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There is a darker side to life in the desert: snakes and vermin. We have had our share of each in recent weeks. The snakes, while potentially lethal, are probably the lesser of the two evils. There was a time when I killed rattlesnakes that I encountered in the wild but any more I leave them to their vile craft as long as they don’t pose any immediate danger. That’s because their primary prey is our principal pest – rodents.

At Yuma we were pleased to find a camping spot near a tamarisk grove which provided shelter from the wind. Unfortunately, a number of mice were living there also who wasted no time relocating to the innards of our trailer. By the time we discovered them they had gnawed into and crapped on everything in our kitchen. We caught several with sticky traps but at least one hitched a ride with us to Wickenburg.

At Wickenburg we were warned by fellow prospectors of the presence of Mojave Rattlers – a most unsavory species of rattlesnakes with black rings on their tails and two kinds of poison in their fangs. My first day out I crossed paths with one. Since he was miles from our camp I wished him well and walked around him. But the next day we were returning to our trailer and were greeted near our doorstep by another Mojave who seemed to think he owned the place. He was really pissed off. He was rattling like crazy and arched his head up like a cobra ready to strike.

Mice or no mice, he needed to be taught a lesson. One swing from my trusty pickax and he wound up in two pieces and a whole lot more docile.

20140326-121550.jpgMOJAVE RATTLER

After that little encounter, Mary freaked and insisted we get the hell out of there so we packed up and came here, to Lake Mojave.

Back at Wickenburg, in addition to the snakes, we met a colorful couple who share a common interest in gold prospecting. Their names are Andy and Shirley and they have the most elaborate equipment by far that I have yet encountered. They were very friendly and happily showed us their equipment at work and invited us to their camp for a demonstration of one of Shirley’s inventions, a recoverer. Andy packed a six-shooter at all times and spoke pure cowboy. Typical of his “Old-West” manner was the sign on his dry washer that read “Due to the high price of ammunition there will be no warning shots.”

20140326-122439.jpgANDY AT WORK

Since leaving Patagonia, I haven’t had much luck with the gold prospecting. Even though I never recovered substantial amounts of gold there, at least at Patagonia I was getting enough color to keep me going. It really is thrilling to see real gold in the bottom of your pan. Without some color though, it’s hard to keep the enthusiasm necessary to work in the hot sun.

My other recent passions, German and RC flying, have also suffered. We haven’t met any Germans to lure into conversation on the one hand and the charger for the airplane’s battery gave out.

As a consequence, lately I have been opting to take long walks in the desert and listen to audiobooks on my iPod. I load up my little daypack with water and Cliff bars, open my parasol (the weather’s been hot) and head toward some distant point on the horizon. I’m about fifteen hours into a 33-hour biography of Walt Disney currently.

20140326-123341.jpgALL DECKED OUT FOR A STROLL IN THE DESERT

If the weather stays hot, we’ll probably head for southern Utah after a brief visit to Lake Mead. If the weather’s cool, we’ll just stay at Lake Mead until it warms up.

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