Real Life in the Desert: The Lizards are Getting Bigger

Cloudy sky in Quartzsite, AZ

deserted house in the desert

When I first moved down here in the real desert, the lizards were these teeny little dark shadows that flitted over and around small rocks and pebbles. Now the little fellers are getting bigger and longer, and scrambling over stones and the odd smallish boulder. They must also be that bit slower as I can see them easily.

The tiny shadow lizards moved so quickly that they seemed to be an optical illusion. A lighting fast streak of shade that disappeared before your eyes could focus on the small creature. Now they stay in view long enough that even without glasses they can be seen.

These are not the only desert denizens that are making regular appearances. Something that looks like a rat, but prettier, darts across the roads and can be seen very easily. These bold creatures will stay in the shade of a small bush and watch you pass. Monsieur Rat, or mouse, is around six to eight inches long, not counting his tail, and while not as cute as the chipmunks that scramble over the boulders that line the road, they are not ugly by any means.

After being here for a couple of months, where there has been no previous sign of them,  buzzards are now regularly  circling the hard pan on either side of the road. One persistent chap kept dropping down to the scrub brush along the washes. Presumably the “dead” animal he was going after was not quite ready to be put on the menu. There are, however, a great many new items alongside, and on, the roads  from rats to lizards and the occasional rabbit.

As it is spring, baby bunnies are hopping around the area. The cute creatures are not as numerous as the ones back in Suffolk. In the English countryside, there were always plenty of the tiny things clumsily jumping here and there, wide eyed and (sorry) bushy tailed learning about their world. The desert bunnies are obviously the offspring of the huge jack rabbits that call the hard pan their home as even though they are “babies” they dwarf their British relatives.

The appearance of the buzzards, or vultures, I can never remember which of these huge carrion loving creatures live in this part of the world, is a reminder that death is never too far away for denizens of the real desert.

The little house on the hill..
The mysterious house on the hill…


On the way home from town yesterday, as the sun dipped slowly behind the surrounding hills of Quartzsite, I found the police had closed off the only road open to a bicycle. The cars could take the alternate route via the Interstate, but my two-wheel self-propelled vehicle could only take the route in front of me.

One of the on-scene officers explained that the road would be closed for at least another two hours. Looking ahead I could see two motorcycles on the right hand side of the road. One looked as though it had been damaged, the other did not. Pointing to the left side of the pavement, I asked if walking my bike through on that part of the road’s narrow shoulder was acceptable.

It was.

As I pushed my bike up the small grade, the two motorcycles came and went whilst I tried not to be too morbidly curious. Glancing over, once or twice, I could see that one bike had hit the boulders on that side of the road with enough force that it buckled the front wheel and twisted it to the left; until it was almost completely back under the petrol tank.

A lone helmet lay on the small shoulder of the two lane road just in front of the large rocks. On one big boulder in front of the abandoned safety item a blue arrow had been spray painted. It pointed up. At a wild, and most likely over-imaginative, guess? It looked like the rider went airborne at the point of impact.

Later, as I neared my destination, a couple who had been driving pulled up beside me and asked about the blocked road. I explained about the bikes and added that I would not be surprised if the accident had ended in a fatality.

They were not impressed with the thought of a dead biker but then, they were both of an age where impending death is not so much a concern. To this older couple, death looked to be just another all too close step in their own personal journey. Being a sprightly young thing in my late 50s, I still struggle with the inevitable advent of my rapidly approaching mortality.

It may well be that along with the lizards getting bigger in the real desert, that living in this hot and harsh climate is not just about surviving, but also about dying. The manner of death for the creatures that are native to this environment is often a quick visitation under the blazing sun. Cause of death: A speeding car, an ATV, or a hikers boot. After all, living is also about dying. As the late Katherine Hepburn once said, “Of course life is hard, it kills you.”

15 March 2015

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

19 thoughts on “Real Life in the Desert: The Lizards are Getting Bigger”

  1. I’ve a son who wanted to be a EMS fireman, and was hired. He later changed jobs. I asked him and a friend how they handled death.
    They said they seperate themselves because they don’t know the person. It’s a body, period, not a person that they would feel the loss of.

    A few horrific deaths such as young women bother them and all children.
    Simply lifting the weight of a child hits them hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a Prison Officer, I was quite lucky. While plenty of lads were injured through either self harming, trying to kill themselves or fighting one another, no one died. Despite the fact that these lads were not the nicest in the world, the very idea of finding one of them dead in their cells was disturbing. I cannot imagine doing that sort of job. Kudos to your son and his colleagues…


  2. I’ve always been scared about riding motorcycles. Mistakes are unforgiving.
    Large lizards? saw a big chuckwalla in Joshua Tree National Park last year. I was telling everybody it was a Gila Monster. Revealing what a greenhorn I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LMAO! Don’t feel bad matey! All lizards are Gila Monsters to me, or Geckos…LOLOL Yeah, motorcycles do not take prisoners. A good mate from the prison service died the year I had my heart attack. Pete was one of the safest riders in the world and another driver took his life.


      1. My brother was nearly killed on a bike … and he was an ultra careful rider. He took safety classes twice a year. But you’re right that bikes take no prisoners, which is why after becoming a mom, I gave up riding. And passenger-ing too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I wanted to get a new license but my second wife, and the cost of taking the required lessons kept me from it. I’m sad I didn’t but at the same time, after Pete died, I went off motorbikes for awhile. Interestingly enough a load of my mates in the prison service rode motorbikes…


  3. Could be a Kangaroo Rat … they are cute and native to the Sonoran desert, so that would be my prime candidate. There are a lot of them, not an endangered species. Rodents are hardy.

    We have little lizards and some pretty large (non-poisonous) snakes living in our garden walls. I don’t know what becomes of them in the winter. Yours are probably much bigger than ours. The desert seems a natural habitat for reptiles.

    I once found a corpse in the parking lot of my condo in Lynn. I was late for work. The police were slow arriving and unexcited at my discovery. My boss was pissed off because I was late.

    Life. As Marvin said, “DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT LIFE.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must be one of the only people who is still disturbed about stumbling over a corpse. Driving by a motorbike accident in Vegas and the chap was very obviously dead, no one seemed to notice…Although the police were there already! Odd…


      1. I saw this poor deceased chappy in the road surrounded by moving cars and one policeman. I’ve never stumbled over one all by my lonesome. I’ve had almost a phobia about that. When we lived in England, there were always stories about some poor sod who was walking his dog or out hiking with his family finding a dead-un. Every time I went out with my, then, wife and daughter on a “nature walk” I was terrified that we were going to find a murdered hooker… (it was around the time of the Ipswich prostitute slayings, one poor girl was found literally across the road from our house in Copdock and just feet from where my ex was working at the time. A bit disconcerting….


      2. I can imagine! The first dead man I ever saw was in the hospital morgue in Ipswich. I worked security there for a while. Some poor old chap was rushed in, during my shift, having a heart attack and his 78 year-old heart could not be revived. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, they were taking him to the morgue when I asked to come along. My main reason? To see what a real morgue in a hospital looked like. The female PC stayed out in the office and I followed the two interns and the old feller in. As they slid him in the drawer, one big toe caught on the top of the opening. His toenail came off with sickening ease.

        Despite watching them slide his nude body in the space, I can remember nothing between the toenail and his face. My brain just froze that bit out. The smell, of the place, was horrific. It stayed in my sinuses for weeks afterward…


      3. I’m not surprised. I’m kind of glad I never worked through the ranks, the “cub” reporters in the UK all had to cover deaths, like some OAP found after a week in their home type deal. Scarring to say the least…


      4. Garry covered breaking news. Airplane crashes. Murder. Home invasions. The stuff that’s the bread and butter, as it were, of TV news. He often got there before the first responders. Lots of bodies. In volume. For more than 30 years. He still has nightmares.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’ll bet! We watched Nightcrawler last year, my critic colleagues and I, and it made me shudder…I remember all too well the stories of police mates who got to these horrific scenes…


      6. Every once in a while he drops a tidbit not known to the “general public.” Like the killer who cut his wife into pieces and put her body parts on stakes in the front yard because she burned the pasta. That was apparently a career high point for my husband.


      7. Wow, I guess so! Covering that would definitely not leave your mind…ever. I know that when we lived in Holland, at Soesterberg Air Base, a Technical Sergeant murdered his Turkish wife and chopped her into bit. He then used some kitchen utensils to destroy forensic evidence. He dumped her body parts, after putting them in Hefty garbage bags, into canals in Amsterdam. If he hadn’t confessed to his commanding officer, he would have gotten away with it. This guy worked in the clinic on base and I’ll never forget the case and I had no access to information.

        Liked by 1 person

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