Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chimney Rock from the Rattlesnake Cabin

Traveling the Oregon Trail Backwards, a Road Trip Adventure, Part 6

Chimney Rock, image by Mike Tigas from Columbia, MO, United States (Chimney Rock) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons
This article is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

View of Chimney Rock with an Ohalilah Sioux Village in the foreground painted by Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) [Public domain image], via Wikimedia Commons
‘The only good rattlesnake is a dead rattlesnake,’ attested a sign on the wall of the cabin where we would spend the night. This, following our host’s insistent reminders to watch our step when venturing past the holes that riddled the sun-baked ground outside our door, had a profound effect on my vivid imagination. Even with Chimney Rock, that iconic American icon, standing sentinel in the background, going to the car to retrieve anything became a test of courage put off until absolute necessity demanded that I make the trip.

Some of my most cherished childhood memories are of surprising wildlife on California’s Mount Diablo. The best of them was when my father, brother, and I happened upon a lynx basking in the sun. I’m sure my shock equaled that of the silk-eared animal, who sped off without hesitation. That is not the reflection that stands out when I think of those hikes, however. The first thing that comes to mind is my brother backing me away from tall grasses where rattlesnakes hissed. I was too young to fully understand the danger of the moment. That would come, along with the appropriate thrill of fear, as a result of my stay at this Nebraska ranch. 

Did I actually see a rattlesnake while there? No, but the terror of being bitten by one lodge in my brain and gave me a greater appreciation of the hardy pioneers who crossed the prairie in the warm months, often on foot.

Butter-and-Egg Flower
A compensation, however, was the experience of the prairie itself. I saw it, up close and personal, the next morning when our host took us on a tractor tour of the ranch. He drove past unusual cliff formations while showing off the vast reaches of his property. Spring flowers bloomed in drifts, including one with fragile white petals surrounding a deep yellow center, which I admired. He called it a butter-and-egg flower and stopped to pick one for me in a moment of old-fashioned gallantry.

The ranch tour made up for the rattlesnakes, and we began to talk of returning for a longer visit. This stop changed my understanding of the prairie. It is about dust and shining water, unique formations and common sagebrush, rattlesnakes and blossoms delicate as poetry itself.

My experiences of the American West during an epic road trip with a small family group that retraced the Oregon Trail backward informed me while writing of Hills of Nevermore, first installment in the Montana Gold western historical fiction series.

Hills of Nevermore

Download a free ebook by award-winning author Miralee Ferrell.

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive?

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.

Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

Read the first two chapters free.

About Janalyn Voigt

My father instilled a love of literature in me at an early age by reading chapters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe and other classics. When I grew older, and he stopped reading bedtime stories, I put myself to sleep with tales I 'wrote' in my head. My sixth-grade teacher noticed my interest in storytelling and influenced me to become a writer.

I'm what is known as a multi-genre author, but I like to think of myself as a storyteller. The same elements appear in all my novels in proportions dictated by their genre: romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy. 


  1. Great post! Your trip sounds SO interesting. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Hi, Connie. The trip was a memory-maker for sure. You're welcome. I adore sharing my travel adventures with people who love history as much as I do.

  2. More interesting history about your travels, Janalyn. I'm just a little terrified of any snakes so this would be more than an adventure for me. LOL I'm looking foward to reading Hills of Nevermore when my book arrives.

    1. Interesting history is everywhere! With your advanced fear of snakes, staying in the Rattlesnake cabin would be a challenge for you. Thanks for reading Hills of Nevermore.

  3. As always - interesting historical information! I love the butter and eggs flowers descriptions.