The Cactus Patch
October 2017

Eclipsing the Eclipse
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves


We drove up to Ceres on August 17th as my mother’s cousin Patricia Cousins (who is a year younger then I am) had invited us to stay overnight in my Great-grandfather’s house on our way north to see the eclipse. She had warned us to wear “farm clothes” and when we got there we went out and picked corn for our supper. It was delicious.  Next morning Pat’s sister Janet joined us for breakfast.  Pat served us oatmeal as she said, “We always had this at Uncle Asa’s (my grandfather).”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had learned to hate it.  We did tell her it was served because my grandfather couldn’t eat wheat.

Next day we headed further north and I photographed flowers and a chipmunk at Donner Summit.  We reached our son James’ house in Susanville in time for a Chinese take-away supper.  James was away at a conference.

On Saturday the 19th we had breakfast at the airport where they had lots of small planes on display.  One of them was painted with Botswana colors.  We never did find out why. That afternoon we went swimming at Susanville’s new pool.  Polly stayed home with an upset stomach ache. James came home late that night.

Next morning we all went to breakfast at El Cuatrero, a Mexican restaurant.  Polly was still not feeling well and Matthew was starting kindergarten on the 21st, so only James, his older son Michael and I started off at 3 a.m. to drive north yet again.  In the dark we saw 2 owls, a jackrabbit, 5 mice and a fox. It was still dark when we gassed up in Alturas, but it turned light as we crossed into Oregon at Goose Lake and proceeded to get gas at Hines.  I had never been to Oregon, and was amazed to learn that they still pump the gas for you!

Our goal had been John Day, but as we got closer we noted that the eclipse was started and people lined the highway to watch.  We even saw a herd of cows line up and start walking home!  We stopped at a small store at Canyon City, just two miles south of John Day.  It was very convenient as there was a small park with a picnic table and public facilities.

We watched the eclipse with good dark glasses as well as a pin-hole camera, a binocular projection to get a double image on the ground and shadows formed by tree leaves.  We saw the dark bands cross the ground at the start of totality and learned a new trick.  The store had a steam vent and we watched the shadow from it also form crescents.  Afterwards we had a lunch of Army Rations in the park and I bargained for T shirts at a stand in front of the store.

We thought the crowds would thin out while we ate, but the cars kept coming, so we headed north to John Day. From there we tried going West, but it got worse, so we finally joined the long line heading South.  A short ways South I collected a large green rock. When I exclaimed over the color, James said “I wouldn’t know”. (He is color blind.)  We crept slowly on and had supper at the Indian Village Restaurant in Lakeview. (A town back at Goose Lake.)  We finally reached Susanville at 9:38, a long day!!

Meanwhile, Emily took Polly to the Hospital on the way to Matthew’s Kindergarten.  Little Matthew kindly reminded his grandmother to remember her vomit bag!  Polly was diagnosed with gallstones and kept in the hospital for a couple of days.  She has had problems off and on for a long time, but in Bakersfield it was diagnosed as constipation!  Fortunately, missing the eclipse was not a total tragedy as we had seen two others.

Next day James took off for another conference and I visited Polly in the Hospital.  Polly was released on Wednesday and we all rested up at the Hargreaves house. John took the train and bus to Reno and met James coming from his conference.  They both arrived in Susanville that evening. Saturday afternoon we had lunch at the White House Thai Food Restaurant (without Polly).  Alice drew very abstract art on her placemat and Matthew drew what I took to be a bar.  He huffily informed me it was a lemonade stand.  There were lots of quail in the defunct miniature golf outside.  That evening we watched the movie “A United Kingdom” on James’ large screen.  This is the story of Ruth and Seretse Khama in Botswana.  It will be showing at Flics in Bakersfield in February.  On the 27th we made the long drive back to Bakersfield with John.

On 7th Sept. we heard Roz Ampone , a master gardener, in Fresno.  The sale plants were mostly “cute” plantings in animal pots and her talk was similar.  She is more interested in the display than the plants.  Next day we went to Beltone in Hanford to get ear molds as the Beltone in Bakersfield has closed.  Then it was back to Bakersfield to pick up John and then back to Fresno for supper at La Arepa (a Venezuelan fast food place) with Polly’s sisters.  Their father would have been 100 that Saturday had he survived.  Finally we arrived at HoJo’s in Modesto for the night.

Next morning we went over to Pat and Mike Cousins house in Ceres for their 50th wedding anniversary. 

John was their photographer.  It was a real mob scene with more relatives than I could ever remember. 

That evening it was back to HoJo’s and on Sunday we drove back to Bakersfield, stopping in Clovis to see the Fresno Cactus and Succulent Society’s Show and Sale.  It was in a larger area and had a judged show for the first time.  The result was magic!  Quite a contrast to last year.

On the 12th, of course, we heard Gary Duke on the Cacti of Bolivia.  I’m glad we persuaded him to do part two which had more people and fewer plants.  It was a bit repetitious on some plants even then.

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER