The Cactus Patch
Volume 16       January 2013      Number 1

Turkey and Terror
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

Thanksgiving was crowded. On Wednesday James and family arrived before dawn, having driven all night! (He says it’s easier with the kids asleep.) When they woke up in the afternoon we went to Cold Stone for ice cream. On the day we watched the Macy’s Parade and then had turkey at Lora’s with John arriving just in time from Sacramento. We were all as stuffed as the turkey.

Some people got up early on Saturday and shopped. The sensible half waited til noon and had lunch at Johnny Rocket. We then bought books at Russo’s (supporting local businesses a day early). After that we watched Wrecker Ralph, a movie which goes against my values (it has violence and portrays electronic signals as “living” –the same objection I had to Matrix and something we did not learn in Physiological Psychology at UCSB), but ,suspending beliefs, it was an artistic and delightful production. After the film there was just time to drive up to the Market Place for the Christmas Tree lighting. Next morning Polly and I went to World Market and got Pi shopping bags and free tickets to the movie Pi. There was no line at all! We then joined others for a Hobbit breakfast at Denny’s. In all it was a very enjoyable Thanksgiving.

On the 28th of November my brother Robert scared us all by having a heart attack. The doctors put in a couple of stents and he’s back to normal. We just had a few days of going out to Rosedale to take care of the dogs and chickens.

On the 6th of December Polly and I went up to Fresno for the FCSS potluck dinner. Fred put up a huge metallic saguaro strung with lights. As usual we stuffed ourselves and then bit lightly at the silent auction. I got a book on Pelargoniums by Derek Clifford.

On the 7th we were back in Bakersfield and went to see Barry Manilow. He’s not my choice, but he is a good singer, I knew most of the songs and the nosebleed seats were cheap. On the 12th we saw “The Life of Pi” and were pleased to see it followed the book, a task which we thought was impossible. That evening we went back to the Maya for “Searching for Sugarman,” the story of the search for an American singer who is still relatively unknown in the US, but was extremely popular in South Africa because of his protest songs (some of which were banned during the Apartheid era).

On the 11th, of course, we stuffed ourselves at the BCSS. It’s a good thing I got plants for attendance. I took two pelargoniums as donations, but got outbid on everything I tried for. To add to this, on the way out I was asked how to care for the Canary Island Euphorbia I was outbid on and just outside the Fouquieria I bid on fell off its cart at my feet. It was still a good meeting.

Did you see the Californian of 15 Dec.? It warned that Poinsettias are poisonous. Next day the Parade supplement said this is a myth and you could even eat the leaves! I would not recommend this. If you are allergic, you could get much more than a bad stomach ache. Also, if you get the latex in your eye it hurts like the dickens and can cause blindness! I was once called out of a lecture 40 miles from home because our housekeeper’s daughter got the juice in her eye. My advice? Put milk on it (water makes it worse). The blindness is fortunately temporary.

Speaking of poisons, the Jan./Feb. Archaeology reports finding poison on sticks (presumably for arrow poison) in South Africa which are 24,000 years old. The poison was from castor beans, which, like Poinsettias, are in the Euphorbia family. This is the oldest known human use of a poison.

We were shocked by the school killings in Connecticut, the more so because our grandson Matthew is the same age! I have always had a problem with violence. We were not even allowed to have water pistols when I was a kid. I knew of violence in the States, but the first time I witnessed it myself was in August 1966 in Johannesburg, South Africa. We came out of a bookstore just as a white policeman threw an unarmed black man to the pavement and kicked him mercilessly. A nearby Black Policeman was doing his best not to watch. At the time we were living in Malawi where the violence, although present under the dictator Banda, was not visible.

Polly still resents our move to Lesotho because it had a culture of violence. I understand it resulted from being surrounded by its bully neighbor South Africa (which not only invaded and killed as it did in all its neighbors, but at one point cut off our supply of medicine and fresh food), but it was still hard to live with constant violence. My only excuse for subjecting Polly to this is that we did help educate people who became leaders in the New South Africa.

Botswana is a delightful contrast with its democratic government and peaceful culture. It’s hard to realize that 200 years ago the Tswana and Sotho were part of the same language and culture group.

Countries can and do change. I hope the US can stop the present trend towards more and more violence. I don’t know all the answers, but it’s certainly time to try to reconcile our differences.

Polly with Matthew - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving-Michael reading to Alice

At the BCSS Potluck

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