The Land of Little Rain

Mary Hunter Austin (1868–1934)

Owls, by E. Boyd Smith

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 sheep herder, 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.


If you have enjoyed The Land of Little Rain, you might like:
The Desert, by John Charles Van Dyke.