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It’s a Dry Tsunami

The Journal of Prevarication
Here lies Jim Cook,
Official State Liar of Arizona

The tsunami set off by the earthquake in Chile didn’t do much damage around the Pacific Rim, but it did cause a river surge in the Hassayampa.

A wave of sand half a meter high surged out of the Gila River near Arlington and rolled up the Hassayampa as far as Morristown, smashing against seven million acres of tumbleweeds.

We don’t have many big events like that around here. And yet we live by the weather, or lack of it. As we see reports of blizzards and flooding elsewhere in the country, and catastrophes worldwide, we feel ever more grateful to live here. Miss Ellie, a northern California girl, says she doesn’t miss the earthquakes and mudslides. Mudslides are rare in Arizona, and very dusty.

We did have heavy storms off the Pacific about a month ago. We measured more than five inches of rain here at the institute, which qualifies as a weather phenomenon. The Hassayampa got all wet.

Now, vast stretches of desert are emerald green, and we figure the rain sets us up for a spectacular season of desert wildflowers, starting any day.

As a matter of fact, I was out looking for early wildflowers the other day, which is why I know about the river surge in the Hassayampa. I was alongside the river, just north of Buckeye, when the sand began rippling back out toward the Sea of Cortez.

Frankly, I was lost. That also was because of the recent storms. The rain stirred up the boogie bushes (Meanderous adios), which move from place to place on a whim, looking for wetter places to extend their shallow roots.

I thought I was driving north on Vulture Mine Road. But a big boogie bush that I use as a landmark had moved across the road from west to east, nudging up alongside a damp wash.

My subconscious, acting out of habit, told me that if that bush was on my left, I must be driving north. (The Arizona Woolgatherers Association meets here Wednesdays.)

I didn’t realize my error until I was almost to Buckeye. That’s when the wave of sand rippled past, also heading south.

Desert wildflowers should get a big boost from saguaros this spring. As you know, a saguaro is basically a water-storage machine. Its accordion-pleated hide allows it to expand and suck up water, as much as 200 gallons from a single storm.

After the recent storms, some of the saguaros found they had taken on too much water. They’ve been squirting water out of their “ears,” the holes left by woodpeckers and butcher birds.

When I was driving the wrong way on Vulture Mine Road, I saw a couple of saguaros that looked like they were having a water fight.

All that sprinkling can’t help but promote wildflowerism. I’m going back there in a few days to see if the cacti have raised a garden of gold poppies.

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