Wandering Wednesday: Desert Edition.

When I was ten or so, my parents borrowed my uncle’s honking big RV and drove into the desert of Eastern Washington State. They figured we should see some new terrains.

The desert was not what I was expecting. I was expecting, you know. Like on the TV. Saguaros and mesas and stuff. Desert foxes. Tumbleweeds.

Well, there were the tumbleweeds, but mostly it was little, scrubby, gray plants and dust. It was tan and taupe and beige. It was so big and empty, the wind snatched my words away as I was speaking, as though it sailed them away to a forbidden noise area.

It was so insanely alien to my brother and me. We were coastal kids. We knew about feeding crabs in tidal pools and red and yellow cedar. We clambered up six-foot-high nurse logs to eat huckleberries. In our local woods, you couldn’t ever be lost, because you couldn’t go off the path without being waist high in ferns, or sunk up to your knees in bog and skunk cabbage.

So, out there in the desert, at some state park, Dad parked the RV and told Bo and me to go out exploring. There were no paths. We wandered aimlessly for a while. I was looking at the little dusty plants and wondering if there were scorpions or rattlesnakes. Bo found a stick and was hitting the little dusty plants. Yay. New terrain.

All of a sudden, my little brother started shrieking and hopping around. “It bit me! Something biiiit meee!”

I ran over. He had some kind of little prickly thing stuck to his foot. He sat down to pull it out and promptly sat on another one. Cried harder.

Now I was in an unfamiliar place and the local flora were attacking my brother. My brother was shrieking because there were burrs in his butt and both feet, and there wasn’t any un-burred ground to sit on. I did the only thing I can think of and ran back to the RV.

Except.

There were no trails. My brother was hidden in the midst of a bunch of gray scrub. When I finally got Mom and Dad out there, I couldn’t find my little brother. Sometimes I heard him crying, but the wind was blowing his voice away. I can remember wondering, “What if I lost him? What if we never find him?” Anxious.

It felt like hours, with all of us yelling for Bo, and no one finding him. At long last, the wind shifted the right way, and Dad found him and picked him up and took him to the RV. Mom picked out the burrs, changed his shorts, and gave us each a restorative Coke.

We were more careful in the desert after that.

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