How I met Muriel

For a change, this post is about the American Southwest. I have written about this part of the world before: Bryce Canyon, Arches and Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and my childhood memories  and other posts. This post is also related to my childhood.

I have been a reader since the age of four, but my love for reading took off when I started Elementary and discovered our school library. There were no age limits – teenage book section was at my disposal. I judged the books by the cover – it is how I came across The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry, and Johnny became my role model 🙂 I loved the intelligent humor of these books, but some stories broke my little heart. One of these stories is Jimmy Hayes and Muriel. I have read this story countless times when I felt like crying, and it always worked. It is a short story, and if you haven’t read it yet, here it is:

Jimmy Hayes and Muriel

A short story by O. Henry

Supper was over, and there had fallen upon the camp the silence that accompanies the rolling of corn-husk cigarettes. The water hole shone from the dark earth like a patch of fallen sky. Coyotes yelped. Dull thumps indicated the rocking-horse movements of the hobbled ponies as they moved to fresh grass. A half-troop of the Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers were distributed about the fire.

A well-known sound — the fluttering and scraping of chaparral against wooden stirrups — came from the thick brush above the camp. The rangers listened cautiously. They heard a loud and cheerful voice call out reassuringly:

“Brace up, Muriel, old girl, we’re ‘most there now! Been a long ride for ye, ain’t it, ye old antediluvian handful of animated carpet-tacks? Hey, now, quit a tryin’ to kiss me! Don’t hold on to my neck so tight — this here paint hoss ain’t any too shore-footed, let me tell ye. He’s liable to dump us both off if we don’t watch out.”

Two minutes of waiting brought a tired “paint” pony single-footing into camp. A gangling youth of twenty lolled in the saddle. Of the “Muriel” whom he had been addressing, nothing was to be seen. Read more

Jimmy’s fate didn’t concern me for some reason. I cried for his little loyal Muriel.

An encyclopedia found in the same school library gave me idea about Muriel’s looks and classification, but I have never met the creature in person, until last summer.

A part of a lovely weekend spent in our friends’ St. George house was a trip to desert. We took some dirt roads and short hikes to give our little explorers the feel of wilderness.


There were lizards and insects to admire. I am not sure, but I think it is a Locust and a Mormon cricket. They were huge.

Many wildflowers had passed their peak, but some were still in bloom: Globe mallow, Prickly poppy, Desert buckwheat and some cacti.




It was on our way back when I noticed something under a sage bush. I rolled the window down and my heart skipped a beat. I took a picture and zoomed to make sure it was not a mistake. It wasn’t. I finally met Muriel.

I cannot tell that it is exactly the horned lizard species from the story, but it is the closest I could get to meeting my Muriel. It has been some 50 years…

The lizard didn’t move. It was a very hot day, and I didn’t want to bother the creature and force a photo session on it. I was already happy enough.

Some pomegranate flowers spotted in St. George to brighten your day.

There are six bloggers whose blogs I really want you to visit. As this post was basically about the short story that has been stuck in my head for 50 something years, I want to share the books I have read recently ( or about to start reading ), and their authors. I have read every book of these authors and look forward to the new releases.

Science fiction and fantasy writer Craig Boyack  –  The Yak Guy Project was the first book I opened after several months of abstinence from reading. I truly enjoyed the protagonist’s journey towards maturity.

Science fiction writer Sarah Higbee   –  Book #3 Breathing Space of Sarah’s trilogy Sunblinded is a fantastic sequel and I hope for more books in the future.

Historical fiction writer Millie Thom  –  I am currently reading Millie’s Book #3 Wyvern of Wessex of the Sons of Kings trilogy. This is a completely engrossing read, from start to finish.

Fantasy writer Diana Wallace Peach  –   Legacy Of SoulsThe Shattered Sea Book #2 was recently released, and I cannot wait to open it. Soul swallowers are the most fascinating Diana’s creations so far (You read about them in Book #1)

Young adult fantasy writer’s Jean Lee’s blog is a magical place that is very difficult to leave. You just want to read one more article, then another… Recently, Jean nominated me for the Liebster Award, a great friend she is. Visit Jean’s Book page – read her new novel and short stories.

Artist and author Resa McConaghy  – Nine Black Lives, a detective novel, my latest read. Resa’s knowledge of the film industry makes the book stand out. It is a very intriguing piece with much potential for many sequels to come.

Hope you find new friends and amazing books. Have a happy weekend!


    1. Thank you! It was last year. This year at +35C every single day we hid ourselves in the cabin in the mountains. I am even afraid to think what temperature they had in the desert. Some September! 🙂

      1. Quite so. Paris was around the same temperature in August. Of course it is not the same as the desert, but there were days when I would go home in the afternoon for a few hours. 🙂

  1. O. Henry’s stories are wonderful but I had never read this one. Jimmy was redeemed in the eyes of the Rangers with Muriel. i grew up in South Texas and horney toads (as we called them) were everywhere. Today they are scarce and efforts are being made to introduce them again. I am so glad that Muriel made your day – great shot of her and the amazing blooms. You do get around! And books can take us anywhere!

    1. Thank you so much! Hope you enjoyed the story. So sorry to learn that the horned toads are scarce these days. This one we saw at the side of a dirt road, about a mile or so from the main road. My first horned toad! I have seen many crazy looking lizards, but never a horned one. It was a highlight of my trip.

  2. That is a touching story by O. Henry. It gave me much joy and sadness as I lie here struck by a vicious viral fever. I can relate to a child’s perspective of feeling sorry about Muriel, which is the anchor story that brought a wisp of childhood alongside. Those photos are crisp and well framed as usual.

    1. Thank you so much! So sorry to hear you got struck with a nasty virus. I hate feeling invaded and conquered by these invisible enemies, but you can trick them by laying still and drifting into sleep. Sip of water, sleep, repeat. Get well soon, sending you thoughts of healing and strength.

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I too cried for poor dear Muriel. I shall make it my mission next week to check our the writers you shared. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you Barbara! My hero James Herriot once said: If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.

  4. Thank you for mentioning me, and my stories. Means a lot to me. In Northern Nevada, where I grew up, we have horny toads everywhere. It’s the common name for your horned lizard. They are so calm and gentle acting. Kids can pick them up without danger of a nip.

  5. OMG! Thank you for mentioning my book here, with all these other fab writers…. and Muriel. Yes, it was Muriel that broke my heart, too! I’m so glad I have read that wonderful short story.
    I have begun the next book, Eight Black Lives.
    Thank you for reading it, Inese!! ❤
    Also, I think it was you who mentioned that you liked Shehanne's books. Anyway, the new one has a GOWN on the cover. I had to read it, and it lived up to the gown, so I reviewed it on Art Gowns.
    So much fun! xx

    1. Eight Black Lives, cannot wait to start reading 🙂 I hope another seven will come along eventually 😉
      Yes, I did mention Shehanne’s books on my viking blog but she didn’t see it 🙂 I will check out your post on the Gowns.
      Tomorrow I am going to take a picture of Fat Patrol’s and her friend’s finished work for my next blog. I left for holidays before they completed it. This festival featured 48 murals around the city. I will mention your blog again.
      Thank you for loving Muriel! xx

  6. Inese, I love your story about Muriel. Imagine my surprise to discover she’s a horned lizard. The child in you still lives. Bravo!

    Desert flowers are exquisite miracles in a harsh landscape – a reminder that we, too, can achieve our potential glory despite the odds.

    Thanks for the author recommendations. We need more readers like you 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Rosaliene! I didn’t read anything for months, and was delighted that these great books came up for me to enjoy. By now I have already finished them all and look for more 🙂
      It is great to finally meet an old childhood friend even if it is a humble horned lizard. Hope you have a delightful weekend!

  7. We were driving across Utah one time when thousands of Mormon crickets decided to cross the road in front of us. We had no choice but to drive over them – it was gross!

    1. Yes, it is so moving. It makes me cry too.
      O. Henry has been belittled by modern critics for unknown reason, and we all know how easy it is to belittle or defame anyone. We also know what is “critics” 🙂

  8. I love O Henry! Thanks for the memories. Such beautiful photos too. While I am not a fan of living in the Southwest-I have-I do appreicate the beauty aspects found there. There really s beauty everywhere, just aching to be recognized.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the beauty is not sometimes obvious, and the drought is not compatible to life for a person like me :), but somehow I left my heart there.

  9. I think it must feel really good to met a person, a creature etc. that you have been reading about. I would be thrill to so such. I am glad you did see Muriel. Love the pictures you have here and especially the one with two young girls.

  10. I am very happy you could finally meet Muriel ❤
    I remember the impact of O.Henry's short stories when I first read them.
    Thank you for sharing the link to the full story.
    I hope you have a good weekend 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Takami! Sometimes a story gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life. Power of literature 🙂 I was so delighted to see the lizard I had tears in my eyes 🙂 Have a good weekend you too! ❤

  11. Oh, I’m honored, my friend! What color you found in the desert, too–such lush little lives, scurrying beneath the sun. A beautiful post from a beautiful soul. 🙂 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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