The Great Lizard Hunt...
by Greg Swann
Daddy and Meri were at the pool, but daddy was cold. He said, "I think
we should go on a lizard hunt."
They talked about it and agreed that their adventure should be called 'Meri and Daddy's Great Lizard Hunt'.
They went inside to change into dry clothes. Daddy made a big jug of ice-water. Meri and mommy poked holes in the lid of a coffee can, to make a nice lizard home.
Mommy waved from the window as they got into Farquhar the car and drove away. They drove a long way East on the freeway, then a long way South on a country road.
Daddy pointed out the front window. "Do you see where the road goes up the mountain? That's where we're headed."
"I know," Meri said. "That's daddy's mountain."
"Yup. Daddy wants to buy that mountain."
"So we could move it to our house?," Meri asked.
Daddy laughed. "No," he said. "So we could build a house on it and live here."
They drove up the mountain on the dusty dirt road. They were deep in the desert, surrounded by scrub and cactuses and scraggly rocks.
Daddy stopped the car in front of a big sign. The sign said, "Estate Sale, 80 Acres." He got out of the car and stretched, looking up at the deep blue sky and and bright sun.
Daddy's mountain was really a high valley formed where three mountains came together. The mountains walled it on three sides, and the desert swept below on the other.
Meri carried the coffee can--the lizard's future home--as they hiked into the desert.
Meri led the way. She was very careful and surefooted. She knew to walk only on the dirt and rocks, never on the plants. She knew to watch where her feet were going to make sure she didn't slip--or step on something dangerous. And she knew to make sure she could get out of a rough place before she went in.
Daddy's mountain is rough country. It's pretty steep in places, and there are two deep washes that channel the flow from the mountains when it rains. Plus there are lots of prickly cactuses waiting to poke careless climbers.
"Do you see any lizards?," Meri asked.
"Keep your eyes peeled."
"That means, 'Keep your eyes open'," Meri always said.
They scrambled their way up looking for lizards.
They saw two hawks soaring over the mountaintops, skirling around and around in the clear desert air.
They came to the deeper of the two washes. They crouched down so they could see between the scraggly trees into the trench dug by rushing water.
They saw a chipmunk at the bottom, nattering and chattering and looking every which way at once.
And they saw a jackrabbit running out of the wash, its floppy ears flapping in the breeze.
Daddy led the way down the steep walls of the wash. At the bottom, he pointed out the ragged channel where the water forced its way through. He helped Meri up, as they climbed out the other side.
"Now I get to lead again," Meri said.
"That's right," daddy answered. "You're our fearless desert guide."
"And we laugh at danger!"
"Yeah," Meri agreed. "We laugh at danger!"
"But not really," daddy said. "Just pretend. We pay attention to danger. Why?"
"Because dangerous things can hurt you."
"That's right. And the desert can be a dangerous place."
"C'mon, partner," Meri said. "Follow me."
They climbed and scrambled and walked and talked. They saw more interesting stuff. Funny-looking bugs. Pretty rocks. Lots of cactuses and bushes and trees.
But they didn't see any lizards...
The sun was hanging low in the sky, a big red ball nestled between the crags of the mountains. Daddy said, "Time to go home, Merikid."
"But we haven't caught a lizard yet!"
"We'll have to try again next week. We're going to be late for dinner as it is."
So they trundled down the mountain, still keeping their eyes peeled for skittering lizards.
They saw two dying Saguaro cactuses, very tall but rotting away near the ground. Meri pretended that they had a baby girl cactus named Prickly who was about to be orphaned. So she adopted Prickly and brought the baby along.
When they got back to Farquhar, they each took long drinks from the jug of ice-water. They sang goofy songs to each other as they drove away from daddy's mountain.
At dinner, they told mommy and baby Cameron about all of the cool stuff they'd seen. Meri introduced Prickly the cactus to the family. Later she drew pictures of daddy's mountain.
That night, mommy and daddy were tucking Meri and Cam into bed. Daddy leaned over and hugged Meri. He kissed her on the cheek and said, "I had a good time with you in the desert today."
"Me, too!," said Meri. "I can't wait to go back!"
"Me, neither," said daddy. "But you know what I think?"
"I think the next time we go on a Great Lizard Hunt, we should strive to come home with a lizard..."
"Yeah," Meri said and smiled.