The Cactus Patch
Volume 12       January 2009      Number 1

A Very Busy Year Ending
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I ended last month on the 25th of October when Anne returned from Las Vegas. She has corrected me on the golden barrels – they were in a nursery. The gardens were not that bad. Earlier on the 25th Polly and I went to Old Town Kern in EB for a fantastic show. The old Granada Theater has been partially restored with a Wurlitzer organ like the ones used for silent films. We were treated to a demonstration of all the special effects of the organ followed by some trailers from 50s films. The highlight was an old Buster Keeton film accompanied by the organ. It was awesome.

November began with a book fair on the 1st at the Marriott Hotel. Authors ranged from Ray Bradbury to Earlene Fowler. Ray showed us an upcoming National Geographic on space which he introduces. I told him I’ll have to read the text for a change. They had children’s choirs who entertained us and then were entertained by an artist who works for Disney. Most interesting to me was Camille Gavin who writes local history. She began her career with an article on ethnobotany in Kern County and was interested to learn that I, too, have written on plant use.

We joined the election frenzy on the 4th of November by serving as poll watchers at the East Hills Mall, a very noisy place for voting! The day was uneventful until five when Ben & Jerry’s gave out free ice cream to all who had voted. Then we started watching results from back east on a dentist’s large TV screen at the mall entrance. Unfortunately this was ordered shut down as it was said to be too close to the polls. We left at eight and were surprised to hear McCain’s speech before we even got across town to an after-election party. We only caught the tag end and Obama’s speech on the big screen.

On the 6th of Nov. we were faced with a very dull talk on adding vinegar when watering succulents at the Succulent meeting in Fresno. The saving grace to the meeting was the brag table where we were treated to a blooming Brighamia among other beauties. Next day we rushed back to Bakersfield to hear the CSUB Singers in full concert at the Presbyterian Church. (We had sung with them in the past.) They are as great as ever. Finally we picked up grandson Michael and parents at the train station. James was in town for his 10th high school reunion. (He graduated from Centennial High after transferring there from Botswana.)

We didn’t see much of James until Monday as there was a formal dinner on Saturday and he tried to organize a picnic on Sunday, but then it rained. Tuesday he was there at the BCSS talk on Baobabs. Unfortunately Michael kept Emily home. Next day we drove up to Sacramento where Polly and I went to the Motherlode Grotto meeting and found we were the featured speakers. (John is the program chairman and had the CD of our talk on Gcwihaba Cave in Botswana ready to go.) We stayed at my sister Karen’s (with her husband Marvin and son Peter) and next day helped pour concrete for a new side fence.

On the 14th we went to the train museum in Old Sacramento. Michael liked the toy trains upstairs as much as the big ones. That evening we saw Madagascar 2 – escape to Africa. The Madagascan baobab was a little larger than life, but the Euphorbia cooperi and branched doum palms in Africa were quite realistic. The story, too, was good – surprising in a sequel. We ended the day with James’ car towed away with a broken radiator. Nevertheless, we all got together for a late Mongolian BBQ. On the 15th we went to a church game night with Karen.

On the 16th we had lunch at Garcia’s, a Mexican restaurant with large African euphorbias mixed with Aztec figurines. The nearby ocotillo in bloom turned out to be a good fake. The food was great. We said goodbye to Michael and parents who had to return to Greenville. Next day we drove south and stopped at Miki’s Grove north of Stockton. (I was born and raised in Stockton, but Miki’s Grove was a nothing place back then.) The museum was closed, but the Japanese Garden was open, though not very great. We skipped the amusement park and spent most of the time at the zoo. They have a great Madagascan section even though the baobab is fake. They have lemurs, tortoises, birds, geckos and giant cockroaches. We then continued on to Fresno and stayed with Polly’s sisters. We returned to Bakersfield on the 18th.

On Saturday the 22nd the Mayflower Society had its annual dinner at Anne’s. The ceramic soup tureen with vegetables arranged in the shape of a turkey was a big hit. (Polly’s butternut soup in the tureen was also enjoyed.) There was also a real turkey. We celebrated Thanksgiving on the day with 23 relatives at Anne’s. Again we had soup. Next day we resurrected the old bell in Alice’s back yard which had fallen down. Peter dug a good hole and with Anne’s cement it should stay up this time. (It is a relic from the farm out by Lamont where it served to call father from the back corners.) That evening we went to Rose Mary’s for ice cream. On Saturday the mob left.

On the 4th of Dec. we went to the Fresno CSS Christmas potluck. Again, the silent auction and gift exchange were done simultaneously with much chaos. From the gift exchange I got a pair of attractive pots and from the auction a dish garden with three species of Monadenium plus some Haworthias. On the 5th we went to the Fresno Metropolitan Museum which has just reopened after renovations. They had great decorations on the lawn, but the biggest exhibit was the one on feathered “dinosaurs” from China. There is one in the middle of the exhibit which towers some 14 feet and has long threatening claws. It was even more thrilling to see the actual fossils I have been reading about.

It backs up what I have felt for some time – there is no such thing as a “dinosaur”. I think this group should be separated from reptiles and should include birds as well as Pterosaurs. There should be four groups: Pterosaurs, Theropods (including birds), Sauropods, and Ornithischians. I’m not sure where the other groups branching from Archosaurs (Crocodilians, Beaked “dinosaurs” and armored fish eaters) fit in. [And you thought plants were difficult.] There were several books on sale at the museum. Feathered Dinosaurs and the origin of flight edited by Czerkas (2002, Dinosaur Museum, Blanding Utah) has detailed photos of various fossils, but is a bit complex for the average reader. The National Geographic Book titled “Feathered Dinosaurs” is an easier read and has mostly paintings of what these animals probably looked like. (If you have seen the articles in the magazine, however, you can skip the book.) Hurry, if you want to see this, it ends on 1st March.

Of course we returned to Bakersfield for the BCSS potluck there. The silent auction had a better selection of plants than the Fresno one. The following week is the Quilting Guild Dinner and for Christmas we are invited to my niece Tina’s. I shall have to fast all next year to make up for this.

Anne & Ray Bradbury

Garcia's, Sacramento

Giant Cockroaches

Anne & Ceramic Turkey

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