The Cactus Patch
Volume 8       May 2005      Number 5

Too Many Nights Out
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

We began on 18 March with the Capitol Players award dinner. We haven't been in any shows lately, but it was good to see old friends. The next night we went out to Ruretse (north of town) for a bird club BBQ. The projector had been left behind so poor Mary Webb, visiting from her new job in Nigeria, had to describe things in words. We also had a bit of stargazing (the advantage of being away from city lights). The bird club met again on Tues. the 22nd and Mary was able to show us a pictorial version - much better.

Our friend Isaac Lusunzi stayed with us from the 20th to 26th, visiting relatives and friends. After he left we bought a Land Rover which had been donated to the bird club. We shall now be ready for visitors who want to see the back corners of Botswana. Just let us know - a few people have. This brought us to a delightfully dull Easter.

On 31st May a touring Swedish choir combined with a local choir for an interesting performance. It may seem odd, but the rhythms blended well. Then on the 5th of April the Germans started a film festival (together with the film club) with the beautiful "Good Bye Lenin", a story of a family and the breaking of the Berlin Wall. (We were in Berlin just before that time, so it had added meaning for us.) As expected, the German beer was excellent. This festival overlaps with the Ditshwanelo (Human Rights) film festival which began on Thursday, 7 April and continued daily until the 14th. (The first three we went to each had technical problems!)

Both film festivals are included in the annual Maitisong Festival which officially began on Friday 8 April with Oliver Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe with his enthusiastic song, guitar and dance routine. Saturday was a one-man production of an Indian family in South Africa and Sunday a dance group. Monday we had choir rehearsal and Tuesday a German film. Wednesday was another human rights film, Thursday a show called "Muti" (medicine) which highlighted intellectual property rights, Friday was a French acrobatic show and the Festival ended on Saturday with a choir/orchestra concert. We sang as members of the choir. There were other events, but it is always impossible to do everything (tho we foolishly keep trying). We are exhausted.

We finally got some decent rain at Easter so we may survive. This is certainly late rain for here. They were showing floods on TV at Ghanzi which is on the western (i.e. dry!) side of Botswana. A second storm washed out many of the potholes which had been filled 1 April (the new fiscal year!) as well as deepening ones not filled. Coming home on a dark street, we hit a deep one full tilt and bent the tire rim on the blue car. Polly got the rim hammered out and the tire resealed for free- we had to buy a new tire for the white car when the oldest tire gave out. The real downer on that was when Polly left it in a shopping mall lot to go for help and they clamped it!

I promised a book on Bakersfield, so I won't keep you in more suspense. While we were in Pretoria I found California - a Book for Travellers and Settlers by Charles Nordhoff which was published in 1873! (Sampson Low, Marston Low & Searle, London.) Interestingly, it has a map with Bakersfield and Visalia, but not Fresno! The author says,

"Visalia will, I think be the largest city in the valley; it has a number of intelligent and enterprising merchants, who will not let slip their opportunity. Both Visalia and Bakersfield will make a rapid growth, now that they are to have railroad communications with the rest of the world."

" The whole San Joaquin Valley is hot; but the heat being dry, people do not suffer from it -- such is the universal testimony -- nearly as much as they do in the more eastern States." … "I suspect that the oak groves make Visalia hotter in summer than the more open plain surrounding it. It has the reputation of being a hot place. Some years ago it was affected with malarious fevers; but the drainage caused by irrigation has, I suppose, removed the cause of these fevers, for it is now said to be healthful."

[Incidentally, my grandmother had malaria in Stockton on her wedding day. She took to bed immediately following the ceremony.]

Specifically of Bakersfield he says,

"Bakersfield lies on what is called Kern Island, a large tract of extraordinarily rich alluvial land, abundantly watered by the Kern River, which flows about and past it into Kern Lake after emerging from the mountains through a romantic pass within sight of the town… persons fond of hunting and fishing, Kern River, and Kern and Buena Vista Lakes offer greater attractions than perhaps any part of the United States. The river abounds in large trout; the lakes and the slough or strait which unites them are also filled with fish, and abound with wild life of almost every kind. Ducks, geese, cranes, swans and snipe swarm on or near the shores. In the tule reeds, far out in the lake, you find the raccoon perched on high, watching for fish and ducks; otter and beaver, the first in large numbers…and in the mountains which surround these lakes, at a little distance, the California lion, the grizzly and cinnamon bears, the wild-cat (a formidable little beast), antelope, deer, and fox are to be found by those who care to look for them." … "Bakersfield has as yet no hotel; but this is to be remedied this summer. Until it is, no one should take ladies down there, for the accommodations are of the rudest. A traveler in this part of Southern California will do well to provide himself with a pair of good blankets in San Francisco, Stockton, or Visalia; then he is independent; for with these and an overcoat he can, if it is necessary, sleep on the verandah of a store or on the ground, and he need not fear catching cold.

"Bakersfield is a new town; it has decidedly a frontier look.…I found there an agent of this company -- the California Cotton Growers' and Manufacturers' Association -- preparing to plant 1200 acres of cotton this spring, on ground made ready last fall for that use. He intends also to plant sesame for oil, and to try the opium poppy and madder. The latter, East Indians believe, can be profitably grown here…. The dearness of lumber has been a serious disadvantage; fifty dollars per thousand is the usual price, and even at this rate, just now, none can be bought."

From the "Gazette", 15 April 2005.

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