I’m dismayed to see the term “desert rat” appropriated by the off-road vehicle industry when off-roading is so inimical to the preservation of the desert. The term “desert rat” was popularized during World War II, referring the British soldiers in the Libyan desert.
John Hilton wrote an essay, “How To Be a Desert Rat and Like It,” in 1948. Harry Oliver published it in The Desert Rat Scrap Book, a Southwest desert newsletter edited by Harry Oliver from 1945 to 1967.
Hilton writes in his essay,
"Anyone can be a desert rat who can see and love the beauty of the desert in all of her moods. There’s beauty and wild music in a desert sandstorm. The lightning and thunder of a summer cloudburst are the flashing eyes – the emoting and tears of a high-spirited, beautiful actress ‘putting on a scene.’ They are soon over. There’s beauty in crisp cold winter mornings and hot sultry summer afternoons, but most of all there’s the intimate beauty of being alone with her on long walks or lying on her warm breast on balmy summer nights counting the stars in her hair – listening in the silence to your own heartbeat as it matches hers.
"Being a desert rat and liking it is like being in love – you just can’t help it."
After spending a year in the Mojave among a group of very interesting artists and independents I've compiled a list of indications that one might be a desert rat. If you have observations of your own, please add them in the comments.
You might be a desert rat if…
- You have circular driveway.
- The road you live on has two or three names and at some point the road just kind of peters out and probably takes up again in the next town.
- You recognize your neighbors by the sound of their tires on the dirt road.
- All your wine glasses have Marine insignia on them.
- You have 3000 pictures of clouds on your phone.
- You don’t own any sunscreen,
- You’d just as soon go outside without your pants as without your hat.
- You have a cabin in your house.
- Your two favorite shows are sunrise and sunset.
- Your garden is named after a federal prison.
- The stars keep you awake at night when you sleep outside in the summer.
- You’re actually not all that crazy about the moon because it makes it hard to see the Milky Way.
- Your house has hot and cold running water – hot in the summer, cold in the winter.