Ocotillo Care: Tips On Planting Ocotillo In The Garden
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of ocotillo you want to grow. There are many varieties available in the market today. You will have to choose one based on your budget and how much time you want to invest into growing it.
If you plan to keep it indoors, then you can choose any variety of ocotillo. They all produce the same amount of fruit. If you want to grow them outdoors, then you will have to select one that grows best in your climate. Some varieties like the red or green ocotillo grow well in hot climates while others like the white ones thrive better in cold climates. A few other things to consider before choosing a type of ocotillo include its size and shape.
Smaller varieties tend to produce less fruit than larger types.
There are two main ways of growing ocotillo. One way is by transplanting seeds from the mother plant directly onto soil and letting it grow naturally. Another method involves planting the seedlings directly into the ground with no support at all. Both methods require care but they yield different results depending on which one you choose.
Transplanting ocotillo plants from the original container to a new pot is easy if you use the right tools. First you will need to remove the plant from its container by sliding a butter knife along the edges of the container. Be careful not to damage the roots of the plant while doing this. Next, place the plant with all of its roots into a clean pot with fresh soil inside it. You can water the plant at this point.
Make sure it is placed in an area that gets a lot of sun and will not experience any extreme temperature changes throughout the day. This method is better if you want to grow a single, very large ocotillo since many plants can be grown from one cutting.
This method involves directly planting the cuttings into their designated pots without first transplanting them into separate containers. To do this, you will need to prepare a good mixture of soil. A good way to do this is by mixing 50 percent peat moss, 40 percent coarse sand, and 10 percent manure or compost together. After mixing the soil, fill your pots with the mixture until they are ¾ of the way full. You will then need to remove all of the cuttings from their original containers.
Gently pull them out by sliding a butter knife along the edges of the container. Be careful not to damage the roots of the plant. Next, use a sharp knife to cut off any damaged roots. Finally, place the ocotillo cutting about three to four inches deep into the soil mixture. Continue this process until all of the plants are in the ground.
Ocotillos need lots of direct sun and warm temperatures in order to grow well. If the temperature falls below 50 degrees at night during the winter, then you will need to move it into a place that has better protection from the elements. If there is no change in the temperature, the ocotillo may die.
Ocotillos also grow well with very little water. During the first year, it is a good idea to water them only when the top layer of soil becomes dry. Water it heavily but let the soil dry out again before watering again. After the first year, your ocotillo should be able to tolerate a little more water but should still only need watering about once a week.
If you are growing your ocotillo in a container (such as a pot), it is a good idea to fertilize it once every two weeks during the spring and summer months with a general-purpose fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the packaging of the fertilizer.
Even after your ocotillo has been growing for more than a year, it is important to remember not to overwater it. Ocotillos do not generally experience problems with fungus and mold unless their roots are sitting in water for an extended period of time.
Your ocotillo plant will eventually grow into a small tree. At this point, it should be potted into a larger container to allow enough space for its roots to grow. It is also a good idea to trim any damaged or dead branches at this point. Your ocotillo should last for many years if it is well taken care of.
Ocotillo Plants and Other Animals
Ocotillos are poisonous to most animals. They contain a toxic chemical called phenolic glycoside. This is a poison that can cause severe burning sensations in the mouth and throat if ingested. If enough of it is consumed, it can even cause death. Most insects, rodents, and animals steer clear of ocotillo plants because of this.
It is only safe for humans and some types of birds to be around them. This is why you don’t have to worry about your ocotillo being eaten by rabbits, deer, or other types of herbivores that may come across it.
Humans and some types of birds can touch and eat the ocotillo without any side effects. In fact, the Tohono O’odham and the Quechan people both traditionally used the ocotillo in different ways. The Tohono O’odham used the milky white fluid from the stem to numb themselves before childbirth. The Quechan people used the red berries for food.
An ocotillo plant is also not susceptible to most insects that destroy other plants. Most insects do not like the taste or feel of it and will avoid it at all costs. This helps keep your ocotillo healthy.
Ocotillo plants have a special relationship with the harvester ant. These ants like the sap that the ocotillo produces. However, the sap is also poisonous to the ant. The relationship works though because the ants take some of the ocotillo sap and then groom each other with their antennas. The saliva of the ant breaks down the toxins in the sap and allows the ant to safely consume it.
The ants also protect the ocotillo from potential predators that might try to eat it while it is young and small. The ocotillo gives the ants a steady supply of food (in the form of the sap). This relationship between ocotillo and harvester ant is an example of mutualism.
Ocotillos have a number of different uses that have been taken advantage of by people in the past and present. The ocotillo has great significance to the Native American tribes that inhabit the deserts of the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. The Papago, Tohono O’odham, Quechan, and the Yuma all traditionally used the ocotillo in a number of ways.
The most common use of the ocotillo is for decorations. The bright red color is very eye-catching and the spines do not cause health problems if they come in contact with skin (as opposed to cacti spines which often cause skin irritation). In the past, the ocotillo branches were often brought into homes for decoration during special events such as weddings and feast days. They were also used in the building of Navajo hogans.
The Tohono O’odham people would make use of the ocotillo as firewood. They would also use the flowers to create a type of drink. The flower nectar was stirred together with wheat flour and water to create a drink similar to how we make lemonade today. The ocotillo branches were also used in the weaving of baskets and the Quechan used the branches to make bows.
Ocotillos were not just useful for practical use, they also had religious importance to the tribes that lived in the area. The O’odham people believed that the ocotillo was a very powerful plant due to its red color and its thorns. The plant bloomed only once every six years and so it was a sign of great respect and reverence. The ocotillo is also a plant that stays green even when there is severe drought, which further adds to its mystique. It is thought that the ocotillo symbolizes life and death because the stem looks almost dead but then shoots up into red flowers.
Decorating a grave with ocotillo was and still is seen as a way of honoring the dead. Within the Native American tribes, ocotillo branches are placed at graveside during the burial of a chief or a person of high standing in the community. The O’odham believe that if an evil spirit tries to harm someone in their afterlife, the ocotillo branch will whip that evil spirit and protect the dead person. The ocotillo branch is also laid at the head of the deceased.
Ocotillo life cycle
The Ants Messengers
The Ants Messengers (scientific name: Myrmecozela longiceps) are a species of ant that act as lookouts for ocotillo plants. They defend ocotillo plants from herbivores such as deer, which eat the leaves and stems. The ants will bite the herbivores that try to eat the ocotillo. When the herbivore tries to wipe the ants off, their protective shells come off and they begin to itch all over. The ant-covered deer rub against nearby plants.
The ocotillo has thorns that inject a toxic chemical into the skin of the deer, killing it.
The ants and the ocotillo have a special relationship. The ants eat honeydew, a sweet liquid that is secreted by aphids that suck the sap of certain plants. The aphids secrete the liquid when they are frightened. The ants defend these aphids from other insects that would like to eat them. In exchange for protection, the ants get honeydew.
The ants can also eat the ocotillo seeds and young leaves. This is a great way to make sure the plant grows and is healthy.
At night the ants hide in underground tunnels and shutter their mandibles (small jaws) to create a loud rattle. This sound usually scares off most predators (animals that eat other animals). If the predator does not leave, the ants will swarm out of the tunnel, bite the predator and generally make a huge commotion.
Ants Messengers do not just protect the ocotillo plant. They also remove the dead leaves and branches from the plant. Some ants will place bits of leaves in the underground tunnels for other ants to take back to their young. The ants act as an all-in-one maintenance crew and garbage department for ocotillo plants.
Ocotillos also get a substance called “milk” from insects such as aphids and scale insects. This “milk” contains a lot of sugar and is fed to the young ocotillo plants.
The O’odham Indians used to dry and crush ocotillo stems and then mix them with water and salt to make a drink.
This story was told to me by a Native American (Diné) friend of mine who lives in Arizona.
A long, long time ago, before the earth was as we know it today, the Ant People and the Ocotillo lived near each other. It was a hot place and nothing but sand as far as the eye can see.
One very hot day, a sudden terrible storm arose and lightning struck very near to where the ant people and ocotillo were living. The heat from the lightning strike was so great that it burned up all the plants in that area. Nothing was left. All the ocotillo plants and ant people were worried that they would surely die.
Suddenly, the ants remembered that the Ocotillo plants needed very little water to survive. If they could find some ocotillo plants to move near, they could all survive. All the ants spread out to search for ocotillo plants.
It wasn’t long before one of the ants stumbled upon a few ocotillo plants.
“Over here! I found some ocotillo plants over here!” he shouted as loud as he could.
All the ants ran over and began to shake the ocotillo plants back and forth. The ants knew that this would cause a lot of the little seeds that were on the ocotillo plants to fall off.
The ants knew that if they were very careful, they could take the seeds back to their own home and plant them there. If all the ants worked together, they could create a home for themselves and the ocotillo plants.
Soon, the ants had collected all the seeds that fell from the ocotillo plants. They took them back to their underground home and planted them there. It was not long before the little seeds began to grow into big ocotillo plants.
The ocotillo plants were thankful that the ants had saved them from dying. Every morning, the ocotillo plants would give dew drops to the ants in thanks for saving their lives.
The ocotillo plants and the ant people lived together in peace. They were all thankful that they had found each other.
One day, a little boy was walking by the ant’s home. He saw all the ocotillo plants and noticed that they did not have any dew drops on them in the morning. He picked one of the ocotillo plants and took it home.
He placed the plant in a special place in his home. Every morning he would water it and give it food so that it could grow strong.
The little boy and the ocotillo plant lived happily ever after. This is how the ocotillo came to live in the desert.
HARVESTER ANT INFORMATION
Harvester Ants can be recognized by their shiny head and abdomen, thin waist, and very large jaws.
Harvester Ants usually nest in dry, hot areas. They live in mounds made up of tiny pebbles. The mounds may be red or pink in color and can be found near washes or low spots where rainwater can collect.
Harvester Ants feed on almost anything they can find, including seeds, insects, and other small animals.
Harvester Ants do not sting or attack unless the nest is disturbed.
If a Harvester Ant colony is disturbed, the Harvester Ants will swarm out of the nest and bite anything that disturbs them.
To avoid getting swarmed by Harvester Ants, it is best to wear gloves when moving rock and sand.
PAPA ANT AND THE WILD FLOWER
One hot summer day, Papa Ant and his son were out looking for food. It had not rained in a long time and there was no food anywhere.
All of a sudden, Papa Ant spotted some Wild Flowers.
“Let’s go dig them up before some animal eats them,” Papa Ant told his son.
Papa Ant carefully dug up the Wild Flowers and put them in his bag. He and his son started to leave, when the wind suddenly stopped. The hot sun had dried up all the moisture in the ground. There was no more mud left.
“The Wild Flowers are beginning to wilt,” Papa Ant said in a sad voice. “We must get them home quickly or they will die.”
But just then, a long wagon train of settlers came over the hill. The settlers had come to take the land where the ants lived for themselves.
Papa Ant and his son had to run quickly back to their hills so they would not get stepped on or killed.
The settlers took all of the land where the Wild Flowers grew. They plowed it and planted crops there.
The ants had to leave their hills and look for a new home. They would never be able to go back because the settlers were already building a house on top of the hill.
The Wild Flowers died because they did not get enough water.
The settlers soon harvested their crops and dug new ditches in the ground. The rains came and filled the ditches. Soon a river was formed. The river flooded the entire area. It was so large and deep that nothing could live there any longer.
The river swept away the house that had been built on the hill. The settlers had to leave. Everything was gone. Now there was nothing but a big, empty desert.
The Wild Flowers tried to grow back in the desert, but it was no use. The wind blew all the dirt away and buried them again. There was nothing to drink and the land became as dry as it had been before. Nothing would ever grow there again.
Papa Ant never got to see his home again. He lived the rest of his life as a vagabond traveling from place to place. All he had was a bag with some small rocks inside it. The bag was supposed to remind him of the day he almost saved the Wild Flowers from dying.
Papa Ant died a vagabond. He was buried in an old, abandoned tunnel. No one ever knew what happened to him. But his son survived and had many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren after him. They say that the descendants of Papa Ant all have red heads and are born leaders.
The ants never forgot about the Wild Flowers and their story was told to every new ant that was born.
There once was a little girl named Dawn. Her Mama named her that because it means “the first light of day.” Dawn was very happy when she was born. Her Mama and Papa loved her very much.
They would always hold her, feed her, and play with her. When she got a little older, Dawn started helping around the house. She would pick berries with her Mama and help grind corn for dinner. Dawn loved helping her Mama.
Dawn was about four years old when Papa set off to go berry picking. He left Mama at home to mind the house and Dawn. After he picked enough berries, Papa would come home for lunch and then go back out in the afternoon.
That particular morning, Dawn had woken up early as usual. Dawn was such an active child that she needed to run around every now and then to keep herself from getting into trouble.
Dawn started playing with her toys. She was acting out a story with her toy animals when she heard a strange sound coming from outside. Dawn stopped playing and listened carefully. It sounded like crying…but not the kind of crying that Dawn would do if she dropped her doll on the floor.
This crying sounded very pitiful.
Dawn ran over to the door and opened it just a little bit. She didn’t see anybunny, so she opened the door wider and looked outside.
There in the middle of the room was a little gray ball of fluff. It was a baby badger. It couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old from the looks of it. Dawn had seen badgers before in the deep parts of the woods, but none were as young as this one. She stared at it for a moment before it opened its eyes.
The baby badger saw Dawn and started sniffling. It started making a very pitiful sound, different from the one that Dawn heard before. Now she knew why no one had come out to investigate the noise. They had all gone inside.
Dawn slowly walked over to the baby and knelt down beside it. The badger sniffled again and put his head against her leg. Dawn picked up the young animal and cradled it in her arms. She had never held a baby badger before, but she had held babies of other animals before. She knew how to be very gentle with them.
Dawn went back inside and closed the door behind her. She didn’t want anyone else to see the baby badger. The little guy was still sniffling every now and then. Dawn knew he must be hungry.
Should she feed him?
She remembered how her Mama fed her when she was a baby. She had a bottle that she would suck on and food would come out. Maybe this baby badger needed something like that. There weren’t any bottles in the house, but there was an old gourd sitting by the door. Perhaps it would do the trick.
Dawn cut off a small piece of the gourd and rinsed it out with water from a bucket. Then she mashed up some of the meat from a can that Papa had brought home the night before and loaded up the gourd. She kneeled down and propped the gourd in front of the little badger.
The baby sniffled a bit and then started to eat, just like Dawn had hoped he would. After feeding him, Dawn gave him a little pat and left him on the floor to play. She went over to the window to see if he would do what she thought he might, and she wasn’t disappointed.
The little badger started to chase it around the room. It was all so fascinating to watch that Dawn completely forgot about breakfast. She did, however, remember that Papa would be coming home for lunch today and she didn’t want him walking in on a baby badger in the house. She needed to take care of this situation before Papa got home.
She picked up the little guy and hugged him. She would have to find a new home for him today. Dawn didn’t want to, but it was the only way. She would have to let him go where he could find food and hide from predators. It would be too dangerous for him to stay here now that she had let him loose.
Dawn left the cottage and walked into the forest just a little bit. There was a small stream not too far from there. She could let him go there. She sat down next to the water’s edge and gently placed the little badger on the ground. She didn’t want to, but she would have to turn her back on him to make him go.
“Go find a home, little one.”
The badger paused a moment as if it understood what she was telling it and then darted off towards the stream. It was so fast that it was gone in an instant and Dawn couldn’t see it anymore.
She felt a little sad for a moment, but then she remembered that there were still many more badgers out there, even if this one was now out of her life.
As she walked back home she could hear the sounds of Papa chopping wood and Oki singing inside. Everything was right in her world again.
Papa was chopping wood when she returned home. Dusk was already beginning to fall so Papa would be finishing up soon. Dawn helped Oki put the stew on to cook and then set about doing the rest of her chores.
Oki was singing one of his endless songs while Papa chopped the last piece of firewood when there was a knock at the door. Dawn’s heart skipped a beat. It had been less than a day, but she already missed the little badger. She hoped it wasn’t him back for her or the rest of the badger clan. She had to answer it, so she took a deep breath and walked to the door.
When she opened it, there was a lovely lady standing outside with golden hair and bright blue eyes. She was short, but not tiny like Dawn and smiled at her when their eyes met.
I’m sorry if I am disturbing you, but is your father Timothy Martin?
I have some business with him.”
“Yes, he’s Papa.
Won’t you come in?”
The lady entered, looking curiously around the inside of the cottage before her eyes settled on Papa who had set down his axe and was walking over to greet her.
“You must be Dawn. Your father has told me much about you.” The lady said smiling. “I’m Mrs. Martin.”
You’re Papa’s girlfriend? Why haven’t I ever met you before?”
“Because your papa and I decided it would be best to keep our relationship secret until it was time to tell you and your father together.”
“It’s a long story, dear, and it’s not important right now. What is important is that I am here now to tell you both something very serious.” She looked at Papa. “
Why don’t we sit down?
This might take a while.
Papa, Dawn, and Mrs. Martin sat down at the dinner table. Oki had stopped singing when the door opened and was now watching everything with wide eyes from his place at the hearth.
Now Dawn, your father has already told you he is not your biological parent, correct?”
Who did you believe to be your father then?”
“My Papa.” Dawn said without hesitation.
Mrs. Martin smiled gently. “And he is, dear, in every way that matters. But the man who gave birth to you is still alive and I believe you have a right to know him. You too, Timothy.”
“I agree.” Papa said nodding his head. “Though I don’t know what good it will do, I haven’t spoken to him since Dawn was born and things were not good between us back then either. I’m sure he won’t want anything to do with me, let alone a daughter he never knew he had.”
“Never mind that now.
Do you two have any idea where he lives?”
Papa and Dawn shook their heads.
“I have an idea.” Oki suddenly spoke up from his spot by the hearth. They all turned to look at him. “There’s a tavern in town. It’s pretty fancy, so I doubt any of you go there, but some of the older diggers sometimes go there to drink and they say that’s where Mr.
Martin hangs out.”
Do you know the name of the tavern?”
“It’s called the Golden Egg.”
Papa and Dawn both looked stunned.
Y-you mean that rat is running a tavern?
!” Papa sputtered. “I could’ve owned that tavern!”
“Looks like he got the last laugh.” Mrs. Martin said quietly, but Papa shook his head.
“No. He may have the last laugh in this life, but I’m still laughing in the next. Let’s go pay Jake a visit at his tavern. Maybe I can give him a piece of my mind while we’re there.”
“I’m coming too!” Dawn said standing up.
“No, you stay here with Oki.” Papa said firmly. “This might get ugly and I want you and Oki here where it’s safe.”
“No, Papa! Please, I want to know what his reaction is going to be when he sees me for the first time! I have a right to see this! I have a right to see him face to face and learn what he’s like!”
Papa looked torn. He didn’t want to leave Dawn with Oki, but he also wanted to go confront his original father.
“I’ll stay.” Oki suddenly said. “Dawn can come with you and meet her grandfather and you don’t have to worry about looking after me.”
This definitely eased Papa’s concerns, but Dawn was still not pleased.
“Fine.” She huffed. “If you want to take that rat’s word for it…”
Oki bristled. “I may be a rat, but I’m not a killer, unlike the rest of my kind. Remember that.”
Dawn didn’t respond. She was too angry to even retort. Papa just looked at all three of them and shook his head.
“I don’t know… alright, let’s go.”
The three of them left the cabin and Papa locked the door. He led them along the wooded path until they were near the entrance to the mines. The entrance looked just as dismal in the daytime as it did at night. Papa looked at it for a moment, then looked at Dawn.
You sure you still want to do this?”
“Yes Papa! I’m not scared of him!”
Papa shrugged. “Alright then, let’s go.”
The three of them walked up to the mine entrance and Papa stopped.
Let me do all the talking, alright?”
He said to Dawn. “He’s going to be angry enough at me as it is, I don’t need you adding fuel to the fire.”
Dawn frowned, but nodded in agreement. She was nervous, but she knew this had to be done. The three of them entered the mine.
They walked through the mine in silence and it was just as dark and foreboding as it had been when Dawn had entered it alone. Eventually, they reached the large room with all the cages. There were still trolls prowling in their cages and the slave master standing by the table, though he was a lot dirtier than he had been before. When he saw Papa enter, he tensed up and drew his sword. He recognized Papa, even after all these years.
“Luis, you son of a bi…”
Papa held up his hand and the slave master shut up immediately.
“Trolls are expensive.” He said to Papa simply. “There’s no reason for us to fight.”
Papa nodded. “True, but there’s also no reason for you to act like such an animal. You’ve never even asked me what happened that day.”
The slave master scoffed. “I know what happened. You got scared and ran off into the wilderness, abandoning your posh life in Zu Del. I don’t blame you, but it’s obvious you’ve been living a lie and need to face up to the truth.”
Oh? And what truth is that?”
“That there is no Great Father. You gave up too soon and now you’re trying to take the easy way out, blaming your failures on some deity.”
Papa’s eyes narrowed. “You always did talk too much. Get out of my way.”
Papa was faster than the slave master and had him by the throat before he even knew what was happening. He lifted him into the air effortlessly and slammed him against the wall, holding him in place with one hand. Papa’s eyes burned with rage.
“Listen here, you pathetic worm. You WILL sell Dawn and Oki their freedom or I WILL kill you. I don’t care how long it takes, I will find you and I will kill you. You can either die by my hand or live and do as they say. The choice is yours.”
The slave master’s eyes bulged but he couldn’t say anything with Papa’s hand around his throat. He could only watch in horror as Papa squeezed tighter and tighter before dropping him. He landed on the ground in a heap and took in a few much needed breaths.
He looked up at Papa, who towered over him. “Go ahead. You killed countless men in battle, you can kill me too. I won’t fight back.”
Papa eyed him suspiciously. “
Why aren’t you fighting back?”
What would be the point?
You’d just kill me and I need to take care of my family.”
“So you’re admitting that I’m stronger than you.”
The slave master smirked. “
After seeing that, what choice do I have?
It’s obvious you could break my neck with barely any effort…but I have to ask…are you really going to kill me? You’d be killing a man who has done nothing but faithfully served this empire, even if it isn’t his own.”
Papa looked disturbed at the slave master’s words. He knelt down and took the slave master’s chin in his hand, lifting his face up to see his eyes.
“You have ten seconds to convince me not to kill you.”
“I…” The slave master gulped. “I saw you and your lovely family enter. I can’t help but notice how much you love your children.
I also can see the eldest’s love for the youngest. It warms my heart to see this, to see a family reunited. I was never blessed with children of my own…I envy you.”
Papa’s grip lessened slightly as he sighed. “I know you’re lying through your teeth right now, but this is still refreshing. I haven’t heard the word ‘love’ in a long time. It’s a shame you couldn’t apply this philosophy to your own children after they were born.”
“I’m a ruthless man who believes that only the strong deserve to survive. I love my children…but my love is not enough. My children need to be tough and that means only the strongest can survive.
That’s why I had to banish my daughter.”
“You…banned your own daughter?” Papa’s grip tightened almost to the point of breaking the slave master’s neck. “
What did she do?”
“She…disobeyed me. She had a friend, a young girl from the Southern Islands. She was the only daughter of an old friend of mine. One day they went for a swim and my daughter pushed her underwater and held her there. She drowned.”
Papa’s eyes bulged. “
What reason did she have to do such a thing?”
“Revenge. The Islander girl had insulted her years before by saying that her father was fat. Words spoken in jest that my daughter didn’t let go.” Papa tried to interrupt but the slave master continued. “She accepted the blame and I didn’t know until it was too late. I banished her from my presence and never saw her again. I needed to believe that she was strong enough to survive in this world even if I couldn’t help her. Seeing you with your family, has given me hope that she is indeed alive and thriving.”
The slave master coughed. “My daughter…has a name. Her name is Dawn.”
Papa was silent for a moment. He stepped back and lifted the slave master up to his feet. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. I know you’re just doing your job.”
“Nonsense!” The slave master coughed into his hand. “I would have killed you if you hadn’t acted. You did the right thing.” He coughed up blood, but continued to speak.
“I have a request. My daughter, Dawn…I want you to find her. She left the Southern Islands and I believe she lives in the capital. If you can, find her and tell her that her father loves her.”
“If I see her, I will.” Papa said. He looked at Alison. “We should go now. We have what we came here for.”
Alison nodded and ran out of the room to get the kids. Papa helped the slave master sit down on a nearby chair. “Listen here. I don’t want you to mention any of this to Dawn. If she knows what you did, she will never forgive you.
I’ll tell her that you died before I came here.”
“Thank you…” The slave master wheezed. He pulled out a tattered piece of paper from his pocket. It was worn and crinkled.
He handed it to Papa. “This is my list of contacts in the capital. They may be of help to you.”
Papa took it from him and placed it in his pocket. “I’ll make sure they get to the right person.”
Alison ran back into the room with all the children following behind her. Papa picked up Henry and looked at Alison. “
Are you ready to go?”
“Yes,” she answered. She knelt down in front of the slave master. “We must go now. Goodbye.”
The slave master smiled. “Goodbye. And thank you.”
Papa and Alison gathered up the rest of the supplies and walked out of the room, leaving the slave master alone with his thoughts. They walked back through the dark halls until they reached the entrance. They stepped outside and into the clearing. Papa looked around and saw that everything was exactly how they had left it. The horses were still tied to the tree, chewing on the grass.
He sighed in relief and whistled. The four of them began to load up the supplies onto the horses.
What are we going to do with them?”
Alison asked, pointing at the two slaves in the cage.
Papa stopped what he was doing and looked at them. One was a middle-aged woman with graying hair and kind eyes. The other was a young girl, no older than sixteen. Both had scars covering their faces. Alison had treated their wounds, but they still looked dreadful.
He couldn’t leave them here to be tortured further. Yet, he couldn’t risk taking them with him, it would slow him down and he didn’t trust them to fight.
Alison asked again.
He looked at her and then back at the slaves. He could see the pain in their eyes. They were scared and depended on him to get them out of here. However, he simply didn’t have the time to deal with it, the Dominion could be on their way right now. He thought for a moment and then made up his mind.
He knelt down beside the cage and unlocked it with a click. The door swung open and the two slaves slowly stepped out. “The woods,” Papa said, not looking at them. “Go into them and keep going. Eventually you’ll reach a town.
That’s where you’ll be free.”
He stood up and looked at Alison. She knew what that meant. They had to leave, now. Papa picked up a bag of supplies and loaded it onto a horse while Alison did the same. Dawn led the two horses over to them and handed Papa the reins to one and Alison the reins to the other.
“Hang on,” Dawn said as she opened the gate. She ran over to the cage and grabbed the last piece of bear-meat from a bowl of water. She ripped off a piece and gave it to the youngest looking slave. “Go on. You’ll need your strength.”
The girl swallowed it nervously and grabbed the reins tightly. Papa tossed her up onto the horse and she settled in behind the saddle. The middle-aged woman went to help the other girl onto the horse, but Papa stopped her.
“Leave her,” he said.
The woman grabbed the reins anyway and pulled the girl onto the horse. Papa drew his sword and pointed it at the girl. “Leave her.”
The woman wordlessly stepped back as Papa helped her up behind the saddle. Papa handed Alison the other set of reins and she led the horses around to the front of the cabin. Dawn appeared a moment later, carrying two long pieces of wood.
What are those for?”
Dawn said, holding them up. “These are called crutches. You put your arm through here. It’ll help you walk.”
“I don’t need one,” Alison said.
Papa coughed. “You’ll need one for a few weeks, at least.” Alison reluctantly held out her arm and Dawn slipped the piece of wood through it and handed her the other one. She fastened them together and then lowered the combined crutch to Alison. “There.
Now you can walk.”
“Finally, we’re leaving,” Alison said. Papa and Mama were already on their horses. They waited for Alison to climb onto hers, then Papa led them out of the barn. Dawn followed behind the three of them as they rode to the woods.
They didn’t talk much during the trip, but it felt good to have Mama back again. Alison felt more like herself with Mama there. Papa and Mama told her to keep a look out for Zealots, but they didn’t see any on their way out of town.
They found a nice place to camp in a nearby clearing. Alison was a little scared of being alone at night now, but Papa said he’d stand guard while Mama and Alison slept. As Papa was building a fire, Mama came over to Alison.
“I’m proud of you,” she said, stroking Alison’s hair.
Alison smiled. “Thanks, Mama.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Mama hugged her, then laid down on the blankets to go to sleep. Papa built up the fire and sat down beside it, his sword across his lap. Alison lay down as well, but she couldn’t sleep. She looked up at the stars shining brightly and felt glad to be with her family again.
Maybe Papa was right. Maybe everything really would be OK.
The next morning, Papa woke them up early. He got the horses and Mama made some food for everyone. There was still a lot left over, so Papa packed it away for when they stopped to rest again. They rode for most of the day, not stopping to rest until late afternoon. They repeated this process for four more days and by then they were far enough away from Woodworker’s Village that Papa felt it was safe to stop for good.
The next few weeks were spent setting up a new home. Papa and Mama both knew how to build a shelter so they quickly built one out of wood from trees in the forest. It was small but it had enough space for the four of them. They set up a garden near a creek so they could have fresh water and grew pumpkins, beans, corn, and fruit trees. Papa always said how happy he was because every day was like a shiny coin in his pocket.
Alison hadn’t realized how good she had it. She knew that not every little girl had a Papa to take care of them and that some children didn’t even have a mama or a father. There were sometimes boys at school who would tease her and say she was a orphan but she knew that wasn’t true. Papa told her she was very lucky to have two parents who loved her and a sister to play with. She would just smile and nod, but inside she knew they were meanies for calling her an orphan, even if it was true.
She tucked Silver up in the stable for the night and then went inside to sleep. For the first time since Mama died, Alison slept peacefully through the night.
Sources & references used in this article:
Cactus, Agave, Yucca and Ocotillo by J Kelly, R Grumbles – 2009 – repository.arizona.edu
Cultivation of Ocotillo from Seeds to Flowers: A Ten Year Experience in Northern Italy by E Ceotto – 2017 – repository.arizona.edu
Arizona & New Mexico Getting Started Garden Guide by J Phillips – 2014 – books.google.com
Gardening in the Desert: A Guide to Plant Selection & Care by M Irish – 2000 – books.google.com
The Toumey Cactus Garden by JJ Thornber – The Plant World, 1906 – JSTOR
Growing the Southwest Garden: Regional Ornamental Gardening by J Phillips – 2016 – books.google.com
Best plants for New Mexico gardens and landscapes: keyed to cities and regions in New Mexico and adjacent areas by M Irish – 2001 – Cool Springs Press