The Cactus Patch
Volume 13       August 2010      Number 08

Football – World Style
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

I became a football* to Chance til
I grew in hardihood and learned
how to repel kicks
-- The Autobiography of Henry M. Stanley

*Stanley was Welsh, so this probably refers to what Americans call a soccer ball.

On 11 June the World Cup Football matches started. Although not usually sport-minded, we watched this with great interest. All of Africa is football-mad. Botswana celebrated for days when the Zebras beat South Africa. Vans circled Gaborone with vuvuzela buzzing. In northern Malawi in the 60s we had seen village boys play barefoot on dusty, thorn-strewn fields. Perhaps the most fascinating matches were in the Misuku Hills where the pitch straddled a hilltop and more time was spent retrieving the ball from down hill than in actual playing.

We were also entranced because this was the first time the World Cup was played in Africa – and in South Africa! During the dark days of apartheid South African football was boycotted, so it is good to see them back in the world. We only wish that we could have been there.

We watched the US vs England on the 12th and Serbia vs Ghana on the 13. On the 14th Anne left to drive a trailer full of school supplies for her son Daniel in South Dakota. We watched South Africa vs Uruguay on the 16th, Greece vs Nigeria on the 17th, and Slovinia vs the US on the 18.

The 19th was our 46th wedding anniversary. Polly presented me with a wild cactus shirt (and later made herself a skirt to match. [see page 5]) Then we went to Parlier to join the Fresno CSS in a visit to the USDA arid plants research there. The first things I noticed were trees which I took to be Celtis africana, the African stinkwood. When I asked, it turned out to be Celtis sinensis, the Chinese hackberry.

Inside we saw lots of thorny and thornless prickly pears, Hesperaloes (with larger flowers than mine) and Agave vimoriana with its tall spikes of flowers. They also grow grains, plants for rubber and oil, wild sunflowers and hazelnuts.

We then observed seed cleaning machines (much fancier than the hand cleaning we did in Botswana) and storage (similar to Botswana). The visit ended with gifts for us of Hoodia gordonii, Hylocereus undulatus, Agave vilmoriana and jojoba seeds. That evening we watched Denmark vs Cameroon.

On the 20th the family had lunch at Logan’s Roadhouse where we watched Brazil vs Cote d’Ivoire. On the 22nd we watched Mexico vs Uruguay and Argentina vs Greece. On the 23rd it was US vs Algeria. On the 24th it was Slovakia vs Italy and Cameroon vs Nederlands. On the 25th it was North Korea vs Cote D’Ivoire.

On the 26th we went to the National Show and Sale at the Huntington. We stopped at Vista del Lago for a picnic breakfast on the way. I bought a few plants and one book: Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants, Michael Wink & Ben-Erik van Wyk, 2008 Timber Press, Portland. It continues the excellent series by Ben Eric who heads the Indigenous Plant Use Forum which I worked with in South Africa. There are a few succulents included: cotyledons are poisonous and peyote is hallucinogenic.

The show had magnificent plants, but we hurried back north as the US vs Ghana game had begun. We had lunch at Chuys at Stevenson Ranch. We needn’t have hurried. The game went into overtime and was finally settled in a penalty kickoff. The game went to Ghana and people were upset when I cheered. This eliminated the US from competition. (Well, after all, we insist on playing soccer while the rest of the world plays football!)

On the way back we stopped at Hungry Valley State Recreational Area. I didn’t expect the wild flowers to still be blooming, but they were. The best were beautiful yellow “lilies”( Bloomeria crocea or Golden Stars.) It’s great to see that wildflowers can exist in an area otherwise destroyed by off road driving.

On the 27th we watched England vs Germany and then had lunch at Chuys on New Stine and watched Argentina vs Mexico. Next day we watched Nederlands vs Slovakia and Brazil vs Chile. On the 29th we watched Paraguay vs Japan and Spain vs Portugal.

On July 1st we went to Clovis for the Fresno CSS Potluck at the Stebles’ house. Mark Muradian brought a homemade cannon and fired it twice. After everyone else left Polly and I stayed overnight with Ron and Charlene who had visited us in Botswana. We watched areal fireworks in the distance. Next morning we watched Brazil vs Nederlands on their huge screen TV – a lively game. The Nederlands won.

We then watched Uruguay vs Ghana at Polly’s sister Martha’s house. Sadly, Ghana lost and was eliminated. They were Africa’s last hope. That evening we went to the Clovis Farmers’ Market which is quite good. On the 3rd we watched Argentina vs Germany and Paraguay vs Spain at Polly’s sister Nancy’s.

On the way back we stopped at Famosa and discovered an Idaho zebra! It was on the side of a rental trailer which explained that the prehistoric horses of America may have had stripes! Who knows? When we returned there was a post card from Anne of mammoth skeletons being dug up in South Dakota. Then the Californian had articles on a giant ancestral whale and early multicellular life. It was interesting to see so many fossils in such a short time. Now if I could only find a fossil Euphorbia.

On the 4th of July we had lunch at Lora’s and the kids set off fireworks in the evening. We went back home and watched the Boston Pops. Anne returned from South Dakota on the 5th. On the 6th we watched Nederlands vs Uruguay at Magoos Pizza on Auburn. Nederlands won. Uruguay was South America’s lasthope. On the 7th we watched Germany vs Spain at Hooters.

We watched the losers at the Old Fire House on the 10th. Uruguay lost to Germany while playing in mud and rain at Port Elizabeth on the South African coast. Finally on the 11th we watched Spain win over Nederlands at Magoos on Olive Drive. We were exhausted, but it had been a series worth watching, despite blind referees and wobbly Jabulani (“celebration”) balls.

On the 12th I reported for jury duty but was finally dismissed without serving on the 13th . That evening, of course, was the BCSS meeting in which Gary Duke told us all (well almost) about growing cacti (and a few succulents.)


Agave vimoriana at Parlier

Euphorbia schoenlandii at the CSSA Show

Watching the last game

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