By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange HQ
So as I take an early evening stroll, I look up and notice a twenty foot palm tree – but with a cactus growing right out of it. On my way home, I look up and notice a rain gutter – but with a cactus growing right out of it. So, in tribute to these uncommon displays of resiliency, I now give you anecdotes related to that wonder of the desert, vegetation’s porcupine, the cactus.
- I’m working as a nighttime security guard in a housing community surrounded by beautiful, untouched desert. Residents have complained recently of finding enormous saguaro cacti fallen – and with increasing regularity. Making my rounds, I encounter a small group of javelinas. Hmm, what exactly is that they’re doing – rooting around in the dirt? That’s when it clicks – these critters are actually dining on the roots of an unsuspecting saguaro. They soon scurry out of the community, and the mystery of our desert Paul Bunyan is solved.
- I’m a kid in the Boy Scouts and we’re desert camping. Returning to my pup tent, I brush ever-so-slightly against a jumping cholla, and my back is now covered with the easily-detached segments that give it its name. Luckily, my quick-thinking dad whips out a comb and uses it to detach the chunks of cholla from his panicked son. As for the needles that remained… well, if camping doesn’t teach a boy to man up, then I guess it hasn’t fully done its job.
- Speaking of cholla… My grandmother, visiting occasionally from her home in Missouri, refused to believe that that two L’s put together could ever possibly be pronounced as a like a “Y” (as is common in the Spanish-infused southwest). So, despite the fact that my family lived next to Cholla Street for forty years, she never failed to enunciate those L’s – hard. Of course, she also thought that roadrunners were a fictional creature.
- I’m one of ten or so boys attending a birthday sleepover for one of my junior high buddies. Our video game tournament is interrupted by noises outside. It’s a group of girls from school, also having a sleepover that night; they frantically pile into a station wagon and squeal off. All of the trees and bushes of my friend’s yard have just been teepeed. We convince the birthday boy’s father that retaliation is in order. We arrive at the offending girls’ sleepover house, armed with copious amount of toilet paper. The thing is, this yard doesn’t have trees and bushes. It has cactus. Undeterred, we sling the rolls of paper around the trunks of saguaro and stumpy barrel cacti. We return to our sleepover triumphant. Midway through our chocolate chip pancake breakfast, we notice that it must’ve rained while we were engrossed in that horror movie. Rain does bad things to toilet paper on cactus – like cause it to adhere to the needles, or stick to the body of the cactus in ways difficult to reach. The birthday festivities end with a return to the scene of the crime, as ten sleepy boys gingerly attempt to scrape dried toilet paper off cactus.Good times.
- I’m in first grade and it’s Valentine’s Day. The night before was spent scrawling classmates’ names onto Snoopy-themed cards. And now I receive my first ever Valentine’s Day card, from a girl named Stephanie. It’s a cartoon rendering of a smiling cactus, bannered with the phrase “Stuck on You.”
I’ll wrap up with a few cactus-tangential recommendations:
Shiner Prickly Pear beer – not for everyone, but I rather enjoy its unique fruit flavor
Cactus (70s rock band) – if I were in a band, this is how I’d want to sound
This article on cactus as a fashion trend – some of the looks are intriguing, some are downright bizarre
Keep it prickly!