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June 26, 1861: San Francisco to San Juan Bautista

June 30, 2011

San Juan Bautista 05

Main square, San Juan Bautista; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

Camp 38

We left at eight o’clock, on the top of the stage, which seat we kept all the way through, having a fine chance to see the country.

San Jose and Santa Clara are large and thriving towns, but the whole country looks dry now. The fields are all dry and yellow, the herbage on the waste lands eaten down to the very roots, the fields of grain ripe for the harvest. Many reaping machines were at work and prosperity and abundance appeared to smile on the lovely region. But how dry it looked! Hundreds of windmills pump water from the wells for the cattle and for irrigating the lands, but the streams are dry, and sand and clouds of dust fill the dry air. While seated on the stage we often could not see the leaders at all for the dust. Yet there will be no more rainfall for the next three or four months to revive the soil or green the landscape. The driver said the dust often became very fine, and eight inches deep, before the close of the dry season, filling the air with dust clouds.

Much as can be said about this lovely climate, yet give me our home climate, variable as it is. This is healthy, very healthy, lovely, but it is monotonous—four more months, long months of dry air and clear sky. The budding freshness of spring, with its resurrection of life; the summer with its flowers, its showers, its rich green; autumn with its fruits, its fall of leaves, its gorgeous forests; winter, with its dead outer world, but its life at the fireside—all are unknown here. A slowly dawning spring, tardily coming, is followed by a slower, dry, arid summer. This is the climate for a lazy man, that for labor, this for dolce far niente, that for action.

We got back a little after ten in the evening, and before eleven were in camp again. It seemed like home. The soft, luxurious bed of the city had given me quite a severe cold, which my better sleep on my blankets is improving. Ah! camp is the place to sleep—sweet sleep—refreshing sleep. There is no canopy like the tent, or the canopy of Heaven, no bed so sweet as the bosom of Mother Earth.

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