I was out one day by wherever it is I was and shooting photos of the ‘this stuff’ and ‘that stuff’ out there and here comes this near-perfect little Volkswagen beetle. This car is just humming along, then all of a sudden it pulls over and this old guy asks where he can get some old-fashioned film developed. “Is there any place that still does that?” It took me a second (I’ve been shooting digital since the mid-90s) then I said “Walgreens” and that was kind of an ‘Aha’ moment.

So we start talking and I find out this guy was an engineer on the aqueduct and he would survey elevations along the channel because the ground moves nearly continually out there in the far western part of the Mojave. It doesn’t move much but if the water in the aqueduct breaches the side it could get nasty and catastrophic and such. This was so engineers could regulate the flow and all that.

We talk more. After a bit longer I find out this guy is Hugh Hefner’s first cousin. I think that is so cool and I mention the Baseball Hall of Famer Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller is my grandfather’s first cousin. That’s the best I got. He said he does not own a television. I ask if he reads a lot, is a writer or artist or how he stays occupied? He answered me with, “my equations.” How cool is that? So what he likes to do to relax is to try to work out cold fusion. I told him I like to take pictures and tell stupid jokes. And that is the day I met Hugh Hefner’s Cousin

The Hanging of Jake

Cowboy Jake was a drifter with a clouded past. It was said he killed seven men when he was down south in old Mexico. It was only four men, worthless sorts, but Jake reveled in the exaggeration. However, Jake’s real problems were shoplifting and petty thievery.

I’m telling you . . .

Once he stole his barber’s glass eye. He sold it to pay for the bandages to stop the bleeding coming from where his earlobe used to be. Apparently, one-eyed barbers have no depth perception.

Ultimately, Jake got himself hanged. It wasn’t for stealing the glass eye or killing the barber, or even killing those guys down in Mexico. The folks up in the sparse and treeless mesa country must have been pretty angry with old Jake–they hanged him without a damned tree–just left him sort of sprawled across the ground. One end of the rope was tied to a rock and the other end noosed and cinched up around his skinny little neck. It is hard for me to explain exactly what went on, but Jake is dead just the same.

Jake had the ‘cooties.’

Jake probably picked them up when he was in a dusty cantina outside of Alvarez. Just about everybody down there had them. Damn ‘cooties.’The good news is that ‘cooties’ don’t live long up in the mesa country. The bad news is they didn’t have to hang Jake. The good news is the townspeople didn’t really give a damn anyway.

The object of the Route Map

MAPS AND SURVEY – 1913
BY ARTHUR R. HINKS, M.A., F.R.S.

CHAPTER III
route traversing
The Explorer’s Route Map

The first care of a traveler who passes through an unknown, or partially explored country, is to make a record of where he has been, and of the main features of the country along the route by which he has traveled. Often singlehanded, encumbered by transport, compelled to keep to the track, and unable to leave his party, he cannot hope to make anything in the nature of a map, in the ordinary sense of the term. But for his own guidance, to avoid getting lost, he is compelled to determine his position day by day in much the same way that the position of a ship is determined at sea, by observation of the Sun and the stars, so that he is able to say roughly in what latitude, and perhaps in what longitude his halting places were. Moreover, as he goes along he is able to make such observations of the shape and course of his path as to enable another man coming after him not only to arrive more or less at the same place but to follow the same route. And finally, he can keep a sort of running record of the things that lie immediately to the side of his path. All this is done by the construction of a “route traverse” or “route map.”

The Long Mornings

August is the month of the long mornings.
Starting before sunrise Sol burns the air to the east sending it here in thick slow-rolling waves.
It is not at all unpleasant,
the effect is comforting in its ambient beauty.
Subtle.
Sustained.
There is a degree of perfection in this rounded nexus–a timelessness in time–in a singular day before the flat-heat whiteness begins.
All of this is August, the month of long mornings.

The Rocks Speak

RockMojave River, West Fork

Some rocks (not this one) will speak. I remember the first time a rock ever spoke to me. I was out near the Colorado River in a wash littered with evenly shaped cobbles. They were slightly different subtle colors, red, blue, gray, pink, and so on, and so forth. They were so very pretty lying in the wash with blue sky, billowing clouds, and all of that was attractively scattered here, there, and everywhere.

One rock stood out to me. I picked it up and took a good look. It was a little bigger than the palm of my hand in a comfortably rounded shape. There were no blemishes or markings or really anything that would note this stone as different from any other stone in the wash. However, it felt different. It felt like it knew me and was waiting for the day that I would come and pick it up. Today.

Then it spoke to me. I stood there dumbfounded, mouth agape for quite a long time. The rock had said, “I want to go to your house.”

“Then what?” I thought.

It heard my thoughts. It must be, like, telepathic.

“You need me,” the rock said. It continued; “I am the exact size you need to cover that big red plastic tumbler that you use to soak pieces of mesquite in water to give your BBQ smokey flavor. I am the correct weight to keep the wood submerged so that it may get wet.”

So I brought it home and it was right. It has been perfect for the job. I use it every BBQ. Now, when the rock speaks to me you know what it says? It says nothing. Not a word. Not a sound. Just like it is just a rock.

It is still a cool rock though.

Walter Feller

Harry Oliver’s Argument Starters

horned lizard, desert wildlife
Horned lizard

Roadrunners kill rattlesnakes.

Desert turtles live a hundred years.

The loudest noise in the world is thunder.

The horned toad is not a toad; it’s a lizard.

The Vinegaroon is half spider and half scorpion.

Animals are wild because man has made them so.

The largest gold nugget ever found weighed 630 pounds.

A cubic foot of gold weighs more than half a ton — 1203 pounds.

There are many kinds of cactus that will not grow in the desert.

A lightning flash lasts approximately one-millionth part of a second.

Horsehair rope as a barrier to stop rattlesnakes has been proved a myth.

One pound of honey represents the lifetime work of more than 1,000 bees.

A mule knows three times as much as a horse, and a burro is smarter than a mule.

The Indian population in the desert is steadily growing — from 8,000 to 45,000 in 60 years.

Needles of the prickly pear cactus are cut to size, shaped, polished, and sold as phonograph needles.

Each rattlesnake helps man by killing off between 100 and 150 rats, mice, gophers, and ground squirrels every year.

The dried stalks of the desert yucca are gathered and sent to a factory in Brooklyn, New York, for the manufacturing of artificial limbs.

Horned Toads sometimes lay eggs and other times will give forth living young. It seems that the mother can’t quite make up her mind.

Over 3,000 different herbs and plants for therapeutic use were grown in Montezuma’s Mexican botanical gardens years before the discovery of America.

It is estimated that half a million snakes and twice that number of lizards were killed for their skins and turned into shoes and purses last year for milady’s fancy.

The department of education in Mexico wants the children in that country to look to the old Aztec god, Quelzaoatl, for their presents each Christmas, rather than Santa Claus.

Many old prospectors have been saved from thirst by the water contained in the famous barrel cactus. Today this barrel cactus furnishes the base for some of the noted cactus candies.

Wrinkled inhabitants of the desert shake their heads and whisper startling exaggerations when you ask about the Jumping Cactus (Cholla); nevertheless, it does jump, but only when stirred by the swish of your pant leg or coat sleeve.

INDIAN NAMES. In the matter of geographical names, the contribution of the Indian is conspicuous. At least twenty of the states comprised in the United States bear Indian names, while for rivers, lakes, and towns, the list of Indian names is in almost equal proportion.

My First Fossil

There it was–I didn’t even have to sweep it off with the little paleontology brush I just bought.

Finding my first fossil was a much bigger deal than I thought it would have been. There was a lot of excitement and yelling. Running around, too–don’t know why, I mean, it wasn’t going anywhere. There were people from the museums, also. They were standing over in the shade grumbling in muffled mumbles. They coveted the find. However, smiling broadly with all rows of their sharpened teeth showing, they stood next to it for pictures.

In a little more than a whisper from their dark huddle, one could hear, “It should have been us. We are worthy.”

Hole-in-the-Wall

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Hole-in-the-Wall – Mojave National Preserve

About 18.5 million years ago one day everything was blah, blah, blah and then all of a sudden . . . POOOM!

Hot, suffocating ash buried every living thing in the path of the blast. An area of over 600 km2 was covered with ash and rock fragments so hot that they welded together after they reached the ground. The toasted and fossilized remains of birds, mammals, and plants lie entombed beneath the volcanic tuff that forms the colorful cliffs of Hole-in-the-Wall.

https://digital-desert.com/a/hole-in-the-wall/

New Beauty

Someday, I imagine, all beautiful things will have been worn away and become mundane and undesirable to view. Then, I imagine all the ugly things will become unique and beautiful because they are different and exciting to look at. I imagine.

Hear the Wind

Coyote Lake

Mike was alone now. It was just him and the wind in the desert. He wasn’t scared. He would listen to Nature. It would speak to him–tell him what he needed to do. In fact, the wind was trying to touch base with Mike at that very moment. It was saying, “Hey Mike? Mike? Can you hear me, Mike? Mike?” Mike, however, was preoccupied with trying to get a signal. Without water or shelter, Mike was a goner. Too bad for Mike.

Trees

There are three ravens in the sky above the oak on the left. The raven on the far right of those three flew in front of me after first cawing and catching my attention. Over the years I have learned when this happens there are two ravens flying safely and quietly behind me. I like to believe they do this as a strategy to distract potential predators.

The Northers

Then there were the “Northers,” which the heavy winds that swept down the Cajon Pass from the Mohave desert were called. They were much more severe then and sometimes very cold, blowing for about three days at a time. Many people treated them as they would rainy weather, and by way of derision, they were sometimes called “Mormon rains,” coming as they did by way of San Bernardino. They often came before the rains and when sheep had been pastured in the early summer the surface of the ground was cut into fine dust and we would have a dust storm which would cover the inside of the houses with dust. Since the land was planted and roads oiled, the “Northers” have lost most of their disagreeable features. Being dry they clear the atmosphere and are one of the beneficial features in our healthy climate.

History of San Bernardino County – John Brown Jr., 1922

Technology Advancements in Wells

from; A Quick History of Water Wells

by Hanna Landis

Until the early 19th century, water wells were still dug by hand. In 1808 in the United States, mechanical drilling was invented by the Ruffner Brothers. The Ruffner Brothers successfully first used mechanical drilling in Charleston, West Virginia to access water and salt at Great Buffalo Lick. This invention allowed many more wells to be drilled efficiently all over America.

By the 1820s and 1830s, auger boring machines came on the scene. These machines allowed wells to be drilled deeper and for the water to remain uncontaminated as it came up through pipes made of the first iteration of steel. By the early 20th-century rotary drilling technology became standard after the invention of the roller cone drill bit in 1908 by Howard Hughes Sr. Hughes invention is still used today for many types of drilling.

The 1940s brought the invention of portable drilling tools – until then they were all platform-based. And that brings us to the technology that is still in use today.

Hodge, Ca.

Edna, Charlotte & Shady

The following is an excerpt from ‘White Heart of Mojave’ by Edna Brush Perkins

Shady Myrick – 1850-1925

It was discouraging, but we persevered until we found a real old-timer. He was known as Shady Myrick. We never discovered his Christian name though he was a famous desert character. Wherever we went afterward everyone knew Shady. Evidently, the name was not descriptive for all agreed on his honesty and goodness. He was an old man, rather deaf, with clear, very straightforward-gazing eyes.

Most of his life had been spent on the Mojave as a prospector and miner, and much of it in Death Valley itself. The desert held him for her own as she does all old-timers. He was under the “terrible fascination.” As soon as we explained that we had come for no other purpose than to visit his beloved land he was eagerly interested and described the wonders of Death Valley, its beautiful high mountains, its shining white floor, its hot brightness, its stillness, and the flowers that sometimes deck it in the spring.

“If you go there,” he said, “you will see something that you’ll never see anywhere else in the world.”

He had gem mines in the Panamints and was in the habit of going off with his mule-team for months at a time. He even said that he would take us to the valley himself were he a younger man. We assured him that we would go with him gladly. We urged him—you had only to look into his eyes to trust him—promising to do all the work if he would furnish the wagon and be the guide, innocently unaware of the absurdity of such a proposal in the burning heat of Death Valley; but he only smiled gently, and said that
he was too old.

Silver Lake turned out to be the place for us to go after all. He described how we could
drive straight on from Joburg, a hundred and sixteen miles. There was a sort of a road all the way. He drew a map on the sand and said that we could not possibly miss it for a truck had come over six weeks before and we could follow its tracks.

“It ain’t blowed much, or rained since,” he remarked.

“But suppose we should get lost, what would we do?”

“Why should you get lost? Anyway, you could turn around and come back.”

We looked at each other doubtfully. In the far-spreading silence around Joburg the idea of getting lost was more dreadful than it had been at Barstow. There was not even a ranch in the whole hundred and sixteen miles. We hesitated.

“You are well and strong, ain’t you?” he asked. “You can take care of yourselves as well
as anybody. Why can’t you go?”

“You have lived in this country so long, Mr. Myrick,” I tried to explain, “you do not understand how strange it is to a newcomer. How would we recognize those mountains you speak of when we do not even know how the desert mountains look? How could we find the spring where you say we might camp when we have never seen one like it?”

“You can do it,” he insisted, “that’s how you learn.”

“And there is the silence, Mr. Myrick,” I went on, hating to have him scorn us for cowards,” and the big emptiness.”

He understood that and his face grew kind.

“You get used to it,” he said gently.

It was refreshing to meet a man who looked into your feminine eyes and said: “You can do it.” It made us feel that we had to do it. We spent a whole day on a hilltop near Joburg looking longingly over the sinister, beautiful mountains and trying to get up our courage. Happily we were spared the decision. Two young miners at Atolia sent word that they were going over to Silver Lake in a few days and would be glad to have us follow them. Perhaps it was Shady’s doing. We accepted the invitation with gratitude.

He understood that and his face grew kind.

“You get used to it,” he said gently. . . .

Chap. II – How We Found Mojave



Undesert

“It is often said that America has no real deserts. This is true in the sense that there are no regions such as are found in Asia and Africa where one can travel a hundred miles at a stretch and scarcely see a sign of vegetation—nothing but barren gravel, graceful, wavy sand dunes, hard, wind-swept clay, or still harder rock salt broken into rough blocks with upturned edges. In the broader sense of the term, however, America has an abundance of deserts—regions which bear a thin cover of bushy vegetation but are too dry for agriculture without irrigation…. In the United States the deserts lie almost wholly between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountain ranges, which keep out any moisture that might come from either the west or the east. Beginning on the north with the sagebrush plateau of southern Washington, the desert expands to a width of seven hundred miles in the gray, sage-covered basins of Nevada and Utah. In southern California and Arizona the sagebrush gives place to smaller forms like the salt-bush, and the desert assumes a sterner aspect. Next comes the cactus desert extending from Arizona far south into Mexico. One of the notable features of the desert is the extreme heat of certain portions. Close to the Nevada border in southern California, Death Valley, 250 feet below sea-level, is the hottest place in America. There alone among the American regions familiar to the writer does one have the feeling of intense, overpowering aridity which prevails so often in the deserts of Arabia and Central Asia. Some years ago a Weather Bureau thermometer was installed in Death Valley at Furnace Creek, where the only flowing water in more than a hundred miles supports a depressing little ranch. There one or two white men, helped by a few Indians, raise alfalfa, which they sell at exorbitant prices to deluded prospectors searching for riches which they never find. Though the terrible heat ruins the health of the white men in a year or two, so that they have to move away, they have succeeded in keeping a thermometer record for some years. No other properly exposed out-of-door thermometer in the United States, or perhaps in the world, is so familiar with a temperature of 100° F. or more. During the period of not quite fifteen hundred days from the spring of 1911 to May, 1915, a maximum temperature of 100° F. or more was reached in five hundred and forty-eight days, or more than one-third of the time. On July 10, 1913, the mercury rose to 134° F. and touched the top of the tube. How much higher it might have gone no one can tell. That day marks the limit of temperature yet reached in this country according to official records. In the summer of 1914 there was one night when the thermometer dropped only to 114° F., having been 128° F. at noon. The branches of a pepper-tree whose roots had been freshly watered wilted as a flower wilts when broken from the stalk.”

—The Chronicles of America.—Volume I. “The Red Man’s Continent,” by Ellsworth Huntington.

Millie

Georgia Walters – circa 1917

Millie was undeniably beautiful. She was quite clever also. She developed a system wherein she could chop wood without lifting a finger. Living at the post office and only store for miles around, she became quite astute at knowing when the cowboys and other such young men would be coming to pick up supplies and mail. She would study the dust coming off the roads in the distance. Seeing this she would walk over to the woodpile, take up her ax, and ineffectively swing it in a feigned attempt to split firewood as her happy victims arrived. She would sigh. What buck could resist? A delightful young lady, an ax, and a pile of wood needing splitting was just what a young man would need to impress and earn her attention. Before too long, a cord of expertly prepared firewood would be neatly stacked ready for cooking and heating.

-Walter Feller

A Lonely Ride

by Bret Harte –

Francis Brett Hart, known as Bret Harte (August 25, 1836 – May 5, 1902), was an American short story writer and poet, best remembered for his short fiction featuring miners, gamblers, and other romantic figures of the California Gold Rush.

I stood with my shawl and carpetbag in hand, gazing doubtingly on the vehicle. Even in the darkness the red dust of Wingdam was visible on its roof and sides, and the red slime of Slumgullion clung tenaciously to its wheels. I opened the door; the stage creaked easily, and in the gloomy abyss the swaying straps beckoned me, like ghostly hands, to come in now and have my sufferings out at once.

I must not omit to mention the occurrence of a circumstance which struck me as appalling and mysterious. A lounger on the steps of the hotel, who I had reason to suppose was not in any way connected with the stage company, gravely descended, and walking toward the conveyance, tried the handle of the door, opened it, expectorated in the carriage, and returned to the hotel with a serious demeanor. Hardly had he resumed his position when another individual, equally disinterested, impassively walked down the steps, proceeded to the back of the stage, lifted it, expectorated carefully on the axle, and returned slowly and pensively to the hotel. A third spectator wearily disengaged himself from one of the Ionic columns of the portico and walked to the box, remained for a moment in serious and expectorative contemplation of the boot, and then returned to his column. There was something so weird in this baptism that I grew quite nervous.

Perhaps I was out of spirits. A number of infinitesimal annoyances, winding up with the resolute persistency of the clerk at the stage office to enter my name misspelt on the waybill, had not predisposed me to cheerfulness. The inmates of the Eureka House, from a social viewpoint, were not attractive. There was the prevailing opinion–so common to many honest people–that a serious style of deportment and conduct toward a stranger indicates high gentility and elevated station. Obeying this principle, all hilarity ceased on my entrance to supper, and general remark merged into the safer and uncompromising chronicle of several bad cases of diphtheria, then epidemic at Wingdam. When I left the dining-room, with an odd feeling that I had been supping exclusively on mustard and tea leaves, I stopped a moment at the parlor door. A piano, harmoniously related to the dinner bell, tinkled responsive to a diffident and uncertain touch. On the white wall the shadow of an old and sharp profile was bending over several symmetrical and shadowy curls. “I sez to Mariar, Mariar, sez I, ‘Praise to the face is open disgrace.'” I heard no more. Dreading some susceptibility to sincere expression on the subject of female loveliness, I walked away, checking the compliment that otherwise might have risen unbidden to my lips, and have brought shame and sorrow to the household.

It was with the memory of these experiences resting heavily upon me that I stood hesitatingly before the stage door. The driver, about to mount, was for a moment illuminated by the open door of the hotel. He had the wearied look which was the distinguishing expression of Wingdam. Satisfied that I was properly waybilled and receipted for, he took no further notice of me. I looked longingly at the box seat, but he did not respond to the appeal. I flung my carpetbag into the chasm, dived recklessly after it, and–before I was fairly seated–with a great sigh, a creaking of unwilling springs, complaining bolts, and harshly expostulating axle, we moved away. Rather the hotel door slipped behind, the sound of the piano sank to rest, and the night and its shadows moved solemnly upon us.

To say it was dark expressed but faintly the pitchy obscurity that encompassed the vehicle. The roadside trees were scarcely distinguishable as deeper masses of shadow; I knew them only by the peculiar sodden odor that from time to time sluggishly flowed in at the open window as we rolled by. We proceeded slowly; so leisurely that, leaning from the carriage, I more than once detected the fragrant sigh of some astonished cow, whose ruminating repose upon the highway we had ruthlessly disturbed. But in the darkness our progress, more the guidance of some mysterious instinct than any apparent volition of our own, gave an indefinable charm of security to our journey that a moment’s hesitation or indecision on the part of the driver would have destroyed.

I had indulged a hope that in the empty vehicle I might obtain that rest so often denied me in its crowded condition. It was a weak delusion. When I stretched out my limbs it was only to find that the ordinary conveniences for making several people distinctly uncomfortable were distributed throughout my individual frame. At last, resting my arms on the straps, by dint of much gymnastic effort I became sufficiently composed to be aware of a more refined species of torture. The springs of the stage, rising and falling regularly, produced a rhythmical beat which began to absorb my attention painfully. Slowly this thumping merged into a senseless echo of the mysterious female of the hotel parlor, and shaped itself into this awful and benumbing axiom–“Praise-to-the-face-is- open-disgrace. Praise-to-the-face-is-open-disgrace.” Inequalities of the road only quickened its utterance or drawled it to an exasperating length.

It was of no use to consider the statement seriously. It was of no use to except to it indignantly. It was of no use to recall the many instances where praise to the face had redounded to the everlasting honor of praiser and bepraised; of no use to dwell sentimentally on modest genius and courage lifted up and strengthened by open commendation; of no use to except to the mysterious female, to picture her as rearing a thin-blooded generation on selfish and mechanically repeated axioms–all this failed to counteract the monotonous repetition of this sentence. There was nothing to do but to give in–and I was about to accept it weakly, as we too often treat other illusions of darkness and necessity, for the time being, when I became aware of some other annoyance that had been forcing itself upon me for the last few moments. How quiet the driver was!

Was there any driver? Had I any reason to suppose that he was not lying gagged and bound on the roadside, and the highwayman with blackened face who did the thing so quietly driving me–whither? The thing is perfectly feasible. And what is this fancy now being jolted out of me? A story? It’s of no use to keep it back– particularly in this abysmal vehicle, and here it comes: I am a Marquis–a French Marquis; French, because the peerage is not so well known, and the country is better adapted to romantic incident– a Marquis, because the democratic reader delights in the nobility. My name is something LIGNY. I am coming from Paris to my country seat at St. Germain. It is a dark night, and I fall asleep and tell my honest coachman, Andre, not to disturb me, and dream of an angel. The carriage at last stops at the chateau. It is so dark that when I alight I do not recognize the face of the footman who holds the carriage door. But what of that?–PESTE! I am heavy with sleep. The same obscurity also hides the old familiar indecencies of the statues on the terrace; but there is a door, and it opens and shuts behind me smartly. Then I find myself in a trap, in the presence of the brigand who has quietly gagged poor Andre and conducted the carriage thither. There is nothing for me to do, as a gallant French Marquis, but to say, “PARBLEU!” draw my rapier, and die valorously! I am found a week or two after outside a deserted cabaret near the barrier, with a hole through my ruffled linen and my pockets stripped. No; on second thoughts, I am rescued–rescued by the angel I have been dreaming of, who is the assumed daughter of the brigand but the real daughter of an intimate friend.

Looking from the window again, in the vain hope of distinguishing the driver, I found my eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness. I could see the distant horizon, defined by India-inky woods, relieving a lighter sky. A few stars widely spaced in this picture glimmered sadly. I noticed again the infinite depth of patient sorrow in their serene faces; and I hope that the vandal who first applied the flippant “twinkle” to them may not be driven melancholy-mad by their reproachful eyes. I noticed again the mystic charm of space that imparts a sense of individual solitude to each integer of the densest constellation, involving the smallest star with immeasurable loneliness. Something of this calm and solitude crept over me, and I dozed in my gloomy cavern. When I awoke the full moon was rising. Seen from my window, it had an indescribably unreal and theatrical effect. It was the full moon of NORMA–that remarkable celestial phenomenon which rises so palpably to a hushed audience and a sublime andante chorus, until the CASTA DIVA is sung–the “inconstant moon” that then and thereafter remains fixed in the heavens as though it were a part of the solar system inaugurated by Joshua. Again the white-robed Druids filed past me, again I saw that improbable mistletoe cut from that impossible oak, and again cold chills ran down my back with the first strain of the recitative. The thumping springs essayed to beat time, and the private-box-like obscurity of the vehicle lent a cheap enchantment to the view. But it was a vast improvement upon my past experience, and I hugged the fond delusion.

My fears for the driver were dissipated with the rising moon. A familiar sound had assured me of his presence in the full possession of at least one of his most important functions. Frequent and full expectoration convinced me that his lips were as yet not sealed by the gag of highwaymen, and soothed my anxious ear. With this load lifted from my mind, and assisted by the mild presence of Diana, who left, as when she visited Endymion, much of her splendor outside my cavern–I looked around the empty vehicle. On the forward seat lay a woman’s hairpin. I picked it up with an interest that, however, soon abated. There was no scent of the roses to cling to it still, not even of hair oil. No bend or twist in its rigid angles betrayed any trait of its wearer’s character. I tried to think that it might have been “Mariar’s.” I tried to imagine that, confining the symmetrical curls of that girl, it might have heard the soft compliments whispered in her ears which provoked the wrath of the aged female. But in vain. It was reticent and unswerving in its upright fidelity, and at last slipped listlessly through my fingers.

I had dozed repeatedly–waked on the threshold of oblivion by contact with some of the angles of the coach, and feeling that I was unconsciously assuming, in imitation of a humble insect of my childish recollection, that spherical shape which could best resist those impressions, when I perceived that the moon, riding high in the heavens, had begun to separate the formless masses of the shadowy landscape. Trees isolated, in clumps and assemblages, changed places before my window. The sharp outlines of the distant hills came back, as in daylight, but little softened in the dry, cold, dewless air of a California summer night. I was wondering how late it was, and thinking that if the horses of the night traveled as slowly as the team before us, Faustus might have been spared his agonizing prayer, when a sudden spasm of activity attacked my driver. A succession of whip-snappings, like a pack of Chinese crackers, broke from the box before me. The stage leaped forward, and when I could pick myself from under the seat, a long white building had in some mysterious way rolled before my window. It must be Slumgullion! As I descended from the stage I addressed the driver:

“I thought you changed horses on the road?”

“So we did. Two hours ago.”

“That’s odd. I didn’t notice it.”

“Must have been asleep, sir. Hope you had a pleasant nap. Bully place for a nice quiet snooze–empty stage, sir!”

Enrico Caruso Island

This is Lake Tuendae (to be beheld) at the Desert Studies Center, Zzyzx. In the center of the lake is an island with a fountain. The name of the island in Enrico Caruso Island.

Enrico Caruso Island is named Enrico Caruso Island in honor of Enrico Caruso but not Enrico Caruso the famous singer but the Enrico Caruso who built Enrico Caruso Island was named for the legendary Enrico Caruso and named it Enrico Caruso Island for himself.

Enrico Caruso

The Prophet and a Vision

John Brown senior was prolific in early San Bernardino County history. He was a man of many careers; sailor, soldier, frontiersman, store owner, road builder, and community leader. John Brown was also a Spiritualist and wrote a book about his experiences titled ‘Medium of the Rockies.’

John Brown had a Spirit Guide who would come to him and give him visions of things that were to happen.  Mr. Brown claimed his guide was very accurate in his predictions. He recalls one experience as follows:

One night, in my wild Mountain home, it was about 1843 or 4, dates I have forgotten, my guide came to me and told me: “Tomorrow you will throw a stone and break your riding mule’s hind leg. . . .

Mr. Brown may have been in a dream or meditative state when he had this vision.

. . . My guide took me out into the valley where my mule was standing, about 30 yards distant from us. I picked up a stone, threw it and broke the leg as my guide had said. He then said: “There, see what you have done. Now, you tell all your companions what I have shown you, and let them prevent it if they can.”

Establishing the sanctity of the moment:

At this time I lived in a lodge in Indian style, with two men named Brinks and Burrows, and as usual, I found, on waking, all the men encamped sitting quietly around me; as by this time they had become firm believers in what I could tell them, and no one would leave camp, or turn loose any horses until they consulted the prophet, as they called me, and would then use such means as they thought would prevent coming to pass what I had told them.

I suppose John’s talents and abilities have impressed the men previously since they call him the “prophet.”

And as use such means as they thought would prevent coming to pass what I had told them on this occasion, I requested them to prevent, if possible, breaking the mule’s leg; I told them it would occur about sunset. They then placed a guard over me and declared I should not go out of the lodge that day; and thus they felt sure they had Spirit and Prophet both in their power. And, I assure you, reader, I was just as just desirous as anyone to prevent the act from taking place. But notwithstanding they, on many other occasions, had used the same or similar methods to prevent my sayings coming true and always failed, yet they had the hopes of being successful this time. —

Mr. Brown details how horses were separated into two groups to keep marauders from stealing them all at once.

— I must explain to the reader that in the wild country, in those days, we had one man hired, usually a Mexican, the guard are animals in the daytime when we were not traveling, and bring them up to our camp about sunset, when every man who own horses would take them to some secluded spot and hide them, retaining a few, that would be tied encamped by the foot to a large stake. This was done to prevent the Indians from getting all, in case they came upon us.–

With that being said, Mr. Brown remains in the lodge throughout the day in order to prevent the events of his vision from taking place.

— I remained a prisoner and till nearly sunset, when a you and a cry was raised for all hands could turn out. Here comes the cabaloto! Band the horses, every man take care of his horses! Thus a tumult was raised, to which all were accustomed on occasions of this kind, and I, with all the camp rushed for two separate then drive my horses to their hiding place for the night.

Before Mr. Brown proceeds with the rest of the story he reminds the reader about the prediction and explains that at that moment it was on no one’s mind.

Reader, not a man in that camp remembered one word or thing which had been said or done regarding this mysterious affair. All thought in reference thereto was taken from all, not even myself, who had been a prisoner all day, had the least conceivable idea of breaking my mule’s leg. —

Of course. Perfect.

It so happened that one of Burrows’ mares had foaled a colt that day, to which my mule had become attached. Mr. B. was near his mare looking at the young colt, and as I was driving my horses, the mule, having made friends with the colt and its mother, would run back, which he continued to do as I would try to drive him away; after I had worked in this way for some time, I passed close to where Burrows stood and remarked to him that I would throw a stone at him which I did.

Within all the ruckus and confusion, a moment of clarity–A self-fulfilling prophecy?

And the instant the stone went from my fingers everything flashed upon my mind; I turned my back towards the mule and remarked to Burrows that I had broken my mule’s leg. He said: I reckon not at that distance, which was about 30 yards. I told him I saw the stone go just as I did in the night and I knew the leg was broken. He then said: “I believe you have, for the mule made a jump and now cannot put his foot to the ground.”

The witness speaks:

Mr. Burrows then remarked, “there is something wonderful about this affair–it is certainly mysterious to think that we never can prevent anything from transpiring that you say will.” . .

So says Mr. Burrows of the Prophet, the Medium of the Rockies.

. . . He then called all to come and witness that what I had told them had come true.

No one seems phased over the loss of a good mule.

Mormon Mesa

Mormon Mesa, Overton, Nevada

It was time to choose the first people. Everyone gathered to make their pleas and arguments. Rabbit’s ideas were mean and stupid. Rabbit wanted to be the first people. He became angry and kicked a large rock into the river changing its course. This is how the Virgin River came to meet the Colorado. . . . And why we are not rabbits.- Paiute legend

Virgin River
https://digital-desert.com/virgin-river/

Old ‘Long’ Johnson – Memoir

Old ‘Long’ Johnson’s cow.

Old ‘Long’ Johnson sat in his rocker on the porch whittling a stick thinking about the time he saved Nell from certain doom. ‘Dubious’ Dan had tied her to a log at the sawmill and she was just about ready to be cut in half the long way when Old ‘Long’ Johnson saved the day for her. Another time Old ‘Long’ Johnson saved Nell’s life her was when ‘Left-handed’ Larry tied her to the railroad track to be ran over by the 9:18. Old ‘Long’ Johnson was there at 9:17 to cut her loose. One other time Nell had been tied up by Steve the ‘Scuz’ and thrown in the river. Old ‘Long’ Johnson fetched her safely out just before she would have crossed the point of no return and went over the edge at Certain Death Falls. “Seemed as if no one liked Nell,” thought Old ‘Long’ Johnson. “She was quite mouthy.”

– The End –
. . . or is it just the beginning?

Broken Leg

Somewhat behind the scenes . . . Death Valley

A gentleman named Bill had a hankering to wander about the desert. He had been told the way to really see the desert was to walk through it. He liked the idea and drove as far as Death Valley to start a good distance from all humanity and all things civilized. Here he met a Shoshone Indian Chief who traded him a fine burro for a fine, fairly new car. Off he went for a wonderful, if not occasionally harrowing adventure. Through Nevada into a corner of Utah back into Arizona and down the north rim of the Grand Canyon and back up the south rim to the village and then back to the desert in California. Well over a year had passed when he returned to his wife who was waiting for him in the little town of Baker in the middle of the Mojave. All was well upon his return and his adventures were becoming known far and wide. Bill had become known as ‘Burro’ Bill. One evening there was a knock at the door. Bill was surprised to see his friend, the Shoshone chief. The chief wanted his burro back. ‘Burro’ Bill said the burro was his now. They had been through so much together and he could not bear to part with the beast. The chief explained that a day or two after Bill and the burro departed the car had a flat tire and broke a wheel therefore was not drivable, therefore the deal was no good. The burro was still operable while the car that sat in Death Valley was not.

ref: review
Burro Bill and Me, Ramblings in the American Desert
Author: Edna Calkins Price

Backroads

SR 173 (decommissioned)

When the air has a bit of a chill and the days are short it feels good to spend time idling down a back road in that golden light with no intended time of arrival, anywhere.

Roads & Trails:
https://digital-desert.com/road-trail/

Ver:

Antelope Valley

Beautiful memories of beautiful moments — I was there the day the valley floor was being painted. Each brushstroke was evenly pulled across the plain as the sun rose and the day grew warm. The colors covered everything with life. There were bugs and brightly detailed butterflies and the creatures that eat them. There were the diminutive blue and pink fairies that made it all worth living for and meek mice, humble hares (although no one seems to remember one in particular), rats underground and birds that flew higher than could be seen, and then there were the birds that flew in between.

Rats. Rats were everywhere–typically.

Ver (Latin)- very, new, truth, life, forward . . .
‘verdant’ meaning green and growing and ‘veritas’ or truth.

24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
— luke 12:24-26

End of the River

Sink of the Mojave River, Afton Canyon, Soda Lake

Rather than growing wider and emptying into the sea the Mojave River becomes smaller and smaller finding its way in the sand between the cobbles and rocks curling into crescent -shaped dark meanders and swales transitioning to dry sand and finally, collections of same sized stones.

Mojave River https://digital-desert.com/mojave-river/