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The Desert Home The Adventures of a Lost Family in the Wilderness   By: (1818-1883)

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The Desert Home, by Captain Mayne Reid.

This was one of the first books that Mayne Reid wrote. Its action takes place in a central part of North America, designated a Desert. Some people set out to travel in this central desert, when they somewhat lose their way. Luckily they eventually spot the light of a farm house, where they knock and receive hospitality.

Their kind host and his family then explain to them how they came to live where they do, and what a lovely place it is. Reid is very knowledgeable about animals and also plants. Much of the rest of the book is taken up with tales of encounters with various animals, and with stories of the uses of many trees and shrubs.

It is written in an unusual style, but in fact, because of the shortness of the chapters, it can hold the reader's attention very well.

As with several other books by this author it had been very badly typeset, apparently using old and damaged type. This made the OCRed version of the text come out very full of misreads, but it was fun tidying this up. Apologies if any more misreads come to light.




There is a great desert in the interior of North America. It is almost as large as the famous Saara of Africa. It is fifteen hundred miles long, and a thousand wide. Now, if it were of a regular shape that is to say, a parallelogram you could at once compute its area, by multiplying the length upon the breadth; and you would obtain one million and a half for the result one million and a half of square miles. But its outlines are as yet very imperfectly known; and although it is fully fifteen hundred miles long, and in some places a thousand in breadth, its surface extent is probably not over one million of square miles, or twenty five times the size of England. Fancy a desert twenty five times as big as all England! Do you not think that it has received a most appropriate name when it is called the Great American Desert ?

Now, my young friend, what do you understand by a desert? I think I can guess. When you read or hear of a desert, you think of a vast level plain, covered with sand, and without trees, or grass, or any kind of vegetation. You think, also, of this sand being blown about in thick yellow clouds, and no water to be met with in any direction. This is your idea of a desert, is it not? Well, it is not altogether the correct one. It is true that in almost every desert there are these sandy plains, yet are there other parts of its surface of a far different character, equally deserving the name of desert . Although the interior of the great Saara has not been fully explored, enough is known of it to prove that it contains large tracts of mountainous and hilly country, with rocks and valleys, lakes, rivers, and springs. There are, also, fertile spots, at wide distances from each other, covered with trees, and shrubs, and beautiful vegetation. Some of these spots are small, while others are of large extent, and inhabited by independent tribes, and even whole kingdoms of people. A fertile tract of this kind is called an oasis; and, by looking at your map, you will perceive that there are many oases in the Saara of Africa.

Of a similar character is the Great American Desert; but its surface is still more varied with what may be termed "geographical features." There are plains some of them more than a hundred miles wide where you can see nothing but white sand, often drifting about on the wind, and here and there thrown into long ridges such as those made by a snowstorm. There are other plains, equally large, where no sand appears, but brown barren earth utterly destitute of vegetation. There are others, again, on which grows a stunted shrub with leaves of a pale silvery colour... Continue reading book >>

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