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COMALK-HAWKIH (THIN BUCKSKIN)
The old Seeneeyawkum
WHEN I was at the Pan-American Fair, at Buffalo, in July, 1901, I one day strolled into the Bazaar and drifted naturally to the section where Indian curios were displayed for sale by J. W. Benham. Behind the counter, as salesman, stood a young Indian, whose frank, intelligent, good-natured face at once attracted me. Finding me interested in Indian art, he courteously invited me behind the counter and spent an hour or more in explaining the mysteries of baskets and blankets.
How small seeds are! From that interview came everything that is in this book.
Several times I repeated my visits to my Indian friend, and when I had left Buffalo I had earned that his name was Edward Hubert Wood, and that he was a full-blooded Pima, educated at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Afterward we came into a pleasant correspondence, and so I came to know that one of my Indian friend's dreams was that he should be the means of the preservation of the ancient tales of his people. He had a grand-uncle, Comalk-Hawk-Kih, or Thin Buckskin, who was a see-nee-yaw-kum, or professional traditionalist, who knew all the ancient stories, but who had no successor, and with whose death the
stories would disappear. He did not feel himself equal to putting these traditions into good English, and so did not quite know what to do.
We discussed this matter in letters; and finally it was decided that I should visit the Gila River Reservation, in Arizona, where the Pimas were, and get the myths from the old seeneeyawkum in person, and that Mr. Wood should return home from Pyramid Lake, Nevada, where he was teaching carpentry to the Pai-utes, and be my host and interpreter.
So, on the morning of July 31st, 1903, I stepped from a train at Casa Grande, Arizona, and found myself in the desert land of which I had so long dreamed. I had expected Mr. Wood to meet me there, but he was not at the station and therefore I took passage with the Irish mail-carrier whose stage was in daily transit between Casa Grande and Sacaton, the Agency village of the Pima Reservation.
We had driven perhaps half the distance, and my Irish friend was beguiling the tedium by an interminable series of highly spiced yarns, calculated to flabbergast the tenderfoot, when my anxious eyes discerned in the distance the oncoming of a neat little open buggy, drawn by two pretty ponies, one of which was a pinto, and in which sat Mr. Wood. Just imagine: It was the last day of July, a blazing morning in the open desert, with the temperature soaring somewhere between 100 and 120 degrees, yet here was my
Indian friend, doubtless to do me honor, arrayed in a "pepper-and-salt" suit, complete with underclothes; vest buttoned up; collar and necktie, goggles and buckskin driving gloves. And this in an open buggy, while the Irishman and I, under our tilt, were stripped to our shirts, with sleeves rolled above elbows, and swigging water, ever and anon, from an enormous canteen swathed in wet flannel to keep it cool. Truly Mr. Wood had not intended that I should take him for an uncivilized Indian, if clothes could give the lie; but the face was the same kindly one of my "Brother Ed," and it did not take me long to greet him and transfer myself to his care.
We came to Sacaton (which Ed said was a Mexican name meaning "much tall grass"--reminding me that Emory, of the "Army of the West," who found the Pimas in 1846, reported finding fine meadows there--but which the Pimas call Tawt-sit-ka, "the Place of Fear and Flight," because of some Apache-caused panic) but we did not stop there, but passed around it, to the Northwest, and on and over the Gila, Akee-mull, The River, as the Pimas affectionately call it, for to them it is as the Nile to Egypt. The famous Gila is not a very imposing stream at any time, and now was no stream at all, but a shallow dry channel, choked with desert dust, or paved with curling flakes of baked mud which cracked like bits of broken pottery under our ponies' feet. But I afterwards many times saw it a turbid
torrent of yellow mud, rushing and foaming from the mountain rains; perilous with quicksand and snag, the roaring of its voice heard over the chapparal for miles to windward.
The Pimas live in villages, each with its sub-chief, and we were bound for the village of Lower San-tan. But in these villages the houses are now seldom aggregated, as in old days of Apache and Yuma war, but scatter out for miles in farm homesteads.
Brother Ed had lately sold his neat farmstead, near Sacaton, and when I came to his home I found he was temporarily living under a vachtoe (pronounce first syllable as if German), or arbor-shed, made of mezquite forks, supporting a flat roof of weeds and brush for shade. Near by he was laying the foundations of a neat little adobe cottage, which was finally completed during my stay.
Ed introduced me to his mother, a matronly Indian woman of perhaps fifty-five, who must have been quite a belle in her day, and whose features were still regular and strong, and his step-father, "Mr. Wells," who deserves more than a passing word from me, for his kindness was unremitting (bless his good-natured, smiling face!) and his solicitude for my comfort constant. These were all the family, for Ed himself was a widower. Fifty yards or so to the northwest were the huts of two old and wretchedly poor Pimas (the man was blind) who had been allowed
to settle there temporarily by Mr. Wood, owing to some difficulty about their own location on their adjoining land. One or two hundred yards in the other direction were two old caw-seens, or storehouses, square structures of a sort of wattlework of poles, weeds and brush, plastered over with adobe and roofed with earth. In one of these I placed my trunk, and on its flat roof I slept, rolled in my blankets, most of the nights of the two months of my stay. I came to know it as "my Arizona Bedstead," and I shall never forget it and its quaint, crooked ladder.
My Indian brother was not slow in shedding his dress-parade garments, and in getting down to the comfort of outing shirt and overalls, neck handkerchief and sombrero. Then I had my first meal with Indians in Arizona. Mrs. Wells, or as I prefer to call her, Sparkling-Soft-Feather (her Indian name) was a good cook of her kind, and gave us a meal of tortillas, frijole beans, peppers (kaw-awl-kull), coffee, and choo-oo-kook or jerked beef. Ed and I were given the dignity of chairs and a table, but the elder Indians squatted on the ground in the good old Pima way, with their dishes on a mat. There were knives and spoons, but no forks, and the usefulness of fingers was not obsolete. A waggish, pale-eyed pup, flabbily deprecative and good-natured, and a big-footed Mexican choo-chool, or chicken, were obtrusively familiar. Neither of the older Indians could speak a word of English,
but chatted and laughed away together in Pima. The hot, soft wind of the desert kissed our faces as we ate, and off in the back ground rose the stately volcanic pile of Cheoff-skaw-mack, the nearest mountain, and all around the horizon other bare volcanic peaks burned into the blue. Sometimes a whirlwind of dust travelled rapidly over the plain, making one ponder what would happen should it gyrate into the vachtoe.
The old woman from the near-by kee slunk by as we ate, going to the well. She wore gah-kai-gey-aht-kum-soosk (literally string-shoes), or sandals, of rawhide, on her feet, and was quite the most wretched-looking hag I ever saw among the Pimas. Her withered body was hung with indescribable rags and her gray hair was a tangled mat. Yet I came to know that that wretched creature had a heart and a good one. She was kind and cheerful, industrious and uncomplaining, and devotion itself to her old blind husband; who did nothing all day long but move out of the travelling sun into the shade, rolling nearly naked in the dust.
After dinner we got our guns and started out to go to the farm of old Thin Buckskin ("William Higgins," if you please!) the seeneeyawkum I had come so far to see. Incidentally we were to shoot some kah-kai-cheu, or plumed quails, and taw-up-pee, or rabbits, for supper.
We found the old man plowing for corn in his field. The strong, friendly grasp he gave my
hand was all that could be desired. Tall, lean, dignified, with a harsh. yet musical voice; keen, intelligent black eyes, and an impressive manner, he was plainly a gentleman and a scholar, even if he could neither read nor write, nor speak a sentence of English.
The next afternoon he came, and under Ed's vachtoe gave me the first installment of the coveted tales. It was slow work. First he would tell Ed a paragraph of tradition, and Ed would translate it to me. Then I would write it down, and then read it aloud to Ed again, getting his corrections. When all was straight, to his satisfaction, we would go on to another paragraph, and so on, till the old man said enough. As these Indians are all Christianized now, and mostly zealous in the faith, I could get no traditions on Sunday. And indeed, when part way thru, this zeal came near balking me altogether. A movement started to stop the recovery of these old heathen tales; the sub-chief had a word with Comalk, who became suddenly too busy to go on with his narrations, and it took increased shekels and the interposition of the Agent, Mr. J. B. Alexander, who was very kind to me, before I could get the wheels started again.
Sometimes the old man came at night, instead of afternoon, and I find this entry in my journal: "Sept. 6.--We sat up till midnight in the old cawseen getting the traditions. It was a wild, strange scene-the old cawseen interior, the mezquite
forks that supported the roof, the poles overhead, and weeds above that, the mud-plastered walls with loop-hole windows; bags, boxes, trunks, ollas, and vahs-hrom granary baskets about. Ed sitting on the ground, against the wall, nodding when I wrote and waking up to interpret; the old man bent forward, both hands out, palms upward, or waving in strange eloquent gestures; his lean, wrinkled features drawn and black eyes gleaming; telling the strange tales in a strange tongue. On an old olla another Indian, Miguel, who came in to listen, and in his hand a gorgeously decorated quee-a-kote, or flute, with which, while I wrote, he would sometimes give us a few wild, plaintive, thrilling bars, weird as an incantation. And finally myself, sitting on a mattress on my trunk, writing, fast as pencil could travel, by the dim light of a lantern hung against a great post at my right. Outside a cold, strong wind, for the first time since I came to Arizona, bright moonlight, and some drifting white clouds telling the last of the storm."
Again, on Sept. 12th: "Traditions, afternoon and until midnight. I shall never forget how the half-moon looked, rising over Vah-kee-woldt-kee, or the Notched Cliffs, toward midnight, while the coyotes laughed a chorus somewhere off toward the Gila, and we sat around, outdoors, in the wind, and heard the old seeneeyawkum tell his weird, incoherent tales of the long ago."
My interpreter was eager and willing, and well-posted
in the meaning of English, and was a man of unusual intelligence and poetry of feeling, but was not well up in grammar, and in the main I had to edit and recast his sentences; yet just as far as possible I have kept his words and the Indian idiom and simplicity of style. Sometimes he would give me a sentence so forceful and poetic, and otherwise faultless, that I have joyfully written it down exactly as received. I admit that in a very few places, where the Indian simplicity and innocence of thought caused an almost Biblical plainness of speech on family matters, I have expurgated and smoothed a little for prudish Caucasian ears, but these changes are few, and mostly unimportant, leaving the meaning unimpaired. And never once was there anything in the spirit of what was told me that revealed foulness of thought. All was grave and serious, as befitted the scriptures of an ancient people.
Occasionally I have added a word or sentence to make the meaning stand out clearer, but otherwise I have taken no liberties with the original.
As a rule the seeneeyawkum told these tales in his own words, but the parts called speeches were learned by heart and repeated literally. These parts gave us much trouble. They were highly poetic, and manifestly mystic, and therefore very difficult to translate with truthfulness to the involved meanings and startling and obscure metaphors. Besides they contained many
archaic words, the meaning of which neither seeneeyawkum nor interpreter now knew, and which they could only translate by guess, or leave out altogether. But we did the best we could.
The stories were also embellished with songs, some of which I had translated. They were chants of from one to four lines each, seldom more than two, many times repeated in varying cadence; weird, somber, thrillingly passionate in places, and by no means unmusical, but, of course, monotonous. I obtained phonograph records of a number, and the translations given are as literal as possible.
As to the meaning of the tales I got small satisfaction. The Indians seemed to have no explanations to offer. They seemed to regard them as fairy tales, but admitted they had once been believed as scriptures.
My own theory came to be that they had been invented, from time to time, by various and successive mah-kais to answer the questions concerning history, phenomena, and the origin of things, which they, as the reputed wisest of the tribe, were continually asked. My chief reason for supposing this is because in almost every tale the hero is a mahkai of some sort. The word mah-kai (now translated doctor, or medicine-man) seems to have been applied in old time to every being capable of exerting magical or supernatural and mysterious power, from the Creator down;
and it is easy to see how such use of the word would apparently establish the divine relationship and bolster the authority of the medicine men, while the charm of the tale would focus attention upon them. The temptation was great and, I think, yielded to.
I doubt if much real history is worked in, or that it is at all reliable.
All over the desert, where irrigation was at all practicable, in the Gila and Salt River valleys, and up to the edge of the mountains, among the beautiful giant cactus and flatbean trees, you will ride your bronco over evidences of a prehistoric race;--old irrigating ditches, lines of stone wall; or low mounds of adobe rising above the grease, wood and cacti, and littered over profusely with bits of broken and painted pottery, broken cornmills and grinders, perhaps showing here and there a stone ax, arrowhead, or other old stone implement. These mounds (vah-ahk-kee is the Pima word for such a ruin) are the heaps caused by the fallen walls of what were once pueblos of stone and clay. In some places there must have been populous cities, and at the famous site of Casa Grande one finds one of the buildings still standing--a really imposing citadel, with walls four or five feet thick, several stories high, and habitable since the historic period.
Now according to these traditions it was the tribes now known as Pimas, Papagoes, Yumas and Maricopas, that invaded the land, from some
mythic underworld, and overthrew the vahahkkees & killed all their inhabitants, and this is the most interesting part of the tales from a historic point of view. Fewkes, and other ethnologists, think the ancestors of the Pimas built the Casa Grande & other vahahkkees, but I doubt this. Is it reasonable to suppose that if a people as intelligent & settled as the Pimas had once evoluted far enough in architecture & fortification to erect such noble citadels and extensive cities as those of Casa Grande & Casa Blanca, that they, while still surrounded by the harassing Apaches, would have descended to contentment with such miserable & indefensible hovels as their present kees and cawseens? To me it is not. They are as industrious as any of the pueblo-building Indians, not otherwise degenerate, and had they once ever builded pueblos I do not think would have abandoned the art. But it is easy to understand that a horde of desert campers, overthrowing a more civilized nation, might never rebuild or copy after its edifices. So far, then, I am inclined to agree with the traditions and disagree with the ethnologists.
But these traditions are evidently very ancient. They appear to me to have originated from the aborigines of this country; people who knew no other. land. Every story is saturated with local color. From the top of Cheoffskawmack, I believe I could have seen almost every place mentioned in the traditions, except the Rio Colorado
[paragraph continues] & the ocean, and the ocean was to them, I believe, little more than a name. They never speak of it with their usual sketchy & graphic detail, and the fact that in the ceremony of purification it is spoken of as a source of drinking water shows they really knew nothing of it. The Indian is too exact in his natural science to speak of salt water as potable. And these stories certainly say that the dwellers in the vahahkkees were the children of Ee-ee-toy, created right here. And that the army that carried out Ee-ee-toy's revenge upon his rebellious people were the children of Juhwerta Mahkai, who had been somewhere else since the flood, but who were also originally created here.
Now, for what it is worth, I will give a theory to reconcile these differences. I assume that their flood was a real event, but a local one, and the greater part of the people destroyed by it. A minority escaped by flight into the desert, and neither they nor their descendants, for many generations, returned to the place where the catastrophe occurred. Another remnant escaped by floating on various objects & climbing mountains. The first were those of whom it is fabled that Juhwerta Mahkai let them escape thru a hole in the earth. These became nomadic, desert dwellers. The second remained in the Gila country, became agricultural & settled in habit, irrigating their land & building pueblos, growing rich, effeminate & inapt at war. At length the
desert fugitives, also grown numerous, and warlike & fierce with the wild, wolf-like existence they had led, and moved by we know not what motives of revenge or greed, returned & swept over the land, in a sudden invasion, like a swarm of locusts; ruthlessly destroying the vahahkees and all who dwelt therein; breaking even the ma-ta-tes & every utensil in their vandal fury; dividing the region thus taken among themselves. According to these traditions the Apaches were already dwellers in the outlying deserts & mountains, and were not affected especially by this invasion.
Is it now unreasonable to suppose that some of the invaders kept up, to a great extent, their old habits of desert wandering (Papagoes for instance), and that others adopted to some extent the agricultural habits of those they had conquered, and yet retained, with slight change, the little brush & mud houses & arbors they had grown accustomed to in their wanderings? These last would be our present Pimas.
If it is considered strange that these adopted the habits, to any extent, of those they supplanted it may be urged that they almost certainly, in conquering the vahahkkee people, spared and married many of the women, and adopted many of the children; this being in accordance with their custom in historic times. And this infusion of the gentler blood may have been very large. And these women would naturally go on,
and would be required by their new husbands to go on, with the agricultural methods to which they were accustomed & would teach them to their new masters. And their children, being wholly or partly of the old stock, would have a natural tendency to the same work, to some extent.
This theory not only explains & agrees with the main parts of the old traditions, but seems confirmed by other things. Thus the Pimas, Papagoes, Quojatas, and the "Rabbit-Eaters" of Mexico, speak about the same language, which would seem to prove them originally the same people. But some have kept the old ways, some have become agricultural, and some are in manners between, and thus have become classed as different tribes. And, judging from the remains, the life of the old vahahkkee dwellers was in many ways like that of the modern Pima, only less primitive.
But the real value of these stories is as folklore, and in their literary merit. They throw a wonderful side-light on the old customs, beliefs and feelings. I consider them ancient, in the main, but do not doubt that in coming down thru many seeneeyawkums they have been much modified by the addition of embellishment, the subtraction of forgetfulness. As proof I adduce the accounting for the origin of the white people, who use pens & ink, in the story of Van-daih. The ancient Pimas knew neither white men, nor
pens, nor ink, therefore this passage is clearly an interpolation by some later narrator, if the story is really ancient, as I suppose it is. In the story of Noo-ee's meeting the sun, the word used by old Comalk, for the sun's weapon, was vai-no-ma-gaht (literally iron-bow) which is the modern Pima's name for the white man's gun, and it was translated as gun by my interpreter. But iron and guns were both unknown to ancient Pimas, therefore this term must have been first used by some seeneeyawkum after the white man came, who thought a gun more appropriate than a bow for the sun's shooting.
How much has been lost by forgetfulness we can never know; but at least I found that the meaning of many ancient words had disappeared, that the mystic meaning of the highly symbolic speeches seemed all gone, and I felt certain that the last part of the Story of the Gambler's War had been lost by forgetting; for it stops short with the preliminary speeches, instead of going on with a detailed account of the battles as does the Story of Paht-ahn-kum's war.
Another proof that these tales were changed by different narrators is afforded by the variants of some of them published by Emory, Grossman, Cook, and other writers about the Pimas.
As to the mystic meaning I can only guess. The mystic number four, so constantly used, probably refers to the four cardinal points, but my Indians seemed not aware of this. In the
stories, West is black, East is white or light, South is blue, North is yellow, and Above is green. Of course the west is black because there night swallows up the sun, and the east is light because it gives the sun, but why south is blue and north is yellow I do not know. But south is the nearest way to the ocean, and as in one story the word ocean seems used in place of south, I infer the blue color was derived from that. And the desert lying north of the ocean may suggest the desert tint, yellow, as the color of the north. As to the sky being green, I find this in my journal: "August 29-Last evening, after sunset, there were the most wonderful sky effects-there was a line of light clouds across the sky, in the west, about half way up to the zenith, and suddenly the white part of these was washed over, as tho by a paint brush, with a strong but delicate pea-green, while under this spread a mist or haze of dainty pink, changing to a rich, delicate mauve. Lasted quarter of an hour or more. Never saw anything like it in nature before." Again, on September 6, I saw nearly the same phenomenon. The green was very strong and vivid, and could not fail to attract an Indian's eye, and something of the sort, I fancy, made him make the strange choice of green for the sky color.
Those who like to compare myths and folktales and ancient scriptures will find a rich field here. And the interesting thing is that these
tales come straight from a line of Indians who could neither read nor write nor speak English, therefore adulteration by white man's literature seems improbable.
As to the literary merit of these tales, after all that is lost by a double interpretation, I consider it still very high. You must come to them as a little child, for they are intensely child-like, and to expect them to be like a white man's narrative is absurd. But they are sketched in such clear, bold lines, with such a sure touch and delicate expressiveness of salient points; there are such close-fitting, shrewd bits of human nature; such real yet startling touches of poetry in metaphor; such fertile and altogether Indian imagination in plot and incident, that the interest never fails. No two stories are alike, and if surprise is a literary charm of high value, and I think it is, then these tales are certainly charming, for they constantly bring surprise.
And the, poetry, in Eeeetoy's speech for example, is so rich and strong; and in such parts as the story of the Nah-vah-choo the mysticism seems to challenge one like a riddle.
When these old tales were told with all proper ceremony and respect, they were told on four successive nights. This could not be in the giving of them to me, for many practical reasons, but I have endeavored to give them that form for my reader and hence the title of my book. But I did not discover how many or what ones were
told on any one night, so my division is arbitrary, and only aims at reasonable equality. The naming, too, of the different stories is try own, for the old man did not appear to have any set names for them. I fancy the old man was rusty and out of practice, and forgot some of the tales in their proper sequence, and brought them in afterward as they recurred to him.. For instance, the story of Tcheu-nas-set Seeven's singing away another chief's wives evidently belongs among the early stories of the vahahkkee people, and before the account of his death, when the vahahkkees were destroyed. But I have given the stories in the order in which they were told to me, leaving all responsibility on the old seeneeyawkum's shoulders.
I lived a little more than two months with these Indians, collecting these stories, enjoying their kindly hospitality, living as they lived, eating their food, riding their ponies, sleeping on their roofs under the splendid Arizona stars.
I shall never forget that day, before I left, when Ed and I saddled our ponies in the early morning and rode twenty milts to the Casa Grande ruins. On the way we crossed the dry bed of the Gila; and passed thru the Agency village of Sacaton and the village of Blackwater; skirting the Maricopa Slaughter mountains, where once some unfortunate Maricopias were waylaid and massacred by a band of Apaches, almost in sight of Sacaton. The Casa Grande ruins are imposing
enough, but sadly belittled in effect by the well-meant roof which the government has erected over them to preserve them. This kills all the poetry and gives them the ludicrous aspect of a museum specimen. Had the old walls been skillfully capped with a waterproof cement and the walls coated with some weatherproof and transparent wash, all necessary security could have been effected with perhaps less expense than this absurd roof, and all the romance of impression preserved. Let us hope the genial and manly young custodian, Mr. Frank Pinckly, to whose warm-hearted hospitality and that of his parents I owe grateful thanks, will consider this suggestion favorably and earn the blessing of future travellers. A storm broke on us while we were at the ruins, and riding home that evening we found the Gila flooded. I shall always remember how its muddy torrent looked to me, plunging along at my feet, where that morning I had crossed dry shod; its yellow waves shot with blood-red reflections from the last colors of sunset.
"You better see that Pinto's cinch is tight, or she may try to get you off in the river," warned Ed, in my ear, as he jumped off to cinch. up "Georgie."
It was always exciting to me to ford the treacherous Gila, the tawny waters were so sweeping, and the ponies plunged so when their feet felt the quicksands, but we got across all right, and galloped home on the slippery, muddy roads.
When I left these people it was with a genuine regard for their virtues. I found them in the main kind, honest, simple-minded, industrious, surprisingly clean, considering their obstacles of scant water and ever-present dust., and the calmest tempered people I have ever known.
I remember the second day of my stay we were going to ride to the Casa Blanca ruins. In watering the ponies at the well, "Georgie's" loosened saddle turned and swung under his belly. Such bucking and frantic kicking as that half-broken colt indulged in for a few moments would have made a congress of cow-boys applaud, and when it was over the beautiful colt stood exhausted on the far side of a twenty acre field, with the saddle fragments somewhere between. Now to poor Indians the loss of a saddle is not small, and I fancy most frontiersmen, under the provocation, would have made the air blue with oaths, but Ed only sadly said: "I'm afraid that spoils Georgie," and the stepfather laughed and started patiently out on the trail of the colt "to save the pieces," while the mother took one of her bowl-shaped Pima baskets, with beans in it, and coaxed the colt till she caught him. Then he was patted and soothed and fed with sugar, the saddle patched up and replaced, and we rode eighteen miles that day and never another mishap. And from first to last never a harsh or complaining word.
I at no time encountered a beggar among the Pimas,
and tho they were mostly very poor I had not a pin's worth stolen. I never heard an oath, or saw a brutal or violent act, or a child slapped or scolded, or a woman treated with disrespect or tyranny, nor any drunkenness or cruelty to animals. Perhaps I was especially fortunate, but I can only speak of what I saw. Their self-respect and serenity continually aroused my admiration.
I must say that they appeared to me to excel any average white neighborhood in good behavior.
It is a strange land, that in which the Pimas dwell; a desert overgrown with strange soft-tinted weeds, "salt weeds," pink, red, green, gray, blue, purple; the rich-green yellow-flowering greasewood; odd cacti, and all manner of thornbearing bushes. The soil is inexhaustibly rich, were there water enough, but the white people, settling above the Indians, on the Gila, have so withdrawn the water that crop failures from lack of sufficient irrigation are the rule, now, instead of the exception, and the once ever-flowing Gila is more often a dry channel, as sun-baked as the desert around it.
All around their valley, and rising here and there from the plain, are low volcanic peaks, mere dead masses of rock except where in places a giant cactus stands candelabra-like among the slopes of stone. About the feet of these mountains, and along the channels where the torrents rush down in times of rain, are weird forests of
desert growths, mesquite, cat-claw, flat-beans, screw-beans, greasewood, giant-cactus, cane-cactus, white-cactus, cholla-cactus, and a host of others, almost everything bristling with innumerable thorns.
On this strange pasture of weed and thorn the Indian's ponies & his few cattle graze.
Here in summer the sun beats down till the mercury registers 118 to 120 degrees in the shade, and dust storms & dust whirlwinds travel over the burning plain.