Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Desert Cruiser
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Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Post by Desert Cruiser » Sat Aug 08, 2009 7:14 pm

Contest Rules:
(1) Two photos (one is acceptable), nothing larger than 640 X xxx even smaller is better.
(2) Story to go with the photos, both about the same subject. (photo (s) & story)
(3) Keep it short. (see No. 12)
(4) No moderators, or any one that is part of the DUSA team.
(5) No professionals, amateurs only.
(6) Must have something to do with the Desert!
(7) Photos must be your own and not ones you've taken off the internet.
(8) Must be posted on or before Sept 30th -- last day of the contest.
(9) Post your story and photos HERE in this thread, do not start a new topic!
(10) Only one entry per member!
(11) No editing allowed!
(12) Stories should be limited to 1200 words or less!

Post your photo(s) story in this thread below!

Winner will be announced here in this thread.

This thread is for Contest Entries only!

This thread for messages about the contest

It can be about Native Americans, Travel in the desert, Off road adventures, Wildlife stories, or about someplace (or something) special you've encountered in your travels. Your entry will be judged on grammar, spelling, and value of the photos (do they add to the story?).

Now here is what the prize is: This topo program includes the United States and Alaska. It's a DVD and you need a CD/DVD reader to install it on your PC -- it's not Mac compatible.

You only have till Sept 30th at midnight PST!

Note -- you only need a DVD READER to install this program


Last edited by Desert Cruiser on Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Space Cowboy
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The Children of Toana

Post by Space Cowboy » Mon Sep 07, 2009 5:16 am


“Could I set up my tent and sleep outside tonight?”

“Yes!” I bellowed, nearly spilling precious beer.

We had set up camp with our RV at a long abandoned horse stable, across the tracks from the ghost town of Cobre, Nevada. We called it China Camp. In the trash pile we had found the stem of an opium pipe, and bits of plates with calligraphy etched in them. There were underground hovels all around us as well, rough railroad ties for walls and roofs, hidden by sage and years.

The Wife looked over at me, miffed at my enthusiasm before turning back to the progeny.

“If you really want to –“

“Can me too?” Nick asked.

“Me too! Me too!” Kellian chimed in.

I imagined an RV devoid of children, self-imposed exile in Alex’s tent. Be still my heart.

Once Alex had the tent up, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, toys and canteens poured into the three-man tent. No need for an air mattress or cushion. Alex had set his tent in front of the stable. The ground is a pillow of a century’s worth of fluffy horse apples.

After dinner, Alex lit his new electric lantern. No camp fire. The Great Plains is a different kind of desert. Hot, yes, dry, but the sage presses in from all sides, waiting for an errant ember.

The sky to the north turned red, purple, pink, the mountains to the west shrouded in haze. Though the sky was still blue, stars peeked between the scattered clouds.

And all the kids were going to sleep outside in the tent. I sipped my beer contentedly. The sun now truly set, the clouds hinted at thunderstorms. Still, the Taylor Horde huddled around the lantern.

“Anyone want to tell a story?” The Wife asked.

Kellian launched into a narrative about a princess and a witch and ghosts, really quite satisfying from the lips of a five-year old. Twin brother Nick took a stab at it, but with less success.

The Wife then told the story of the Toana children.

Two miles north is the site of a town called Toana. Overlooking the townsite is a graveyard.
Appallingly. the graves here have been robbed. Only three are undisturbed, the final resting places of children.

The Mom told how bandits, hearing of a gold shipment in Toana, had attacked. The parents of the children buried the gold, then hid the children in one of the underground hovels that we were camped in and around that very moment, how the bandits, after killing all the people in Toana, found the children. Thinking the children knew where the gold was, they locked the children in the hole with nothing but a kerosene lantern, and would not let them out until they told the bandits where the gold was. But the children never did, and one by one, starting with the baby, they died of thirst and starvation.

The Sheriff’s posse found the children, and buried them in the graveyard, after the bandits had dug up the graves of all the others, looking for the gold.

And sometimes at night, the children will come out with their lantern, the only thing the bandits let them have down in the dark hole. They come looking for playmates, other children their own age, just to play, nothing more. Just to pretend they’re alive again, not robbed of their futures by the bandits from so long ago, to be happy again, like children should be, at least for a little while.

We stayed up pretty late, but the kids didn’t forget. Mom finished the job later on.

“Do you see a light?” she asked, pointing in the direction of the cemetery. “I thought I saw a lantern swinging…”

The evacuation of the tent was disorderly, loud, punctuated with furtive glances into the darkness past the stable.

The next day The Wife suggested I take the kids to the Toana cemetery. Alex declined to join us, so it was just me and the twins.

“Daddy?” Kellian drawled. “The story Mommy told us, is it true?”

“No,” I answered instantly as I drove. “Your mother pulled it out of thin air, fabricated it from her twisted mind.”

“Bu’k d’e ligh’k –“ Nick started.

“There was no light,” I rebuked as we ascended the hill toward the graveyard. “Your mother placed the idea in your head, and you saw what she wanted you to see.”

“Wha’k hab’en’ d’o d’e bang’iks?” Nick asked. “Did d’e b’oss-ee catch ‘em?”

“There were no bandits. Grave robbers tore up the graves. You’ll see.”

We stopped just outside the battered boot hill. A chain link fence limply marks the yard’s boundaries. Mounds of dirt melt back into the depressions that once held the dead, and bits of rotting wood is everywhere, I assume from coffins.

Only three graves still have tombstones, the Children of Toana. The twins moved across the field, stepping around the short scrub, greasewood, and sage that chokes the cemetery, a blustery wind tugging at all of us. The sky grew cloudy. We walked up to one gated area, the wrought iron fence consumed by the rust. Within this enclosure there are two headstones. Marble lambs curl sedately atop the tablets. “In Memory of JOHNDAVID,” one inscription started. “Son of John and Margaret LEWIS, Born June 15, 1891, Died Dec. 21, 1901” Ten years old. My Alex was eleven.

“What did they die of?” Kellian asked. I sighed.

“Well, sweetheart, diseases, flu, small pox, tuberculosis –“

“No!” my daughter countered. “The bandits killed them!”

“No,” I countered back. “That’s mom’s totally fabricated, completely –

“In Memory of MARY,” the headstone next to John David read. “Dau. Of David & Olive MORGAN. Born Dec. 3 1878, Died February 14, 1880.” A year and two months old.

“Over he’we!” Nick crowed from another fenced patch.

Why did Mary and John David share this yard for eternity? They didn’t have the same family name, they died twenty years apart. I followed my children to the next fenced area, wrought iron decorated with ornate knobs, a lone weathered marble tombstone within.

“In Memory of WILLIE, Son of H. & M. Schodde, born April 26th, 1882, died Sep. 14, 1882.”

Such a gilded grave for a baby. How they must have missed him.

“Are the bandits’ ghosts here?”

I pulled myself back from my reverie and turned toward the twins.

“No,” I said, “No. There are no bandits –“

“Wi’ d’ey come and p’ay now?”

I looked down at Nick.


“D’e Toana chi’d’en.”

“Come and play, Toana Children,” Kellian called through the fence. She wrapped her fingers around the wrought iron and pleaded to Willie’s headstone. “Come and play in the sun. We won’t be afraid. We’ll be your friends.”

“Come and P’ay!” Nick bugled as he ran back to John David and Mary.

“You can come home with us,” Kellian whispered.

I clapped my hands.

“Okay, guys. That’s it! Back to the truck.”

I looked again down the gently sloping mount we stood on, through Junipers toward the track, where Toana, and people, real people, thrived from 1868 to 1906.


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Re: Contest is now OPEN to MEMBERS

Post by CactusGulch » Sat Sep 19, 2009 4:17 pm

When I grow up......
"Sure I know how to rope!"

I always wanted to be a cowboy and live ‘Out West’. Back in 1951 when I was five, my brothers and I would play cowboys and Indians on our grandmother’s 100 acre farm in Harmony, RI. After a hard day playing, we’d watch our favorite TV shows: Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, The Range Rider [and Dick West all-American-boy]. Even Sky King was a cowboy of sorts, wasn’t he?

Then, at some point, I realized that I would have to be a cowgirl rather than a cowboy. Not something I enjoyed knowing, since I could do anything ‘the boys’ could. Why would I have to be the girl and wear those silly skirts? Well, I didn’t. My favorite pants were my ‘farmer pants’ [bib-overalls]. Somehow, that was OK cowboy/girl western wear.

One year for my birthday, I got a pair of really neat black cowboy boots. Yes, I knew I was a girl, but they were my cowboy boots and I wore them all of the time except for school, church, and bed.

I really wanted to have a horse but, that was totally out of the question. We had moved from our grandmother’s farm and besides, who could afford a horse? Certainly not us. I’d have to be satisfied with the occasional visit to Uncle Johnny’s with my cousin and try to catch his horse Molly. We could ride her if we could catch her. Karen and I tried, but it never happened.

I’d have loved to have been able to go to a rodeo. Didn’t know they even existed in RI. A kid from school had a horse and this year, 45 years later, he’s telling me that he went to rodeos! My friend’s family boarded horses on their farm and I’d get an occasional ride if I pestered the boys [yes, more boys] long enough to saddle one up. No, they wouldn’t let me saddle the horse myself.

I still had that fascination with the West even into high school. In art class, my doodles were almost always of a desert scene including a Saguaro [didn’t know its name in those days], a watering hole, and a cow skull. I couldn’t draw a horse, though.

Little did I know that decades later I’d be living in a dusty little Western town in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson. My neighbor has a couple of horses and is going to teach me to ride. That will be a trick in itself because the last attempt at riding a horse I got brushed off when the horse tried to go under a low tree limb knocking me unconscious. Never did get back on again.

And the coolest part about being in Florence???? Every Thanksgiving weekend they put on a parade and rodeo for my birthday. No, kidding; I’m not making this up! One Sunday it was really on my birthday. This is the Jr Parada and Rodeo at Charles Whitlow Rodeo Grounds in Florence just a couple of miles from my “ranch”. It is the world’s oldest children’s rodeo; boys and girls from 5-18 can compete. It is truly amazing to watch these little ones climb on and be one with their horses.
And, have you ever seen those little guys in the bull riding competition? How do they have the nerve to get on those bulls? Granted, they seem to give smaller bulls to the little guys, but they are still bucking bulls. And, just in case you were wondering, they are not waving to their mammas – it’s a rule the rider must have one hand free. Mammas probably looked away from a potential disaster scene, anyway. I surely would have. It was tough enough trying to snap pictures while I was holding my breath.

What better way to relive my childhood dreams while watching these kids live theirs?
Thank you, Florence.

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Re: Contest is now OPEN to MEMBERS

Post by yuccahead » Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:38 am

A Dog Day, One Afternoon

Summer in New Mexico is arid and hot. Too hot to be hiking but that's just what I was doing.
I had been examining a bizarre killing field of scattered bones. Three animals had been killed and eaten here, their bones left in distinct, separate heaps. All of the skulls were missing.
How did three animals die so close together? Why weren't the bones scattered across the landscape?
I spent some time examining and investigating the bonefield hoping to find a clue but the heat was getting intense and it was time to start heading home.
I hiked up a small rise and could see, in the distance, the deep cutbanks of a good sized arroyo, the biggest I had come across out here. I had to go over and take a look.
This landscape is so quiet the only audible sound was the swishing of my boots through the gramma grass as I made my way towards the arroyo. That's when I heard something.
A growl?
Like a dog?
Couldn't be. Not out here.
Another growl. Then another.
And then a bark.
More barking and in an instant three, black, wild dogs lept over the near edge of the cutbank and were making a beeline for me at a full run.

This was certainly an unexpected development. We had moved out here to live a little closer to the natural world and here it was coming straight at me.
The area I lived in, just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was once a 40,000 acre ranch. Sometime in the 1970's it was sold to an east coast developer who then sub-divided the land into 1 and 2 acre lots. Roads were graded, homes were built and now there are 5,000 people living in a rural community.
My house was in the far southwest corner of the old ranch property with a wide arroyo, and hiking trail, behind it. I could follow the arroyo trail to the west and in about a half mile come to the old fenceline that marked the ranch boundary. Beyond the fenceline was wide open state land. Small arroyos snaked their way between low, rolling hills dotted with pinyon and juniper.
On past hikes into these state lands I've found broken pottery, areas of flint chips and occaisonally a bone or two. I've come across grazing pronghorn, coyote and the ubiquitous cottontails and jackrabbits. One July I was hiking on a hot, still morning and heard the sound of wind gusting nearby. I looked around to see a dust devil forming a short distance behind me. It began moving towards me so I planted my feet, shut my eyes and braced myself for the oncoming impact. When it hit it felt like a thousand needles dimpling my skin. The momentary feeling was that it had passed right through my body then it was gone like an ephemeral desert spirit.
On this day I was hiking a little further out to an area I hadn't explored before. I hadn't planned to be gone long, maybe a couple of hours, but I had brought along water and had a camera slung over my shoulder. After more than an hour of walking I noticed, in the distance, some bright white patches on the ground near some pinyon trees. As I hiked towards these white areas it became obvious they were the bones of some good sized animals. Pronghorn? Calves? I didn't know what they were or how they came to die here, so close to each other.
And then the dogs came.

It's really kind of amazing how many thoughts can go through your mind in one or two seconds.
- I just interrupted the afternoon siesta of three hungry dogs.
- Their hearing is incredible.
- The bonefield made sense now.
- Why hadn't I brought a hiking pole?
- Gawd, I'd love to get a photo of this!
- What the hell am I going to do?
Running was out of the question. I wouldn't have had a chance.
I quickly glanced around for a rock, a stick, anything. There was nothing but grass.
I really had only one option and was very quickly running out of time in which to execute it.
I screamed like a little girl.
I jumped up and down, waved my arms and clapped my hands.
Much to my amazement, the lead dog veered off to the left, without hesitation or breaking stride, and circled back. The second dog went right and the last followed the leader to the left and circled around, back towards the arroyo.
I continued with the - now adrenalin inspired - screaming and jumping.
I watched as all three dogs were now running at full speed, away from me, in three different directions to the horizon, disappearing over the hills.
I stopped jumping and eventually stopped screaming. Then, for some reason that seemed silly even at the time, I scanned the landscape around and behind myself to see if anyone had witnessed my ridiculous display and was laughing hysterically.
Thankfully, I didn't see a soul.

Several weeks after my encounter with the dogs I ran into one of my neighbors at the local grocery store. He lived behind me and across the arroyo. There had been a lot of howling, yipping and barking in the arroyo the night before and he mentioned something about the coyote pack making a lot of noise and how they must have made a kill.
"You know," I said, "I don't think they were coyotes. I think that it may be a pack of wild dogs, because..."
"Dogs!" he barked. "No, no, no those aren't dogs. Everybody knows it's the coyotes. I see them all the time. Coyotes eat dogs around here you know. I've lived here for 15 years, there aren't any dogs out there."
He started to walk away before I could finish, apparently through talking to a greenhorn like me.
He was shaking his head and muttering,


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Re: Contest only 1 DAY LEFT!

Post by rockdude » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:19 am

Sure nice to have modern conveniences in the remotes areas of the desert.


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Re: Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Post by Desert Cruiser » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:19 pm

The contest winner is Space Cowboy, for the ingenious use of colloquialisms and the way he presented the story. Interesting reading. The other two also did a great job. Tough decision!

Space Cowboy please email Jim B at and put Desert Contest in the subject line and include your name and address so we can ship you the Topo Program DVD.


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Re: Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Post by yuccahead » Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:11 am

Congratulations Space Cowboy, great job.
Thanks to Desert Cruiser for seeing it through to the finish. Too bad there weren't a few more entries.

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Re: Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Post by Space Cowboy » Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:54 am

Thank you, but I thought we were all toast when Rockdude posted his entry. Brevity and an outhouse.

There should have been more entries. People are always writing about their adventures, why not just enter a contest with them?

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Re: Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Post by Space Cowboy » Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:11 am

Desert Cruiser, Thank you for your kind words, but I went and looked up 'colloquialism', and was ushered along on how to not do it in writing. I'm sorting this out.

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Re: Contest is over - Meet the winner!

Post by CactusGulch » Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:10 am

Space Cowboy:
I really liked your story, but I'm wondering, is it like Dave Barry's quote "I'm not making this up"?

Yuccahead - pretty cool story, too. Phew! You've had some adventures!

I agree with the comment about needing more contestants. This was my first and didn't even know this kind of thing existed.

It's better than just a photo contest [which I've never entered, either] because we get some interesting stories to go along with the pictures.

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