It Started with an Idea
The Taking Texas with Me (TM) pen started off as an idea, an idea on how to take two of the most prolific natural products of the Texas landscape and combine them into something unique and useful.
Dr. James Sutton of Pleasanton, Texas (now mostly retired from his practice as a psychologist), hit on the idea of creating a completely hand-turned ballpoint pen made from mesquite and prickly pear cactus. That’s right, Jim desired to create a uniquely “Texas” pen that was actually made from “pieces” of Texas, then certify them as such. As things went along, other materials were added to this concept. Result: An awesome, original and unique truly Texas gift that will definitely create an impression.
A very important part of the production of this special line of writing products, however, is Tom Hester, the company’s master craftsman. That’s Tom in the photo; he’s creating a pen from mesquite and the antler of a white tail deer.
(Tom and Jim go a long way back, all the way back to Vietnam in the very late 60’s, where Tom, a marine, and Jim, a sailor, jimtom2worked for the Naval Security Group as a part of the Third Marine Amphibious Force in I Corps. And, oh yes, they happen to be brothers-in-law. Jim is on the left and Tom is on the right in this photo taken in DaNang, South Vietnam, 1969.)
These two items, wood from the mesquite tree (Prosopis) and prickly pear cactus (Opuntia), are harvested in south Texas and combined to create this truly unique keepsake. The colors, texture and markings on each piece are completely natural. The pens use the standard and readily available Cross(R) pen refills.
Our Pens: “Just Mesquite” Pen, Mesquite and Antler Pen, Mesquite and Cactus Pen, Mesquite and Liveoak Pen, Mesquite and Turquoise Pen, Special Collector’s Set, Refills: Ordering and Replacing, One-year Warranty
The Mesquite Tree:These trees are generally small and scrubby, especially in drier parts of the state. Mesquite trees growing along rivers and creeks are larger, generally yielding pieces of the prized wood for accessory items and even fine furniture. With age, mesquite wood becomes even richer and darker in color.
The flat pads of the prickly pear cactus can be made into a vegetable dish, while the round pear “apples” (red when ripe) of the cactus are considered a fruit … a dessert. Even today, Texas ranchers feed cactus to cattle in times of drought by burning off the thorns of the plants with a torch. This is called “burning pear.” Wild patches of prickly pear like this one can be unforgiving. One must handle it carefully.
The most delicate part of making this special writing implement involves converting this raw cactus into a component for the Taking Texas with Me(TM) Pen; it’s called the Duracacting Process(SM). The pads of the prickly pear are processed thorns and all into a (pretty gross) slurry that is dehydrated in natural Texas sunshine. Then it’s processed again and skillfully combined with a resin-based material to make it durable and permanent. It this step isn’t perfectly executed, the result either ends up being a useless chunk of gummy goo, or a block of cactus so brittle it shatters when touched with a lathe tool. (Pieces of the cactus and the thorns clearly can be seen in the center part of the finished pen.)
On the Lathe: Here’s a picture of two halves of a mesquite and cactus pen all glued up and being turned on the lathe. A very sharp tool called a gouge is used to slowly turn the wood and cactus pieces into two halves of a pen.
When the pen halves are turned, sanded and finished to a glassy shine, they’re ready to be taken off the lathe and fitted with gold or chrome appointments.