Sunday 6 July 2008: Evil-Minded Cacti and Fire Hose Pants

We attended church this morning at Central Baptist.  A lady introduced herself, and when Greg gave his name, she looked at him funny and said, “Was I your eighth grade math teacher?”  She was indeed.


At three o’clock, we dropped Daniel off at Ann and Ben’s to do some yard work, then drove back to the home site to clean it up.  This site was used as a kind of dump for decades and contains an eclectic mix of junk:  old car frames, old televisions, a toilet, rusted farm implements, bottles, bricks, tires, and more.  Today we focused on tires.


Most of the tires were concentrated around the old home site, but some were farther afield, down in a stock tank southwest of the old garden site.  Many had robust specimens of the cactus world growing inside their middles, including one huge prickly pear, and several of a sprawling skinny kind for which I have grown to harbor a deep loathing.  This evil-minded cactus is covered with sharp spines no thicker than hairs.  Its branches, or whatever they’re called, are scarcely wider than rose stems, and at the slightest hint of contact they break into inch-long sections, which stick to the clothing of unsuspecting persons.  The spines do not extract well, but break off about a micron above the surface of the skin, inflicting fresh pain every time the afflicted flesh is brushed by the touch of a sleeve.  A plant like this is evidence of the fall of man.


We were dressed for action and armed with a sophisticated arsenal of tools:  scrounged metal poles for Greg and me, and loppers and a bow saw for Greg.


The idea was that Greg and I would dig out the tires with our poles, check them for snakes and such, and empty them of water and mud, and then the girls would roll them over to the trailer and load them.  In practice, the girls and I spent a lot of time standing around watching while Greg tackled an extra-tough tire or cut away the surrounding herbage.  Surgeon-like, he called for loppers, saw, or pole as needed, and we handed the things to him and took them away when he was done.  His pole had a kind of hook on the end that enabled him to drag the tires out instead of prying them up.


Between the three of us, we dislodged and loaded forty-two old tires.  We displaced one mouse and several toads, saw a wolf spider the size of a tarantula, and had some excitement with a snake.  It was a copperhead, very handsome with rust and gold stripes, and about sixteen inches long; and it was reposing in the vicinity of one of the tires Greg dragged away.  With all the brush and junk, Greg could not get a clear shot to kill it with the pole, and Daniel’s .22 was back at the house; but the snake did not bite anybody, so I’d say we came out ahead.


When we’d loaded all the tires from around the home site except a big one off a tractor, we headed southwest to the stock tanks.  The water level is very low right now, and apple-green in color.  We dragged away nine tires which would have been covered if the tanks were full.  We didn’t load them, just rolled them out of the tank and put them in a location that can be reached later with the wheelbarrow.  Whenever I’d pick up a tire, several iridescent, inch-long beetles would go scurrying in all directions.


For years, whenever we would visit the farm, we would spend an hour or two traipsing around the property.  Greg would say, “This is where I shot my first deer,” or “This all used to be open pasture,” or “This is where Russell and I saw the snake,” or “Uncle Loman’s house used to be just over that way”; and I would blindly follow, usually with no clear idea of where I was or how to get back to Ann’s house.  My mind is slow but thorough.  When I start to learn something new, the bits of information fall into my mind like so many isolated raindrops in a broad container, each one separate and distinct, none of them touching; but once I accumulate enough of them, they all meld together and cover the bottom of the pan.  The bits of information integrate, my neural pathways start firing, and I finally have a good working understanding of the subject.


It has only been recently that the raindrops have connected in terms of the layout of the farm.  I now have a rough mental map of how the land is placed between the two highways, where the stock tanks are, how the creeks run.  But my understanding is far from comprehensive, and today I got a little surprise in the form of a wooded area near the stock tanks—really wooded, with tall old trees arching overhead, and last year’s leaves covering the ground.  Some of the trees are probably hackberry, but a good many are elm or oak.  It is a pretty place, shady and peaceful and green, and I never knew it was there.


After we got home tonight, we placed an order with Duluth Trading.  This company sells lots of cool stuff for people who work their muscles and their brains for a living—contractors, plumbers, welders, electricians, landscapers, farmers, ranchers, and the like.  Their catalogue just showed up in the mail one day after we subscribed to a couple of farming magazines.  Products include extra-long T-shirts (to combat an occupational hazard common to plumbers), tough briefcases, ruggedly handsome presentation jackets (suitable for a contractor to wear over a polo shirt for a meeting with a customer), fleece-lined pants, wicking bandanas, LED hat clips, military-grade super repair tape, and duct tape wranglers (mount one under a cabinet, or hang it on your tool belt).  We’ve been pleased with all the merchandise we’ve ordered, and enjoy just looking through the catalogue to see the cool stuff and read the clever product descriptions.


What we were after tonight is Fire Hose Pants.  These are made, as one might imagine, of fire hose material, which is extremely tough but not too heavy for summer wear.  Design features include cargo pockets, wide belt loops, and a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement.  Greg already has a pair—last year’s Christmas present—and while the girls and I were pulling cactus prickles out of our flesh this afternoon, Greg moved on, unscathed.  (Daniel doesn’t have a pair; they don’t make a size 30/34, so he will have to wait for his girth to catch up with his height.)


Duluth has a women’s line, so we ordered Anna a nice pair of Fire Hose Pants in dark brown; but alas! none for me.  The smallest available size is too large for me, according to the sizing chart.  I am short and hard to fit, and unlike Daniel, I am not going to grow any more.  Duluth Trading takes pride in acting on customer recommendations, so I emailed them and suggested they introduce petite sizes.

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