Sunday, December 05, 2010


BAGPIPE BOB at the dedication ceremonies to open the spectacular bridge now spanning the Colorado River just below Hoover Dam. (you'll see in a minute how this fits into my story)
TRUCKERS ROOST WHERE HISTORY WAS MADE. Kodger King digs in for the story. I've driven 40 miles today and that's enough---no serious drifter would go further. So halfway between Blythe California and Indio I pause for the night---drawn as is this photographer by the beauty of the distant mountains. I know a bit about this place and would soon learn the rest of the story. See that dark line at the base of the mountain? That is the famous Colorado Aqueduct
---bringing California's share of the Colorado river to Las Angeles. And as you can see the builders faced a formidable problem right there: how to get the water over that mountain. They managed of course designing a kind of clever siphon up and over. You can imagine the thousands of workers once living here. They needed doctors of course for the occasional accident and that lead to a surprising development right here that affects all our lives. I'll tell you in a bit.

First, I show you the town--That Cafe is the last remaining business---all else--except the post office is shut down. Vast dirt lots are empty.

So truckers wheel in for 8 hours sleep. Quiet, spacious, free parking places like this are treasured by drivers.

I don't think you can read this, so I will tell you the gist. Right here was the birthplace of HMO's (health maintainance organizations)----specifically Kaiser Permanente--one of the nations largest.

AND THEN----AND THEN---who should drive up but a colorful old friend "bagpipe" Bob---Fresh from the dedication ceremonies of the new super bridge at Hoover Dam. He's the first to march across it playing the bagpipes. (he makes a good living playing the pipes on special occasions.) I persuade him to stay the night---so we drink beer and catch up.

Next morning I engage the self described "mayor of Desert Center" ---an affable veteran who stopped for a night and never left. He told me the colorful--and likely true---version of the main local characters. The place was founded by a desert codger named Stephen Ragsdale who built up a small empire of desert services and got rich. (google desert center for the full story) Not wishing to leave cash to to his heirs--he spent most of it on a strange project----several huge circles of palm trees.

The owner of the Cafe came by to add her view. When I tell folks I'm putting the story on the internet, I get unbelievable cooperation.

The remains of the palm circle. Dead, said the mayor because the kids turned off the water to them after the old man died.

Sure enough---no water .----but guess what?

One of them lives anyway. Anazing proof of Prigogine's Nobel prize winning theory. Living things stressed but not killed will reorganize in an improved manner. Apparantly, this one palm tree adapted somehow when the water was turned off. I take it as a metaphor for the survival of humanity when mega disasters strike.---Like the black plague. Some will adapt and survive.


Anonymous said...

Interesting story. Yep, we are like cockroaches. Very adaptable. But also very selfdestructive.

Paxie Panicker said...

What a life you lead...extremely interesting!!

NIP said...

About the "volunteer" palm -- the originals appear to be Date Palms (Phoenix dactylifera), while the upstart is definitely a Washingtonia, either the Mexican Fan Palm (Robusta) or California Fan Palm (Filifera). Both Washingtonia species are somewhat more drought-tolerant than the Date palms, and survive in the most improbable conditions. If you get closer to the California coast, which gets more rainfall than the inland desert, you'll see what I mean -- "feral" date palms are common, sprouting up in ditches everywhere. Dryer areas get Washingtonia palms growing in cracks in the roadway or around power poles.

Probably more than you wanted to know about palm trees and climate, but there you go. I love reading your blog and look forward to your updates.

Randy said...

Thanks folks, for the comments and especially you NIP for the needle of truth that punctured my lovely balloon. Ah well---Prigogine's theory still stands. Will hunt for a valid illustration. Out of curiosity do you know about those rare palm trees growing in Palm canyon south of Quartzsite, Az----and nowhere else. Long ago they were almost omnipresent and then the climate changed.

farmlady said...

That's what I keep telling everyone. ADAPT AND SURVIVE.
I wish I could be out there in the desert for a while. I bet it changes your perspective.

Dixxe said...

Very interesting...I cant help but wonder how he could have done more than try to introduce palms to grow in a spot where they wouldnt flourish than to use his rescourses to go some lasting good like drill wells on the Indian Reservations or something of that nature--
I do agree with the theory of adaptation-we either adapt or move on--I really like Bog's rig and the smart car--great idea!

Rob said...

The Black Plague, interesting choice.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% – 60% of Europe's population, reducing the world's population from an estimated 450 million to between 350 and 375 million in 1400. This has been seen as creating a series of religious, social and economic upheavals which had profound effects on the course of European history. It took 150 years for Europe's population to recover. The plague returned at various times, killing more people, until it left Europe in the 19th century. Because the plague killed so many of the poor population, wealthy land owners were forced to pay the remaining workers what they asked, in terms of wages. Because there was now a surplus in consumer goods, luxury crops could now be grown. This meant that for the first time in history, many, formerly of the peasant population, now had a chance to live a better life. Most historians now feel that this was the start of the middle class in Europe and England.

heyduke50 said...

simply Darwin's thoughts on survival as for the palm of the fittest... stumbled across your blog and enjoy your sharing of stories and thoughts... the palm also has chisen to be a loner of sorts and stand out on its own...