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The Grumbling Gods

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Copyright: 2007
Trim: 6 x 9
Pages: 264 pp.


The Grumbling Gods

A Palm Springs Reader

Edited by Peter Wild


Home to former presidents and to movie stars, Palm Springs and its surrounding deserts are among the fastest growing and wealthiest areas of the U.S. But beneath the glitter lies a story of turmoil and a pattern of excess that prefigures many of the issues that face the nation.

The Grumbling Gods surveys the history and allure of Palm Springs, beginning with the Cahuilla Indians, the first historical residents of the region. It includes accounts from the early explorers, a report of mysterious shipwrecks amidst the sand dunes, and selections from the grimly rollicking writings of Raymond Chandler. It penetrates the tinsel of casinos and the placidity of gated golf communities to reveal the painful beauty of deserts and mountains under assault.

Francisco Patencio, the last of the traditional Cahuilla Indians, warned his white neighbors to be careful, that the grim gods inhabiting the canyons around Palm Springs were angry. It is their grumbling, at once chilling and prophetic, and yet sometimes humorous, that we hear from the pages of this book.

Peter Wild is professor of English at the University of Arizona. He is the author of numerous books on the Southwest and its deserts, including The New Desert Reader (University of Utah Press, 2006).


Francisco Patencio; Manfred Knaak; Herbert Eugene Bolton; James O. Pattie; Ann Japenga; Captain William Banning; George Hugh Banning; William P. Blake; Joseph C. Ives; Madge Morris Wagner; John C. Van Dyke; Helen Lukens Gaut; Remi A. Nadeau; George Wharton James; Harold Bell Wright; Mary Jo Churchwell; Barbara Worth; J. Smeaton Chase; Carl Eytel; Elwood Lloyd; Edmund C. Jaeger; Edna Brush Perkins; Christine Giles; William C. DeMille; John S. Lynch; John W. Kennedy; Robert L. Wooley; Marshall South; John D. Mitchell; Choral Pepper; Colin Fletcher; Raymond Chandler; Robert B. Parker; William deBuys; Lawrence Hogue; Susan Straight; Frank M. Bogert

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Teetering on the Edge

1. For My Own People |
Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians
2. Life from the Rocks |
The Forgotten Artist: Indians of Anza-Borrego and Their Rock Art
3. The Spanish Lewis and Clark: Into the Swallowing Wilderness |
Anza's California Expeditions
4. We Took Our Bullets in Our Mouths |
The Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie, of Kentucky
5. Stuck in the Yuma Dunes: A Sandstorm Envelops a Stagecoach |
Six Horses
6. Seeing with New Eyes: William P. Blake, Geologist |
Report of a Geological Reconnaissance in California
7. Steamboating across the Colorado |
Report upon the Colorado River of the West
8. "Thou Brown, Bare-Breasted, Voiceless Mystery?": The Desert as Urban Melodrama |
"To the Colorado Desert"
9. Seeing with New Eyes: John C. Van Dyke, Aesthetician |
The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances
10. More on Van Dyke: The Nasty Young Man on the Imagined Trapeze |
The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances
11. John Muir on the Colorado Desert: In a Flowered Bathrobe |
"I Remember John Muir's Visit"
12. The Runaway River |
The Water Seekers
13. The Wonderland: Ghosts at the Well |
The Wonders of the Colorado Desert
14. Love along the Irrigation Ditches |
The Winning of Barbara Worth
15. A Treacherous Camel at the Train Station |
Palm Springs: The Landscape, the History, the Lore
16. Out of Revolutionary Mexico: The Three Wealthy White Sisters |
Palm Springs: The Landscape, the History, the Lore
17. Barbara Worth on the Rampage |
"Imperial Earthquake, Million Damage Done"
18. A Desert Village |
Our Araby: Palm Springs and the Garden of the Sun
19. A Desert Saint—With Cracks: Carl Eytel |
"Of Such As These Is the Spirit of the Desert" and Letters to Edmund C. Jaeger
20. Just What Was Needed: Edmund C. Jaeger |
The North American Deserts
21. Two Wealthy Feminists from Cleveland: A Great Hole Full of Blue Mist |
The White Heart of Mojave: An Adventure with the Outdoors of the Desert
22. A Tiny Figure Wavering in the Blue Mists|
California Desert Trails
23. The Ansel Adams of the Desert: Stephen H. Willard |
"Stephen H. Willard: Photography Collection and Archive"
24. The Excitements of Celluloid: The Camel's Nose |
Hollywood Saga
25. The Excitements of Celluloid: The Camel Victorious |
California: A Guide to the Golden State
26. After God... Gen. George S. Patton! |
Patton's Desert Training Center
27. Desert Magazine and Marshal South: Living like Indians |
"Desert Refuge"
28. Pegleg Smith: A Legend Found—Then Lost Again |
"Black Nuggets in the Valley of Phantom Buttes"
29. Sands that Blossom into Viking Ships |
"Ships That Pass in Desert Sands"
30. The Death of Chuckwalla Bill |
The Man from the Cave
31. Murder in Fru-Fru Land |
Poodle Springs
32. Consequences: The Sea of Poisons |
Salt Dreams: Land and Water in Low-Down California
33. The Preserved Lands: Ecstasy and Agony |
All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journey in a Desert Landscape
34. Bighorn Sheep |
All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journey in a Desert Landscape
35. In the Vineyards: "Tío, I Need Some Work" |
Highwire Moon: A Novel
36. Any August Day a Hundred Years Ago: In the Cool Pines |
Palm Springs: The Landscape, the History, the Lore
37. Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Las Mentiras |
Palm Springs: First Hundred Years
Epilogue: A Beam of Dawn Light |
"A Landmark Fades" and "The No-Girls Club"

Notes and Source Credits

Praise and Reviews:

"The Grumbling Gods is a significant contribution to the understanding of the American West, one that introduces the reader to both a place as well as to the ways in which the human understanding of that place has evolved over the years."
—Donald A. Barclay, University of California, Merced

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