Everything Here Is Trying to Kill You
August 11, 2020 • Landers, Calif.
I ran into a neighbor in my newly adopted part-time home in the Mojave Desert, and like me, he was from somewhere else (Glendale) and had his own unique impressions of life in the high desert. There’s some tension among longtime residents about the newcomers like neighbor Mike and me, and it’s a bummer that the forces of gentrification are operating in rural areas as much as they are in the metropolis, but that’s another topic for another time.
Mike was talking about the stuff he’d planted in his yard, then remembered an important truism of the desert, explaining that, “oh, yeah—everything here is trying to kill you.” He meant that the flora protects itself well. Cacti have needles that can lodge in your shoes, or worse, your skin, so tenaciously that you need pliers to extract them. There’s a species of acacia called cat’s claw, and if you brush by it too closely, the experience is exactly like tangling with an angry feline—there will be blood. Even some grassy plants that grow in spring and dry out by summer, and look much like straw or hay, are covered with tiny prickles that you’ll be pulling out of your palm for the rest of the day if you try to pick one up.
Mason Braithwaite spent some time in the high desert a few years ago in The Desert Rats, and I’m thinking of sending him back to the Mojave for a future paranormal adventure. Giant Rock, a natural feature near Landers that looks exactly like its name would have you imagine, was the sight of UFO conventions from the 1950s to the 1970s; perhaps Mason will spend some time there trying to sort out the aliens. Neighbor Mike’s insights will definitely inform that upcoming novel.