Today, Darcie and I went to Saint Therese Mission, near Tecopa, out on the border of Nevada and California.
Its exact location is a little weird. Itʼs in one of those slices of the desert that was platted out for homesteading years ago, but ended up only being sparsely populated with a couple of trailer houses.
Itʼs my understanding that this church is popular with the Vietnamese community in Las Vegas. But itʼs a long way to drive for Sunday services.
I like it here. Itʼs quiet. It pays homage to some of Darcieʼs favorite saints. And it has top-notch bathrooms.
Darcie and I spent a peaceful day at China Ranch. Lots of wildlife running around, getting ready for the Summer ahead.
China Ranch is a place where an earthquake opened up a big crack in the desert letting the usually underground Amargosa River see the light of day for about a half mile. In the 1930ʼs someone established a date farm there, and you can get fresh date bread and date shakes at the little farm stand, and go for long walks hours away from anyone else. Itʼs just a nice place to get out of our heads for a while.
The crayfish donʼt belong here. Like bullfrogs, they were planted by settlers who though they might be useful for food. Unfortunately, theyʼre the reason the entire Pahrump pupfish population has to live in a concrete fish prison out in Corn Creek. Unlike the Amargosa dace and Devilʼs Hole pupfish, they didnʼt evolve in a hot spring, so in the winter they just kind of get sluggish and stop moving. Itʼs like aquatic hibernation. Since they canʼt flee, they are easy snacks for the big crayfish that were brought in from Louisiana a hundred years ago.
People ruin things. But I live in a place where several types of creatures have learned that not only are chihuahuas tasty, theyʼre slow, stupid, and frequently found behind doggie doors. Doggie doors are very common here. Sometimes nature gets even, and it makes the newspaper.
I like toads. I always have. But I donʼt know if Iʼm supposed to like this toad, or not.
Itʼs a California Toad, a subspecies of the Western Toad. The problem is that itʼs living on the edge of a very small spring that is the only home of the hyper-endangered Amargosa Dace, a type of pupfish.
The pupfish only live in this one little hole; nowhere else on earth. The toads live all over the West, from the Rockies to Alaska to Mexico.
In centuries past, settlers populated the isolated springs and oases of the Mojave Desert with frogs, in order to use them for food. Tiny, slimy, amphibious cattle. In doing so, they wiped out many populations of endangered fish.
Thatʼs why this toad may not belong here. He may be a descendant of hungry and industrious settlers of the 1800ʼs. Or he may have been here all along, since this is still California Toad territory.
Iʼd ask someone, but these are COVID times, so none of the nearby ranger stations are manned.
You think youʼre a bad ass? You think youʼre hard core? You ainʼt nothinʼ compared to the burros of the American West.
The lesser-traveled parts of this nation are infested with feral burros. They were brought out here to help the miners. When the miners went away, they left their companions behind. Itʼs all very sad.
Today, there are far more burros than the sparse desert environment can support, and many of them suffer. The federal government spends your tax dollars doing what it can to try to keep the population down, but a burroʼs gotta burro. Every now and again, there is a roundup of feral burros, much to the howls of online environmentalist poseurs who have only seen them on the internet, have never actually studied them in person, and donʼt have a better solution.
The captured burros are offered for adoption, but just like with humans, there are never enough homes for all of those who need one. Unlike humans, some of the adopted burros end up in illegal slaughterhouses, and thence as food for people and and pets in Asia, and rumor has it — France.
These burros are in the town of Beatty, Nevada. Theyʼre so used to being around people, and not giving fuck one what anyone thinks of them that they regularly block traffic, stare in windows, and generally make a comic nuisance of themselves.
They are the unofficial mascots of Beatty, and there have been some efforts to make them a tourist attraction. But tourists generally donʼt cuddle up to attractions that take a dump wherever they like.
I think one of the reasons that people like the ghost town of Rhyolite is because it balances itself in that special state of decay where you can see that itʼs all going to be dust soon, but thereʼs enough left that you can imagine slices of what it used to be when thousands of people lived here and it was called “The Chicago of the West.”
Rhyolite used to have bars, hotels, gold mines, and several competing newspapers. Today, it only has one resident. But that may change soon. A Canadian company is doing some work to determine if itʼs worth re-opening the old gold mines again. If it happens, it would be really interesting to see if the town comes back, or if its designation as a quasi-state park will make that impossible.