From 1942 to 1969 Carl Barks lived in the
San Jacinto area 120 kilometres east of Los Angeles in California.
The area sits on the brink of a vast desert, and Barks always had
an ambivalent relationship to the place. One of the reasons that
he moved there in the first place was a desire to breathe the
very dry desert air, which did his swollen sinuses good; this had
been a huge problem to Barks and was a contributing reason for
his decision to leave Disney's. The downside was that he found
the very hot temperatures hard to deal with; they slowed down his
work capacity. Still, he stayed put and later in interviews he
would 'growl' about his fantastic view over the far-away desert
mountains, that cost him so many working hours...
The selected stories are placed in chronological order.
'Rookie Pathfinder' - 1943
Despite of several warnings, Donald takes
the nephews out into the desert where he promptly
Barks' first desert story takes us into the
USA's mesa area, where the easily recognizable
table mountains stand up like monuments. The
Ducks are really sightseeing; they trot the burro
trails, visit a gold miner, and encounter a
suspicious well before returning to the dude
'Deserted Land' - 1952
Donald decides to put a stop to Gladstone's
luck. He sells him a worthless piece of land...
Barks was quite familiar with the
backgrounds for this story; he simply did all of
his location research in the very desert he lived
next to! This was also the case in WDCS160
'The Christmas Camel' which was made two
'Desert Patrol' - 1957
Donald takes on a new job as border
patrolman but the smugglers are outwitting him.
Luckily, the nephews are more cunning!
This time Barks takes us to what must be the
Mexican border (the narrative discloses that the
Ducks goes south). During his patrols Donald gets
so confused by the smugglers' clever tricks that
he does not really know on which side of the
border he really is.
The Lost Peg Leg Mine - 1957
Under hypnosis Scrooge remembers that he
once knew an old gold mine in the desert. He goes
there and finds the gold but it is not that
simple keeping it!
For some unknown reason Barks only made two
stories, in which Scrooge owns a gold mine. And
they are both placed in deserts! The other one is
U$26 'The Ghosts of Pizen Bluff'.
'Desert Contests' - 1957
Scrooge, Gladstone, and Donald are competing
to win a uranium mine in several desert contests.
They fight with the weapons at hand; Scrooge
uses his vast experience, Gladstone his immense
luck, and Donald his, uh, distinct knack for
doing the wrong things at the wrong times! Still,
he manages to tie with Scrooge using dumb luck.
Gladstone? He left the competition earlier when
he found 10 uranium mines by sheer chance...
The Witching Stick - 1959
Scrooge tries to find gold in the desert
using an Indian witching stick but Donald
switches his stick with one made of ordinary wood.
Apparently, no prospect of earning money is
too farfetched for Scrooge. In this story he is
confident that his Hopi Indian stick can find
gold - and in the end it does! And it is a very
special kind of gold that moves around...
Rocks to Riches - 1960
Donald uses his rock tumbler to polish
gemstones found in the desert. Scrooge asks
Donald to polish his mouldering diamonds...
...and then he forces Donald to accompany
him out in the desert so he can find more
diamonds to polish! Instead Donald finds a
tortoise 'tattooed' with a treasure map on its
shield - and the treasure is real...
Way Out Yonder - 1962
Donald and the nephews spend their holidays
in the desert where they hope to find some
valuable old fossils. A midget motor-bike catches
It is not that easy to make a simple track
in the desert sands look as if it comes from a
motor-bike's tyres, but Barks manages to give the
Ducks that exact illusion. His solution is Hoop
Snakes! Although those creatures are legendary
American ones, some African deserts are inhabited
by small lizards that can roll down from sand
dunes in the same way in order to escape ordinary,
Man Versus Machine - 1964
Gyro has grown tired of modern machines and
he decides to live a simple life in the desert...
Gyro - and Little Helper - are rare guests
in deserts. They first had a go at such a
location in U$18 'The Goldfinder'
in which Gyro are trying out his new goldfinder
invention, while Little Helper manages to tie up
a bunch of snakes!
McDuck of Arabia - 1965
Sheik Arrabi talks Scrooge into financing an
expedition to find the Queen of Sheba's lost mine
in the Arabian desert. But the villain Hassan ben
Jaild is at their heels!
Have you noticed that all of the stories
above take place in American deserts? Still, when
you hear the word Desert, you are more likely to
think about the endless Arabian deserts, eh? But
Barks did not make that many desert stories from
this location compared to the locations in his
native country. This is one of the relatively few...