Saturday, September 02, 2006

Beware the Prickly Pear

Today after church we stayed for potluck. Ethan had finished lunch and was getting a little restless, so I took him outside for a little nature walk along the fence on the back of the church property.

He did the requisite things that a preschooler does on a nature walk. He found a pinecone and a stick to carry around, touched various trees and bushes, watched bugs, etc. And I was watching for snakes, and making sure we didn't see any poison ivy or oak or what have you. And, you know, keeping him away from the big ol' dead crow that was little more than a skeleton with feathers. Ew.

But then we saw a cactus, growing low and flat along the ground. He was fascinated. "Oo, don't touch," I told him sagely. "That's a cactus. It's prickly." Ah, but he's a boy - he couldn't NOT touch, so we compromised and he tapped it gingerly with the toe of his shoe.

And then, a little further along, we saw another.

And next to it, another. A little baby one, no more than two flat leaves.

"Look Ethan, here's a little tiny baby one." I picked off one of the leaves and looked at it carefully. It looked like it might develop thorns when it matured, but at the moment it looked as if the thorns were not hardened, just soft little pieces of the plant. "Here Ethan," I said, handing it to him, "you want this one? You can hold it. It's just a little baby - it's not prickly."

Then we went back inside to show Daddy the pinecone and the "packtiss." Ethan was completely and utterly enamored with the packtiss. We told him that yes, he could take it home with him.

On the way home, we had to make a stop. I reached for something in the van and there was a stabbing pain in my finger. I looked carefully, thinking maybe I'd just gotten a little sliver of something on our nature walk. I saw the tiniest, thinnest little red spine in my finger - no bigger around than a hair. I pulled it out, then saw another. And another. And another. By this time they were starting to hurt.

Then Ethan piped up in the back seat that his fingers hurt, too. When I got out of the van and walked around back to check his fingers, his thumb looked as if it had a crew cut - several of the little red hairs were sticking out of his thumb and fingers and had lodged in his palms.

I picked up the packtiss and inspected it carefully. I didn't see any of the hairs, but perhaps that was just because they'd all come dislodged into our hands. I threw it out, which made Ethan sad, but when I explained that it was prickly after all, and that Mommy had been wrong, he was as eager to get rid of it as I was. It hurt him to close his hands, so he and I both had to keep our hands open all the way home.

I thought it would be a simple business to get the hairs out, since they were sticking out so much from the skin. Well, this was my second mistake. Because when I tried to pull them out with tweezers, no matter how gentle I was, they were so thin that they broke off, leaving pieces still in our hands (when I looked it up online, I learned that the spines are barbed, which explains it, I suppose). I did my best, but there are several that are just going to have to work their own way out.

So the morals of the story are (because I serve as nothing but a living breathing warning to my readers - and it's not that I don't love you all, but really this is getting to be a little difficult on me):

1) If you are ever walking in the Southwest, and you see a Prickly Pear cactus growing low along the ground, in its infancy, it may look innocuous and interesting and sweet, but they are sneaky little buggers and if you touch one, you will be sorry.

2) Also? You may know how to behave in the woods of, say, Georgia, but that knowledge does not translate well into another region of the country. Don't go patting yourself on the back thinking your tomboy childhood will come in handy anywhere other than where you grew up. Not that I did that. I'm just sayin'. Ahem.


Gail said...





Jamie said...

You are a bigger woman that I am. I would have been reduced to tears, a panic attack, and finally passing out from the pain! Glad there aren't any prickly pears in VA!

Snickle said...

Ouch!!! But I am laughing at the 'packtiss'

mommy said...

Hehehe...I love "packtiss" too! He still says it like that, and I think it's so cute, I don't correct him. :)