A Finger of Land on an Old Man's Hand - Book Review

A Finger of Land on an Old Man's Hand

Author: Earl de Berge
Genre: Non Fiction - Memoir
Publisher: iUniverse
Date Published: September 9, 2022
ISBN-10: 1663242100
ISBN-13: 978-1-6632-4210-5

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Book Review of :  A Finger of Land on an Old Man's Hand


Finger of Land on an Old Man's Hand: Adventures in Mexico's Baja Wilderness by Earl Vincent de Berge is a nostalgic account of the author's exploits that took place between 1962 and 1964 as he and three friends, Mark, Brian, and Adel traversed the still wild deserts and coastal regions of Baja California.

The author provides a captivating history of Baja as he sets the stage for the group's extraordinary adventure. He also shows readers how Baja California has evolved since his exploration of the land over 60 years ago.

In the 1960s Baja’s Sonoran Desert wilderness was largely untouched, inhabited by a remote and resilient array of Mexican settlers who called this unforgiving land their home.  Roads were virtually nonexistent -- most were mere rough tracks, spanning vast distances with little access to water. They quickly learned they had to live off the land, and jackrabbits soon became the protein mainstay in their diet, with fish added when they camped near the Pacific Ocean.

Earl Vincent de Berge's exploration of this untamed wilderness gives us a glimpse of the 700-mile Baja California peninsula when it was little changed by man. De Berge’s stirring narrative and stunning photographs reveal the rich ecosystem in this extraordinary place of rugged mountains, sweeping alluvial landscapes covered with a rich Sonoran vegetation, and unexpected oases teeming with wildlife.  The reader shares an array of gripping adventures, from fishing expeditions to encounters with brigands, rattlesnakes, wilderness survival, the pursuit of hidden gold nuggets, and near disasters in huge sand dune mountain ranges and the mysterious silence of the Vizcaino desert. Descriptions of the world they encounter are compelling: 
This eastern coastal desert is studded with drought-dwarfed ocotillo, scrubby greasewood bushes, yucca, and other plants that appear stressed. But we find them very much alive when we examine them closely. Some may be ancient. Cacti are not abundant, and plants are widely spaced. They include grasses and a variety of bushes, such as queen's root and silk tassel. When we pass through low mountain passes astonishing plant life seems almost to be artistically arranged by the hand of nature as it sorts winners and failures.

You are immersed in intimate interactions with the locals. Among them are exceptional individuals, hermits, fools, gold miners, common thieves, ranchers and truckers, fishermen, and salt miners.  Save for an occasional military garrison, there was little evidence of law enforcement, but manners were exceedingly good among the robust settlers whose hard fists quickly settled disputes. And everywhere they found a mature ethic of helping people one another.

The group's intense and probing campfire discussions beneath star-filled desert skies on matters that confuse and beguile young men are thoughtful and funny: love, life, sex or of ethics, God and interpreting dreams, or how understanding women are surprisingly philosophical, sometimes amusing and filled with their passion to understand themselves.

Conquering the untamed Baja wilderness became an ultimate test of determination and survival for the young men. Despite its austere beauty and treacherous nature, the land offered a sense of welcome amidst its challenges. By trip's end, Earl looked like a young desperado from the wild west with his scraggly facial hair and cowboy hat. This account showcases their exhilarating adventure and delves into the vibrant characters they encountered, the captivating wildlife, and mesmerizing flora found along the way. Above all, the author provides profound insights into himself and his three comrades, Mark, Brian, and Adel, making this a truly immersive and enlightening memoir. Their exploits became a vehicle for better understanding and appreciating nature in all its forms, including experiencing some of the best qualities of humans living apart from the tensions and demands of city life.

Join the four star-struck adventurers with their audacious ideas as they challenge each other and share their admiration for unspoiled nature and tough pioneers It is a captivating account expertly cultivated, from exploring mountains, Pacific lagoons, and desert scenery to the intricate landscapes of the mind. Their three-month expedition cost was a staggering $3,200, which was half a year's earnings for most folks back then when the average pay was $1.15 per hour and gasoline sold for around $0.30 a gallon.  

Reviewed by: david

About Earl de Berge


Earl Vincent de Berge is an Arizona native, writer, photographer, and poet. As a political scientist, he founded Behavior Research Center, Inc., and created the respected and widely published Rocky Mountain Poll (RMP), of which he was Editor for 35 years. Earl’s photographs, logbooks and essays reflecting on life experiences serve as foundations for his prose and poetry. Earl has recently published three collections of his poems, "Alegro to Life," "Swans to Carry Me," and "Wind in the Elephant Tree," which touch on nature, human nature, love, desert silence, and life in Guatemala. He is currently assembling “The Man Who Ate His Dreams," a biography of a rags-to-riches businessman, artist, and poet. Earl and his wife Suzanne split their time between Arizona and Guatemala where they founded the nonprofit Seeds for a Future to help impoverished rural women improve their families’ access to adequate food and nutrition with home gardens and small animal protein sources.

Visit www.earldeberge.com for more information on Earl de Berge


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