The Desert Wins by Judy Eron

Left camp five a.m.

The air was cool, the sun was dim.

Two canteens, wouldn’t need a third.

Never expected what occurred.

Seven miles by noon or less.

Sun was hotter than we had guessed.

An apple apiece, then we’re turning back.

One canteen left in the pack.

One canteen would’ve lasted fine

If I wasn’t drinking when I hit that vine.

Canteen open when I fell.

Now here we are on a march through hell.

So hot, you cannot breathe.

Try to spit and it comes out steam.

Sweating so hard, you cannot see,

But you’ve got to keep going,

You’ve got to keep going.

There’s got to be water ahead.

Two miles without a drop,

The sun intense. We had to stop.

Shade ahead, make a plan:

We’d walk to camp when the night began.

That’s the plan, walk at night,

Though neither of us had brought a light.

Not a choice, options few.

We’d just do what we had to do.

Mouths parched, heads ache.

Out of the sun, but feeling baked.

Minds dull, ears ring.

Then somehow I remembered a spring.

Probably a mile, not much more.

Off the trail, but a spring for sure.

Wait till dark or head there now?

Desire too strong to sit it out.

Feeling dead, single file.

“Every” step is like a mile.

Walking on, didn’t think we could.

Then over a hill, a cottonwood.

Drink and drink and drink and then

Take a breath and drink again.

Canteens full, bandanas wet.

Back to camp with a new respect.

Desert wild, desert heat.

Desert wild, I repeat.

Careful, careful, or trouble begins,

And all contests, the desert wins.

Judy Eron moved to Terlingua Ranch with her husband Jim in 1993, but bipolar disorder claimed his life in 1997. Her cautionary book What Goes Up. . . Surviving the Manic Episode of a Loved One was published by Barricade Books in 2005. Judy’s articles and stories have appeared in the Cenizo Journal, The Alpine Avalanche, Herstry Journal, and she was a regular columnist with BP Magazine. Her two co-written musical theater plays were produced in Nashville, TN and Burlington, VT. Judy and her partner Charlie escape the desert summer heat, spending 6 months each year on the coast of Washington state.