It is 45 degrees at dawn when I check the herd at the Mason Pastures. Later in the day it’s 103 degrees where we check that herd up on the mesas and arroyos on range, in preparation for bringing those bulls, heifers, cows and calves down for the two-day overland drive south to their summer home on the Mason fields. Is it hot? I don’t know. Dry? oh yes: humidity, 6%. A month after the first “Cactus Dodger” cicada was heard up here, the hot air shakes and whines and quivers with their high metallic and wiry song. I love them; Loompy does not. As we ride along, one goes off with no warning of course on the tip of a creosote bush right next to his muzzle, and he freaks. I don’t think he can tell the difference between this and the sound that rattlesnake that bit him on the face must’ve made as it injected the venom that caused Loompy’s lower lip to droop permanently. Maybe I do wish the cicada opera season were done, though that will come of its own within three or four weeks. It seems right that I’ve come to be partners with a horse who made it through the bite of a rattlesnake: I have, too, though I’d had only one fang while he got a complete pair. (After we get back to El Potrero and have unsaddled and turned out the horses, I go to climb up into the big pickup and go home when a wild rattle comes from the pocket of the door, todos los santos! a rattlesnake there?? no–a Cactus Dodger cicada that found its way into the hole and set off a buzzing loudly funneled by the shape of that pocket. Took a while for my heart rate to slow.
And a month after their first ivory and white huge blossoms opened, some Saguaro are still studded with blooms, while many others never had any this year. In general, the ones on the ridge tops were flower-less, the ones almost at the bottoms of slopes at the arroyos and canyons might have plenty, a reflection of water regime I’d guess. There were bald exceptions to this, though. As a very good wine is to the palette, so the Saguaro flowers please the eye no matter how many times seen. We admire each one as we ride by, just as we did last year. I’m grateful Loompy no longer pushes my now-always-chap-covered thigh into all the spiky thorns with which are upholstered the trunks of the really big, old cactus we mosey along under. I keep in mind my gratitude for being able to come to this kind of place and see those pretty Saguaro flowers when later a tall dust devil draws its tail through a cobble of dried cowpies, the vortex changes color almost imperceptibly and drops on us and our horses a fine coating of fecal dust: a new flavor of Shake-and-Bake, yay! “And I helped!” said God.