A Walk To A Distant Barn

What a dry winter we’ve had in Southeast Arizona! It hasn’t rained significantly since late November and the soil is parched and dusty.

Lately Bev and I have been building a small cabin out in the Chihuahuan desert scrub, surrounded by vast expanses of mesquite, tar-bush, and white-thorn acacia. The drought conditions are causing the area to be quite dusty, but the flawless cirrus-streaked sky and the surrounding mountains compensate.

Yesterday I drove the pickup out to the property with a load of Douglas fir rafters for the cabin. After stacking the boards in the shade of the north side of the structure, I looked out across the wash-dissected scrub. A tin roof visible towards the north-west has been intriguing me. It’s difficult to estimate distances out there, but the old barn looked to be two or three miles away. It was a beautiful morning so I set off walking.

It’s an easy landscape to walk across, as there are an infinite number of pebble-paved corridors between the low woody shrubs and small trees. The mountain ranges on the eastern and western edges of the valley helped me stay oriented. I was glad of that because within five minutes I had lost sight of both the cabin and my destination.

The shallow sandy washes meander everywhere. I must have crossed a dozen of them before I neared the barn. My route took me closer to the Mule Mountains and I began to see signs of higher-elevation plants such as ocotillo and yucca.

I saw no signs of animal life on this walk, but lately I’ve been puzzled by little heaps of peculiar turds which I surmise are the scat of some reptile. The small heaps of coiled poop are always in the shade of a mesquite or tar-bush, and they remind me of demonic Cheerios:


One of these days I’ll surprise and embarrass a reptile in the act of adding to one of these piles!

I walked on, occasionally passing a tire track left by a rancher who runs a few cattle in this part of the valley.

Here’s my first sight of the barn, which seemed to have doubled as a house at one time:


As I approached the dilapidated structure I noticed a water trough and what looked like a well-head and pressure tank. Cow-pies became more common.


Bees and small birds were visiting this water trough, which is probably the only source of open water within a mile. The structure behind the trough is partially made of adobe.


A rusty water tank is perched atop a steel trestle and can be seen in this view from inside the barn and former residence. The drought, which has been going on for twenty years, has killed a tree which once shaded the barn. A limb has fallen onto the tank and will doubtless remain there for decades before rotting away. Fungi have a very short growing season in this climate:


I examined an adobe wall, a collage of mud, stones, straw, chunks of embedded wood, and two anomalous cockleburs:


A view of a kitchen which was last cooked in decades ago:


The curling tiles still adhering to the kitchen counter reminded me of dried and warped tiles of mud in a dry river-bed:


Looking away from the barn I noticed a humped silhouette a hundred yards away. I walked over to see what it was and found this ancient automobile carcass. The roof was caved in, bullet-holes riddled the doors, and the undercarriage had been removed. The shell left behind reminded me of the cast-off carapace of a cicada:


Nestled in the smashed-down roof of the coupe was what looked like one of the original door handles. The elements have left a pleasingly-pitted patina on the lever, a product of the toil of some long-dead Detroit worker in another century:


While walking back I got lost for a while and finally came across the cabin by chance.


15 comments on “A Walk To A Distant Barn

  1. bev says:

    Great photos! I especially like that close-up shot of the adobe with all the exposed debris.

  2. Rain Trueax says:

    So many times when in wilderness areas, a person comes across someone else’s lost dream. Great photos telling an interesting story with mysteries that likely will never be revealed.

  3. Laura says:

    Great photos! Good luck on your new cabin , glad you are also enjoying the beauty of the southwest

  4. Mike Egan says:

    Nice! Any speculation as to the make / model of the car? Not sure how I found your blog, but here it is.

    • Larry Ayers says:

      I looked for some form of ID, a nameplate or whatever, but this coupe was stripped down to the bare essentials. Let’s just call it a generic coupe from, say, the 1930s!

  5. Dave Ayers says:

    Great pics as usual, Larry. Almost like being there.

  6. Lee says:

    My guess on the car, based on a little image research, is a 1940 Plymouth. The suicide doors and the lines on the fender led me to this conclusion.


  7. Joan says:

    Love the photos, Larry. Only thing that’s worrisome is that kitchen cabinetry in the barn with the rounded shelves on the end looks just like the ones in our non rehabbed house. (shudder) Ours is cleaner, however. (grin)

  8. Darrell says:

    Hello again Larry.
    There are also quite a few places in the California desert areas that have similar buildings, and abandoned vintage vehicles as well.

  9. Larry Ayers says:

    Nice to have you commenting again, Darrell! Yeah, deserts are where artifacts linger on for decades.

  10. Darrell says:

    Larry . . . found some old post photos from your Hannibal site. Will try to send; preferred mode?

  11. Kelly Edwards says:

    I am in Eastern NC on Camp LeJeune and found the same kid of spiral dung you did.. Did you find out what it is?

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