A few disjointed
comments about the name
to ask, “What’s a chuckawalla?” A chuckawalla is a lizard.
From the time I was a kid growing up in Yuma (Yes, that was a while ago,
but what of it?), “chuckawalla” referred to a particular lizard.
They’re about the color of sand, 12 to 18 inches long, with a tail
nearly as long as the rest of their body that they hold straight out behind
them while they run lickety-split across the highway, trying to keep from
being smashed flat and lifeless by the foot-wide tires of your heinous,
gas-swilling SUV (What were you thinking?).
If you do a Google image search for "chuckawalla," you’ll
turn up photos of at least a dozen different lizards, each labeled chuckawalla
and precious few bearing any resemblance to the long-tailed lizard of
my youth. To be perfectly honest, I don’t give a rat’s ass.
I may puzzle about Palestinian autonomy, the ingredients of Little Debbie
Snack Cakes and the nature of God, but I know damn well
what a chuckawalla looks like.
A few pathetic souls cling to the more primitive “chuck-walla”
and tell me we have the name spelled wrong. Nah. The Native American word
that chuckawalla comes from clearly has an “uh” sound in the
middle of it, “chuck-walla” obviously being some poor, white-trash,
imitation word created by hick, carpetbagging chicken thieves in their
unwashed, moonshined stupor. Anyway, Mike
Whitson and I came up with the name on the long trail to Havasupai.
We spell it with an “A” in the middle. Any uppity herpologist
at the U of A that thinks otherwise can take a hike.
As a matter of historical accuracy, the name we baked up in our dehydrated
delirium that day was “Mule Hair & the Chuckawalla Rhythm Kings”
but using that would’ve led to the endless grating question, “Which
one’s Mule Hair?” which, with the nonstop requests for “Orange
Blossom Special” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,”
would have put us over the edge. Also, for the record, Patti still has
a handbill for our first performance when, for about a week, the band
went by the name, “Fishwhacker.” Nice, eh? Who wouldn’t
want to name their collective artistic endeavor after a short, blunt,
lead-filled stick used to jelly a fish’s brains? America, I love
The name leads to some interesting conversations. A blue-haired patroness
came up and asked the name of the band. “The Chuckawalla Rhythm
Kings,” I answered with pride. “Oh, you’re from Canada!”
she beamed. “No,” I stammered, “We have chuckawallas
here in the desert, too.” “Oh,” she said, obviously
crestfallen at the thought of a doughty Albertan reptile desiccating slowly
in the crevices of the Sonoran Desert. I hope we didn’t ruin her.