Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Danger in the Desert" from Edcon Publishing

Making the wrong decision can be a fatal mistake.

In late July, Mr. Leak, his wife, and two sons drove through the bleak landscape of the Arizona desert. They had left Ohio five days ago and hoped to reach California by Saturday. Air conditioning kept them cool and relaxed. It was hard to believe that outside the car the thermometer's mercury showed 110 degrees. Mr. Leak marveled that the pioneers, cowboys, and prospectors of a hundred years ago had been able to walk or drive mules and wagons across such a scorching, barren waste.

In their car, Mr. Leak and his family could cover a distance in three or four hours that those earlier travelers spent days, and even weeks, traveling. And years ago, those who crossed the desert had been able to find little water or food for themselves or their animals. How those people must have dreaded the dull landscape of nothing but rocks, sand dunes, and desert bushes!

Mr. Leak was glad that the man in the last gas station had told him about this shortcut across the desert. It would save at least an hour's time, and it was a good road with scarcely any traffic. In fact, another car hadn't passed for the last forty-five minutes.

Mrs. Leak sniffed the air. "Ralph, do you smell something burning? I do."

Mr. Leak glanced at his heat indicator and saw that the engine was much too hot. Quickly, he steered the car onto the shoulder of the road and stepped out. Raising the hood, he discovered that a radiator hose had broken and couldn't be repaired.

"What will we do, Ralph?"

Mrs. Leak wondered. "Hours might pass before anyone passes on this road. We'll wilt in this heat."

Mr. Leak made a quick decision. "I know of only one thing to do. I'll walk back to the highway and flag someone. You and the kids wait in the car, even if you do wilt a bit."

After leaving his shirt in the car, Mr. Leak set off down the road.

Two hours later, a pickup truck stopped near the Leaks' stalled car. The driver found Mrs. Leak and the boys inside, hot and thirsty, but safe. After climbing into the truck, they all drove to the nearest town.

Mr. Leak, however, had chosen the wrong option by leaving the car to search for help. The desert's heat dazed him after he had walked three miles, and he wandered off the road. A sheriffs patrol found him several hours later. Ralph Leak no longer needed help; he had died of heat exhaustion.

Mr. Leak had felt toward the desert as the early travelers did; he just wanted to cross it fast. Today, many people have attitudes toward the desert different from those of the early travelers. More and more of them consider the desert a place for enjoyment. Some like to utilize their four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, and dune buggies for fun. Others prefer exploring old mines and ghost towns, or studying desert plants and wildlife. Still others enjoy collecting rocks.

Mrs. Jacks is a rock collector who had lived near the desert only three weeks when she almost became a victim of her new surroundings.

Having recently moved from the East Coast, she was anxious to explore nearby areas for unusual specimens to add to her collection. On a warm June day, Mrs. Jacks, her daughter lill, and Jill's friends, Pam and Doris, planned a morning of rock hunting. Mrs. lacks had learned of a little-known spot that was covered with unusual rocks. She drove into the desert and turned from the main road onto a rough, unpaved one. After a few miles, the car hit a soft spot and stuck in the sand. Mrs. 1 acks tried driving backward and forward, but the tires sank deeper into the sand. The chances of Mrs. lacks and the girls freeing the car were bleak as they had nothing to utilize for digging around the wheels. Scooping sand with their hands accomplished little.

"Girls," said Mrs. lacks, wiping her forehead with a handkerchief, "we have only one option. We must walk back to the highway for help. We haven't any water, so we can't stay where no one will find us."

Mrs. lacks and the three girls left the car and started walking. After a half hour, they tried to rest in the shade of some desert bushes, but these didn't offer much relief because their leaves were so small. In another half hour, when Jill collapsed from the heat, they had to stop again. Mrs. lacks was frightened now as she realized how desperate their situation was.

"Mrs. lacks," said Pam, "my father told me to use some kind of signal if I was ever in trouble or lost. He said that I should stay with the signal and not move until help arrived."

"How can we signal?" asked Mrs. lacks.

"Have you any matches in your purse?" the girl wanted to know.
Mrs. lacks searched her pocketbook and found a pack.

"Have you a mirror too?" asked Pam.

Mrs. lacks searched her bag again and handed Pam a compact. "Here's a small one," she said.
While Mrs. lacks cradled Jill's head and fanned her with a handkerchief, Pam and Doris gathered dead twigs from around the bushes for a fire. Pam also broke green twigs from the bushes so the fire would be a smoky one.

During the afternoon, the girls lighted five different fires and flashed the mirror again and again. At sunset they felt discouraged, thinking that no one had seen their signals. As the girls were collecting twigs for one last fire before dark, they heard a car approaching. Their distress signals had been noticed and a sheriff drove the exhausted group back to their homes.

Mr. Leak and Mrs. lack had made serious errors in their desert journeys.

Mr. Leak failed to observe three basic desert safety rules. First, he should have continued driving on a well-traveled main highway where assistance could have been obtained more easily. Second, he should have stayed in his car, utilizing the only place for miles around that could provide adequate shelter from the sun. Third, with the mercury showing 110 degrees, Mr. Leak should have kept his shirt on and not risked losing precious body fluids faster than he would have if fully clothed.

Mrs. lacks and the girls made dangerous mistakes,too. First, they hadn't told anyone just where they were going and how long they planned to be gone. Search parties would have found them hours sooner had they known where to look when they realized that the group was late in returning. Then, although the rock collectors planned to spend several hours in the desert, they had not carried an emergency supply of water. They, too, traveled an unknown road, and they, too, showed poor judgment in leaving the shade of the car.

Mrs. lacks and the girls did follow two rules that possibly saved their lives: they stayed together as a group, and they signaled for assistance and remained with their signal until rescued.

The desert is an excellent choice for people seeking pleasure, especially from October to April when its heat is less intense. At any time of the year, though, the desert can become a deadly enemy for those who neither respect its demands nor follow basic rules of safety.

1. The Leak family was traveling to ______________________
a. California.
b. Arizona.
c. Ohio.
d. the East Coast.

2. They planned to journey ________________________
a. across the entire country.
b. across one entire state.
c. across more than half the country.
d. from the East Coast to the West Coast.

3. Ralph Leak had _______________________
a. found help.
b. died of heat exhaustion.
c. been found by a truck driver.
d. stayed in the car with his family.

4. Attitudes toward the desert _______________________
a. have remained the same over the years.
b. fill everyone with fear.
c. will never change.
d. have changed over the years.

5. Before Mrs. Jacks car hit a soft spot,_______________
a. her tires sank deeper into the sand.
b. she turned from the main road onto a rough one.
c. she and the girls scooped sand with their hands.
d. she tried to rest in the shade of some desert bushes.

6. Mrs. Lacks and Mr. Leak both __________________________
a. risked their own lives.
b. risked the lives of themselves and others.
c. did not risk any lives.
d. risked the sheriff's life.

7. The travelers described in the story would find the following book most useful:
a. Safety in the Desert.
b. The American West.
c. Rock Collecting.
d. Cross-Country Car Trips.

8. Mrs. Jacks planned a morning of _______________________
a. exploring old mines.
b. driving dune buggies.
c. setting smoky distress fires.
d. rock collecting.

9. Another name for this selection could be ______________
a. "Family Travel."
b. "The Desert - Safe at Last."
c. "The Desert - Handle with Care."
d. "The Desert from October to April."

10. This selection is mainly about ________________
a. the importance of staying away from
the desert.
b. the pleasure to be found in the desert.
c. enemies that are found in the desert.
d. the importance of following safety
rules when in the desert.

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