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.