The Cactus Patch
Volume 11       November 2008      Number 11

Tracing a False Family History
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

September was a bit crazy. We stopped at Lindsey Antiques on the 4th and I found a bottle of DeWitt’s Pills which act as a diuretic. They came from Chicago, but contain Buchu (a shrub in the citrus family) which comes from South Africa. They also have Uva Ursi which is another name for the American bear berry. Anne says she was warned in Alaska that these will give you the runs. That evening the Fresno club had a members sale in which we brought plants and related items to sell to each other. Anne sold pots and quilted and embroidered items. The 9th was the BCSS meeting with Fresno member Mark Muradian speaking on Bolivia.

On the 12th we drove up to Kernville and had dinner at That Italian Restaurant with our older son John and friends from Sacramento. While waiting I found beavertail cactus nearby. That evening we joined the Western Region meeting of cavers at Alta Sierra. (John is active in the Mother Lode Grotto.) Next day there were fantastic presentations including one on a cave in Laos which has a navigable river flowing through. Watch for it in National Geographic. They had an auction in the evening and Polly got some fantastic T shirts including one with bats feeding on saguaro flowers. On the 14th we drove back down the Kern Canyon and I noted Beaver tails 5 miles north of the winding portion of the road. The younger pads had a few longer spines as well as glochids. We also had an excellent view of a heron perched on a plane (“sycamore”) tree branch beside the road.

On the 15th and 16th we helped set up the BCSS exhibit at the Fair. We went to the fair on the 19th when it was free for us aged. At that point our exhibit still had its sweepstakes ribbon (later awarded to another exhibit!) After the fair we went to a 16th birthday party for our grandniece Cassie.

The 27th was International Museums’ Day so we took a free entry coupon to the Getty Museum in LA only to find entry is always free. We took a tour of the art, had a delicious lunch and then toured the gardens. The succulents were disappointing (masses of a few species) but the main garden had lots of Crassulas and their relatives as well as a number of uncommon non succulents. They could leave out the smelly garlic-related Tulbaghias, however. Finally, on the 28th we went to Red Lobster for Polly’s birthday (actually the 29th) and stuffed ourselves.

Back once again to last year:

On the 14th of August we started our long journey on The Canadian, the western portion of the cross country trip. From Toronto we crossed to Parry Sound, a town on George Bay of Lake Huron. From there the train went up across the ancient rocks of the Canadian Shield. We saw lots of beautiful lichen and fern-covered rock. We passed the nickel capital of Canada and eventually settled in for the night. The next day we passed into prairies and at 5 arrived in Winnipeg. We checked into Backpackers Winnipeg which is part of Guest House International. We had a room in a converted old house.

On the 16th we haunted antique and book stores, noted Hargrave Street next to the Hudson’s Bay Building and eventually made our way down to The Forks, a park at the junction of two rivers. (Why plural? The French is correctly singular.) There was a sample of tall grass prairie, a restaurant on the bridge over the Red River, a circle dedicated to native Americans etc.

On the morning of the 17th we had breakfast at Salisbury House at the Greyhound Station and then took a bus west to the “town” of Hargrave. This not a normal stop, but the bus driver let us off and we were able to flag down the bus later for the trip back. I had been told our great-grandfather lived here by my parents who had been here in 1964. It is a wide spot in the road with a church, a few houses, silos and an old grange. There are also a few succulents in the salty patch at the road side- Platanus, Suaeda and Atriplex, but nothing impressive. A local garden had snow-on-the-mountain and other spurges. On the way we had passed dunes which probably had cacti, but we didn’t stop. The bus did stop at Portage la Prairie which Canada claims as the geographic center of North America. (Anne says North Dakota claims the same. It depends on whether you count islands.) There was a young Russian thistle (aka American tumbleweed) in the sidewalk. Believe it or not at that stage it is succulent and edible! The trip back was the same bus route that the murderer followed this year! I’m glad he waited until after we were gone.

Anne was disappointed to learn that she had come very close to Hargrave without knowing it when she visited Canada last year. But as it turns out, we all had it wrong. Our great-grandfather James H. Hargreaves and three of his brothers had lived In Birtle (for Birdtail Creek) which is 50 miles north of Hargrave. It seems Hargrave was named for a Scotsman who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company and is not related to us. (Our ancestors came from England and moved to Oregon from Birtle before setting in California.)

On the 18th we again had breakfast at the Salisbury house and then toured the Winnepeg Art Museum which has the largest collection of Inuit (Eskimo) art. One gallery had carved models of games and another alternated Inuit with Sami (Laplander) art. Then we went to see an Imax 3-D production Wild South Africa which took us back to the game reserves there. Because a second film is at a reduced price, we also saw Dinosaurs which recreated the life in prehistoric Patagonia.

Next day we toured the train museum and then continued on the Canadian. We will finish our long journey next month.

The Canadian Shield

Bruce at Hargrave

Polly and Long Grass Prairie

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