The Cactus Patch
December 2019

Farewell to the Big Bear
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

This is probably my last letter for the Cactus Patch.  Polly is retiring as editor soon and the new editor may want to sweep with a new broom.  I began writing back in 2000 in order to keep in touch when we returned to Botswana.  In 2007 we returned to California, but I was asked to keep writing.  But nothing lasts forever.  I have enjoyed writing (and rambling a bit away from succulents), but perhaps it’s time to step back and let others ramble.

To make this appropriate for a succulent newsletter I am including pictures of my many flowered white blood lily, my Ariocarpus agavoides and a mantis on a cactus.  This is about the best in my garden at the present time.

A lot has happened in the last month.  On the 30th of October William Kamkambwa spoke at UCSB.  For those not familiar with his work, he is a Malawian who built a windmill from used parts to irrigate his family’s land during drought.  This has been made into a movie and books called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.  The audience was mostly school children as this was part of a series to encourage reading, but a lot of adults would have benefited from being there.  Unfortunately it was not publicized.

The windstorm just before Halloween blew down my Halloween tree and other decorations.  I got them back up in time, but only a couple of little kids in a stroller showed up.On the 3rd of Nov. we went to the celebration of the Dia de los Muertos at the Museum.  It had been well publicized and was well attended.  People and memorials were very colorful.

On Wednesday the 6th of November we went to Fresno for the FCSS.  They have been meeting on Thursday, but the church where they meet asked them to change.  It meant we had to miss a choir rehearsal and it looks like this will be a continuing conflict. The meeting was a terrific presentation on Lanzarote, the easternmost Island of the Canaries by Peter Beiersdorfer.  My only criticism was that he showed a few too many daisies (mostly non succulent).  He had great pictures of sand blowing across from Morocco to create the soil of parts of Lanzarote.

I got two issues of the South African journal “Veld and Flora.”  The June issue had a fantastic article called “Meet the monster euphorbias” which tells of many uses (most of which I would not recommend) and the September issue has an article on the rare Aloe lettyae which is named after the botanic illustrator Cythna Letty and even has a painting of the aloe by Cythna!

Our big adventure started on the 7th with a train ride that ended in Seattle on the 8th.  I was grateful for a sleeping compartment as well as the train itself as I am not well enough to have made the trip otherwise.  We spent the night in the Sea-Tac area (named for Seattle and Tacoma) and the next day went in a rented van to Centralia where we had breakfast at the Country Cousin Family Restaurant. 

At 10 o’clock family and friends gathered at the nearby Mountain View Church for a memorial service for my brother-in-law Marvin Hanely.  We felt obligated to attend because when my sister Karen (his wife) died he asked if he could still be considered a member of the family and we told him of course he was!  Among those who spoke at the service was his granddaughter Aubrey, who is now a grownup college student.  It was interesting that the speakers were silhouetted against a stained glass window of pine trees.  This unusual window was fitting for Marvin as he had been a great outdoorsman, leading Boy Scouts and others in the joy of nature.  For this reason, and because he was physically big, he was known as “The Big Bear”.  We will miss him.

After the service there was soup and sandwiches at the church.  Some of us then drove over to the house Marvin had bought there when he moved north from Sacramento and had a long visit.  Then a number of us went to the Main Buffet, a Chinese restaurant in Lacey.  They had both snow crab and Dungeness crab.  John said the Dungeness was better, but I couldn’t tell much difference.  The waiters were dressed in Sea Hawk Shirts.  Apparently this is a famous Seattle team.

On Sunday we took the ferry from Seattle across to Bremerton and observed cormorants and a heron who kept his head under his wing. (It was cold and misty.)  There were picture puzzles and artwork on the ferry in case anyone got bored.  We then had lunch at the Boat Shed.  The clam chowder was thick and tasty. After lunch we drove up to Kingston where the fall colors were striking and took another ferry across to Edmonds where Marvin’s daughter Debby and family live. After visiting, eating and playing Michigan, we headed back to Sea-Tac for the night.

On the 11th we took the train back south, sighting a marmot in a field.  There were lots of birds on both train trips, the most outstanding being a bald eagle.  We arrived back in Bakersfield on the 12th in time for the BCSS meeting – but there wasn’t any!

While we were gone a water pipe burst.  Fortunately our neighbor saw it and had the water turned off.  On the 13th a plumber hooked a hose up to temporarily supply us with water and on the 19th two men dug up the front lawn and put in new pipes (at horrendous expense).

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