January 18, 2022
One of the joys of visiting a new place is discovering the people who made history in the area. This is the case with Cabot Yerxa, who I had never heard of before our visit, but he is one of the homesteading founders of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Cabot Yerxa and his donkeys,
including Merry Xmas, at left.
While visiting his ecclectic, ramshackle, pueblo style house the other day, I bought a book of his writings for the local newspaper, describing how he came to the area and all of his arduous journeys on foot to gather water and tools. For example, he writes about walking 11 miles to get a pair of tin snips to fashion a dust pan out of empty tomato cans, then 11 miles back to cut the cans, and then after he finished, he returned the snips and then walked home and surmises it took 44 miles of walking to get a workable dust pan.
In 1913-14 he built a crude house by hand on the top of a small perch of desert he called Miracle Hill.
Cabot and his young son Rodney
enjoying the endless sandbox on Miracle Hill.
Here is the view of Miracle Hill today, taken from our Hotel room window.
Miracle Hill at sunrise today.
Yes, it's covered with tract homes and I have reached out to the local historical society to see if there is at least a monument up there. I certainly hope so.
Cabot named it Miracle Hill because "at its base I discovered hot curative mineral waters, and on the other side cold water. . .round about it are beds of red clay and blue clay from which Indians made pottery. Also there were to be found rocks, building sand, good earth and desert soil, all of this is ample reason for the name 'Miracle Hill.'"
Not to mention the stunning views in all directions and here is one of those views, looking towards San Jacinto Peak, which is the big mountain that buttresses Palm Springs to the west.
The cloud show over San Jacinto Peak
Cabot, later built his ramshackle pueblo style home to the north of Miracle Hill and today it is a museum. Kathy and I walked to it from our resort and highly recommend it.
Being the desert rat he was, Cabot often used materials at hand and this doorway is a good example.
A wagon bed turned into a door.
When he dug a well on the hot side of Miracle Hill it took him quite a while to dig down to water, and when he did he reported:
"The water temperature turned out to be 132 degrees, was soft as rain water with soap, and tasted good. Bob [Carr] and I sat down and built air castles. We visualized a city here with many people to make proper use of the hot water and climate for healthful purposes and outdoor enjoyment. Those who heard us rave about the future of this desert laughed at us, but today Desert Hot Springs is an actuality."
—Cabot Yerxa, January 17, 1952
Cabot's favorite donkey, Merry Xmas, seen above, followed him around like a dog and they had many adventures together. Of course, Xmas was allowed to roam freely most of the time and Cabot relates how much time it took to find the donkey and gave, by example, this old prospector joke:
Newcomer: "So you have been out here on the desert 40 years! Have you been mining all that time?"
Prospector: "Well, not all the time because I have hunted burros for 20 years!"
"It takes two Easterners to believe one Westerner."
—Old Vaquero Saying