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The Land of Little Rain

The Land of Little Rain by Mary Hunter Austin
By: (1868-1934)

The Land of Little Rain is a book of sketches which portray the high desert country of southern California, where the Sierras descend into the Mojave Desert. Mary Austin finds beauty in the harsh landscape: "This is the sense of the desert hills--that there is room enough and time enough. . . The treeless spaces uncramp the soul." Her story begins with the water trails that lead toward the few life giving springs--the way marked for men by ancient Indian pictographs. Life and death play out at these springs. Rabbits fall prey to the coyote; buzzards hang heavily in the sky above. She then writes of individuals who eke out their living in this land of scarce resources--an itinerant gold prospector, a sheepherder, a blind Indian basket maker. Austin's spare prose creates unforgettable vignettes: "Choose a hill country for storms. . . I remember one night of thunderous rain made unendurably mournful by the houseless cry of a cougar whose lair, and perhaps his family, had been buried under a slide of broken boulders . . ." Anyone who sees beauty in the Southwestern deserts, or who just enjoys good nature writing, will savor The Land of Little Rain. (

First Page:






I confess to a great liking for the Indian fashion of name giving: every man known by that phrase which best expresses him to whoso names him. Thus he may be Mighty Hunter, or Man Afraid of a Bear, according as he is called by friend or enemy, and Scar Face to those who knew him by the eye's grasp only. No other fashion, I think, sets so well with the various natures that inhabit in us, and if you agree with me you will understand why so few names are written here as they appear in the geography. For if I love a lake known by the name of the man who discovered it, which endears itself by reason of the close locked pines it nourishes about its borders, you may look in my account to find it so described. But if the Indians have been there before me, you shall have their name, which is always beautifully fit and does not originate in the poor human desire for perpetuity.

Nevertheless there are certain peaks, caƱons, and clear meadow spaces which are above all compassing of words, and have a certain fame as of the nobly great to whom we give no familiar names... Continue reading book >>

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