17. THE COLORADO DESERT


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AT THE end of a week, we started forth for Ehrenberg. Our escort was now sent back to Camp Apache, and the Baileys remained at Fort Whipple, so our outfit consisted of one ambulance and one army wagon. One or two soldiers went along, to help with the teams and the camp.

We travelled two days over a semi-civilized country, and found quite comfortable ranches where we spent the nights. The greatest luxury, was fresh milk, and we enjoyed that at these ranches in Skull Valley. They kept American cows, and supplied Whipple Barracks with milk and butter. We drank, and drank, and drank again, and carried a jugful to


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our bedside. The third day brought us to Cullen's ranch, at the edge of the desert. Mrs. Cullen was a Mexican woman and had a little boy named Daniel; she cooked us a delicious supper of stewed chicken, and fried eggs, and good bread, and then she put our boy to bed in Daniel's crib. I felt so grateful to her; and with a return of physical comfort, I began to think that life, after all, might be worth the living.

Hopefully and cheerfully the next morning we entered the vast Colorado desert. This was verily the desert, more like the desert which our imagination pictures, than the one we had crossed in September from Mojave. It seemed so white, so bare, so endless, and so still; irreclaimable, eternal, like Death itself. The stillness was appalling. We saw great numbers of lizards darting about like lightning; they were nearly as white as the sand itself, and sat up on their hind legs and looked at us with their pretty, beady black eyes. It seemed very far off from everywhere and everybody, this desert—but I knew there was a camp somewhere awaiting us, and our mules trotted patiently on. Towards noon they began to raise their heads and sniff the air; they knew that water was near. They quickened their pace, and we soon drew up before a large wooden structure. There were no trees nor grass around it. A Mexican worked the machinery with the aid of a mule, and water was bought for our twelve animals, at so much per head. The place was called Mesquite Wells; the man dwelt


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alone in his desolation, with no living being except his mule for company. How could he endure it! I was not able, even faintly, to comprehend it; I had not lived long enough. He occupied a small hut, and there he staid, year in and year out, selling water to the passing traveller; and I fancy that travellers were not so frequent at Mesquite Wells a quarter of a century ago.

The thought of that hermit and his dreary surroundings filled my mind for a long time after we drove away, and it was only when we halted and a soldier got down to kill a great rattlesnake near the ambulance, that my thoughts were diverted. The man brought the rattles to us and the new toy served to amuse my little son.

At night we arrived at Desert Station. There was a good ranch there, kept by Hunt and Dudley, Englishmen, I believe. I did not see them, but I wondered who they were and why they staid in such a place. They were absent at the time; perhaps they had mines or something of the sort to look after. One is always imagining things about people who live in such extraordinary places. At all events, whatever Messrs. Hunt and Dudley were doing down there, their ranch was clean and attractive, which was more than could be said of the place where we stopped the next night, a place called Tyson's Wells. We slept in our tent that night, for of all places on the earth a poorly kept ranch in Arizona is the most melancholy and


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uninviting. It reeks of everything unclean, morally and physically. Owen Wister has described such a place in his delightful story, where the young tenderfoot dances for the amusement of the old habituÉs.

One more day's travel across the desert brought us to our El Dorado.

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