By Davalynn Spencer @davalynnspencer
It was late July and the land of the Nez Perce beckoned from across the Bitterroot Range.
Following a string of Montana rodeos, we charted our way across northern Idaho and into Washington. At Clarkston, two routes led to our destination: a long way around through Pendleton with a backtrack on Interstate 84, or a thin highway that shot straight south to Joseph, Oregon—home of the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.
Loggers and locals called the shorter way “Rattlesnake Grade.” Not to be intimidated by its reptilian reputation, we turned left.
Our rig at the time was an 11½-foot camper on a 1-ton pickup, and a two-horse trailer. In those days before seatbelts, we filled the backseat with a padded bed for Jake who would celebrate his first birthday in Joseph.
With the summertime optimism of a rodeo family, we pointed the pickup south and for a few scenery-rich miles, hugged the Snake River Canyon between Idaho and Washington. Just past Asotin the Snake slithered away and we drove on through gentle fields of golden wheat. On the atlas, the next town, Anatone, lay only 17 miles from the Oregon state line, but the little highway rippled before the border, once on each side of the Grande Ronde River. And I began to wonder.
By the time we realized what lay ahead (or below) it was too late. Few turnouts swelled from the twisting, two-lane roadway, none safe enough to turn our rig around. Accepting the cost of commitment, Mike geared down, babied the brakes and I started praying like I’d never prayed before.
Every oncoming log truck and RV took my breath away as we slid down the mountain on the back of the asphalt sidewinder. No railings—just a sheer drop to the river below.
Halfway down I looked away from the canyon on my right to the men I held dear. Jake was leaning up against the seatback with his head on Mike’s shoulder and his thumb in his mouth—the perfect little picture of peace. He was totally confident that his daddy would get us safely down the road and on to the next rodeo. Jake wasn’t looking over the edge like his mother; he was simply enjoying the ride, unaware of the danger and relying on his dad to do the job at hand.
I envied my son at that moment. He was totally clueless and unafraid. Ignorance really is bliss, I thought. Or was it?
Jake demonstrated child-like faith, not ignorance. It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand the dangers, because he trusted his father. He trusted Mike the way my heavenly father wanted me to trust Him: completely.
We cranked our way up and out of the river valley and pulled into the Joseph fairgrounds later that day. A rodeo committeeman met us and welcomed us to Chief Joseph Days, happy that the rodeo clown and his family had made it, not only on time, but early. Was there anything he could get for us, he asked.
“Yes, there is,” my husband said stoically. “A helicopter out of here after the rodeo.”
The man laughed, guessing correctly that we had just come in over Rattlesnake Grade. He assured us that even though the road to Pendleton was longer, it was a quicker way out of the area.
And he was right.
Thank you, Father, for getting me where I need to be—even when the road is frightful.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:7 NIV
Main Street gave Clay cause to look to the sides of the road when he was really looking at Sophie. She’d done her hair up with a ribbon, and it was all soft around her face. If she were a filly or a heifer, he’d know just what to say about her fine appearance. As it was, uncertainty kept him lock-jawed for fear of saying the wrong thing. She hadn’t been too pleased earlier when he said she looked different. Even beautiful had driven doubt through her eyes.
He could handle a cantankerous old pig farmer but didn’t know what to say to the woman he’d set his hopes on.
The road out of town stretched lazily until they reached the turn off that ribboned over grass-covered hills. Recognizing the low saddle ahead, he slowed the gray.
Sophie took it all in, turning on the bench and scouting the land like she was looking for something. When he stopped short of the saddle, her brow wrinkled.
“Is this it?”
“Then why did you stop?”
Because I want to kiss you and ask if you’ll marry me. “I want you to get the full effect of what’s on the other side.”
She snugged her shawl tighter and fingered the neckline of her dress. A very becoming neckline. “I’m ready.”
He lifted the reins. The gray took the cue and eased over the dip between two hills.
Sophie gasped, and Clay stopped again, relieved that it all hadn’t been a fanciful dream. ~An Impossible Price
Inspirational Western Romance – where the hero is heroic.
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(c) 2020 Davalynn Spencer, all rights reserved.
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