The Cactus Patch
September 2018

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

It was predictable, but the number of wildfires this year is still astonishing.  When the Ferguson Fire started I had to look up the name.  Even though the name is clear on the map, I had never noted it.  The ridge crosses the 140 just west of Yosemite. I was afraid the fire would devastate the park, but they managed to keep it out except for a small area on the west.  It was still a bit of a shock when they had to close the main valley because of the smoke.  Fred Gaumer, who does the brag table for the Fresno club, reported that the bad air in Fresno was nothing compared to Coarsegold (on 41 halfway to the park) where he lives.

Next we received a picture of fire columns at Clear Lake.  It was taken by friends who had been on the caving trip to Botswana.  They have since bought a home at Clear Lake, but, fortunately, had the sense to clear the area to make it fire-safe.  I have also been watching the Mendocino Complex Fire because the Hargreaves Ranch (where my grandfather lived and which is now owned by my cousin Kirk) is just west of 101 north of Calpella.  Fortunately, the fires have remained east of 101.

When we went to Fresno on the 2nd of August, we had dinner at BJ’s with the speaker and others.  One latecomer found no place and so moved a table over from a set next to us.  Fortunately she asked the waitress if this was OK and was told no, so she moved the table back.  Just then a huge group of firefighters came in and occupied the space! We have also noticed firefighters at restaurants here in Bakersfield.

The speaker that evening was Peter Beiersdorfer who took us on a tour of Namibia.  He began with a video taken as they landed at the capitol, Windhoek.  I told him I found this of interest as I have never flown into Namibia.  (We took the train!)  His talk was a good mix of people, places and plants, but I found his maps too detailed to follow (and I’ve been there!)

The Bakersfield meeting on the 14th was, of course, dinner at the Old Hacienda. [They always provide great food, good service. PH] The attendance was rather low; any suggestions to make August more exciting?

I recently read an old issue of Smithsonian (Sept. 2015) which has an article on Hang Son Doong, the longest cave, which is in Vietnam.  It describes the discovery as follows: “Ho Khanh, a local man then in his early 20s, went to the national park in search of aloe, whose resin he planned to sell to perfume makers.” How many errors can you spot?  I’ll give the answer next month, but if you are impatient, look at the Cactus and Succulent Journal 1998 vol. 70, no. 3 pgs. 124-126.

I would like to comment on four recent obituaries.  The first was Dr. George T. Tatsuno, the brother of Marlene who has sold her attractive pottery at our shows. He was nine years younger than I am, so was much too young.  We all offer our sympathy.

The second death was that of V.S. Naipaul who won a Nobel Prize for his books.  I will never forget the first one I read which was “A House for Mr. Biswas”.  If you haven’t read any of his books, this is a good one to start with.  I hope I live as long as he did – he was ten years my senior.

Then, of course, was Aretha Franklin, only three weeks my senior.  I’ll never forget that gorgeous hat she wore when she sang at Obama’s inauguration.

The fourth and final was Kofi Annan, four years my senior, another Nobel Prize winner and the first African Secretary-General of the UN.  His leadership towards peace can never be forgotten.

One last bit of news.  New York University Medical School has announced they will no longer charge a tuition fee.  This is great as the fees everywhere have gotten ridiculously high.  I was a Ph.D. student there back in the seventies and thought the fees were high then.  Fortunately my tuition was paid for by the National Institutes of Health. (My doctoral thesis was on cerebral malaria.)

photo courtesy Karole Ward

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER