Oliver gains valuable knowledge about revealing the truth and making things right from nature.
Who is the enigma of the cactus arm’s author?
This past Tuesday saw the release of “The Canyon’s Edge,” Dusti Bowling’s most recent and highly regarded book. (If you haven’t already, we urge you to pick one up!) We at Storyworks wanted to commemorate the occasion by sharing with you an excerpt from the suspenseful narrative she penned for our next October/November edition. It’s titled “The Mystery of the Cactus Arm,” and it tells the story of a little kid named Oliver who accepts a dare and then suffers unexpected and scary repercussions. To get a sample of Dusti’s compelling tale, keep reading!
Together with my neighbor Calvin, I stand in my front yard beneath a saguaro cactus. At least five times our height, the cactus towering over us. Its wide, bending arms and trunk-like body extend into the Arizona sky’s absence of clouds.
Oliver, says Calvin. You can’t make that arm fall off, I’ll bet you $5. He frequently stakes me in this manner. He placed a $5 bet last week that I couldn’t capture a tarantula hawk, a deadly wasp. I ultimately received the worst sting of my life. But even so, it was still preferable than having to deal with Calvin picking on me at school if I backed down.
One of the saguaro’s arms has a wooden support beam tucked below it. It was placed there by my parents to support the arm after a tree limb crashed on it, almost breaking it off. I try to push the beam, but it seems to be stuck. I don’t know, I say, lightly kicking at it. It is being saved by my parents.
I’m enticed. I could use the money to purchase Animal Crossing, a new video game that I’ve been craving. It’s still a horrible idea, though. No, I reply. My parents could become irate.
Here he is, teasing once more. Why had the guy to reside in the apartment next to mine?
I slightly sag against the beam. I disagree, but I’m sure Calvin can tell that he’s getting on my nerves.
Whoa. He has never before staked me so much. Animal Crossing would be easy to get for fifteen bucks, and perhaps Calvin would finally decide to leave me alone.
I strike the beam a little more forcefully. It moves. Even though I know I shouldn’t, that arm is about to fall off. How much longer could it withstand? I say, deal.
I take a quick look back at my house to make sure no one is looking, then kick as forcefully as I can at the beam. About one inch is moved. I keep kicking it despite the pain in my toes. We had to jump out of the way as the beam eventually clatters to the earth in a cloud of dust.
Even though the saguaro arm sags and sways, it resists falling. Calvin pumps his fist. You fail!
I say, scooping up a big rock, “Not so fast.” It’s thrown toward the arm. The arm sways once more as it bounces away. I start tossing rocks at the arm, picking up every one I can find. When it eventually twists and tears off at the joint and falls to the ground in another cloud of dust, it starts to tilt.
Yes! I yell. With all of Calvin’s money gone, there won’t be any mocking at school tomorrow, and perhaps never.
What is happening outside? Dad is approaching us as we turn around to face him. No, he exclaims. That arm was severed. He gives us a suspicious downward gaze. Oliver, how did that happen?
When we arrived, it was like this, Calvin continues. We nervously exchange glances.
Dad makes a headshake. Oh well, he says. You are aware that a saguaro cactus needs a hundred years to even develop an arm? What a waste.
Dad smirks. So be it. Nothing that can be done at this time. Will you guys assist me in carrying it to the dumpster and wrapping it?
We assist Dad in carrying the arm across the yard by rolling it up in an old piece of carpet. Dad exclaims, “Just thinka hundred years down the toilet,” as we throw it in the trash.
Dad grins, but I have lost all will to smile. Calvin complains once Dad enters the house once more, “I’ll bring you your money tomorrow.” He then turns and walks away.
My chest is already tightening with remorse over what I did to that cactus as I watch him stroll past the door. and for lying to my father.
That night, as I toss and turn in bed, I consider the cactus and my father’s disapproving expression.
My chamber is suddenly illuminated, and a few seconds later thunder rumbles. I begin keeping track of how many seconds pass between flashes and booms. Every time, there are less seconds. The storm is approaching.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, I count after another blinding flash of light.
Is that what the message is? That is inexcusable. I’m not even familiar with Jack Hut.
I strain to hear what is being said. Because the whispering is becoming louder, just as the thunder, it is becoming simpler to distinguish them from the booms. I come to understand it as my heart almost stops.
I pull the blankets up to my shaky chin. Then, when the understanding reached me, I exhaled heavily in relief. He’s making fun of me. His actions are entirely consistent with who he is. Such a bitter loser.
I fling back the sheets and spring from the bed. I run to the window and yell, “Calvin, I know you’re out there!” I’m not absolving you of responsibility for the money!
A burst of lightning reveals the yard beyond my window. With thunder rattling the windows and my heart thumping in my chest, I sprint back to my bed. My head is covered by the blankets.
Do you wish to know how the tale ends? The Storyworks issue for October/November 2020 contains “The Mystery of the Cactus Arm.”
Height or size of the cactus species
Every form of cacti has its own rate of growth, and there have been more than 300 genera and 3000 species identified.
To determine how much growth the species produces annually, we would need to study it for a number of years.
For instance, compared to barrel varieties, columnar types like the saguaro cactus grow taller. Older Golden Barrel cacti (Echinocactus platyacanthus) can reach heights of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) and 5 feet (1.5 meters), respectively.
A Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigiantea) of a comparable age (about 100 years) can grow to a height of 15 to 16 feet (4.6 meters). The oldest Saguaro cactus ever measured, according to the National Park Service, rises more than 78 feet (24 meters) into the air.
The cactus can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) per year, depending on its height and the growing environment (Drezner, 2003).
Regrettably, little research has been done on the age-size relationships of other cactus species. Since the Saguaro bloom is the state flower of Arizona and the cactus is protected, the Saguaro cactus is the subject of the majority of studies. The fact that the species is among the oldest and largest ever discovered on earth has also attracted a lot of attention.
In addition to species, another element that affects cactus size is the amount of precipitation that cacti receive in their environment.
For instance, Pachycereus pringlei, which inhabits the western Sonoran coast and the Sonaran Desert’s driest regions like Baja California and receives little more than 3 inches of precipitation annually, develops exceedingly slowly.
In contrast, cacti from more humid habitats, such Opuntias or prickly pears from non-desert regions of South America, grow swiftly and have the potential to outgrow their surroundings.
Number of areoles
The quantity of areoles (plural: areola) also serves as a proxy for the age of the cactus.
A cluster of thorns (cactus-adapted leaves), blooms, and even a new branch or “arm” may sprout in an areola.
Thorns that are less than a year old are typically reddish in color and grow in columns, with the top columns being younger than the bottom.
Number of arms
The quantity of thorny “arms” sprouting off the main stem of columnar cacti can also serve as a proxy for the cactus’ age.
A Saguaro, for instance, must be at least 70 years old before it starts to sprout arms. It takes a saguaro at least 100 years to have one arm that is completely grown. It is most likely older than 150 years if there are multiple arms and blossoms.
However, other cactus species, like the Golden Barrel cacti, do not have branches.