Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cactus Convention Field Trip to Westcave Preserve


Last week I attended the 35th Biennial CSSA (Cactus and Succulent Society of America) Convention in Austin. Besides the plant sales and informative presentations by international cactus experts, one day was devoted to field trips to area destinations deemed of interest to convention attendees, many of whom were from out of state as well as out of the United States. The choices were visiting Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City, San Antonio Botanical Garden in San Antonio, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Llano, and my choice, Westcave Preserve at Round Mountain.


Westcave Preserve covers 75 acres in southwest Travis county. The site includes grasslands and a sheltered limestone canyon that ends with an unexpected limestone cave and small waterfall. In the past the site was discovered by picnickers and trespassers, used recreationally, and abused along the way. Stalagmites and stalactites were broken off, fragile flora were destroyed, and the place was littered. Then in 1976, John Covert Watson established the nonprofit Westcave Preserve Corporation, and in 1983 a partnership was formed with the Lower Colorado River Authority to manage and sustain the site on a 99-year lease agreement, so the land is now is good hands. This is the short version of the history of the place; if you would like more specific information, go to their website at


IMG_0421Not much water was falling at the waterfall, due to the drought, no doubt, but it was still a wonderland of maiden hair fern and moss on the rocks from all the moisture.



This cypress tree is thought to be about 350 years old.

IMG_0430The hike down into the canyon to the waterfall and cave is by guided tour only.


The trail became a bit steep in some places, but a hand rail wire was helpful. The way it was built with the logs for steps reminded me of the trail in the rainforest on Mount Kilimanjaro.


Water trickles down through the limestone continually, and you can see here the tiny new formations growing in the cave.

I liked the contrast of the view to the outside from the inside of the cave.

Land records show that the area was once owned by someone named Nichols, who must have also discovered the cave and carved his claim into the limestone in 1813 when he came across it.


I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot of a water moccasin as he slipped into the water, but on the way out we were there when this little garter snake made a meal of this poor little frog. But then, all God’s creatures have to eat.

We also spotted this little brown lizard. I would have missed him; someone else on the tour was keen of eye and saw him.

I believe I remember this to be a Mexican horse chestnut tree, but our guide, Paul, said it was not a true horse chestnut. Or was it hazelnut? You will have to go yourself and solve the mystery.

The trail leading to and from the canyon was hotter and dryer, but still inviting.

We enjoyed a nice box lunch after the hike and then headed back to the hotel.

So if you find yourself in the Austin area  and want to explore a new place, check out the Westcave Preserve. Call 830-825-3442 and set up your visit. I was glad I chose it as my field trip.

And if you want to know more about the cactus convention, go to Cactus Are Cool at

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Muleshoe Does Relay For Life

IMG_0335Friday, June 7, was Muleshoe’s night to do Relay for Life, a nation-wide, major funding event for the American Cancer Society. Not having been before, I decided to check it out.

The program was held at the Bailey County Civic Center this year, which turned out to be a good thing. Rhonda Myers had just given a presentation on the history of Muleshoe’s Relay for Life and made the comment that the weather was always nice the day before and the day after the event but never the day of the event. Sure enough, about 9:30 we were blessed with quite a thunderstorm, so thank goodness the crowd had shelter in the building. This did, however, change the route of the walking  track that was marked off going through and around the building.


When I arrived, the opening ceremonies were over, which included the national anthem and prayer, introductions, followed by a survivor lap and caregiver lap to give recognition to those who have dealt with cancer up close and personally.

The event is organized around walking teams who are also encouraged to set up booths to sell food and various other things to sell-the purpose of the event, after all, is to raise money for cancer research. The aroma of barbecue, chili, hamburgers, popcorn, and so much more enveloped me as I walked in. Roasted corn, cupcakes, nachos, brownies, ice cream floats, and no telling what else that I missed were also up for sale. I had a pulled pork sandwich, cole slaw, an ice cream float, and a cupcake, and wished I had had room for more.

Since Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low died of breast cancer in 1927, naturally the Muleshoe Girl Scouts had a booth making remembrance pins in her honor.

IMG_0345Sue Bessire wears a caregiver shirt and Gayla Gear wears her First Methodist Church team captain shirt.

Relay for Life T-shirts in different colors were everywhere but they have to be earned. Survivors earn their purple shirts the hard way, beating cancer, earning a gray caregiver shirt is obviously also hard to earn. Other shirts are earned by raising a hundred dollars and serving in some capacity: team captains-green; team members-white; Bailey County Relay for Life committee members-orange.


IMG_0350Rhonda Myers and Terry Smith were co-chairmen of the night. Rhonda has been involved since 2007 as a breast cancer survivor (see “Pretty in Pink-the Shirt, That Is, Not the Movie,” November 1, 2010), and Terry became involved in 2008 after her father became a cancer survivor (and still is) and the loss of a close friend.


Relay for Life has been around since 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked for 24 hours around the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington to raise money for the American Cancer Society. (The reason for the 24 hour walk is that cancer never sleeps, so the walkers don’t sleep.)   Thanks to the friends who paid him $25 to run or walk for 30 minutes with him on the track, he raised $27,000 and in the process created an event that promoted friendships and shared experiences for people who had dealt with cancer in a variety of ways while making money to fund research in this devastating disease. Events to celebrate-the survivor’s lap; remember- the luminaria ceremony; and fight back-making a commitment to be screened or talk to elected officials, are carried out all through the night as a way of facing and dealing with the impact of all forms of cancer.


This luminaria on display was made in memory of Beth Mims, a cancer victim.

IMG_0321 Terry Smith and her son Riley walked with their Siberian husky, Athena, in the Bark for a Cure lap, one of the popular events of the night.

Caregiver Darlene and survivor Kenneth Henry enjoy the night.

IMG_0362One of the more recent events is the Road to Recovery race for the cardboard cars entered by the various teams. This event is intended to spotlight the program sponsored by the American Cancer Society that provides rides to patients who need transportation to receive treatment. And volunteers are needed to provide this service in the Muleshoe area.

The American Cancer Society is 100 years old this year and since their inception has raised 3.8 billion dollars for cancer research. They also have the lowest rate of use of funds for administration of the organization, 7%, of non-profits in the United States.

Much more goes on through the night- skits, music, silly contests- but those I have mentioned give you an idea of what there is to enjoy and participate in. So next year when you start hearing about Relay For Life, make plans to attend. Stay the night or stay a while, visit with old friends and make new ones, eat, walk, contribute to the cause.

Next year you could be wearing one of those survivor or caregiver shirts. You never know.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And Now, The Last Hurrah

IMG_0165Pomp and circumstance. Pride and commitment. All were on display at Muleshoe High School commencement exercises May 31st. The speeches were made; the diplomas were awarded; the caps were thrown. What a night! IMG_0168

I don’t know what graduation is like at big schools. My experience has always been with 3 and 2 A-sized high schools, and they go something like this:

Much of the formality is the same everywhere-processional; invocation; the pledges of allegiance to the American flag and the Texas flag followed by the national anthem; the superintendent's welcome; one last performance with the choir and band for senior members; a graduation address from a speaker chosen by the seniors, this year geography teacher Jim Daniel; speeches from the salutatorian and valedictorian, Sarah Whitworth and Sheridan White respectively; official certification of the graduates by principal Steve Myatt; the announcing of graduates and their scholarships by teacher John Gulley as the diplomas are presented by the MISD Board of Trustees.


(Photo above, courtesy of Adrian Photography.)


At this point, the program may digress from larger schools because it becomes more up close and personal, which you can do with 83 graduates as opposed to two or three hundred or whatever. As the class song, “”Long Live,” by Taylor Swift,  was played over the PA system, the kids made their way into the stands to present a rose, the class-chosen flower, to their moms, dads, whomever they chose to honor, along with hugs, tears, and congratulations. They then make their way back to their seats for the final remarks, school song, and the time-honored tossing of caps in the air.


Colten’s Uncle AJ and family made the trip down for his special day.

Afterwards, graduates floated around gathering congratulatory well wishes before changing into play clothes and heading to Lubbock for the Project Graduation party at Body Works, where, after eating pizza, chicken nuggets, fruit and cookies, they had the options of playing basketball, laser tag, walking a ropes course, watching a movie, or wearing themselves out jumping on trampolines and bombarding each other playing trampoline dodge ball. When we left around 1:45, the bus was eerily but predictably quiet.



At 2:45 a.m. when we passed the city limit sign, almost on cue they magically came back to life, albeit quietly. As the school buses that they would ride for the last time rolled into the school parking lot, they gathered up their stuff and trotted off to their cars and the beginning of their new next big adventures.

Chris Cage, Caleb Wood, and Colten.

So, tonight-Muleshoe; tomorrow-the world!