Think of a burr, but ten times the size and light enough to blow in the wind. Think inch-long thorns that don't need fabric or hair or even much contact to grab on, but are content with any brushing smooth surface, an ankle or the tip of a finger. Glass?

The kicker is they look cute and cuddly, like teddy bears.

Actually, that's what they're called, the teddy bear cactus—or the cholla—and I got one lodged on a shin last weekend in Joshua Tree wandering off of a path, right past the sign that said don't wander off the path.

Could only get the evil little creep off by using two rocks and pulling, pulling while wincing, tearing my skin. Afterwards I had to look up on the net that I wasn't injected with venom, it throbbed so bad.

Fortunately, I was far from the worst case. Limping, on the way out, a couple was standing by our car on the verge of tears. He had a big sucker stuck to his thigh and it was deep in his skin, through his jeans. She had tried to help, had got one stuck to her foot, had long thorns, like sewing needles, in her fingertips. We tried to help, but this time the rock trick didn't work (at least not without a lot of yelling). Nor did a welder's glove which happened to be hanging on a fence. It took an All-American type with a jackknife and a set of pliers, ready for the apocalypse.

Lesson learned? Respect the desert, it's real, not for tourists. And someone's always got it worse than you.

"Cholla," mixed media on canvas, 6" x 6"

$150 + $10 S&H in North America