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DESERT

numerous.

for hundreds of miles grows no blade of grass, versity as a part of its endowment which is still or many other spots which are apparently a ungraced by its favor. It laughs at the watermockery of nature.

less miles upon which the United States inThe clouds are the most wonderful manifes- vites settlement under the homestead laws; it tations of the desert heavens. The forms of defies those who would take the rich gold from vaporous atmosphere are

In the the placers of the deserts of Sonora and Arimorning they fill the valleys with snow white zona, where the gold would remain forever vapor, which at midday rises and gathers into without its precious favor. solitary fluffs sailing majestically along like Like the Sahara, the Great American Desgreat icebergs in a sea of azure ether, or again ert is superficially waterless. Its plains are breaking into small bunches like flocks of sheep. usually barren of surface water save for an exFrequently from one little handful of cloud sur- ceptional saline lagoon. A few brooks, streams, rounded by golden sunshine, a ribboned spray of or rivers arise within its larger mountain ranges, rainfall may be seen dropping upon some lonely but no water ever runs off it's surface to the sea. spot. Toward night they gather in rolling Even the great floods of water which sometimes banks and settle upon the mountain tops, rap- burst from an erratic cloud with devastating turously lingering near the horizon, where they effect are rapidly swallowed up by the sands are painted by the setting sun in floods of or evaporated by sun and wind. It is true that glorious gold and olet.

there are two long rivers comparable to the Nile Sometimes showers freshen the desert. These of the Sahara -- the Colorado and the Rio are occasionally of sufficient volume to dampen Grande — which rise in the higher forested the earth and vegetation, and an awakening of mountainous border lands and flow into and life ensues which is most remarkable. From across the deserts like great canals, without every shrub and cactus comes a burst of song gathering contributary drainage from them, losfrom birds ordinarily unnoticed. Rabbits creep ing volume in fact from absorption and evaporaout and browse, coyotes give tongue in chase of tion in the desert portions of their courses. prey. Vegetation seems to awaken instantane- These are rivers born of the mountains, howously, plants which before were dry and dust- ever, and not of the deserts. covered unfold into broad areas of vivid green. Upon the area of the Great American Desert Coriaceous ferns, ordinarily lying like dead the maximum rainfall is less than 15 inches per leaves among the stones, unroll and wave their annum, and does not average more than 10 fronds in the freshened air. From the incon- inches. In places such as Death Valley and the spicuous flowers of the many thorny shrubs of Yuma Desert it is less than five inches, these the acacia and yucca tribe the air is laden with two spots being perhaps the driest in the known perfume.

world. Deducting from this maximum of 15 It would seem paradoxical to speak of the inches 60 per cent of its effectiveness, due to loss desert in bloom, but the human senses of sight through evaporation, the actual rain value is and smell can be regaled by no more pleasant only six inches per annum, less than the experience than the delicate odors and sweeps of amount falling in the two crop-growing months color that sometimes follow an unusual rain- of May and June in the eastern States, and less fall. Sweeter than the dewy jessamine is the than one half the quantity that fell in Septemscent of the yellow catsclaw; more delicate than ber 1901 in a single 24 hours at Galveston, mignonette is the panule of the mesquite. Texas. To this great natural fact the desert is

Like a dainty pencil line drawn across the resigned, that within its area the land with a sheet of desert, the trails may be seen for miles few exceptions, not amounting to 3 per cent, is and miles. These, originally made by the wild permanently and hopelessly dry, and even the Comanche and Apache, lead in long tangents most sanguine cannot refute this fact. from water-hole to water-hole, cutting paths of Before the railways came, the Great Amerideep-worn ruts. Were it not for these trails

can Desert was a most primitive region. In connecting the various water places the desert 1880 it was inhabited by a population about as probably would be impassable, for the priceless dense as that of the Sahara now, but practically water is usually concealed in spots where least in the same state of culture; and the mission suspected. These water-holes were discovered bells rang over the same civilization that existed by the aborigines long before the ranchman and in 1528. The inhabitants practised irrigation, settler came or the army wagons and cavalry agriculture, and architecture very much like that troops deepened the impress of the trails. of the Egyptians of to-day, and constructed What stories of death and pain, thirst and star. dwellings of unburnt brick and stone. The vation could be told by these old trails! We know that as early as 1528 many of them existed, of a kind upon which the white man could not

aborigine found sustenance on the desert, but for in that year Cabeza de Vaca and his three well exist. Maize was his staple of diet. This shipwrecked survivors of the Navaez expedition with the tunas (fruit of the prickly pear) and followed these paths from water-hole to waterhole across our southern border, and that mod- the roots of various yuccaceous plants, suppleern commerce and migration still use these, the mented by a few wild animals, provided an abooldest and most stable monuments of the 'des- riginal diet pure and simple. ert.

It was no great feat for the Spaniard who In the desert water is king. Without its already possessed an Old-World knowledge of countenance priceless ore is but as oss, and desert craft to amalgamate with the aborigines. fertile soils are as worthless ashes. Upon the He gave to them a few domestic animals (the desert plains many men and cattle have died for goat and the burro, which can live where other the want of a drink of water, which millions animals starve). He also gave to them the could not buy. Water is not only the king of Catholic religion and the Spanish language. For the desert, but its despot. It smiles at the mil- nearly 400 years the desert population made no lions of acres of land owned by a certain uni- progress in industrial civilization beyond adopt

DESERT

ing the wooden plow and the cumbersome hardly a desert in which the experiment has been wheeled cart known as the carretta.

tried where waters have not been found within In Mexico the old desert cities and country 2,000 feet of the surface. Though not often sufestates were practically in the same status of civ- ficient for agriculture, enough has usually been ilization that existed in the 1st century after dis- found to afford a supply for cattle, railroads, and covery. The cities had no commerce except by mines. caravan; the estates were great feudal districts Underground water has usually first been with their fortified haciendas, to which all the found by the railway companies. When the surrounding people were attached as fiefs. For track was first pushed across the desert water 200 miles along either side of the international was brought from the rear in tank cars; but border in Mexico and our own desert country when the track was completed water was bored the unconquered Apache spread devastation for in the desert itself. The engineers have had from the Pecos to the Colorado; and the only at command a mechanical appliance second only in white men there were the soldiers at scattered importance to the locomotive, and one which and lonely outposts, or "bad men” endeavoring in the desert usually goes side by side with it

. to hide from civilization, and hardly better than This is the mechanical drill. At great expense the Apaches in instincts or action. Here and they bored in many places. The existence of there in the United States at the widely dis- underground water beneath any particular area persed water-holes were a few nomadic ranch- having once been demonstrated by the railroad men who owned cattle of primitive breed for company, individuals, of course, usually repeated which there were no purchasers, except the army the experiment. Three notable triumphs of the ,and beef contractors. Some mines there were mechanical drill over nature are the flowing also, but these were merely those with easily wells of the Salton Desert, the flowing well at reducible ores and limited in depth by the dis- Benson and a supply of 700,000 gallons a day tance which a man could dig in solid rock from the deep wells on the Mesa at El Paso. without machines or powder, and from which Each of these supplies of water was obtained burdens could be carried on the human back. In from localities which superficially were hopeUtah alone had the white man attained a foot-, lessly dry. hold, but the Mormons were men who sought Several of the largest mines in the desert dethe desert to escape civilization, with the am- pend almost entirely upon the water transbition of reverting to a culture as purely bar- ported on cars. The Copper Queen runs its vast baric as that of Abraham and his descendants smelters and machinery chiefly by water thus who now live in the Sahara.

obtained, while the famous Sierra Mojada, of With the advent of the railroads the modern Coahuila, with its population of 5,000 people, conquest of the desert began. It was first awak- has not a drop of water except that brought ened from its centuries of lethargy by the whis- in tanks a distance of 125 miles. Yet these tle of the locomotive in the eighties. In the two mines annually return millions of profit. Great American Desert in the United States and But the sterile and hopeless-looking soil of Mexico there are now more than 9,000 miles of the desert, when artificially watered, is apparrailway. But for the railroad the Great Ameri- ently more fertile than that region where can Desert would to-day be as unproductive as rainfall is abundant. There is no nobler specthe Sahara, and still populated, like the Sahara, tacle than a dreary waste converted into an by people who exist without division of labor, emerald oasis by water artificially applied, and the use of mechanical appliances or extra-terri- in the desert may be seen some of the most torial commerce. The first railways to be con- profitable and skilful agriculture in the world. structed were designed merely as highways be- The wheat fields of Utah and Sonora, the great tween the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards. No cottori farms of Coahuila, the alfalfa valleys of thought of revenue from the desert itself was the Rio Grande and the orchards of California anticipated. Next came a great longitudinal are all inspiriting examples. The transformation line following the ancient trails of the Aztec made in the desert where irrigation has been from Mexico to Santa Fé. Mining and popula- possible is marvelous, and in one instance - in tion soon followed these trunk lines, which are Southern California — has resulted in the denow extending out even into the utmost recesses velopment of communities of great wealth and of the desert, and these feeders — built or in culture, where the ideals of perfect conditions process of construction - will soon equal the for existence are as nearly attained as possible. aggregate of mileage of the original trunk lines. A word of caution must be written, however, From the Pecos in Texas to California, a dis- against an overestimate of the agricultural catance of 1,500 miles, the route of the Southern pacities of the desert. It is necessary artificially Pacific followed a belt of country devoid of to collect the precipitation over large areas, water except occasionally in the Rio Grande. and to concentrate it upon smaller areas by Not a herd of cattle, a modern house, a farm or impounds and canals. In this manner at least a mine existed along this desert stretch. Nor 25 acres must be set aside as unproductive would they exist to-day had it not been for the catchment areas for every one that may be culconstruction of this railway. Now its course is tivated. All rain water that falls

upon

the marked by many prosperous embryo cities and desert or upon its neighboring mountain, if it villages.

could be protected and carefully preserved, Notwithstanding the apparent scarcity of would not irrigate 5 per cent of the great desert water, one of the most remarkable features of area. The efficiency of the rain of the Great the American Desert is that water has been Desert region for agricultural purposes is still secured, often in apparently impossible places, further diminished owing to the season in which and in quantities which have made possible the it falls — June to October - too late for the existence of cities and industries. Like the des- growing crops, the planting and growing months erts of the Sahara and Asia, those of America of spring and early summer being dry. From a have a supply of underground water; there is practical standpoint it is doubtful if even i per

DESERT

cent of the vast area can ever be profitably wealth per annum. Not only have new mines tilled by irrigation. The underground water been opened and equipped, but many of the hissupply, too, is entirely insufficient for extensive toric old mines of Mexico, abandoned because agricultural uses, even when it is free from in- the limit of hand mining had been reached, have jurious salts; and the desert people, after every been re-opened with the aid of the steam-hoist possible experiment, have long since ceased to and air-drill, and to-day are more productive anticipate any material supply for irrigation than ever. from this source.

The Great American Desert yields annually From whatever point of view the problem is over $100,000,000 worth of metals-chiefly silapproached, the sober conclusions cannot be ver, copper and gold. This represents at 10 per avoided that the desert as an agricultural country cent a productive capital of $1,000,000,000. In has its limitations. The only apparent way in addition to the paying mines, as large an investwhich the area of irrigable lands can be seriously ment is now being made in mine development increased is by the construction of reservoirs to and preparation for the coming of lines of railsave the run-off of the forested mountains, espe way which are everywhere reaching out to new cially that portion of the desert adjacent to the mining fields. There is every possible reason to California, Utah and Mexican sierras. Even expect that the mineral output of the desert will when this is accomplished there will still be left be quadrupled the next decade. Mexico's proa vast area of desert. Hence the agricultural duction of gold has increased from $4,000,000, product of the desert will never be large, and in 1897, to $22,371,200, in 1908; Arizona and this product with the exception of the fruits of New Mexico produced $2,950,000 worth of gold Southern California will contribute but little in 1909. Silver, instead of being a dead metal, for export, and will never be sufficient to supply is being mined with renewed activity and imthe needs of its own population. The Great proved appliances. The American Great Desert Desert is and will continue to be a profitable yields about $8,000,000 from the United States, market for the consumption of the fresh and and $34,000,000 from Mexico. preserved food products and forage of the ocean The smelting interests are not the least imseaboards and Middle West.

portant adjuncts of the mining industry, and Notwithstanding the scarcity of water and each smelter gives employment to many workforage the pastoral interests of the desert are ingmen. The American Smelting and Refining considerable. Upon the stony foothills and in Company, with its capital of $80,000,000, has the mountain cañons the scant herbage and great central plants in the desert at El Paso, grass supply nutritious foods for many ani. Aguas Calientes and Monterey. Many of the mals, and there are numerous cattle ranches, mines like Boleo, the Copper Queen, the United especially in the Chihuahua province, which are Verde and Greene Consolidated have their own profitable and thriving. Statistics are wanting smelting works. and hence exact figures cannot be given, but the Many mineral districts of the desert still lie live-stock values of the desert amount to several unproductive for want of transportation. This million dollars, exceeding the agricultural prod. is especially true of the great copper, gold and ucts many fold.

coal fields of the Pacific States of Mexico, while So far as even the present agriculture in the the rugged western Sierra Madre contain veins desert is concerned, it would not exist were it of ore awaiting transportation facilities which not that its products were consumed at good will furnish many new and important mines. prices by the people engaged in mining and The total population of the Great American transportation. One good mining camp, a few Desert in 1900 was about 1,500,000 people or 1.5 acres in extent - and there are many of these - to the square mile, or twice as many to the gives employment and remuneration to more square mile as the Sahara. Of this total populapeople than whole countries of arid farming tion in the United States, 300,000 are in southern lands. Previous to the introduction of the rail- California, leaving less than one person to every way, mining in the desert was limited to simple two square miles in the remainder of the terriprocesses and products. Without mechanical tory. Of the remaining 700,000 people in the drills and hoists only moderate depths could American 'portion of the desert, at least four be reached, and limited quantities of ore taken fifths are in cities, towns and mining camps. out and treated. Consequently the deeper, larger These people in their own picturesque language and richer ore bodies remained untouched. Sil- are by profession “prospectors.". punchers," ver and gold were alone considered, and the (nesters,)* «miners," lungers," "Mexicans) and mines which now yield over $50,000,000 an- "promoters.” In plainer English, mineral seeknually of copper could not be touched. ers, cattle men, irrigator-farmers, miners, rail

On the California trail near Pearce, Arizona, road employees, health-seeking consumptives and for 40 years the overland pioneers built their laboring Indians, who have abandoned the camp-fires against a ledge of quartz. Since the blanket” caste, and men who serve as intermerailway came these rocks are being crushed for diaries between the latent wealth of the desert the gold they contain at one of the most com- and the ready cash of the East. As a whole they plete and profitable mills in America. The huge are an energetic lot. In the United States they stamps and other machines were brought from consist chiefly of two classes, the Caucasian, New York, Pittsburg, Chicago and Denver; the whose ingenious brain conceives and develops inoil for fuel to run them, from California; the dustries and the Mexican (Indian) peasant, who food for the village of over a thousand people does most of the manual labor. Across the line living in homes built of Texas lumber is all in Mexico the same conditions exist, except that brought in from the great canning, packing, and the American finds a ready co-operator and comfruit-giving sections of the country.

ng panion in the higher caste of Mexican citizens. A dozen other places in the desert, each with The mainsprings of the desert are the hustits modern hoists, smelters, converters and elec- ling western American miners and cattlemen. tric appliances, are producing millions of mineral If any of our readers should still retain in his

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