By Fred Afflerbach
Temple Daily Telegram
TEMPLE (AP) — The prickly pear cactus has been a thorn in the cattleman’s side since the Mexican vaqueros began pushing their stock across the Rio Grande well over two centuries ago.
This invasive species chokes out native grasses with its aggressive root system that spreads horizontally, sending up new shoots. It sucks up rainwater before the moisture can soak in, or run off and fill reservoirs needed for watering stock. The noted author O. Henry called prickly pear a ‘‘demon plant’’ because it could live without soil, or water, in a sparse landscape.
Ranchers have sprayed it with chemicals, scraped it with bulldozers, and in times of drought used it for cattle feed by burning the spines with propane torches.
Fast forward to the 21st century and meet the Kactus Krusher, aka Dave Gross, riding a red 1954 Farmall tractor pulling an odd-looking train of cutting and crushing implements pulverizing the cacti into green mush.
Gross says with the outer hide broken open, the moisture leaches from the large leaves, or pads. Once the pads have completely dried out, they crunch under your feet, like walking on potato chips, before they decompose into the soil.
Temple resident Don Ringler bought rural property infested with prickly pear outside Salado several years ago. Gross treated about 80 acres that Ringler said was so thick with prickly pear he couldn’t walk through it. About two years after Gross finished a series of treatments, Ringler said it was amazing how both native plants and wildlife have thrived.
‘‘It’s not like traditional methods where you lose a lot of top soil,’’ Ringler said. ‘‘He cuts them out at the roots and smushes them so they dry out.’’
Bell County Agricultural Extension Agent Dirk Aaron said prickly pear is a big problem in parts of western Bell County, where carrying capacity for cattle can be as little as one head for 25 acres.
By Fred Afflerbach
Masterson, Butler to wed
Noel Grace Butler proudly announces the engagement of her parents, Elizabeth Ashley Masterson and Ryan Brent Butler.
Reyes, Freeman announce engagement
Porfiro and Josefina Reyes, of Weatherford, are delighted to announce the engagement and upcoming wedding of their daughter, Alex Marie Reyes. On Aug. 18, 2013, Alex became engaged to Stephen Chancelor Freeman, son of Steve and Robyn Freeman, of Weatherford.
Lummus, Towson unite in marriage
Courtney Lynn Lummus and Ryan Earl Towson were united in marriage the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
Mitchells celebrate diamond anniversary
T.C. and Dorothy Mitchell will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on April 15, 2014.
Branch’s celebrate 50 years of marriage
Robert (Bob) and Shirley Branch celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on March 27, 2014. They were married in Mineral Wells in 1964, and currently reside in Weatherford.
Mitchell, O’Neal unite in marriage
Shelby Mitchell and Stewart O’Neal exchanged wedding vows Saturday, March 22, 2014 at Ashton Gardens in Corinth.
Coopers celebrate 50th milestone
Dr. Gary and Glenda Cooper, of Granbury, were married April 4, 1964, at Greenwood Baptist Church in Weatherford. She is the former Glenda Jones.
Jones, Stuckly engaged; set December wedding date
David and Donna Jones, of Weatherford, would like to announce the engagement of their daughter, Dayla Renae Jones, to Ethan Cole Stuckly, son of Larry and Sharon Stuckly of Pilot Point.
Birthday party for Marguerite Madden planned
Marguerite Madden is turning 80 years of age on March 27. She has resided in Weatherford since she was in her early 20s.
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