Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/33

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ing the greater part of the year is dry; the herbage, when there is any, coarse and somber, and the whole country singularly lacking in trees and verdure.[1] In the fields of the better portions of the country, men may be seen plowing with a crooked stick, and raising water from reservoirs or ditches into irrigating trenches, by exactly the same methods that are in use to-day as they were five thousand years ago or more upon the banks of the Nile. In the villages, women with nut-brown skins, black hair, and large black eyes, walk round in multitudinous folds of cotton fabrics, often colored, the face partially concealed, and gracefully bearing water-jars upon their shoulders—the old familiar Bible picture of our childhood over again, of Rebecca returning from the fountain.

Place a range of irregular, sharp, saw-tooth hills or mountains, upon whose sides neither grass nor shrub has apparently ever grown, in the distance; a cloudless sky and a blazing sun overhead; and in the foreground a few olive-trees, long lines of repellent cacti defining whatever of demarkation may be needed for fields or roadway, and a few

  1. It is not to be understood that there are no forests in Mexico. A large part of the low and comparatively narrow and tropical coast belt is densely wooded; and there are also valuable forest-growths on the borders of Guatemala and in the Sierra regions of Northern Mexico. But the single fact that wood (mainly mesquite) for fuel on the plateau of Mexico commands from twelve to fifteen dollars per cord, is sufficient evidence of its great scarcity.