Desert Life

I wrote this piece a few months ago but only now have gotten around to posting it. December has arrived and the little frogs mentioned below are now gone with the advent of snow and 40-degree temperatures. I will keep you all updated as soon as they return, which should be some time in the Spring…

Snoozing FrogThe first day that we arrived in Utah the owner of our rental house introduced us to several “pets” that had adopted the place, in the form of several greenish-gray frogs that snooze in the shade of the front windows during the blazing afternoon. I sent a picture of them to Mom, who thought they looked “spooky”, mostly due to the military gray. It’s not their fault; the frogs (which I think are desert forms of spring peepers) seem to be able to change their color to match the background, and as they are mostly nighttime creatures, they spend most of the day sleeping, and doing everything they can to look like shiny river rocks.

In the morning the air was clear, dry and (slightly) cool 70’s. The house had not been inhabited for some time, and I suspect that the local children had gotten used to the idea of exploring the grounds around the place in the morning, riding skateboards on the front porch and so on. In my college days we called the kids that would poke around campus “Urchins”. This happened enough in the first few days of our arrival that I made a point to open the door when they passed through and say hi. I didn’t really mind their wandering around, but worried that they would turn on the gas barbeque in the back without lighting it. I also didn’t want them bothering the frogs, who must be very tired after hopping and chirping around the yard all night and the last thing they need is to be pestered by some eight year old boys, eager to conduct scientific experiments.

The boys do seem to have a scientific bent around here. I was on my way to our mailbox down the street when a boy who could not have been more than 7 called over to me from across the street. He was holding aloft a large rock, as if it was a tropy. “Look at this piece of petrified wood I found!” he announced. “Found it on the ridge over there. Must be over three pounds!”. I congratulated him on his find and he wandered on down the street, I assume, to alert the media.

By noontime it has cranked up to 100 plus, and though still dry it is blazing and not even mad dogs or Englishmen (let alone urchins) would make an appearance in this noonday sun to join the armored beetles, praying mantis and various lizards, doing pushups on the rocks in the back yard. Around 5 pm I would venture out to the mailboxes down the street to check the mail. It is very peaceful.

The town next to La Verkin is called “Hurricane”. This is pronounced “Hurrahcun”, and rhymes with GW Bush’s “Amurahcun”. I have long held the theory that locals mispronounce their town’s name so that they can easily spot outsiders. In any case, Hurricane lives up to its name, and in the afternoons the winds kick up something fierce, sometimes getting up to 60 mph, which is indeed Hurrahcun force. This is followed soon after by the occasional thunderstorm. I realized soon that my investment in barbeque grill covers was sadly lacking, as it only took a fews days of the afternoon sirrocco to reduce my vinyl cover to shreds. I’ve ordered a much more substantial cloth-lined and reinforced cover since then.

photo_fldsWe are definitely no longer in Connecticut — or California for that matter. From the Slice-o-Life Department: while walking through the Home Depot the other day, I spotted a couple of fundamentalist Mormon women. They are pretty easy to spot, with their signature light-blue or white floor-length prairie dresses (right out of the 1800’s), and swept-back hairstyles (a few FLDS kids heading back to their truck are shown at right). The wives sharing the same husbands usually have matching outfits, to distinguish themselves from those having different husbands. To be fair, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether some of them are co-wives or daughters; this may be by design.,, In any case there were two of them in matching dresses, walking along the herb plants of the garden section of the Home Depot. Over the past month I have begun to accept this as a common sight, and no longer do a double-take when I encounter them in the next aisle of the grocery store. In this case, however, what was notable was the younger of the two wives: she was pushing their cart, and in her ears she was wearing a pair of ear-buds, listening to music on her iPod.

Welcome to the twenty-first century.

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