We now and then met groups of men bringing great timbers from the mountains fifty or sixty miles away. These timbers were many feet in length and trimmed to a foot square; from four to six made a load. The cart upon which they were carried consisted of a pair of wheels and an axle; one end of the timbers was attached to this, and the other was fastened to the yoke of oxen. It was rare that we met with a single timber cart, as four or five usually went together. The drivers who were in charge of them were pure Tarascans.
For a considerable distance a fine slope rose to our left, strewn with loose rock masses, and covered with a growth which was chiefly pitahaya, some of the plants attaining the size of grown trees. Many of them presented an appearance which we had not seen elsewhere—the tips and upper part of the upright branches being as white as if intentionally whitewashed; the simple explanation of this strange appearance was that the branches in question had served as buzzards’ roosts. Our journey of twenty-five miles was made with two relays of horses. After perhaps three hours’ riding, we reached the Zamora River, which we followed for some distance. From the time when we began to follow this stream, our road was almost a dead level. At many places along the river, we saw a peculiar style of irrigation machine, a great wooden scoop or spoon with long handle swung between supporting poles. The instrument was worked by a single man and scooped up water from the river, throwing it upon the higher land and into canals which carried it through the fields. Sometimes two of these scoops were supported side by side upon a single frame, and were worked in unison by two persons. At the only town of any consequence upon the road, we found numbers of interesting hot springs which might really be called geysers. They were scattered at intervals over the flat mud plain for a distance of a half mile or more. We could see jets of steam of more or less vigor rising from a score or so at a time. At some of these the water really boiled, and we saw it bubbling and tossing to a height of a foot or so above the margin of the spring. Groups of women, laughing and talking or singing snatches of songs, were washing clothes at several of these hot springs, and the garments were spread out over the bushes and trees to dry. At one little geyser, bubbling up in the very middle of the road, as we passed we saw a boy pelting the water with stones and mud in order to make it mad and see it spout. The plain was sprinkled here and there with thickets of acacia and mesquite. In the early evening the breeze came loaded with the fragrance of the golden balls of the acacia. There was bright moonlight, and we could see the country, even after sunset. The latter portion of the journey was through low swampy ground, much of the time over causeways.