The Cactus Patch
Volume 14       April 2011      Number 04

The Peace Corps Turns 50!
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We went to Fresno on the 3rd of March. We stopped to get gas at Manning Rd. and paid $3.69/gallon. (On the way back we went to Shafter which always has the cheapest and paid the same.) Prices elsewhere are much higher! I’m glad we got our Prius from our son James. I’m all for freedom in Egypt and Tunisia (and elsewhere if they can get it), but it’s going to cost us! And the recent disaster series in Japan is not helping. It looks like nuclear energy is going to be on hold. I know the likelihood of a quake higher than 8.0 is low, but the fact that that is what California nuclear plants are built to withstand is worrisome

Nick Wilkinson gave a talk on cold hardy succulents in Fresno. He is testing them out in a landscape arrangement on the Carizzo Plains. This will be useful for those of us without green houses. (I did publish a paper on succulents of Lesotho in the CSSA journal years ago. They are all cold hardy.)

We returned to Bakersfield on the 4th and then went to First Friday activities downtown. It used to be just a few art galleries, but this time it included the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History with a reopening of its Miocene fossils, the Guild House with wine and snacks and, of course, a FLICS movie at the Fox. The latter (Terribly Happy) was a rather dark Danish one.

That Sunday Polly and I went to a birthday party for Peace Corps sponsored by Wendy Wayne and Gene Tackett. It’s hard to believe the Peace Corps is turning fifty this year. We joined when it was just four years old! There was another couple who had been in Malawi at the same time we were, but we didn’t meet up there! We were the oldest of the volunteers present. I was surprised to see about 20 volunteers (plus spouses). I didn’t expect that many from Bakersfield. We brought some ethnic foods for a potluck, shared pictures and told stories. We should do it more often. (Gene says they used to, but someone spoiled it by trying to organize things.) We should recruit Gene for the BCSS. The house has lots of Cacti and other succulents!

Of course we were at the BCSS meeting on the 8th and enjoyed Woody’s talk on Peru. I especially liked Machu Picchu and the Nazca lines, but I doubt they were the result of visitors from space. (I hope Woody was tongue in cheek on that!)

On the 17th we went to the Community Concert featuring the Diamonds. Although not the original group, they did a good job on music from the 50’s. (These were our high school days. The “innocent” music was quite different from the protest songs in our college days in the 60’s.) We appreciated the quality. You could actually hear the music! As stated in the program, “These people have graduated from loudness, just sheer volume, to an appreciation of quality, style and entertainment value in music. They want songs they can remember tomorrow, or even 20 years from now.”

The preconcert music was provided by the CSUB Singers who sang without accompaniment or director. It was a small group, but they produced a loud sound. We were pleased to see Robert Provencio, now chairman of music at CSUB who “directed “from the audience. (Years ago we sang in his community choir at CSUB.)

Last month I received criticism for not liking a book, so this month I will report on a book I loved. I usually don’t like short stories because they don’t go anywhere, but this was different, mainly because they were non-fiction. Oddly, Barbara Kingsolver is best known for her novel-length fiction, but in High Tide in Tucson (1995, Harper Collins, N.Y.) she presents a number of essays which are quite factional. Perhaps I like her work because she started out as a botanist, but is not afraid to range widely on other topics (as I am attempting to do). I especially liked her comments on Thoreau who, “understood that the scientist and science are inseparable, and he insinuated himself into his observations in a way that modern science writers, we virtuosos of the passive voice, have been trained carefully to forsake.”

Nick, Fresno

Gene Tackett, PC Birthday
Bruce's opinions are his and are not necessarily that of the BCSS

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