By Neva Bodin

Always on our camping trips, be it the Rockies or the Bighorns, our son-in-law regales us with tales of the old west. His grandpa homesteaded in the Big Horn Basin where the family now has the fourth generation of this family growing up. His father and he spent many hours camping, fishing and hunting in the Rockies and Bighorns, which cradle the basin between them.

Roping elk antlers from a crevasse down a steep bank! You can see where a forest fire has picked the trees clean. Perhaps the elk tried to ascend the steep bank during the fire and got caught in the crevasse and died there. The skull was nearby.

This year, one of our long four-wheeling trips took us to Jack Creek, where the men roped and rescued a set of dried-out elk antlers stuck near a skull half way down a cliff, and our grandson found himself half-way up or down, (I’m not sure which) and needed rescuing also. His agile, mountain climbing dad obliged.

“On that mountain over there,” our son-in-law said as he pointed west, “was a whorehouse, only they called it a War House because no one wanted to say the name ‘whore house.’” He had our attention.

Somewhere “over there” stood the “War House.”

IF the building still stands, it was not visible to our eyes. This is rugged mountain country, around 9000 feet elevation. How? Why? Were there that many miners in the area? Three creeks that flow in the area of “War House Creek” are named after three of the ladies who worked at the War House: Betty, Eleanor and Vick Creeks, the story says.

An isolated cabin probably like the ranger’s (or bear’s) cabin. My selfie in the mirror!

The area is gorgeous, albeit isolated. There is a log ranger cabin only accessible by horseback or walking. A few years back, two rangers rode in to stay at the cabin and had some trouble removing a large sleeping grizzly bear from the porch.

We would never enjoy these trips without our own local home-grown guide. Beauty we would see, peace we would absorb, wonder we’d embrace. But all is enhanced by his filling in some blanks.

Also in the area, we were near where the world’s highest oil well once stood. His father actually helped with winching huge trucks and equipment up long, steep slopes and sides of mountains. It is capped and not in production, never was, but was a test well for a big company and I’m sure got rid of some big bucks.

A picnic near the pack rat’s nest.

This once somewhat populated and vibrant area is now visited mainly by rangers and hunters, and some ranchers. Much of it is Bureau of Land Management owned. We saw some of the current inhabitants: antelope, rock chucks, ground squirrels, a Martin, brilliantly blue blue-birds, and colorful butterflies. We found a pack rat’s nest in the rocks where we ate our picnic lunch at 9000 feet, out of the cool wind in the warm sunshine.

Yellow stonecrop growing on the mountainside.

We made it back to the vehicles and loaded our four wheelers minutes before a mountain rain shower. The fragrance of wild flowers, sage and sweet smelling prairie followed us down the mountain.

Another successful family four-wheeling trip.



  1. Neva, I love when you take us along on your trips. The pieces of history and photos just ring with love and joy. Of course the ‘war house’ was fascinating. Doris


    1. Thanks Doris. I love taking people “along” and wish everyone could have physically been there. I love Wyoming, my adopted state and the history of it. Perhaps one of the greatest early “wars” in this state was spiritual–conventions versus non-conventions!


  2. That was a wonderful trip, Neva, and I really can understand how much of what you see is enhanced by the tales that embellish the area. I guess the men who frequented the ‘Warhouse’ (hope it wasn’t always a battleground) were pretty lonely and desperate. I’d love to see the area some day.


  3. Nothing like a colorful story on the Old West — Best Little War House in the Rockies. And with a nice touch about three streams being named for three of the Doves. I guess it could have been a war house at times — when men fought over a painted lady or if two doves decided to settle a money disagreement with their fists. When you have a storyteller with you, it’s like having an audiobook with you. 🙂


    1. You are very imaginative, but yes, questions as to who would even make it to the place that was a ways from a civilized town, and that was on the other side of 11,000 foot mountains, could lead a story teller to go many directions. And the fact that these women were pretty isolated could lead to a few difficulties. Everything looks deceptively uninhabited now, but hunters are in that area this weekend I know.


  4. That sounds like an amazing place! And having someone to tell the stories to make the history come alive is even better. Thanks for sharing!


    1. You are welcome. I love the vastness of the area, and the hidden crevasses and waterways, but also the secrets it holds. Having our son-in-law as our guide each year really enriches our family camping trips. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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