The thorny jewel of the American Southwest In the eyes of Native Americans, the mesquite tree of the Southwest represented both shade and sustenance. The tree's sugar-rich bean pods fur nished food and drink. Its sap became black dye, gum, and medicine. And sewing needles were made from its sharp thorns. The tribes relied on mesquite wood, too, for fuel, arrows, lodge frames, and even plowshares. Later, pioneer hands worked mesquite into timbers, railroad ties, fence posts, wagon wheels, and sturdy rustic furniture. In the late 1800s, citizens of San Antonio paved the streets leading to their Texas shrine, the Alamo, with mesquite slabs. In testament to mesquite's durability, remnants of the wood still surface from the activity of street maintenance. While most 20th-century craftsmen equate mesquite with only the barbecue grill, bands of aficionados promote the wood as furniture-class stock. Their efforts have lifted the wood's reputation out of its native land.
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