Sandbags to the Rescue


“If we don’t fill and place over 1,000 sandbags in the next week we could lose The Ranch.” 

For over 100 years, our extended family has enjoyed the beautiful Pine Valley along the mighty Provo River east of Park City, Utah, considered by many to be the most pristine mountain valley in the entire State.

Lush, green meadows, surrounded by massive pine and aspen trees of a protected forest service, many a hunter, fisherman, and surveyor have stumbled upon our oasis and wondered how could someone be so blessed to have a cabin or home in such a place?

Our Great-Grandfather, Lester Hewlett, purchased 500 acres during the Great Depression just as hard times fell upon the country, and saved it from becoming public land or a reservoir in the high Uintah mountains.

Leaving the legacy of this land to his children and grandchildren, AKA, The MSH Family (named after his amazing wife and our Great Grandmother, Margaret Stewart Hewlett), we have done our best to care for, and preserve, this rich heritage of property, spirit, and love among cousins.

In the shadows of the biggest winter in Utah history, the runoff in spring would have the potential to destroy our entire valley, as the melted snow entering the Provo River would pick up such steam, evacuation orders were already being prepared for our relatives and loved ones for when, not if, all bridges and roads would be blown out.

The only answer was divine providence to give us a cool June, slowing the melt, and placing as many sandbags as possible in the path of nearly impossible odds.

“Can all of this work, hauling all of these sandbags, guarantee success?” was the prevailing question. 

“NO”, the resounding answer, “This may not work at all. The sandbags very likely will not work, it all could fail. We just have to do all we can and then pray for a miracle!”

And so, that’s what we did.

As an extended family, we kept The Promise, and banded together in a way our predecessors would be proud.

Filling sandbags as fast as we could, beyond the 35 lb. suggestion, we went to 50 lb. with each one, hauling them from one location to the next, getting closer to the river as the snow melted.

By the time we finally had the chance to make a run at it at the end of April, we needed 30 strong humans on a Saturday morning to form the world’s longest lineup of cousins this side of Colorado City, to hand overstuffed sandbags on top of an unstable berm of snow yet unmelted, a mix of mud and mush, dangerous in every way, balancing over and in front of the unstoppable River, hoping our work could somehow pay off.



We groaned at the weight of each hand-off, back-breaking work, sweating in the sun, despite the snow all around us, laughing as we recited Ace Ventura and Fletch movie quotes, as the River roared in our faces.

The River mocked us. We carried on.

Dangerous work, scary even, people falling through the snow to their hips…relatives pulling each other up from the quicksand of slush…we forged ahead.

It wasn’t just one day, it wasn’t just one work party, it was multiple efforts, days and nights, tractors and backhoes, heroes of every age, to salvage what we hoped could be a miracle.

It didn’t look good, thus I never posted about this Promise moment in our family history, for fear it could jinx it had I said anything about it to anyone outside of our realm.

And now here we are, mid-July.

I am grateful to say The Ranch is in tact, the River raged but never crossed the sandbag barrier!  In fact, we have had to remove some of our efforts to keep things flowing properly and not disturb nature’s way.

God blessed us. There is no doubt.



It was the largest winter in history, the greatest snowpack of all-time, and equally, the coldest June on record, allowing for the slowest snowmelt ever.

I stand all amazed at God’s hand in our lives, and equally in my extended cousins being God’s Army in this instance to save a sacred place.

My children, now becoming fully grown people, were there the entire way, sweating along with their creaky old 40-something Dad. I couldn’t be more proud.

I may have damaged my on the mend knee just a bit more, which is a shame, and will forever be in pain as a reminder of the effort we made to do all we could, in our power, to Save The Ranch.

It was hard. It was scary. It was terrible. It was expensive. It was brutal. It was time consuming.

It was the kind of effort that creates the stories we will tell our grandchildren.

Those are the best efforts!

We kept The Promise in every way with this one. I’m so pleased to share that yes, we did our part, the heavens blessed us with a great gift, and we can now go back to the problems we had before, such as where’s the best spot on the River to fish…

I share this as an update, and as a reminder, that we had NO GUARANTEE this would work. We knew it. We were perhaps working in vain. I was NEVER going to share the result had it failed…or maybe I would have. I can’t say.

What I can say is Keep The Promise, even when we don’t know if the sandbags will be strong enough.

Give the effort.

Fight to the end.

Stand for what’s right.

Get in the way of what’s coming, even if you don’t stand much of a chance.

God’s hand will bless your efforts. He usually does.

And had He not slowed the River this time, we’d still do it again, every time, because with effort comes the blessing of knowing we did all we could.

“Let’s Save The Ranch!” we shouted, as we went to work. 

Sandbags to the Rescue!

Promise kept.


A never ending piling up of sandbags from one location to the next


Exhausted from filling over 1,000 sandbags, Redford & Romney Hewlett


Redford, Romney, Ella and Jason Hewlett, with our friend Malcolm Swiss


Sandbags on the Provo River at The Ranch



MSH Sandbag Party 2023


~ Jason Hewlett

Husband, Father, Writer, Mentor, Hiker

  • Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer * Coach & Mentor
  • World’s Only Keynote Speaker utilizing entertainment, musical impressions, and comedy to teach The Promise
  • Author of “The Promise To The One”

Share this post

14 thoughts on “Sandbags to the Rescue”

  1. What a great story Jason, your family will remember this time for the rest of their lives. What great bonding moments for all the cousins. Prayers answered.

  2. Man! I love fly fishing…….what I wouldn’t give to have property along the upper Provo like that! Glad things worked out. By the way, Insaw these adds and thought of you today. There are several of them on YouTube. This one is a good summary: You need to reach out to them for some corporate training!! 😂

  3. God’s miracle and family memories! You are blessed! I’ve experienced floods in Arizona. I know what you were experiencing! Diane

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Tweet