I'm really beginning to fall in love with the desert out here. I've lived near the region before, when I was working in the Rio Grande Valley in Socorro, N.M. about eight years ago. But the southern Arizona desert is absolutely alive with wildlife right now, making it an ideal spot to spend a few days in April.
Many great things emanate from the desert: The pungent creosote during a rainstorm. The sweet smell of the southern Arizona breeze on a clear April day.
A few observations, so far:
• Many folks in rural southern Arizona hate rattlesnakes. The only good rattler is a dead rattler, a theme that was echoed among many I talked to today in the San Pedro Valley.
• The Border Patrol is everywhere here, of course, and they don't mind giving chase nearly as fast as they can along rough dirt roads through Saguaro National Park just outside Tucson.
• Some farmers out here claim to have had encounters with dudes in black Escalades asking about property values as they drive the empty desert east of Tucson. I talked to a farmer today who walks around his San Pedro Valley property packing a pistol. The black Escalades, he says, are part of the Cartel. He's not paranoid, he said, he just wants to be prepared, just in case.
• I'm extremely unaccustomed to sharing a table with a pistol-packing farmer.
• A local radio station ran an ad bashing the Arizona Republic newspaper as a way to attract advertising from nonprofits. Ya can't trust the Republic to cover your fundraiser, the ad said, so come to us with your message, 'cause we'll make sure those damn reporters don't screw things up. Or at least that's my interpretation of the ad. That was my encounter