The compass cactus is an odd little feller that grows in the desert out west.Its a kind of barrel cactus that when it gets to two or three feet, it takes to leanin in a true south east direction. I cant tell you why and i don’t know any cowboy that does. Were all just real glad that it does.
Its a mighty handy thing to know what direction your going when your trying to cross big country on horse back in the desert. There are a lot of tricks a cowboy uses to keep his bearings. One is the stars, the chuck cook will always point the tongue of the chuck wagon to the north star. That way in the morning the cowboys will all know what direction to head out in.
In the desert the sun can be a might confusing. In the middle of the day “especially in the summer months when the days are the longest”, the sun seems to set strait on top of you all day and it can get mighty hard to tell what direction your traveling.
You might be wondering why a cowboy don’t just carry him a compass. Well, i’ll tell you. A compass is a mighty fragile peace of equipment, and a cowboys pocket or his saddle bag aint the place to be carrying something that fragile.
The compass cactus was most needed in the early days of trail blazing, when the country was first being crossed by settlers in wagons. If a wagon train went off course for a full day, they might be set back two or three days getting to the next water hole. This could mean the difference between having to abandon the wagons and setting off on mules and foot, or even the difference between life and death.
So the compass cactus may be a funny lookin little feller, but it sure is a handy one.
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