thought as he got out of his truck. Not good old practical Jim.

“Beautiful day for the work,” he said, walking into the yard where the pen was going to go. “Let’s get started.” I showed him the hand auger. It was a thick metal cylinder like a big drill about five feet long and weighing a hundred pounds. Now this was something practical a grown man could put his faith in. “We’ll get a lot of exercise too,” I said.

I’d already marked out the right spots for the posts to go and the job went quickly. At each hole we stuck the auger in, turned the handle and down went the tip into the earth. “One more to go and then we can break for lunch,” I said, placing the tool into the dirt. “We’ll make this one good and deep.”

Jim and I drilled the hole. We gave the auger a good twist. Then another.

“Good and deep, all right,” I said. “Let’s pull it out now.”

We yanked on the tool. But we couldn’t get it to budge.

“Uh-oh,” said Jim. “I think we went too far this time.”

We pulled and tugged, but the auger was buried in the ground up to the handle. “We could dig it out,” Jim suggested. “But that would take a while.”

I hated to lose so much time. In the past, this was the kind of problem I might have asked angels to help me out with, but my own rational mind could handle the auger just fine. In mere seconds I’d come up with an answer. “We’ll yank it out with the tractor!”

I ran to the barn where I kept my beauty of a tractor: a 1940 Ford 2N. I drove it out to the spot where it would do the trick. Heavy chains draped over the back. Jim swept out the ground around the top of the auger so I could wind the chains around it. I tied the other end of the chains to the back of the tractor.

“It’ll be out in a second!” I called, jumping onto the seat. “Stand back, though! That auger just might come shooting out of the ground.”

I started up the tractor, feeling confident in my bright idea. I let out the throttle and checked the chain over my shoulder. So far so good. I just need to believe in myself. No angels needed, thank you very much! I stepped on the gas and pulled down the throttle all the way.

The front of the tractor shot off the ground like a spring. I flew out of my seat. My watch exploded off my wrist. The crystal shattered. I lay flat on my belly on the ground. The 5,000-pound monster stood straight up on its back wheels! I flinched, waiting for it to come down on me. It would crush me! I froze in fear. The tractor wobbled and then fell forward, crashing back onto its front tires again.

Somebody was screaming. I lifted myself onto hands and knees. Jim! He was sitting on the ground now, his legs splayed out in front of him, sobbing away into his hands. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen him cry—probably not since we were children.

I crawled over to him. I seemed okay, and was more worried about Jim. He was shaking all over and could barely speak. “Do you have any idea what just happened?” he sputtered.

I shook my head and waited for Jim to catch his breath. “The tractor shot right up in the air. It should have flipped over on you. I saw it start to fall over on you. Like it should have. But it just didn’t. It went back the other way. As if the machine defied gravity itself. I don’t know how you weren’t crushed.”

I gazed at the tractor still chained to the auger stuck fast in the ground. My brilliant plan hadn’t made any sense at all. It was no surprise it hadn’t worked. The mystery was, How had I not been killed in that accident? 

All week long I’ve been making fun of angels, I realized, but today an angel saved me anyway! 

“My guardian angel was here,” I said to Jim simply. I didn’t feel one bit embarrassed at all to admit it.

Today I know angels are meant for everybody. Even those who doubt. But nobody believes in them more strongly than I do—except maybe my brother.

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