A day to ride the range in air heavy and summer lush, in the light and cool breeze is the promise of rich downpours to swirl up from the Sierra Madre just over our horizon. Swirling up from below us on our horses already is the perfume of the large yellow nodding bells of Cuernitos, Proboscidea althaeifolia, one of the two species here that forms those whimsical fruits we call Devil’s Claw. This is one of the cleanest, richest fragrances of a flower I have ever come on in the world, though but for the level of its intensity, it would be indistinguishable from that of its relative the Paulownia tree of the temperate zone. It is fascinating also that the flowers of this Proboscidea and those of the Paulownia are also nearly identical in size and shape, but are opposites in color–the former, yellow, the latter, pale lavendar. It is a joy to ride on the desert when the Cuernitos is in bloom, as much for what you smell as for what you see, and this year with all its moisture that is especially so.
A totally blue sky arches over us during most of our ride, and then forms a little cloud over the peak of Mt. Lemmon, then another over the peak of The Rincon. By the late afternoon when I go to the pastures to check over things with the herd, those two little clouds have grown and fit themselves together, and grown rapidly then into a monster thunderstorm cell. It’s a Monsoon agate evening sky, the leaf blades of Barnyard Grass under the pink glow of the air above their wide meadows are the lurid color of lime popsicles, lit by the last of a sun about to be swallowed by a black wall of clouds. Swallows are flying, pobrecito Red-tailed Hawk is trying to ditch a kingbird who is flying just above it and delivering pecking blows to the bigger bird’s back, a pair of Great Horned Owls calls back and forth, mosquitoes bite my ears and forehead, a couple of nighthawks are scooping up bugs overhead.
Two nighthawks and a bat sip at the water, and then comes an early night.