Friday, October 08, 2010

Desert sojourn, day 29

Local news accounts are full of the story of the hiker from Los Angeles who was lost in the national park for sex days before being found. The story seems to be everywhere, so it's no wonder it's on people's minds. When I was walking yesterday afternoon -- two hours before sunset, up a dirt road not far from the house I'm renting -- a passing pickup truck slowed and stopped and the driver made sure I was okay. "I wanted to make sure you wasn't like that lost hiker guy," he said. Nope, not lost, and not nearly as well equipped, though I do have a hat and usually a pen.

Somebody should find out what kind of pen it was, and put him in its ads.

In other local news, a bar in 29 Palms burned down on Saturday in the wee hours, and it went up so quick that they're investigating to see if it's arson. The place was a sports bar favored by Marines. Most people told me to stay out of it, which is fine -- I really like the Joshua Tree Saloon much nearer, where I went to watch the first half of a playoff baseball game last night. There the guy on the seat next to me had dialed up ten songs on the jukebox, and with each one he told me why he liked it, and often had a related anecdote. Of Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day," he said that Holly had written the song after seeing John Ford's The Searchers, a film where John Wayne utters that line several times -- or so my new friend said.

He went on to say: "I met John Wayne twice. The first time was at Knotts Berry Farm, they dedicated the John Wayne Theater, and he was there and made a speech. He walked by the crowd and I shook his hand, and then later we went out to the parking lot where we knew his car was -- we recognized his car -- and waited for him. When he came out with the guy who drove him, he stopped and talked with us for about fifteen minutes. Oh, he was very nice, extremely friendly. The second time was when I was working at the Disneyland Hotel. He came down the hall and got in the elevator. Then when the elevator went downstairs, I went with the maid into his room and looked at his stuff. There were some cards there with his name on them -- I wish I'd taken one but I didn't -- that he gave out to people, since he couldn't sign his name because he had arthritis. And he had two toupees. Two."

Later in the day: It was warm enough today to read outside in the shade at the end of the afternoon. I happened to look up and see a long line of birds flying from west to east. At first I thought they were ravens, but then I thought, do ravens flock? After thirty birds or so had passed, it seemed like the parade of whatever it was was over. But I looked up later and saw more -- many more. Now it was clear they were turkey vultures, the species I saw a couple weeks ago. A ragged line, lower and closer this time, flew over in the same direction, just north of east. Dozens of birds, not in a straight line, but maybe between 50 and 100 feet apart. A group of twenty or thirty would fly by, and there would be a short break, and then another forty would fly by. I tried taking pictures of them, but failed.

As the sun set, they flew lower, apparently seeking out a place to roost for the night. There are no tall trees right around here and I didn't see them circling to land. When the sun had finally set, that was the end of the overflight. Majestic!

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