Big Jim: The Sonoran Desert Stick Lizard

2013-05-31T00:00:00Z 2013-07-11T11:52:19Z Big Jim: The Sonoran Desert Stick LizardJim Griffith Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Before we leave our discussion of the joys of summer, tribute should be paid to that miracle of climatic adaptation, the Sonoran Desert Stick Lizard.

The little stretch of desert where I live is blessed with many kinds of cactus, and I often find myself walking around the property, introducing visitors to our local flora.

On such strolls I may chance to come across a straight stick, six to twelve inches long and roughly the diameter of a wooden pencil. I pick it up, remarking to my companion that I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.

“What is it?” asks the visitor.

“Why, it’s a lizard stick,” I reply.

“What in the world is a lizard stick?” is the inevitable question.

Then I explain that one species of lizard in the Sonoran Desert has very tender feet, and cannot walk without pain across the burning sands of mid-day. He therefore carries a stick tucked under his legs. (Note on gender equity: there were just too many “it”s in this passage, so I arbitrarily decided to discuss male lizards. Female stick lizards exist, of course, but their sticks are smaller and harder to identify.) When the sand gets too hot, the lizard jabs the stick into the ground and climbs up it. There he stays until things cool off towards evening, when he scampers down and goes about his business, carrying his stick.

There are unscrupulous people who will tell you that, while perched on the stick, the lizard keeps cool by sitting in its own shadow. Trust them not; the truth is not in them. But some people will go to almost any lengths to deceive a newcomer.

This brief essay on the stick lizard is brought to you as the result of a reader’s suggestion.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Jim Griffith is the former director of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, and co-founder of Tucson Meet Yourself. He’s also the author of seven books on the folklore and folklife of our region, most recently “A Border Runs Through It.” His books can be purchased at tucson.com/wildcatgear.

If you have questions or suggestions for Jim Griffith or this blog, e-mail bigjimgriffith@gmail.com

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