Page 153. " The people who once lived here are called the Anasazi. The old ones "
Mesa Verde Cliff Palace, Colorado (photographed in 1891)
Public DomainMesa Verde Cliff Palace, Colorado (photographed in 1891) - Credit: Finnish National Board of Antiquities
Interior of Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico
Public DomainInterior of Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Anasazi ruin in Mule Canyon, Utah
Creative Commons AttributionAnasazi ruin in Mule Canyon, Utah - Credit: snowpeak

The word Anasazi is Navajo for ‘Ancient Ones’ or ‘Ancient Enemy’ and is used to describe the Ancient or Ancestral Pueblo peoples who once inhabited the Four Corners of the southwestern United States (southern Utah, northern Arizona, northwest New Mexico, and southern Colorado).

The Anasazi culture emerged perhaps as early as 1500 BC, apparently disappearing around 1300 AD. The only trace of the people remains in architecture (particulary their distinctive cliff dwellings), basketry, art, and other implements. Historians remain divided over what caused the so-called 'Anasazi collapse' or what happened to the people. Most modern Pueblo people (such as the Kerseans, Hopi, and Tanoans) assert the ancient Pueblo migrated to the southwest to find more favourable rainfall and dependable streams. They then merged into the various Pueblo peoples whose descendents still live in Arizona and New Mexico.


Page 155. " Crossing the high mesas in the days to follow they began to come upon burnedout pits in the ground where the indians had cooked mescal "
Apache girl cutting mescal (1906)
Public DomainApache girl cutting mescal (1906) - Credit: Edward S. Curtis

Mescal, the heart or piña of the agave plant (see bookmark p.155 'they rode through strange forests of maguey'), was cultivated and treasured as a valuable source of food, fibre and medicine for many Indian tribes of the Southwest, including the Havasupais, Hopis, Yavapais, Maricopas, Papagos, Walapais, Kaibabs, and the White Mountain, Chiricahua, and Mescalero Apaches.


Although toxic when raw, burning the mouth, mescal (the heart of the agave) was edible when roasted. The Indians dug huge roasting pits in the fields, ten to twelve feet in diameter, three to four feet deep, lined with large flat rocks; a mound of oak or juniper wood was placed in the bottom and the fire ignited before dawn. By noon, it had died down and moist grass was laid on the stones. Between one and three dozen agave crowns were roasted together, each surrounded by a mound of rocks to hold moisture in the ground. The pit was covered with bear grass, a tall western plant used to make baskets, and then a thick layer of earth and allowed to roast for two days. After the crowns cooled, the center portion or heart was eaten or dried in the sun. As agave was harvested before the plant produced its flower, it contained a large store of carbohydrates that converted to a sugary, highly nutritious food. Each heart furnished about 347 calories, 4.5 grams of protein per 100 grams weight and more calcium than a glass of milk.

(Linda Murray Berzok, American Indian Food)


Apache women filling the mescal pit (1906)
Public DomainApache women filling the mescal pit (1906) - Credit: Edward S. Curtis
Apache mescal camp (1903)
Public DomainApache mescal camp (1903) - Credit: Edward S. Curtis
Page 155. " they rode through strange forests of maguey – the aloe or century plant – with immense flowering stalks that rose forty feet into the desert air "
Agave americana in bloom
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAgave americana in bloom - Credit: martin_vmorris

The maguey, aloe or century plant are common names for the agave, a huge artichoke-like plant found in arid areas of Arizona, New Mexico, southeastern California, southern Utah, and northern Mexico, at elevations of 3,000 to 8,000 feet. The plant, which flowers once, then dies, can live for around thirty or forty years before flowering, hence the name ‘century plant’.

Page 156. " the white blooms of flowering yuccas "
Flowering Yucca at Vasquez Rocks, California
Creative Commons AttributionFlowering Yucca at Vasquez Rocks, California - Credit: Jeff Turner

Yucca is a genus of shrub and tree in the family Asparagaceae, native to arid parts of North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. There are around 50-60 species of Yucca, recognisable by their evergreen, sword-shaped leaves and large white flowers.

The plant is known colloquially in the American Midwest as ‘Ghosts in the graveyard’, as it is commonly found growing in rural graveyards, appearing as a floating apparition when the flowers are in bloom.

Page 157. " the Gileños had decamped "

Gileño (also Apaches de Gila, Apaches de Xila, Apaches de la Sierra de Gila, Xileños, Gilenas, Gilans, Gilanians, Gila Apache, Gilleños) was the name used to refer to several different Apachean and non-Apachean groups at different times. Gila refers to either the Gila River or the Gila Mountains.

Some of the Gila Apaches were probably later known as the Mogollon Apaches, a subdivision of the Chiricahua, while others probably evolved into the Chiricahua proper. However, since the term was used indiscriminately for all Apachean groups west of the Rio Grande (i.e. in southeast Arizona and western New Mexico), the reference is often unclear. After 1722, Spanish documents start to distinguish between these different groups; Apaches de Gila comes to mean Western Apaches living along the Gila River (and thus synonymous with Coyotero).

American writers first used the term to refer to the Mimbres (another subdivision of the Chiricahua). Later the term was confusingly used to refer to Coyoteros, Mogollones, Tontos, Mimbreños, Pinaleños, Chiricahuas, as well as the non-Apachean Yavapai (then also known as Garroteros or Yabipais Gileños). Another Spanish usage (along with Pimas Gileños and Pimas Cileños) referred to the non-Apachean Pima living on the Gila River.

Page 159. " Under a gibbous moon "
Waxing gibbous moon
Creative Commons AttributionWaxing gibbous moon - Credit: Opoterser

A gibbous moon is lunar phase during which more than half, but less than all, of the visible hemisphere of the Moon is illuminated by sunlight. The gibbous moon occurs between a full moon and a half moon, or between a half moon and a full moon, as the moon is waxing or waning.



Page 160. " They crossed the del Norte "
iew of the Rio Grande from the Overlook Park at White Rock, New Mexico
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alikeiew of the Rio Grande from the Overlook Park at White Rock, New Mexico - Credit: Andreas F. Borchert

The Río Bravo del Norte, or simply Río Bravo, is the Mexican name for the Rio Grande, the 1,896 mile (3,051 km) long river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. A stretch of the river serves as the boundary between the U.S. state of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.

Page 161. " Already the dawnstar burned pale in the east. "
Dawnstar - Venus at Sunrise
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDawnstar - Venus at Sunrise - Credit: Aimee Daniells

The dawn or morning star is the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise.

Originally it was called Lucifer (from the Latin lucem ferre, meaning 'light-bearer') since the dawn appearance of Venus heralds daylight. The name Lucifer has since become exclusively associated with Satan, as the name he bore before being cast from heaven.

Page 161. " The tracks of the murderers bore on to the west but they were white men who preyed on travelers in that wilderness and disguised their work to be that of the savages. "
Holding Up the Pay Escort, by Frederic Remington
Public DomainHolding Up the Pay Escort, by Frederic Remington - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Travellers passing through remote areas of the Old West ran the risk of falling victim to the many road agents (an American term for a highwayman) who made their living through robbery and murder. It was not uncommon for road agents to disguise their work in such a way that their victims would appear to have been killed by Indians.

Page 165. " humans on fire came shrieking forth like berserkers "

Norse bronze plate depicting bersekers
Public DomainNorse bronze plate depicting bersekers - Credit: Oscar Montelius

Berserkers were ferocious Norse warriors who fought in a nearly uncontrollable trance-like fury.

A number of theories have been offered as to what caused berserker behaviour. Some historians believe the warriors worked themselves into a rage through some psychological process, while others claim drugged foods, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, may have been ingested. Others suggest the beserkers may have suffered from some form of mental illness or handicap.

Page 168. " You cant be all Mexican. It’s like being all mongrel. "
A representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. The painting's caption states
Public DomainA representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. The painting's caption states "Spanish and Indian produce Mestizo". - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Judge, in less than politically-correct terms, has just described the racial type of mestizo, a term traditionally used in Latin America for people of mixed European and indiginous American heritage.

During the Spanish colonial period, mestizos held less status and rights than the ‘Peninsular’ (those born in Europe) or ‘Criollos’ (those born in the New World of two European parents), but quickly became the dominant group after the colonies started achieving independence from Spain. In time the concept of the mestizo would become central to Mexico’s formation of a new independent identity that was neither wholly Spanish nor wholly indigenous.

Page 169. " with huge black eyes like some changeling. "
The Changeling (1780), by Johann Heinrich Füssli
Public DomainThe Changeling (1780), by Johann Heinrich Füssli - Credit: Kunsthaus Zürich

A changeling is a creature found in European folklore and folk religion. It is typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other mythical creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to the child who was taken.


Painting by John Bauer of two trolls with a human child they have raised (1913)
Public DomainPainting by John Bauer of two trolls with a human child they have raised (1913) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Page 175. " The Medanos "

Médanos are continental dunes, as opposed to dunas which are dunes of coastal origin. The term is mainly associated with South America. They may be vegetated or unvegetated, and are notoriously difficult to traverse.


Medanos de Coro, Venezuela
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMedanos de Coro, Venezuela - Credit: Carlos Adampol Galindo

The Swiss naturalist and explorer Johann Jakob von Tschudi provides this 1847 description of Peruvian médanos:


The médanos are hillock-like elevations of sand, some having a firm, others a loose base. The former, which are always crescent-shaped, are from ten to twenty feet high, and have an acute crest. The inner side is perpendicular, and the outer or bow side forms an angle with a steep inclination downward. When driven by violent winds, the médanos pass rapidly over the plains. The smaller and lighter ones move quickly forwards before the larger ones; but the latter soon overtake and crush them, whilst they are themselves shivered by the collision. These medanos assume all sorts of extraordinary figures, and sometimes move along the plain in rows forming most intricate labyrinths, whereby what might otherwise be visible in the distance is withdrawn from the view of the traveller. A plain often appears to be covered with a row of médanos, and some days afterwards it is again restored to its level and uniform aspect. Persons who have the greatest experience of the coast are apt to mistake their way, when they encounter these sandhills.