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Old 03-04-10, 11:10 AM   #1
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Default Indian Summer

Indian Summer
The young man did not know about the Tropic of Cancer but he was standing right on that imaginary line. The line crossed the Laguna Mountains three or four days walk from the end of this long crooked finger of land, Baja California. The mountains here were like a long ragged tent, sagging from the rocky peaks into dusty wrinkled canyons. It had not rained for ten months and soon the clouds were sure to begin building in the west.

The boy found water in the second arroyo south of the caves. He did not like the caves or the bats. His hair and nut-brown skin smelled of smoke from last night's fire. He had slept fitfully beneath a big encino, a black oak normally found far north of this prickly dry place. A seep in the wall of the arroyo fastened the tree to the mountain, pulled him under the tree like a warm nest inviting a tired wren. The bats fluttered into his dreams, they flew easily from dream to dream, he willed his dreams to make their hideous faces blurred, indistinct.

The tough and durable pitahaya cactus bore enough fruit not only to survive and flourish but to feed all the things smart or brave or hungry enough to find these small red pincushions attached to its spinney limbs. The sticky sweet balls had been the salvation for the Pericue Indians for centuries, when the land and the sea gave up little else. This morning he found several red dulces in a clump of pitahaya, knocked them off and speared them with a stick. Another stick, rubbed on all sides of the skin, removed the tiny, but painful cactus needles that covered it. He had competition -- the birds and iguanas had eaten most of the ripe ones and many fruit skins lay at the base of the large cactus, the sweet pulp covering the seeds now sustaining other creatures.

When the sun was almost directly overhead, he climbed into a huge zalate tree. Most of the plants held no names for him. This ficus is sometimes called the strangler fig because it envelopes and overtakes other hardwoods. Where there are no hardwoods, the zalate uses huge boulders as a base for its long, water-seeking roots. He ate some of the small, bland figs and watched the arroyo below for signs of life. He took note of the running water below -- he would have to drink as much as he could hold before he began his trek, later in the day, to the east and south.

The arroyos were safe places to walk, sand and rock and occasionally some cooling water. Travel was much more difficult as he crossed the ridges between these arroyos. His palm rope sandals gave him some protection from the spinney things beneath each footstep but the sides of his feet, his ankles and calfs were open to the punishment of the desert. This was fairly open country, no Teddy-bear cholla cactus and few staghorns. The danger here was the deadfall of the pitahaya cactus, the very plant that gave him the energy to move about during the day. He also knew that the fist-size fuzz balls that were the offspring of the cardon could cripple him. Like the cholla, the cardon seeds held strong poison in each of its thousands of tiny spines. The boy knew he could not move about during the night unless the moon was full and the sky held no promise of clouds. He must move now--he must find the trace.

The sun would not stay in the sky much longer. From high in another zalate tree he saw the trace. A dusty line, down through the desert, following a ravine like a snake after a mate. His desperation, the small flames of fear building in him all day, were blown out by his whoops and laughter.

The boy, Kip Hafen, could now see the little red Chevy beside the road and his pace increased measurably. He had promised his girlfriend, Darlene, and the other couple, Brad and Marsha that he would have the rental car back at the Twin Dolphins hotel before dark on Thursday.

He was born and raised in the tiny southern Arizona hamlet of Los Patos. The green spot on the talus of a craggy canyon had been a welcome watering place for the Indians who traveled the valleys of the mighty Chiricahua Mountains. His love for the desert, its moods, animals, plants and dangers held him and framed his spirit. Even on short vacation trips like this to Baja California, he always tried to find the time to visit other deserts and play Indian; imagine what it might have been like to walk in their footsteps. This day and a half his companions had allowed him, had filled his cup and he was now ready to return to their world. He would show his appreciation tonight, he'd buy dinner and drinks at one of the famous lobster restaurants and then dance til dawn at Squid Roe or the Giggling Marlin. The thought of a cool shower and a real bed brought a grin to his thin but handsome face as he headed south toward Cabo San Lucas.
Old 03-04-10, 11:25 AM   #2
Marty Cortez
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Thumbs up Re: Indian Summer

Thanks for that.
Old 03-04-10, 11:27 AM   #3
La Guera
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Default Re: Indian Summer

Wow! What a great story you tell Osprey. I felt like I was there with him! Now I'm going to go and take a shower.
Old 03-04-10, 06:38 PM   #4
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Default Re: Indian Summer

Well done & engrossing as usual, Osprey!
Old 03-04-10, 09:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: Indian Summer

I'm still pulling cactus spines out of my ankles!