(Photo by Harmon and Nelda King, National Park Service)
n the high desert of California, flesh-colored
boulders rise up out of the stark landscape and
embrace a small valley where Keys Ranch stands.
Strangely shaped trees cast long shadows on the
sides of the simple wooden ranch structures. Animal
tracks in the sand tell of the previous night's
adventures when scorpions, kangaroo rats, snakes,
and bobcats battled for survival. This seemingly
hostile desert environment was settled much later
than other more productive areas of the West. Yet
it was here, in 1917, that Bill Keys chose to establish
a ranch and raise a family. Keys and other 20th-century homesteaders lived much as earlier pioneers
in the West had, working hard to make their marginal
land holdings successful. Today, Keys Ranch is
preserved as part of Joshua Tree National Park.