Buster may have record buster

By Glynis Crawford Smith

The Highlander

When Russell Buster bought his hilltop home on Via Viejo in Marble Falls it came complete with a cactus garden.

This spring, one resident of that garden has sprouted. A Century Plant is reaching for the sky.

“I don't know for sure if it's a record,” said Buster. “But I haven't found a report of one larger.

“It is at least 16 feet across and you can compare the height already to my 5-foot 8-inches,” he said peering up.

Buster takes the garden giant for Agave Azul, the blue cactus of tequila fame, although Agave Americana is somewhat more prone to his size.

Looking more like a monster asparagus stalk right now, it soon will be topped with branches of the familiar upturned yellow flowers.

“It will die when it blooms out,” said Buster. “Already, it has pups coming up around it to take its place.

“They have these in the Caribbean and they call the dried flower stalks Caribbean Christmas trees; that's what they use them for. I have one I use every year.

Buster bought the place from contractor Rob Haley who put in the cactus garden that includes also Saguaro Cactus, standing sentinel as they do in the Arizona desert, large barrel cactus, purple blossomed cholla cactus, some impressive specimens Buster identifies as palm yuccas and a few spiny spiny ocotillo plants that look like dead sticks until their bright flowers appear.

“Rob bought the place from John Counts who had Marble Falls National Bank on US 281,” said Buster, but it goes much farther back than that.”

“The first part of the house was built by a Houston banker I believe was named Carter Stewart.

“He chose it in 1938 for the Colorado River view, because he could see the falls they named the city far up river beyond where the US 281 bridge is now and downriver to the area where Max Starcke Dam is today. I can still see both points on Lake Marble Falls.”

“Rob told the story that one day the banker's daughter stopped in and asked if her pony shed was still on the property,” said Buster. “It is, but it is part of the house now.”

That first building dates to 1940, but it has grown over the years to the sprawling ranch style Buster has enjoyed for the last four years.

Buster migrated slowly west to Spicewood before finally winding up in Marble Falls in 1990. He served on the city council in 1993-94 and he has been a constant supporter of the development of Main Street.

In the Second and Main location that now houses Smartie Pantz, in 995, he opened the Granite Mountain Grill that became Wild Horse Grille. He and Brooks Blake still own the Uptown Marble Theater building they purchased in 1999 and he opened R-Bar & Grill in 2005.

Through it it all he was active in establishing the former Marble Falls Main Street Merchants Association, has brought his restaurant and entertainment background to bear in businesses and festivals to feed a tourist industry he still believes in and has worked to preserve the historic nature of Main Street.

You could say he has a lot of experience with new growth that explodes and dies back to renew again. But he may be presiding over his the fastest growing project in a front yard cactus.

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