Cactus, mesquite, and greasewood;
Greasewood, cactus, mesquite;
The turquoise blue of the heavens
That the age-worn mountains meet…
~Ida Flood Dodge, “One of Us,” 1920
The Colorado desert, with the exception of some fifty miles, is a mass of light clay, which, when dry, rises in the finest form of dust, and yet supports a peculiar vegetation of the mesquite tree, which is a low feathery acacia with large spreading roots. This shrub covers scores and hundreds of miles almost exclusively, where there is no grass, no other flowers, but everywhere this mesquite. It would be a pleasing shrub if not associated with such disagreeable remembrances of dust for days together. ~W. Tallack, “The California Overland Route,” 1860
We halted beneath a mesquite-tree and bore away an armful of pods that horses, mules, and Indians love. They are several inches long, in clusters, bright buff changing from green, and filled generously with beans which rattle as they mature. ~Estelle Thomson, “An Autumn Drive in California,” 1892
…that accursed mesquite-tree… ~Louise Palmer Heaven, Chata and Chinita, 1889 [Accursed in the book because Don Juan had been found murdered under said tree. Accursed in modern-day Arizona because they litter their tiny leaves and shattering yellow catkins and rotting pods everywhere! If only we’d all go back to using the trees’ gifts as food and medicine it might be “that blessed mesquite-tree.”
I am the runt, with blackened branches bent,
The stunted sentinel men scoff to see.
I twist with grief for elements misspent,
While dustwhirls drone their lonely song to me.
What other tree is lowlier than I
…Against the western sky,
I crouch, roots deep, in thirsty western sand…
~Teddy Gillen, “Mesquite in Winter,” Arizona Highways, January 1971