High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
A Desert Rat's Prayer  . . .
   Lee was feeling low. It's not that he wanted to be anywhere else beside the desert, but this night would bring the last full moon of the millennium, and he had no one to share it with. His boyhood friends all had families and commitments, and seldom made these trips anymore. Lee found himself camping alone more and more as the years went by. He would not have changed his life, but tonight he was cold, and felt disconnected and played out like the old abandoned mine where he was camped.

  Cold set in early that time of year, so he began cleaning out the blackened granite fire ring before sunset. "I wonder how many fires this old ring has seen in the last hundred years," he thought to himself. He got a good steady blaze going with ocotillo and mesquite, then laid on some stout pieces of ironwood. Just as he sat down the moon eased over the horizon as big as he had ever seen it. As he watched it rise he began to absent-mindedly bounce his shovel in and out of the sand at his feet. His attention was drawn away from the moon when the soft scraping sound was broken by the clink of metal on metal. He bent over and cleared away the sand by hand, then removed a rusty old tobacco tin. He was about to fling it down the slope with the tailings and other junk when he felt something move inside of it.

  He eased the hinged lid open with his thumbs, then turned the tin toward the fire. Inside he could see a piece of greasy paper. "What the hell," he thought. He stood and walked over to his camp table, and there, under the Coleman, carefully removed the paper and laid it out flat. It looked like an old map of some kind, but it
was too faded for him to make out any detail. He turned it over to find a hand-written letter scribbled in dark blue fountain ink:

December, 1899

To whom it may concern and pertain,
  I don't no the date exacly, but I no it is near Christmas, and that tonight
is the last full moon of the sentury. That put me to thinking. I am geting
up in years and got nobody to give a present to. Hell, I got nuthing to give
anyway. I got nuthing but 40 year of tracks and wishes and no gold to

  I reckin I'd do er all agin, but tonight I'm cold and dont feel worth a sh darn. But I do thank the Almighty for the pretty moon tonight. He's give me more n my share. An I thanked him for ever last one of them to. I don't no that he ever herd me, but I talk to him ever night regeler just the same.

  I don't no how miny days I got left, so I want to leev something behind
tonight. You might call it a box of wishus or prayers. This is mostly what I talk about with the lord. I never took nuthing valable out n the ground, but mebbe I can put sumthin in fer sombody elst to find.


May there be campfires in heven.
Thank you for this fire and this windless night and for drawing the smoke strate up to you.
Thank you for letting me see the last full moon of the sentory.
Thank you for all the good jacks and jennies I've knowd.
Thank you for not leeding me to a poke. I'd probly just gamble it away anyhow.
Could you slow down progress jest a little. Things is changin to damn fast.
I hope I done more good n bad.

May President Wm. whats his name lead us into the next sentory with honor and common cents.
If you see fit Lord, there bin to much killin this sentory-could you make this next one more peaceful?
And one more thing Lord, If n I make it up there, could you set a side a little patch of desert jest for me?


An Old Desert Rat

Lee stared at the letter for another moment or two, then reached inside the cab of his truck for a pen. At the bottom of the letter he wrote "Amen 12/22/99." He carefully refolded the letter and put it back in the tin. He then placed the tin inside an empty metal ammo box he had never found a use for. He dug the old hole out bigger and a little deeper, then buried the box. After tamping the sand down with his boots, he eased back into his chair and enjoyed the best full moon any man has ever seen.

A Desert Rat's Prayer
Text by Tim McCrerey