I went to the basement to put something away and found my old arrowhead collection as well as a basket filled with most of my mineral collection. But what held my eye longest, and made the trip upstairs with me where it now resides beside my keyboard, was a jar containing the sun-dried body of a lizard.
I’m not sure what kind of lizard it is but I’m guessing it’s a Desert Spiny Lizard. It was dead and already mummified, just as it appears now, when I found it 75 years ago on an Indian reservation in southern Arizona.
Our neighbor across the street managed a store on the Papago Reservation a few miles from where we lived in Ajo. One day I went out with him and his son, who was my age, and we spent an afternoon roaming around and chumming with some of the Indian kids. I remember poking around in a hole in a bank they told us was a coyote den. At the cemetery we stood in awe of the shards of colored glass that lined the walls around it.
Another stop was at an open air cistern long in disuse. We all climbed down into the open pit and that’s where I found the skeletal remains of the lizard. Even at that age I was a collector so one of our hosts came up with a jar just large enough to hold the body.
I took it home to Ajo and kept it with me when we eventually returned to Springfield where over time I lived in four houses. I stored it in my folks’ basement during the years when we lived in Atlanta, Evansville, and Kansas City, and reclaimed it when we moved back home in 1973. Since then we’ve lived in two other houses, counting this one.
I think this relic has earned the right to come upstairs into the sunlight for a while so I can admire it again and wonder, again, what stories it might tell if it could. The Papago Reservation name was changed to the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in 1986 so history is busy covering its traces. But this unnamed lizard and I? We’re still here together.