The Cactus Patch
May 2017

An Extraordinary Spring!
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I have already noted that the American Cactus and Succulent Journal had an obituary on Darrel Plowes, but the January issue of Asklepios (the Journal of the International Asclepiad Society) not only has a cover picture by his son Richard (who lived in Botswana while we were there), but it devotes most of the issue to his work on the Stapeliads or carrion flowers as well as many other subjects.

The December 2016 issue of Euphorbia World has a page dedicated to the late Daphne Pritchard who, with her previously deceased husband Albert, founded the Euphorbiaceae Study Group.  I was honored to contribute many articles to their journal.

We have seen quite a number of films lately. On the 19th of March we saw Hidden Figures which tells the story of three women who did computation for the space program and how they struggled for recognition. It should have won the Oscar for best picture!  We are aware of conditions of this time because Polly worked as a Geophysical Computor for the Exploration Division of Shell Oil here in Bakersfield in the early 60s.  She was lucky.  Her job was classified as a “man’s” job, so she got a decent salary.

On the 26th the Californian ran a picture of a ceremony in Berlin for the 60th anniversary of the European Union. Right next to it was an article on Turkey which is still struggling with the decision as to whether to join. (And of course Britain is withdrawing.)  Our choir sang for a celebration of the 50th anniversary in Botswana.

On the 24th we saw Marguerite at “Flics”.  It is based on the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, who fancied herself a singer and was wealthy enough not to be contradicted. (A recent film tells a more documentary story of her.)  The film begins and ends with “Der Holle Rache” from “The Magic Flute”.  Interestingly, this same song was used by Disney in a cartoon “the Orphan’s Benefit” in which the duckling orphans in the balcony shoot peas at the singer hen so she hits the high notes!  Is it a coincidence that the first “concert” in Marguerite is an Orphans’ Benefit?

Next day we saw Fences which was an Oscar nomination.  I suspect it would not have been nominated had it not been about a black family. (And the previous awards not been lambasted for being so pale.) On 1 April we saw Moonlight which was the winner of Best Picture.  Again, although it was better than La La Land, I suspect it was chosen for its black cast.

On the 2nd we heard a live production of Men in Blaque, a men’s chorus led by Joseph Huszti.  (He was our choir director back in the 60s when we were up at BC.)  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the group had recently been to South Africa.  They sang a few songs from there including Tshotsholoza which we know well.

Finally, on the 7th we saw Phoenix at “Flics” (the story of an Auschwitz survivor who is so marred her former husband does not recognize her), on the 8th we saw Lion with Nichole Kidman as a rather insensitive White Australian who adopts an Indian boy and on the 9th we watched Queen of the Desert, the story of an English woman (also played by Nichole Kidman) who traveled the Arabian deserts and survived by being culturally sensitive.

Back on the 6th we did not go to Fresno.  Instead we went with Anne and Daniel to the Carrizo Plains.  The wild flowers were fantastic except for the Gypsum Loving Larkspur which was not quite in bloom.  It is somewhat succulent, and I have never managed to catch it in full bloom. At the visitors’ center I saw a cottontail.  When I told Anne she declined to see if there was a hole. We drove down a side road toward a “lake” of blue flowers and found some Desert Candles (which look succulent, but the stems are merely inflated). We did not reach the “lake” but assumed they were the same as on a previous trip.  Later we were told they were not Phacelias as before and shown a picture of short plants with wide flowers.  I have looked them up and they are just a different species of Phacelia- Fremont’s.

As we continued SW we watched a car speeding toward us which hit a bump and went airborne! By some miracle it tipped but landed upright.  It passed us at a much slower speed!  As we came down from the hills, we had a good view of Buena Vista Lake and the numerous basins filled with water which, hopefully, will help the sinking water table. Back in Bakersfield we had dinner at the China Palace.

On the 11th, of course, we heard Rob Roy MacGregor and learned how to massacre plants.  I have an Agave which he cut in half and will see if it produces the promised pups.  I am not an expert in horticulture, so this is a first for me. (I study plants, I don’t do well in growing them.)

On the 15th we went with John to California Hot Springs east of Ducor to look at more wildflowers.  There were good stands, but not quite as good as Carrizo. The California poppies were quite variable-from yellow to red orange and small to large flowers. When we got to our destination we found the roads north and south were closed so we had a picnic by a stream and turned around.  We saw lots of stumps and logs.  The Forest Service says they are cutting 50 to 100 trees per day to remove the dead wood from the drought and bark beetles.  There are still enough dead trees to be a major fire hazard. We took a slight detour to Glenville and had a snack at the Saddle Sore Saloon. From there it was straight (by winding road) to Oildale and home.

~13~ We had Easter dinner at Lora’s with the usual crowd. On the 18th (my birthday) we went to Denny’s with John for the usual free breakfast, and then we had lunch at Carl’s Jr. and dinner at Coco’s. Among the presents, John’s was the most interesting.  He gave me a gift card for Lowe’s and said to ask for broken or chipped paving stones.  I got more than our poor little Prius liked for $10 and am now making paths in the Agave garden so I can get into it.

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