"I'm sympathetic about your situation," she said. "But there is always a way to reshuffle the pieces.  Go take a look at the place."

I did.  I was not thrilled. In fact, I wondered if Aunt Ruth was slipping. A long drive out there in predawn got me to a dinky crossroads with a couple of old trailers, an abandoned date stand, a boarded-up gas station. While I was sitting in the car studying my directions, a man wandered over. With his head ducked to talk to me through the window, he reminded me of a desert tortoise.  I asked directions, mentioned the 800 acres to make it sound more important than it was.

He laughed about the 800 acres. "There's eight hundred thousand acres out there--couldn't give it away, most of it. Nothing there. Good luck, lady."

Still, I followed his directions in the dawn light from Midway Wells, turned right, and after sixteen miles up and down hills, through washes, over endless stretches of what seemed to me at the time like total emptiness, started looking for property markers. There was a pile of stones beside the road--that marked the boundary of the property or else a forgotten grave. It was reassuring to have some things where they were supposed to be, even so precious few. 

The dirt road in ran due east west toward a notch in a fudge-colored range of hills.  The sun was rising.