Snake Bite — A Costly Mistake

If there is a statute of limitations for what I’m about to write down, I hope it has gone by — I’m a little embarrassed by my conduct during events taken place in April of XXXX while I worked as a volunteer at the California State Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, CA.

I was working the trails one hazy midday when two very excited young gentlemen came running toward me and told me that their uncle had stepped on a snake and it had bit him. The uncle, limping badly, looked pasty-pale and with his friend and brother made their way into the visitor center after once again telling me the man had stepped on a snake. The victim’s brother (as I found out later) while closing the door whispered to me, “He didn’t step on it, he kicked it to get it out of his way.”

photo of snake bite.

First, I inspected the wound.  Yep, it was a snake bite hole. Next, I asked if he knew what kind of snake it was, or what it may have looked like. He told me, “It looked like a snake. I told you that already.” Ooh, sarcasm. Yep. That’s a good way to irritate me. I bit my lip. He was regaining color.

Morris is my friend although he never looks at the camera when I take his picture.

Morris is my friend although he never looks at the camera when I take his picture.

Since I’m not a doctor and I felt the patient was being uncooperative, I decided a medical professional would have to take it from this point. I called 911. It takes about 20 minutes or so for emergency response vehicles to get from Lancaster to the reserve. The dude was looking better and looking at me as if he expected me to suck the poison out of his leg. “Not my job,” I thought. There were other volunteers there that were far more capable than I, so I went out with my buddy Morris (Volunteer of the Year) to stand in the parking lot.


The fire truck came first with a support vehicle, whatever they call the service truck that follows. The fire truck couldn’t make it up the sidewalk to the visitor center, but the smaller truck could. I wanted to ride on the back too, but I didn’t ask. It looked like fun.


The paramedic rushed into the building with about a dozen other personnel and did a triage-type-thing. Assessing the wound he confirmed my suspicions that it was a snake-made-hole in his leg.


Next, the helicopter came. There was no place to land so it went away. That would have been so cool to see the guy get a ride in that. I would have asked if I could go with them, but I would have had to walk back.

So they took him away in an ambulance.


One of the guys with him asked me,  “Where did they take him?  I said, “I don’t know. I’m not from around here. I live about 70 miles away.”

My shift was over then. So I went to my brother’s house to stay the night with him. I hope the snake is alright. I can’t see how the guy with his little-skinny-toothpick-legs could have kicked it hard enough to hurt it. Good example though. Nobody else kicked a snake for the rest of the season. One of my best times ever, so far, yet.

Simply Nature

Photo of cresote bushes at sunset in early spring in the Mojave Desert

Creosote at Sunset

It is simple really; the wind storms bring dusk early to the high desert. The airborne dust hastens the sunset, and the sunset goes flat into dark. It’s then, most times, that the wind rests and the day is over. The desert wind has played its joke on people, and gives the desert fauna a long night to hunt or be hunted. By the time the sun has raced around the earth and rises, the game has changed ever so slightly, and some desert creatures will be dead and some will be fed.

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part V

Continued from Part IV

The Call for 500 Men

During 1845, although we were preparing to leave Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains, they were pushing the work on the Temple and on May 24 the walls were finished and the Apostles administered to hundreds of the people — the services often continuing all day and all night. We received our endowments in the last of December going through the Temple at night.

photo of the Mormon Battalion flag

Mormon Battalion flag – note the spelling of the word “Battalion.”

Now as the mob it said “we will still drive all the Mormons into Nauvoo and all Nauvoo into the Mississippi,” preparations were made immediately evacuating the city and on February 6, 1846, my husband left with the first K guards to guard the records across the river, and went on to Garden Grove, leaving me with my little ones in Nauvoo. When he came back near the last of April with a team, our second daughter Lucy Cyrena, was three weeks old — she, having been born on April 7 — and taking only our bedding and clothing — leaving everything else in the house we went by wagon to Mount Pisgah.

Authorities held counsel and concluded to move on, after putting up some huts which could be used by those coming later.

When within a few miles of Council Bluffs we were met by an United States officer to enlist men for the Mexican War. Coming to a halt Brother Brigham called for 500 volunteers. On July 16 the troops were mustered, my husband being among the number, thus we were left without our natural protectors and as this took our stoutest and best the way much hard work was thrown on the women and the aged. I had only one week’s provisions on hand.– But our faith was strong and Brother Brigham would lead us on. After they had been gone three days some men returned from the Battalion and started to the camps that Capt. Alan had sent them to gather up 50 families of the Battalion Boys, and they could travel with their husbands to California as the government would pay all expenses.

At first I did not wish to go but being over persuaded, I joined the company to follow my husband. My driver was Monroe Frick, a boy of 14 who was such a good kind boy. I arrived at Fort Leavenworth about August 1, 1846.

The joy of once more meeting my husband was of short duration for he could not consent to me traveling with them with my little children and the young babe; so after putting up a wagon with 18 months provisions and to yoke of oxen, Monroe and I started back over that lonely road of 200 miles to the camp of Israel. This was done by the advice and counsel of Brother P. P. Pratt.

Philemon went a day’s journey with us and when he left us in the morning was the hardest of all my trials — we had to travel through Missouri whose swamps were full of malaria, and several times we came to places where the rain had washed out the road and we had to unload our flour and provisions, get the wagon across, then carried the things over and reload. It seems a miracle that we ever succeeded in reaching Winter Quarters, but in God was my trust and he protected us and cared for us.

– continued –


Interesting how a zigzag of light against a shadow will catch your eye while you look away from the low sun. Anticipation, is paramount; the shadows roll over the mountain canyons and ridges quickly. Observe it then. Blank everything else out and don’t look away. What you will see will never be the same again. Don’t miss your moment!

photo of Mojave yucca at sunset, Apple Valley, CA.

A zigzag of light

Beyond the Black Butte

Ten miles from the base of the mountains, beyond the black butte where the plains roll like swells in the ocean, there is a small, dusty, little shack. Inside this shelter there is a broom,Abandoned cabin in the Mojave Desert a chair and a table with a dog-eared pad of paper and a stubbed pencil lying on it. The air is so clean it is tiring; at least so it seems. Sitting there in the quiet there is no way to gauge the time. There is sunrise, noon, and sunset. There is night too. and unless there is a moon, it is the blackest night with countless upon countless stars. If there is a sound it is only the wind humming through the creosote. This is the place to contemplate infinity, and eternity, and the wind humming through the creosote…

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part IV

continued from – Part III

Cyrena’s New Family

Again joining Brother Stanley’s company in the spring of 1839 I traveled to Quincy, Illinois. My health was very good and I walked every step of the way; sometimes with my skirts wet to my knees and at night we slept only the canopy of the heavens for a roof and it rained every night thus soaking our bedding through before morning. We often cheered ourselves on our march by singing the songs of Zion and we kept our health.

Brother Stanley had managed to procure some flour before leaving Far West, and we had plenty of squash pies — not made with eggs and sugar and milk as it is generally made — but just squash boiled and put in between two crusts, and oh, how good it tasted. Anything eaten with God’s blessing on it and with thankful hearts is sweet and good.

At Quincy was residing a brother of my father’s who had joined the Church, and there I lived for a few weeks but his wife persecuted him and made it so unpleasant for me that I could not stand it but went out to work; while here oue goods and clothing came which we had sent by water from New Portage — coming back from St. Louis where they had been stopped — nothing traveled fast in those days.

I now wrote to the home folks and they were glad to hear from me, particularly about my good health, but they wanted me to come home and not have to endure any more of such privations; they would send me the money and if I did not want to return alone, one of my brothers would gladly come for me — but I answered “I would live and die with the Latter Day Saints.”

I worked out all summer for two dollars a week and was always treated well and my health was good.

In December or late in the fall of this year I went to Nauvoo with Brother Tarletan Lewis and family. They were such good people and so very kind to me.

At Nauvoo we found nearly everyone sick with chills and fever so I went to nursing sick folks. I went to nurse at Stephen Markham’s, for they were all down sick and while there — their daughter — a lovely girl about my age — and her parents would not hear of me leaving them, so I made my home with them from that time.

Sometime in February 1840, Philemon C. Merrill was passing through Nauvoo from Fort Madison to Carthage and had stopped to see his friend, Brother Markham, who brought him home to dinner and I waited on the table. After dinner he asked Brother Markham “Who that young lady was” and when told, he remarked, “I’ll be back here someday, where she will be my wife.” Brother Markham laugh at him and also some at me, but so it proved, or on September 30 we were married, and went to housekeeping in Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s

Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s

On August 21, 1841, a daughter, Sabrina Lodena, came to gladden our home. While my husband worked on the Temple which the Saints had begun to build in our beautiful city on the Mississippi River — a son, Philemon Alisandre, was born to us to cheer us and bind our hearts together. His birthday was November 18, 1843, and oh, how happy and contented I was with my loving husband and little daughter and son — the clouds were gathering around our beloved Prophet, and everyone knows the terrible times of the next year — the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum and how we obeyed the voice of the twelve when they told us to be peaceable, quiet citizens and blessed would be those who held out faithful to the end.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part III

continued from – Part II

It rained a little during the night and our bedding was soaked through and not being used to exposure of any kind of course I took a severe cold, which with the long walk and the worry of leaving home under such trying circumstances brought on a fever and a nervous prostration.

I shall ever remember how kind and good to sisters and brethren were to me during that long ride from New Portage, Ohio to the Missouri River; they gave me every attention that I could be given under the circumstances; many times sacrificing their own comfort for mine.

As day by day went by and I still remain so very low, albeit Brother Stanley sadly concluded that I could not recover — and several times I was taken from the wagon and laid down by the roadside while they all gathered round expecting me to breathe my last — but I had great faith, for my blessing said I should go to Zion and I clung to that, (and so did Brother Stanley) and I felt as if that must be true. Sometimes as we were traveling along, people would come to our camp and talk to us and they would say “Why do you drag that sick girl with you? Can’t you stop long enough to let her die in peace? It looks inhuman to take her over these rough roads.” And when told it was prophesied that she should go to Zion, they would shake their heads and say, “She’ll never lived to get there anyway.” We were stopped several times by mobs who were determined we should not go on, but we were strong in faith and continually prayed to the Lord to deliver us from these people and so we finally overcame all difficulties and arrived at the Far West. I had been getting some better before the end of the journey — and oh, how we rejoice that are long tiresome traveling was ended and we could meet and have sweet concourse with the Saints here. But our rest and comfort was soon broken, for in a few days Far West was surrounded to our enemies and I saw Joseph’s aged father and mother weeping over their son as he was taken away a prisoner. During the winter our fate which tried to the utmost — in a strange country – our beloved leader was torn from us — and our food and clothing very scarce — at times we had nothing to eat but parched corn with a little squash.

My health continued to improve daily and Father Smith obtained a place for me to work at Little  Platte (about 20 miles from Far West), with an aged couple who treated me like a daughter but thought I ought to return to my parents. They begged me to go home to my mother who must be so lonely without me, even offering to pay my fare back to Ohio and send their son with me for company — but my faith in the Gospel was strong and I never had any desire to give up our religion or leave the Saints.

To my great joy I found (while living here) Brother and Sister Horn living near, although I had no idea that there was a Latter Day Saint within miles of me — the us is the Lord cheered my heart at all times when I most needed consolation. These new friends told me that the Saints were moving to Quincy, Illinois. After staying with these good folks three months I went with brother and sister Horn to Far West, to again cast in my lot with the Saints although the lady where I had been working went over me and wish me to stay with her or return home to my parents, but I now felt that the Saints’ home was mine.


Pilot Rock – San Bernardino Mountain Range

Pilot Rock, Pilot Knob–I’m certain there is some kind of argument going on for what the proper name is; but the operative word is ‘Pilot.’ I’ve seen this peak from the highlands way out in the desert, however, it comes plainly into view along the Mojave River southwest of Barstow. Pioneers along the Old Spanish Trail, and later, the Mormon Road to California, would use this point to guide them from the low riverbed to the top of the Cajon Pass to begin the descent to their hard-earned destination.

Pilot Knob, Pilot Rock, San Bernardino Mountains

Pilot Knob, San Bernardino National Forest

Death Valley Scotty …

True Stories of the Mojave Desert:

Death Valley Scotty preferred mules over horses, any day. “Mules were smart, horses were stupid,” he’d openly claim. To illustrate his point he told of one very hot summer day when he was riding a horse next to a cornfield. He’d say, “It was so hot the corn began to pop. Well, that horse was so stupid he thought it was snowing and froze to death.”

~ True Story!