Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Living in the Desert: Cacti, Birds, Animals and People

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Well, we're back at Why, or rather at the Gun Sight Wash BLM just south of Why and north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Park. We came down here directly from Yuma. It’s a great watch the birds and animals place with lots of cacti and wildflowers. It gives us a chance to get to know the camera better and take pictures. We were only here a few days when Fred developed some abdominal pain so we thought we should get to someplace less isolated 'just in case'.

We went over to Casa Grande (about 2 hours away) and stayed at the familiar Rovers Roost Escapees Park and his pains subsided so we headed back.

Casa Grande is a smaller friendlier city than Yuma (about 45000). Arnie (a fellow from our Condo in Lethbridge) has a place there in a gorgeous RV Resort so met him for dinner, did whatever shopping we thought we needed to do and headed back to Gun Sight.

Our days are not terribly exciting but each day seems to have its own special adventure.
The other day we went into town (Ajo - which means garlic in Spanish) - we were out of milk, for a change (You know, it doesn't matter where we are, we are always low on milk or maybe it's just an excuse to go shopping).
Anyway - there in the middle of the main road two Sheriff cars - one on either side of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) - sat directing traffic with their lights just a flashing. Now this is a straight road with nowhere really to go - they seemed to be protecting a big event - a Salsa Contest, a Chili Cook-off and a Chicken Dump - all at the VFW at various times of the day.
Naturally, we stopped and found out that a Chicken Dump is a fund raiser where you buy a square ($1.00 or 6 for $5.00) on a huge piece of paper (about 8 ft by 4 ft). At
4 o'clock they enclose this piece of paper in a huge wire cage. Then they release a very well fed rooster into the cage. The rooster dumps - presumably on one of the squares. The person whose name is on the square is the proud recipient of ½ the proceeds.
Yes, we bought squares - No, we didn't win but we did come back for the Salsa and Chili tasting and to watch the big event.

An incredible Antelope Jackrabbit watched us from a Creosote bush across the way. Its ears were longer than its entire body. Did you know, Jackrabbits don’t drink water? I guess they get enough from the foods they eat.

We put grapefruit out and have a family of Gila Woodpeckers that visited us throughout a good part of the day.

Not many hummingbirds come to the feeder but Goldfinches seem to enjoy eating out of it. Even the woodpeckers manage to use the hummingbird feeder, even though they are about four times bigger than the hummingbird. They perch on the window frame (the feeder is on the window beside the kitchen table); lean over; and stick their incredibly long tongues into the little holes in the feeder. Where there’s a will – there’s a way.

We brought some good field books on the birds; animals; cacti and wildflowers for the Southwest but they never look exactly like the pictures so we’re not always sure. We think we had a Hepatic Tanager feeding on the grapefruit we hung on the tree (the birds seem to love them) and we have heard the coyotes at night, very close to where we are parked.

The Crucifixion Thorn plant is rare but we found one right by where we parked. The thorns are extremely long and sharp and can easily puncture the sole of even a heavy hiking boot. The plant looks dead but apparently doesn’t start to blossoms until June or July.

A Fishhook Cactus with it bright yellow fruit is just over on the other side of the wash (a wash is a dried up creek bed) and the whole area is scattered with Saguaro Cacti

– some standing on-guard (I expect guarding the US/Mexican border from invasion from the foreign workers who jump the border) and others that look like soldiers doing multiarmed semaphore against the wispy-blue coloured sky background.

Organpipe Cactus National Monument is just down the road but we took a trail up behind Ajo that had more Organpipes than we remember seeing in the park.

We hear, more than see the doves and watch quail scurrying back and forth across the road. We met a tiny Horned Lizard (I did call it a horny lizard, but was quickly corrected) on the trail and then were visited by a Mexican fellow.

Juan (he told us Angel was his last name) seemed to show up out of nowhere dressed in a multitude of layers; a makeshift backpack and a Dixie Pride cap covering his thick, black hair. A good looking young fellow (he told us he was 37) with a full beard and bright alert eyes - obviously Mexican and obviously very hot and tired.
He stood out in the sun talking to Fred (who was sitting outside reading) and finally asked for a cigarette (but then Fred had to ask me cuz he doesn't smoke anymore and they are MY cigarettes) so I came out of the motorhome to visit.
Juan sat and told us stories for about an hour: how he worked up in
Washington and Oregon picking apples and peaches; how, after he married his girlfriend, she changed and they are broke up; he taught us many words in Spanish and finally showed us a picture of his present girlfriend on his cell phone. He said he'd been walking for two day (and I believed him) and was heading back to Mexico. The ironic thing is that he had to sneak into the US but he has to sneak back into Mexico, too. If he let the Border Patrol take him back he would probably spend a couple of months in jail and from the sounds of him, he knows from experience.
Finally after an hour or so, a cup of coffee, Spanish lessons for us, a wet towel to wipe himself down, we told him he should be on his way - we were getting a little concerned he wouldn't leave and we were also concerned that we might get into trouble with the Border authorities.
He had the nicest looking teeth I've seen for a long time.

Talking about the Border Patrol – the Border Patrol is definitely the largest employer in town. The road (Highway 85) from Gila Bend through Ajo and Why to the US/Mexican border at Lukeville is crowded with Border Patrol, Highway Patrol, and Sheriff vehicles travelling back and forth. If they ever managed to construct an effective wall between the two countries – the unemployment here would rise at least 50%.

We’re going to go over to the RV Park (by the casino – on Indian Land) for a couple of days to clean everything out and then head back towards Yuma.