Easing into Collecting Cacti

By Dan Bodine

This little cactus produces more flowers than any other in the Casa Verde Gardens. It’s name? Would you believe Pudge? And the encroaching succulent coming in on the left? This could be a hint on my raw naming system. In Mexico folks call this crawler “Chisme” — Spanish for gossip — because of the way it spreads. (Desert Mts Enterprises photos)

By Dan Bodine

Yeah, I have a cactus garden, too — today’s landscaping thing, no? But three years into it hasn’t rattled off a lot to write home about. Maybe posting this will draw enough comments for me to either step it up and expand my thinking somehow, or turn it over — one way or another. Cold turkey!

No doubt my health and advanced age are factors keeping the excitement thermometer down in this new hobby. And some of it could be, indeed, that part about old dogs can’t learn new tricks!

Names of most common landscaping shrubs, flowers and trees in North Central Texas (D-FW area) where I grew up, I learned as a boy, i.e. — by working many years after school in a plant nursery. But were cacti in landscaping plans then? Uh…

Cactus is a plant, too, yes. But 60-65 years ago that region was heavily farm & ranch land — with prickly-pear cactus flaring throughout it like acne on teenagers.

Oh, there was more than one type of cactus then? Few people discussed the topic.

Now cacti and succulents together are the rage of the globe, and learning the names of these strange critters is more than a bit difficult to a flatlander. Thus in the mountainous desert I usually shift to my default naming position — e.g., what does it remind me of? The first thing that jumps in my mind?

I started the cacti collection like this 3-4 years ago now, I think, after attending an El Paso Garden Club sale one weekend.

And then, it turned out, (like thousands and thousands of others, no doubt) I fell victim — e.g., I HAD TO ASK, about an image I saw online somewhere. And thus I gained 3-4 more plants.

Where it ends? Who knows? These things are more serpentine than Mother-In-Law Tongues! (The plant, of course!)

Daughter Maiya Kareli, i.e. (to family, Kareli [goes by middle name, like Noemi and I]; to friends — her 1st name, Maiya) bought me a Cactus of Texas Field Guide last year, and it’s been helpful. But it’s limited to Texas.

So, as I go thru these few photos below of my little collection, be aware my personal naming system is at work. Don’t scream I’m desecrating or belittling in some way.

You want to know the real name of them? Type in “cactus photos of the southwest” in your search engine? And happy hunting for that one, identifying photo!

More-‘n-likely you’ll be hurdlin’ a Latin naming system whose different names on papyrus Cleopatra used to rotate daily with a little clip at the end of her backscratcher. Damn thing burnt out when she was 38 and supposedly she hadn’t even gone thru half of the alphabet yet!

Maybe some glorious day I’ll get more personal with these critters and actually learn what types of cacti they really are! And respect their history, too, etc., etc.! But don’t bet on it. I’d probably have to give up watching Sunday and Monday night football or sumpthin’!

Part of a cactus collection
WHO ELSE BUT ‘SLIM’? Listen, this cactus already has caused Noemi and I a “world of hurt” just protecting it from the wind! Maybe I can get other photos in here to show some other methods of keeping it standing, This is a mop handle, I think, Noemi attached to it. And you can’t propagate it using those blooms either. I actually planted one (It’s a cub, right?), and watched it as it withered away… to dust! Shhh…!

Nobody notices it!
“Y’all come!” Catnabber says. This little cactus gets little attention! But a few times I’ve noticed ornery nighttime cats around here have attempted to pass over it unnoticed, too, until they felt…”Whoops, what is that I’m hung up on?!” Either that or those tiny pieces of fur I’ve found on it just happened to be blowing in the wind and were nabbed by the Catnabber!
PUDGE with FLAPJACK REDS (bottom, supposedly a high-class prickly pear). Duh…?
These, as a group, are the Tres Amigos I got as cubs from a friend online. Of course I’ve lost all information on them. It was my understanding he lived in New Mexico, though. Below, I’ll show you the two on the right again. I just can’t remember the name I gave the little guy on the left. And if not mistaken, the front two will grow 4-6 ft. in height, too!
OK, the two upfront themselves. I’ve got a little Indian blood in me and sometimes I’ll lean on it a little — as in these two names. That’s the great Chief Quanah on the right, and his sidekick, Heapin’ Ugly Stick, on the left beside him.
Naming a cactus the way you see it!
Here’s Slim again, this time sprouting two of those big white blooms. The wind kept messin’ with ol’ Slim here this spring, tilting that brace-pole to various angles; and actually blew this weird-looking cactus loose from its mop stick (above) one night; and uprooted it — putting Slim flat on the ground — and a bare root sticking up in the air. Luckily I got to it the next morning and set it up; and fashioned a new holding system — actually what I think were someone’s wire, lawn cocktail glass holders at one time Noemi brought in from a garage sale. Anyway, they fit around Slim’s trunk sturdily, and then I anchored both to a makeshift fencepost of sorts. And presto Slim was flying high again! (All photos Desert Mts Enterprises)
Strange-looking pair!
Early Cool (l) and Fishhook: Who’re you calling “Fatty,” “Squatty”?

30 —

Holding onto Nature by feeding garden thrashers

By Dan Bodine

A Southwest Curved Bill Thrasher: “What’s Up, Doc?!” (Image by cibomahto on Flickr – Flickr, CC BYSA2.0https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7004389)

First noticed Charlie with his long, curved beak in 2018, in February. I feed birds (maybe 30-40) in my backyard garden every morning. Have been, anyway. For 8-9 years. Not sure how long I’ll continue. As long as they stay clean, I guess. [More below on this] The birds are largely sparrows, pigeons, collar doves, and whitewings. Keep them fresh water, too.


Donno. Continue reading

A confession: Trump’s evangelicals not “morons”

By Dan Bodine

Dr. Robert Jeffress, right, senior pastor of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church, Dallas, at a recent White House meeting with the President. In the ’16 campaign, he once told Christians he’d vote for Trump over Christ! (Wiki Commons)

Forgive me for posting this, first! The rawness of it, e.g., far-right Christian evangelicals — supposedly the “base” of Trump’s “believers” in the ’16 Election — now targeted. Responsible for the You-Know-What! And here I am, armed with pen in hand, to defend them! Continue reading

Missed the Memo on Demise of BBQ Plate Dinners

By Dan Bodine

One of the worst things about growing old is adjusting to changes — especially when it comes to the way you order your food in a restaurant, say a BBQ plate dinner. The government doesn’t have a Memo Dept. that alerts folks to these things?

Noemi and I were in the mood for some good barbecue for our Valentine’s Dinner Thursday, so we went to that popular place near downtown across from the mall on the interstate.

Hadn’t been there for “several” years, yes. But, hey, it’s Texas BBQ, right? Can ask for sliced or chopped brisket plates, or sandwiches — along with a choice of fixin’s! In Texas we don’t re-invent no wheels, right!? Leave those things to California nerds!

But as we approached the counter that manner of ordering wadn’t on the menu on the wall above us, and it puzzled us some. With the line stacking up some behind us, I told Noemi, “Well, I know what I want, let’s just go on up and order!”

So I told the guy behind the counter waiting on us, I wanted a chopped brisket plate with sides of beans and potato salad. I assumed, of course, he’d toss in 2-3 slices of fresh white bread atop it, too!

Duh…He looked at me blank-face for a moment, then kindly told me, “We don’t have that!”

Behind him on a steel cabinet, someone had tossed a large brisket slab — and was slicing the hell out of it for an earlier order, I guess! Looked like he was keeping his piles separate after sliding them on weight machines.

I pointed to the scene. “What is that!?”

The guy turned and looked behind him.

“That’s sliced brisket!” he said. “We sell it by weight! Eat here or take out!”

“And you can’t make a plate of that!?”

Again, that blank-expression moment. Then his jaw kinda tightened.

“No…No, we don’t have plates,” he replied. “We have hamburger buns, if you want it on a sandwich. And the beans and potato salad — the sides — we can sell separately to you in paper cups!”

This time it was on me. I was dumbfounded. No barbecue plates in a BBQ joint!

Then Noemi stepped in. And grabbed my arm. She realized the “Jethro Bodeen” in me was threatening a larger scene. “You want the sliced brisket sandwich, right? With potato salad?”

“Yeah,” I said. “But I want it chopped!” And I pointed to my mouth. “(Because of) my teeth!” The guy behind the counter understood, and nodded to her.

She asked for the sandwich “sliced only,” for her. And a side of beans.

We’d already grabbed a couple of longnecks from the “drink section,” before we’d entered this “combat zone,” and placed both of them up on the counter for him to tally. too.

He quickly turned to that stainless-steel table behind him and, with a butcher knife, raked to the side two piles of that sliced BBQ brisket meat.

And said something to someone about two pair of grilled hamburger buns, while he went to work chopping up one of the piles.

He took the two warmed buns, broke ’em apart, and laid ’em both out flat in a paper basket — exactly like the Dairy Queen we had in Cleburne as kids use to serve their hamburgers and french fries in. (No, it was different! These little baskets were made of thin cardboard; in Cleburne, the larger baskets were made of netted plastic!)

Using a thin, narrow slice of what appeared to be hamburger wrapping paper, he picked up my chopped pieces of meat and laid them on half a bun in one basket; and Noem’s “sliced only” atop a bun half in the other basket.

In the blink of an eye then, he slapped the top bun halves on his creations, grabbed a tray from somewhere to set it all in; and turned around and slid it all on the counter for us.

Punching in each item on his cash register, he then hand us the bill we owed — while advising us we could pick up plastic forks, knives and other condiments further on down the line.

It’d happened so fast…I stood there still dumbfounded.

For one, i the pre-Valentine 2019 era, these workers while preparing your order had always given you a choice of sauces to slop over your meat — e.g., regular, or “Sissy Sauce.” It was one of those enticing moments I was looking forward to before we came in.

Previously, I’d always ordered “Sissy Sauce,” because coming over from Presidio years ago the first time I didn’t — and the damn fire department truck didn’t get there fast enough to prevent major burns to my mouth!

Thus I learned to avoid the “house” sauce! Yes, that “Sissy” stuff is delicious!

But before I could ask him, this time, about the missing sauce from the beef in my little hamburger basket, Noemi already had whupped out two $20 bills to pay the guy; and had me by the elbow saying, “Let’s go set down.”

And the people behind were breathing an audible sigh of relief and stepping up to the counter beside us.

So I walked off with Noemi.

And we found a seat and ate our Valentine’s Day dinner-in-a basket.

A tad regretful that, as old folks now, we don’t pay much attention to memos no more.

— 30 —

If no Saint, Peace Pilgrim Still Worlds Apart

By Dan Bodine


Peace Pilgrim as seen walking along a roadway in her Ministry for Peace. From 1953 to 1981, when she was struck and killed by a motorist in Indiana, Peace Pilgrim had crisscrossed the U.S. almost seven times — walking over 25,000 miles  —  to speak at community churches, civic assemblies and such on merits of peace — not just with yourself but with others, too. (Wiki photo)

This piece about nominating personal saints (idea arose from an internet story I’ve lost) first started out about Peace Pilgrim, an older but vibrant, white-haired woman I met in the mid-’70s at an Austin church who seemed to be walking everywhere wishing peace. Continue reading

Dark Depression to Latino Party a Spiritual Trip

When falling into dark loneliness isn’t safest place!

By Dan Bodine


EL PASO — Nada! Leave me alone! it was. I don’t feel like wishing Happy Birthday to anyone! Ah, my old friend, Dark Depression, had returned. And as usual, it wanted the run of the house!

One recent Saturday evening was one of those times when I just didn’t want to go anywhere! To see no one! At whatever the cost!  Only my wife said no. Continue reading

New Reality nixes old turtle pond dream

Desert Plants: Looks like they’ll be a lot easier to maintain than that nagging turtle pond!

By Dan Bodine


When still chasing old dreams and being met by increased frustrations such as finance, health, or time constraints (that regularly dog old folks, i.e.), sometimes one needs simply to look hard at New Reality. Trim some fat off your to-do list. Finíte! I recently gave up on ever building a backyard turtle pond, i.e. Instead, bought some late-season plants and put in a needed flower bed. A warm winter is coming — Hey, they’ll be OK. My mind feels a lot lighter. Continue reading

Student loans creating new indentured servants

By Dan Bodine

University’s hallowed halls (Courtesy Google Images)

Glossing over some news stories yesterday about a coming meltdown in the economy (yeah, us pessimists are always looking for it) coupled with the nation’s ballooning student loans, suddenly it dinged me — about why we’ve lost confidence in what once was a rock-solid belief in higher education. In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, a disgusting new term has arisen again — indentured servant! Continue reading

‘Trumped-Up’ Prosperity is GOP’s game plan

Economic Plan 101 — I got mine; you get yours!

By Dan Bodine

Dear Readers, it’s taken a while to grasp the GOP’s game plan, but here it is I think, staring us in the face — swept upon us by revolutions, no less! Past as well as ongoing ones. It seems the worst President Trump gets, morally, far-right Christians in Republican Party still swear he’s the best thing since popcorn! This is actually diversion politics! So, first, let’s call any short-term gains in his economy a Trumped-Up Prosperity! Continue reading

On Dementia and Sleuthing the ‘Gray Ghost’

Noemi and I celebrating her birthday two years ago.

By Dan Bodine

OK, friends, admittedly throwing dementia into the above title won’t rock as a mystery thriller. But it’s personal, though. So here goes.

And I’ve been quiet for a long while, also. Retirement writing just isn’t working out the way I’d figured, let’s say. So a reality check is more what this is for me, maybe. Finding a slower groove. Continue reading