Yaquitepec (pronounced YAKeete-PECK and coined by Marshal South from “Yaqui”, the fierce freedom-loving Indians of Sonora, Mexico, and “tepec” referring to the hill) was Marshal South and family’s home from 1930 to 1946 on an obscure ridge they named Ghost Mountain, owned by the Bureau of Land Management before it became part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Yaquitepec, where Marshal and family lived close to nature in an experiment in primitive living, was bathed in spring flowers earlier this month.
A beavertail cactus greeted us as we approached Yaquitepec after trekking up the 1 mile trail.
Marshal South described a spring scene at Yaquitepec in his article, Desert Home 1, in the May 1941 issue of Desert Magazine:
The squaw-tea [Mormon tea or ephedra] bush in front of the house is sprinkled thickly with clustering chrome-yellow blossoms; and down by the yuccas the white and yellow headings of my tiny desert daisy bushes nod beside the budding beavertail cactus. The barrel cacti too are crowned with flower circlets and the lone creosote bush by the great rock is already dressed in its bright new covering of varnished green leaves and is sprinkled with yellow blossoms. New pink and cream heads nod on the buckwheat. The whole world of desert growth throbs to spring.
(Note: all 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.)
Ephedra funerea, Mormon tea bush, has tiny leaves and most of the photosynthesis takes place in its green jointed stems. Most Native Americans in the Southwest and some of the Mormon pioneers brewed or boiled the Ephedra stems to make a tea that was considered refreshing and therapeutic. Marshal’s ephedra, which he called squaw-tea, was just a few feet from his front door.
Encelia farinosa, or Brittlebush, is prolific at Yaquitepec, and helps to soften the look of its dump of rusting cans a ways down on the southeast side. (Marshal drove his 1929 Model A Ford 14 miles monthly up the Banner Grade to the nearest town, Julian, where he mailed in his articles to Desert Magazine, bought gasoline, and brought back library books, goods and supplies, including canned goods.)
Spring also brings warmer nights to Yaquitepec. Marshal South described one such night in his article, Desert Refuge 9, in the April 1942 issue of Desert Magazine:
Last night was warm and at midnight I went out to open another shutter of our screened sleeping porch… I did not at once go back into the house. Instead I sat down on the upper of the two rock steps that lead past the cisterns to where the woodpile is. Upon my bare body the chill of the night air struck with a tingling, electric glow that was almost warmth.
Far off, through a mist-rift above the shadowy ridges, the North Star gleamed. Almost I seemed to hear the deep, measured breathing of the earth…
The night air was like a garment of peace, and the overhead arch of the desert stars, appearing and disappearing through rifts in the canopy of haze, was a glorious procession of the Heavenly Hosts, streaming forward triumphantly across the fields of Paradise… One gets very close to the heart of things, sometimes, in the desert silence.
(All 102 articles and poems written by Marshal South for Desert Magazine from 1939 to 1948 can be read in Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living, 2005, Edited and with a Foreword by Diana Lindsay and Introduction by Rider and Lucile South, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA.)