Page 176. " In the long shadows jackrabbits bolted and loped and froze again. "
Antelope Jackrabbit
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAntelope Jackrabbit - Credit: Nehrams2020
Black-tailed jackrabbit
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBlack-tailed Jackrabbit - Credit: Jim Harper

Despite the name, jackrabbits are actually hares. They are named for their long ears, which initially caused some people to refer to them as jackass rabbits.

The two most likely candidates in the novel are the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, native to the western U.S. and Mexico, and the Antelope Jackrabbit, found in Arizona in the U.S. and the states of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sinaloa and Sonora in Mexico.

Page 176. " south through the Dos Cabezas range. "

The Dos Cabezas Mountains are a mountain range in southeasternmost Arizona. Dos Cabezas means Two Heads in Spanish, after the twin granite peaks, Dos Cabezas Peaks, which sit atop the range.


Dos Cabezas Mountains, Arizona
Creative Commons AttributionDos Cabezas Mountains, Arizona - Credit: Evan Osherow


Page 178. " Noon the following day they struck route 666 "
Route 666, Monticello, Utah
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeRoute 666, Monticello, Utah - Credit: Ken Lund

Route 666 was the former name of the highway which runs through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The route was nicknamed the Devil's Highway because of the number's association with the Number of the Beast. This satanic connotation, combined with a high fatality rate along the New Mexico portion, led many to believe the highway was cursed. As a result, the highway was renamed Route 491 in 2003.

Page 186. " leaving the disputants to their rustic parkbench tertulia "
La Tertulia del café Pombo (1920), by Gutierrez Solana
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeLa Tertulia del café Pombo (1920), by Gutierrez Solana - Credit: Newdelta

A tertulia is similar to a salon, a social gathering with literary or artistic overtones, especially in Spain or Latin America.

Page 188. " the dog trotted ahead like some mute and mindless bellwether "
Little Bo-Peep with bellwether ram
Public DomainLittle Bo-Peep with bellwether ram - Credit: Joseph Martin Kronheim

A bellwether (from the Middle English bellewether) was a castrated ram (a wether) which lead his flock of sheep with a bell tied around its neck. The sound of the bell allowed shepherds to keep track of their sheep when the flock was out of sight.

Page 193. " They reached the Mormon settlement at Colonia Juárez in the late afternoon "
Colonia Juárez (c. 1916)
Public DomainColonia Juárez (c. 1916) - Credit: William Fox (Library of Congress)

The Mormon colony at Colonia Juárez was established in 1886. Although the town was planned before the U.S. government banned the practice of polygamy, much of its growth in the late 19th century was due to Mormon immigrants leaving Utah and other parts of the U.S to escape persecution.

The town thrives to this day and is known for its peach and apple orchards, as well as its renowned Mormon school the Academia Juarez.

Page 193. " Trees lined the little street and the houses were kept with garden and lawn and white picket fences. "
Mormon town in Mexico
Public DomainMormon town in Mexico - Credit: Bain News Service

It is something of an irony that the Mormons, persecuted for their way of life, should have come to influence that ultimate symbol of middle-class American respectability - the well-kept lawn and white picket fence.

Page 194. " they rode past the walled ruins of the ancient mud city of the Chichimeca "
Creative Commons AttributionPaquimé - Credit: Iker Merodio
Paquimé ruins in 1902
Public DomainPaquimé ruins in 1902 - Credit: Carl S. Lumholtz

Also known as Gran Chichimeca and Casas Grandes (‘Big Houses’), the Paquimé civilization dates back to the 8th century and became the major Indian trading settlement in northern Mexico during the 14th and 15th centuries. At its peak, the local population is estimated to have been around 10,000.

Paquimé rapidly declined in influence following the Spanish Conquest of Mexico and was finally abandoned in the 17th century after further Spanish colonisation displaced many of the indigenous peoples in the surrounding area.


Partially reconstructed Paquimé dwellings
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePartially reconstructed Paquimé dwellings - Credit: HJPD
Page 194. " upon the darkened ballcourt "

Paquimé dramatically expanded during the mid 12th century when it began to acquire influences from the more advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica (historians are unsure whether this represents an invasion from the south or influence emanating from an increase in trade with southern Indian civilizations). Paquimé acquired some specifically Toltec features, such as its ballcourt.


Paquimé ball court
Creative Commons AttributionPaquimé ball court - Credit: HJPD
Ballcourt at Monte Alban
Creative Commons AttributionBallcourt at Monte Alban - Credit: lorenzolambertino


Creative Commons AttributionTzompantli - Credit: Adam Baker

Similar ballcourts throughout Mesoamerica are often accompanied by long platforms carved with human skulls skewered on stakes (known as Tzompantli) and reliefs depicting the decapitation of a ball player, suggesting the game may have had some religious significance. Games may have been followed by the sacrifice of one or more of the players, the skulls of the victims ending up on the Tzompantli. There is, though, no evidence to suggest human sacrifice was practiced at Paquimé.

The rules of the game varied from region to region, but probably closely resembled the ulama or pok a tok game still played throughout Central America today.


Mural from Ballcourt at El Tajin depicting sacrifice of a ballplayer
Creative Commons AttributionMural from Ballcourt at El Tajin depicting sacrifice of a ballplayer - Credit: Thomas Aleto



Page 194. " where bits of pottery and stone tools together with the bones of their makers lay enleavened in the cracked clay floors. "
Paquimé pottery
Public DomainPaquimé pottery - Credit: Carl S. Lumholtz

The remains of pottery found within the Paquimé ruins suggests a highly cultured civilization that belies the original Spanish settlers description of the Chichimeca as primitive savages.

Countless other treasures in the Casas Grandes district were lost to looters in the years following the Spanish Conquest.


Casas Grandes jar found in the ruins of Paquimé
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCasas Grandes jar found in the ruins of Paquimé - Credit: David Monniaux
Casas Grande effigy pot
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCasas Grandes effigy pot - Credit: Wikipedia
Page 200. " It is a ranch. It is owned by one of your countrymen, a señor Hearst. "
George Hearst (1820-1891)
Public DomainGeorge Hearst (1820-1891) - Credit: Edouart & Cobb
William Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951)
Public DomainWilliam Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) - Credit: J.E. Purdy

La Babícora was the name of a huge ranch owned by William Randolph Hearst, the influential American newspaper magnate and inspiration for Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. The Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation estimates its size having been one million acres, although some accounts claim the ranch was around 3.4 million acres in size.

The lands in Chihuahua had been acquired by Hearst’s father, U.S. Senator George Hearst, after he received advance notice that Geronimo – who had terrorized settlers in the region – had surrendered. Hearst was able to buy hundreds of acres for next to nothing because only he knew that they had become much more secure. The younger Hearst was in Mexico as early as 1886, when he wrote to his mother that ‘I really don't see what is to prevent us from owning all of Mexico and running it to suit ourselves.’


Click here for James B. Barker's account of working upon the Babicora ranch, which also includes some fascinating detail on the Mexican Revolution.