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A Great AridnessClimate Change and the Future of the American Southwest$
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William deBuys

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199778928.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 June 2021

Janos: A Mirror in Time

Janos: A Mirror in Time

4 Janos: A Mirror in Time
A Great Aridness

William deBuys

Oxford University Press

The rains have forsaken El Cuervo for nearly a year, and the mountain-ringed plain that used to be a prairie is as naked as a parking lot. Not a blade of grass is in sight, scarcely a bush. A few low mesquites, defoliated and dormant, hug the parched ground, the wind having packed into their thorny embrace the dried-out stems of last year’s tumbleweeds. Except in the burrows of the kangaroo rats, nothing can be hidden here. A lost coin or key would shout its presence, much as the potsherds do on the mounds of the ancient pueblo by the arroyo. Every edible thing has been consumed, every plant nipped off at the level of the ground. Even the soil is leaving, blown away, tons to the acre, by winds that sweep down from the Sierra Madre, a dozen miles to the west. If you were to make your way to the top of one of the chipped-tooth peaks of the sierra (no small task), you would be able to look down into great canyons. One of those canyons belongs to the Río Gavilán, where in 1936 Aldo Leopold glimpsed a kind of ecological heaven that no longer exists. From atop the peak you would also see for great distances, certainly as far as Janos, the crossroads and market town through which nearly every visitor to this northwest corner of Chihuahua passes, and on a dustless day you might see the gritty penumbra of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, far on the northeastern horizon. The air is dry, and here it is empty of pollution, which makes El Cuervo and its environs a good place for looking long distances, even into the past. One way to understand changes in the land is to visit a place that shows how things used to be. That’s what Leopold realized when he visited the Río Gavilán. He saw it as a fragment of the Southwest that had escaped the pressures of white settlement, and he recognized it as a mirror of how Arizona and New Mexico used to be, back in the days when the Apaches still roamed their homeland in freedom.

Keywords:   Apache Juan, Block, Camino Real, Geronimo, Hacienda San Diego, Jornada Range, Kaibab Plateau, Mangas Valley, Nature Conservancy

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