Save the Cactus



Sunday, February 12, 2017

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead


Over the past 5 years I have posted pictures of cactus growing in our little gem of an RV park here in the middle of nowhere. All of them are introduced, meaning that they will grow here, but are not necessarily naturally occurring, in this geography. Some of them have really taken hold and some of them have not been as successful. Much like “The Man Who Planted Trees,” those who came before planted and shared starts, with the idea in mind that they were NOT back in the cold country, and nothing says heat (and vacation) like cactus and palm trees. These folks were living the good life, in the warm California sun, and by-god they were going to celebrate and embrace the local culture. Staking their claim on a little patch of dry desert, with several cacti and perhaps a palm tree, was truly the way to leave their mark.


When you plant something, and it really doesn’t matter what that might be, it changes everything. It is a gift you inadvertently share with the world. Whether or not they knew it, these early residents procured and left something for the rest of us. It has turned this barren dusty bowl into……hmm………perhaps not quite an oasis, but into a less austere and more enjoyable landscape.


Fifty (or so) years ago, when this sort of thing was possible, Saguaro cactus were planted around the park. And by “possible” I mean these cacti were obtained by some means, either purchased from a local nursery or dug from the desert. They are quite protected now, and not readily available to buy and digging them up is not okay. And, please do not jump to the obvious conclusion; I’m not suggesting they were procured by less than upright circumstances. I don’t know and won’t speculate as to how they happened to find their way to FOY. Years ago, folks did dig things up in the wild and transplant them to their own domain. What I do know is that quite a few were planted, and by quite a few I’m thinking many more than the seven or eight that remain on this day.


One of the remaining Saguaros.  It’s not in the greatest shape.


Another Saguaro.  It’s in slightly better shape, but the New Year’s Eve rain storm caused so much erosion that the roots are now exposed.

The area where the Saguaro’s are indigenous would be the northern region of Mexico and into the southwest corner of Arizona in the area bordering Mexico, parts of the Sonoran Desert… know, where there IS a wall…..limiting the movement of seeds, water, animals, etc. and greatly impacting plant reproduction and diversification. Let my digression provide some food for thought…….


Carol’s Saguaros

The cactus of the hour is the Saguaro growing just down the street and one level up from where we are squatting. I walk by it several times a day. It happens to be next door to Dick and Helen, our friends from Oregon. It “belongs” to Carol their neighbor. Carol is a lovely woman. In addition to being the person who runs the mailroom, she is a friend to everyone in the park and the dogs love her. Her site is brimming with flowers and cactus in addition to the magnificent Saguaro. (and it’s smaller friend)  Carol decided to move to a larger place within the park and the fate of this beautiful giant was huge cause for concern.


Carol’s front yard area

Some of the housing options here are older travel trailers that have additions, etc. Typically, there’s a LOT of “etc.” occurring with the older rigs and more established residents. When the “grand trifecta” is reached, which would be: owners not coming back, the trailers having reached a certain age, and some other miscellaneous details that are not know to me, (or maybe anyone else?) the old units are pulled out and the sites are leveled to make way for a more modern mobile home. By leveled, I mean that ALL vegetation is removed and the front-end loader comes in with gravel and drags the site. No life remains no matter how magnificent, or old, it may be. This is a concern, and not just to me, but maybe especially to me. No matter on these little details, the most important part of the story is yet to come.



Carol wanted the cactus saved. She has watered and tended to it for the last 15 years, and it is in MUCH better shape than its counterparts in other areas of the park. She told me that she speaks to it every day, and if I lived in its amazing shadow, I would do the same. The Tohono O’odham people, the Native American tribe whose ancestral lands happen to be where the Saguaro is indigenous, revere this plant. They believe it was once human, and based on the experience I had as I walked onto Carol’s patio and stood next to this giant, I agree. If you choose to listen, it does, in fact, speak to your soul.

Dick and Helen were not going to let this cactus be toppled to the ground. They have a “permanent site,” and faced with the prospect of loosing this friend of the earth, they contacted people who were willing to move it the 40+ feet, to their site. This would be a very expensive and risky job with a fairly low expectation of survival for the cactus. But, as Dick said, “If we do nothing it has a 100% chance of death.” 50% is better than that.” As these relocation details were being worked out, a Facebook post brought the fate of the Saguaro to the attention of the park. (and, no… was NOT me who posted this, but thank you for thinking I did) Bringing this impending doom to the forefront of residents and staff, via social media, helped the cause. There was tremendous support for saving the cactus. It was the topic du jour.

In the spirit of things sometimes happening for the greater good of all concerned, the park owner decided to grant a stay of execution to this wonderful cactus. The rest of the site will be cleared and leveled to make way for another home site, or maybe just a more expensive RV site, and the Saguaro will be given a short retaining wall to protect and preserve its root structure. Everyone won in this particular situation, and it was a good win and relatively painless, as causes go.


It is good to speak up. It is right to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether flora, fauna, or hominid. It is the thread that binds us. When we work together, anything is possible.

“Look behind you. See your sons and your daughters. They are your future. Look farther, see your children’s children and their children even unto the seventh generation. They will soon be walking the earthly path we walk today, and we must insure there is a path to walk. Think about it, you yourself are a Seventh Generation.”

Wall, S. and H. Arden. 1990. Wisdomkeepers. Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders. Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. Hillsboro, Oregon. 120.


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