After a down pouring rain water had collected in a small natural basin the sticks and stems and twigs and dried up flowers had fermented into an intoxicating brew that the local desert fauna seemed to enjoy drinking. There was what turned into a drunken festival in which the hare, sloppily and completely boozed up challenged a tee-totaling tortoise to a race. The tortoise, who was not too bright, accepted the contest mainly because the rabbit was staggering about insulting the clutch of eggs the sober tortoise hatched from and complaining that the whole tortoise famn-damily was slow and stupid.
Bobcats and rats and mice and snakes and lizards and coyotes put aside their differences to watch the tiny marathon and gathered together at the starting line. The judge, a badger, got a gun from somewhere and wildly fired it toward the sky and a batch of drunken Canada geese that happened to be flying by, winging one but not quite killing it, only making it wish it were dead from the pain. And that was the start of the race.
The hare bolted and leaped sideways rather uncontrollably
as if one hind leg were much shorter than the other–he rocketed into a
patch of California Buckwheat (eriogonum fasciculatum) and fell over.
The tortoise, who calculated the rabbit was too stoned to follow the
course, felt that if he were slow and steady and persistent, that he
could beat the rabbit.
A bit later, the rabbit passed the
tortoise faster than the tortoise had ever seen a rabbit move. However,
the tortoise continued to believe that if he were slow and steady and
persistent, that he could beat the rabbit and sure enough, the tortoise
plugged along and quietly passed the rabbit taking a nap under a desert
willow (chilopsis linearis). The tortoise smugly snickered as he passed
the hungover hare.
The tortoise kept its pace and crossed the finish line proudly proclaiming that he had won the race. Judge Badger, with his gun in claw, fired it into the air hitting another flying goose then walked right up to the tortoise and said, “didn’t you see the rabbit? He went back to tell you you lost.” The embarrassed tortoise crawled back to his burrow, entered and slept the rest of the summer and everything else in the animal world went back to normal including the two coyotes that tracked the course back to the still passed out rabbit and ate him.
A popular postcard photographer once advised me that people like photos of places and things they are familiar with. They like the photos of these things and places at the times of day they could or would have seen them–and when and where he photographed according to these guidelines would usually become his most best-selling postcards.
cannot do that to myself. The sun makes me squint and hurts my eyes.
The heat makes me sweat, and feel uncomfortable. The proliferation of
jabbering people, God love ’em, give me a headache.
I like, I
am familiar with; getting up early and walking in the desert during the
deep blue light, the drone of the darkness and then a silence and
wholeness, like the apex of a breath marking the beginning of day
proper, experiencing the virtual changing of colors in the sky and on
the landscape of a rising sun, and later, maybe the drama of dark clouds
and potential of a storm in the wilderness sweeping over a rock strewn
relict of wind-twisted juniper and gray-brown scrub … These are the
places and things I like, and at the time of day I prefer–well, sunset
also. However, that is a different dance, entirely.
The recent death of Wyatt Earp ( January 13, 1929) recalls to mind the part he played in the claim jumping expedition to Searles Lake in October 1910. At the time I was Acting Receiver for the California Trona Company and was in charge of a group of placer mining claims covering some 40,000 acres. The party had been organized at Los Angeles by Henry E. Lee, an Oakland attorney and probably was the best equipped gang of claim jumpers ever assembled in the west. It consisted of three complete crews of surveyors, the necessary helpers and laborers and about 20 armed guards or gunmen under the command of Wyatt Berry Stapp.
The party of 44 in number, arrived at Searles Lake in seven touring cars and established a camp at the abandoned town of “Slate Range City” about eight miles southeast of the company’s headquarters. On the morning following their arrival we saw some of the surveyors across the lake and our foreman road over and ordered them off the property but they paid no attention to his protest an proceeded to do a very thorough job or surveying and staking.
As I considered it necessary to make
some show of force in protecting our claims, I visited the enemy’s camp
at sunrise the next day with our whole force of five men who were armed
with all the weapons they could collect. It was a very critical moment
when we jumped from our wagon and walked up in front of the mess house
where the raiders were assembled for breakfast. I stood in the center
with my boys on either side of me. There was a shout and men came
running from all directions and fearing there might be trouble.
I started right off to explain to the surveyors present that I had
only come over to give notice that I was officially and legally in
possession of the claims and that they were trespassers.
Before I got very far a tall man with iron grey hair and a mustache pushed his way to the front and in a loud voice demanded why I had come into their camp with armed men. At the same time he grabbed hold of my shotgun held by the boy on my left and attempted to take it away from him. At this attack upon us I drew an automatic and ordered him to let go. He did so and then ran to a building nearby saying “I’ll fix you.” Before he could secure a rifle, however, the cooler headed members of the party surrounded him and calmed him down. Also, you may be sure every effort was made to prevent a fight, as, in spite of our bold being, we were pretty badly scared.
Just as things seemed to have quieted down, one of the excited jumpers accidentally discharged a gun. No one was hurt but, it was a very tense moment for all of us. Having failed to dislodge the enemy the following day I called for a US Marshall and when he arrive the claim jumpers were all arrested and sent home including “Wyatt Berry Stapp”, none other than the famous Marshall Wyatt Stapp Earp.