Jan 8, 2010

Fishhooks and Barrels

by Sarah Albrecht

Five tiny new barrel cacti have erupted from the thin layer of red landscape rock in our front yard. The thought warms me like a cup of hot cocoa.

Odd, isn’t it.

I can’t really explain my affinity for barrel cacti. They’re not delicate, majestic, or particularly beautiful; they don’t smell good; they don’t rustle in the wind. They’re waxy, spiny, and sturdy, and they have dimensions that remind one of a thumb.

Yet they intrigue me. They always have.

I should clarify that I’m thinking of fishhook barrels since many varieties of barrel cactus exist. As a child I examined the spines on a fishhook barrel about the size of a footstool, imagining how I could just pluck one of those spines off and tie on a piece of string and catch me a fish. Well, if we had anywhere to fish. How glorious to have such a perfect supply and how agonizing to have nowhere to use them.

The pineapples are another endearing feature. Barrel fruit look exactly like pineapples, growing in a circle about the cactus’ crown. A few years ago my preschooler couldn’t stand another second not tasting those pineapples. Knowing they were edible but not yummy, I let her pick one and take a tiny bite. Blech. But delicious to javelinas.

Barrels also tend lean south as they grow, lending them the nickname of compass cactus. I have yet to see north-facing moss on a desert tree, which in my estimation makes south-facing cactus all the more valuable.

Last fall our ancient-looking, wizened granddaddy barrel tipped over (south), severed his grapefruit-thick central stem, and died. He still had a few pineapples on top, I noted, how sadly quaint…

I wonder where those five new baby barrels came from. Barrels, after all, are all about wonder.


  1. Hey Sarah send a photo. I'd like to see one.

  2. OH a photo would be wonderful. I find cactus fascinating, too! loved your post. Thanks for the visit to the desert I didn't think I would actually miss...but I do!

  3. Thanks, ladies, for your encouragement to send a photo, which I didn't do because I didn't know how. But you galvanized me & with my husband's help finally figured it out!

  4. Great picture, Sarah! Thanks...isn't it fun to learn new things!


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.