I Didn’t See That Coming.

My husband took me hiking on Mother’s Day. The big kids opted to stay home and watch Squish. Mostly so that they didn’t have to go. My Mother’s Day didn’t involve any actual children. I’ll unpack that guilt later. They bought me MoonPies and Junior Mints, so I know they love me. Back to the tale.

As we were hiking, I found a prickly pear cactus that had been squashed nearly flat by the bulldozer that blazed the trail. I never take anything from a park, but prickly pear, a favorite food of many tortoises, is non-native and invasive, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for breaking off a small section to take home.

Let me explain a little about me. Spring is in the air, and I have a physiological need to plant as many things as I can. I need to see things growing. If the seeds I planted yesterday aren’t growing yet, I’ll just plant some more. This sad little plant needed me. My hope was to get a bit of it into soil to see if I could get it rooted. It was the ultimate challenge.

Prickly pear. Look at those awesome spines. I wonder if it would keep the neighbors' dogs from pooping in my flower bed.

Prickly pear. Look at those awesome spines. I wonder if it would keep the neighbors’ dogs from pooping in my flower bed.

2:00 pm Choose the piece with no large spines and put it in my pocket. Wonder if a little rooting hormone might give me a better chance at starting this plant.

2:01 pm  Begin to feel stinging in my leg. Whoa. I forgot I am wearing my Columbia switchbacks. My pocket is mesh. No worries .The spines are so small as to be nearly invisible. How much damage can they do? Wonder if big spines need to be removed before offering to tortoises at Zoo.

2:05 pm Stinging becomes rather uncomfortable. Remove it from my pocket, wrap it in a leaf, and slip it into an outside pocket. I can’t wait to get it home.

2:06 pm My finger is stinging. I can barely see the tiny spine embedded in my fingertip. Wow, this plant is good at defense! I scrape the spine away with a fingernail.

2:06:10 om Spine becomes embedded in the other finger. Good grief! I remove it and carefully wipe it on the ground.

2:08 pm Calf begins to sting as tiny spines are dislodged and work their way through my pants and down my leg. Feel like I am being eaten by fire ants. Check to make sure cactus bit is still nestled in its leaf wrapping.

2:09 pm Dislodge spines from my finger tips with more energy than is absolutely necessary. High-tail it back to car.

2:30 pm Remove cactus bit from pocket and look for something, anything, to wrap it in to get it home. Find box to throw it in. That should keep it safe.

2:31 pm Attempt to scrape spines from fingers and from legs. I vaguely wonder if any of these will penetrate my skin, travel through my bloodstream, and kill me dead. That would be bad.

3:00 pm Arrive home, carefully unwrap cactus bit without touching it and dump it in a pot of soil. Warn kids not to even look in its direction for the rest of their lives. Wash hands in hopes of removing remaining spines. Wonder why I didn’t just buy a potted prickly pear.

10:30 pm Undress for shower and realize that my left leg is still riddled with spines. Remove them to the best of my ability. Leg now looks like a golf course for bedbugs. Throw pants in wash to get rid of any remaining spines.

10:40 pm Remove spines that have relodged in fingertips.

7:00 am Take clean pair of jeans from closet and put them on.

7:01 am Remove pants to dislodge new spines that have somehow become embedded in my leg. When will this end?

Stupid cactus. It is the work of the devil. I hope it dies.

45 thoughts on “I Didn’t See That Coming.

  1. What did we learn today kids? It’s wrong to take anything away from the park that you didn’t bring with you. If you do, the plant might attack you to teach you a lesson.

  2. And all done with the best of intentions! I’ve gone one better – I reversed the lawnmover into a 20 foot prickly pear and had to have spines picked out of my back for weeks! Don’t touch the bu**ers any more, even with gloves 😀

  3. You poor thing. I can totally relate though. If I see something cool when I’m walking, I try to grab a cutting or pull it out of the ground if possible and drag it home.

  4. When I was younger I remember thinking, I bet cacti aren’t as sharp as everyone makes them out to be (except I’m not sure my child self knew the plural for cactus)! Anyway, I touched one and the spine immediately went through my finger like it was butter even though I was applying very light pressure. Since then I’ve had a healthy fear of all things cactus. The end.

    • A friend of mine petted a soft-looking cactus when our class was visiting Biltmore years ago. She ended up with a finger full of soft-looking but deceptively sharp spines. I marked that up to her being a dingbat. Until Sunday.

  5. I nearly laughed at loud at this at work. Oh my, the cactus did teach a lesson, all right! 😛 It almost sounds like it’s shooting spines out of it. A potted one probably wouldn’t have been any better. Maybe should only go with the spineless succulents. 😛

  6. Hm, seems to me that’s why cacti have spines in the first place, to keep folks from messing with them! Sorry you had to learn the hard way, though.

  7. I have the same question as 2browndawgs: How do the tortoise eat those cacti? You poor thing. If it is not one thing it is another. (Maybe the cacti were payback from the children for leaving them behind. Ha!)

  8. After I discovered I could not ride a bike (ie. Bicycle) I was determined to learn how to ride a bike and promptly rode into a prickly pear. At the time of collision I didn’t feel much (it was a young’un) but then I move my hand up and down my leg and I could feel tiny pricks going all the way up and down. Those little needles are MINUTE. You can feel them but you can’t see them. Wouldn’t ever think of putting one in my pocket. You’re one brave woman. Or strung out on moon pies. Can’t figure which yet.

  9. This! Is! Hilarious! I loved your unfolding temporal experience! I am just like you–I am obsessed with getting things to grow. And this is what you got for your pains! Hopefully by next Mother’s Day it will be totally hilarious!

  10. Oh man this sounds like something that would happen to me. Try to help poor defenseless plant/creature end up seriously regretting it. Hope it didn’t ruin your Mother’s Day.

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