The Mystery of the Magic Wagon©

In northern China there is a sand-swept, treeless land called the Great Gobi Desert. Many years ago, this land was home to one of the greatest warriors who ever lived. His name was Genghis Khan. He was king of the Mongol tribesmen. It is said that he never lost a battle. One reason he never lost is that he developed weapons that other armies did not have.

One day, during early winter, he set out to test a new, unusual weapon. He ordered two of his most trusted officers to lead one hundred of his best foot soldiers on a march of six hundred miles, across the great desert. There would be no horses and all soldiers would march in full battle armor.

Upon hearing the orders, one of the officers stepped forward. “Forgive me for questioning your wisdom, Great Khan, but no army has ever crossed the desert at this time of the year, when the clouds hide the sun and stars for direction. We could get lost.”

“You will take my directions,” said Genghis Khan.

He then told them that they were to follow behind a “magic wagon” that would guide them without need of the sun and stars. A driver brought forward a large, two-wheeled wagon led by two camels.

“Now listen carefully to my directions,” said Genghis Khan. “First, you must follow behind the wagon and march a distance of thirty miles every day. Second, you must reach the other side of the desert in twenty days. Third, and most importantly, no one except the driver is allowed to come within fifty feet of the wagon at any time. Is that understood?”

Both officers responded, “Yes.”

They soon set out on the long march. Heading north, they followed behind the wagon. They couldn’t help but wonder how the wagon could guide them correctly. Then one day, when they were more than halfway through the desert, one of the officers turned to the other and said, “I have an idea. We might get a reward from the Great Khan if we moved our troops across the desert in less than twenty days.”

“How could that be done?” asked the other.

“Very simply,” said the officer. “You and I can remove our heavy armor and hang it on the wagon. Then we can walk faster. The troops will have to march faster to keep up with us.”

“That’s a great idea,” said the other. “But we have been told not to go within fifty feet of the wagon.”

“I know,” said the officer, “but we will only be near the wagon for a few seconds.

What harm could that do?”

The other officer agreed. Both ran forward to the wagon, hung their armor on the side, and ran back. They felt much lighter and began to walk faster. The other soldiers, still in their heavy armor, were forced to walk faster. Many soon weakened and fell in the sand, trying to keep up.

But the worst was yet to come. Twenty days passed, then thirty days passed. They were nowhere near the other side of the desert. The wagon seemed to be leading them in circles. Finally, the two camels fell to the sand. The wagon could go no farther.

“Where did we go wrong?” asked one of the officers.

“I don’t think we will live to know,” said the other. And they didn’t.

What they never lived to know was that the wagon contained a new invention, what we know today as a magnetic compass. It was a large needle that always pointed to the north pole of the earth, no matter which way the wagon turned. However, like a magnet, if any metal object came close to the needle, it would point toward the metal, rather than toward the north pole. When the officers hung their metal armor on the side of the wagon, they caused the needle to point in the wrong direction. The wagon driver followed the needle’s direction, and the magic wagon lost all its magic.

When you follow the given directions,
You avoid all the corrections.