Monday, October 31, 2011

Cowboy Culture -- Cowboy's lament


A Cowboy's lament: thoughts about valley secession
By Jerry England, published in New Times LA, July 25, 2002

Oh, gimme a home, where developers don't roam...

Not every longtime resident of Los Angeles loves the old pueblo.  In fact, when I'm asked where I live, I never admit to living in L.A.  Instead, I proudly tell 'em I live in the "cowboy town" of Chatsworth -- the last little piece of the Old West -- in the San Fernando Valley.

And the answer to the question of whether secession offers a better dream is a resounding yes!

There was a time when El Pueblo Grande offered plenty to folks and attracted newcomers with promises of opportunity:  

A time when we manufactured cars and airplanes.  A time when we produced hundreds of household products in small factories across the Valley.  

A time when public schools offered children a chance to get a decent education.  There was a time when agriculture peacefully coexisted with neighborhoods of custom-built homes.  

A time when we actually had rapid transit in the Valley -- street cars called the Red Line.  A time when Hoppy, Gene and Roy showed us how to be good and how to fight evil.  Alas, that's all gone.    

What went wrong with L.A.  didn't happen overnight.  It took years of neglect and political partnerships with rich developers to strip it of what was good and beautiful.  

Years that were profitable for rich power-mongers and a few greedy politicians that clung to their coattails.  It happened so slowly most folks didn't even notice the change until it was too late.  

Then one day we looked around and the orange groves and walnut orchards were gone.  The beautiful green hills that once pastured 10,000 cattle were gone.  The four-rail white fences that framed majestic horse ranches were gone.  The corner fruit stands and little dairies were gone.    

They were all replaced by urban sprawl.  L.A.  earned new fame.  It became the city with the highest density and most traffic congestion in America.  It became a city with polluted waterways and air pollution that actually kills children and old people.    

It's true that the neglect of our city of dreams and unique neighborhoods is not entirely the fault of the existing mayor and city council.  But, then again, are they doing anything to improve the situation?   Has any politician ever stood up and said stop the developers now? 

Wait until we can do something about traffic congestion, polluted water and dirty air? Has any council person or mayor ever made a stand to save a unique neighborhood, a corner farm, a hillside full of sheep, or a grove of fruit trees?    


The answer is no.  Politicians are not about to bite the hands that feed them.    Many people who want the Valley to secede are united behind the idea of saving what's left of the environment.  We want to solve traffic problems.  We want clean air and water, and less noise.    

Don't ask the career politicians who have worked for years at building relationships with real estate developers, tobacco companies and liquor merchants.  Instead, ask the new activists who are willing to step up and work for what they hold dear.  Ask the people who are fighting expansion of landfills.  

Ask the activists who are trying to stop new high-density housing development -- those half-million-dollar homes -- that are not "affordable-housing," but will add traffic to roads already failing, more children to schools that are already crowded beyond their design capacity, and will further deplete already overburdened city services.    

We are an apathetic society that would rather sit in front of our televisions and not think about the future.  Let the scientists focus on global warming while we spend our evenings channel-hopping.    

Los Angeles is in chaos.  Look around and think about what it will be like for your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  How will they cope with traffic, air pollution, acid rain and a poor education?    


Let's try something new.  Let's elect some people who have been fighting for us.  Let's follow the one tenth of one percent who are not sitting in front of their TVs, but are at city hearings fighting to protect our environment and our quality of life.

Afterword -- almost a decade later...
The San Fernando Valley lost its bid for secession--Valley voters voted "Yes," but the rest of the city, "No."  Not much else has changed.   Los Angeles still has the highest density, worst traffic, and serious air pollution.  A weak economy has slowed down builders, but Valley taxes continue to be spent by downtown developers.  Now they want a new football stadium--what's wrong with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum?  Chatsworth still has horses, but there are fewer every year.












Cowboy Culture -- Horses vs Houses



Letter to LA politicians, published in the Valley Horse Owners Association newsletter The Hoof Beat, November, 2002
Dear City Leaders,

I am writing to ask for your support to protect my community.  It's my personal opinion that our democratic rights are being violated by unfair local government practices.

Last year a developer asked for and obtained a zone change--removing horse-keeping to allow small lots--for a parcel of land in our neighborhood.  On the surface that seems innocent enough, but what is wrong with the picture is that an entire community was ignored because of the developer's political connections.

Hundreds of citizens protested the land-use approvals of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, and the Los Angeles City Council.  The citizens were ignored at every turn, and the influential developer always got his way.



A non-profit organization, known as the Chatsworth Land Preservation Association (CLPA), filed a lawsuit against the developer, land-owner, and the city.  CLPA's lawsuit represented the demands of hundreds of Chatsworth citizens.



CLPA and the citizens of Chatsworth won the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Then the Los Angeles City Council took steps to make sure that the politically-connected developer ultimately won.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to spend taxpayer money to appeal the court decision, and it directed the Planning Commission to change the precise language in the General Plan that had allowed CLPA to prevail in court.

Now for the rest of the story:

The developer was also the Los Angeles City Airport Commissioner. His wife was a Los Angeles City Public Works Commissioner. His daughter was a Los Angeles City Mayor's Representative. The developer was also a chief fundraiser for LA United, which was the Mayor's anti-secession organization. The developer raised $500,000 to fight Valley secession.  Just a few days earlier the Los Angeles City Council had voted to appeal the court decision against him.

The Mayor and most of the Los Angeles City Council were against secession.   They did not want the citizens of the San Fernando Valley to form their own city, which would give them local control.

The existing language in the Chatsworth General Plan is crystal clear: horse-keeping is part of the heritage of Los Angeles, and it should be protected. It is unreasonable for a wealthy, politically-connected developer to be allowed to spot zone horse-keeping rights away, so he can make a few extra dollars profit.



If you believe in truth, justice, and the American way please help us.

Afterword -- almost a decade later...

The Airport Commissioner sold the land to another developer, but with the weak the economy his big houses on small lots sat unsold for many years.  The Mayor was not re-elected to a second term.  The City Councilman retired, and is a land-use consultant.  The Airport Commissioner, his wife, and his daughter no longer have commissions or jobs with the city.

A new Mayor and a new City Councilman have passed an olive branch to Chatsworth horsemen, and the weak economy has slowed down the rezoning of large horse-keeping parcels of land.  Many of the horseman seen in these photos have moved away from Los Angeles.

(Photos are compliments of Steve Ford.)






Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cowboy Legacy -- Montana record elk



Frank Bailey, my granddad, shot this elk near his home in Kalispell, Montana about 1910.  He had a taxidermist mount the head, which was a Montana record at the time. 


The mount hung in a Kalispell bank until a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks borrowed it from the bank for an event.  It was never returned to the bank because someone had stolen it.  I still have granddad's correspondence with the BPOE.  Too bad it was never recovered.


The photo above shows the elk rack and cape loaded on granddad's pack horse.  I can just imagine, Orange Bailey, granddad's great grandfather, hunting elk with a single-shot muzzle-loading rifle in Iowa Territory a half century earlier.





Cowboy Legacy -- Grandpa Brown's barn



The photo above is of Abraham Lincoln Brown's Creston, Montana homestead around 1915.  If you look closely you'll notice his barn (lower right corner) is still under construction.  I love this old photo because it shows the house, shed, wagon and buggy.

Abraham Lincoln Brown (Abe), the son of John Galloway Brown and Lucy (Pinnsoneau) Brown, was born in Philadelphia, New York November 25, 1864. and died August 8,1948, in Creston, Montana.  He married Neva Genevive Plympton in Roswell, South Dakota March 1,1888. Neva was born in Zanesville, Ohio June 2, 1870. She was the daughter of Charles Henry Plympton and Nancy Ellis. Neva died April 8, 1939 in Creston, Montana.  Abe died there August 8,1948.



In this 1920s photo taken in front of his dad's barn in Creston, Montana,  Lon Brown is showing off his horsemanship.

Alonzo "Lon" Brown, son of Abe Brown and Neva (Plympton) Brown, was born in Adams, New York, March 16, 1898, shortly before his family moved to Montana.  He married Flavia Olive Brown in Alberta, Canada, December 9,1931.  Flavia was born in Montford, Montana August 3, 1913.   Alonzo died April 2,1980, in Kalispell, Montana.  He was my idol when I was a boy.  He and Aunt Olive introduced me to horses in 1950.



In this 1928 photo my mom and her little sister are riding Grandpa Brown's horse posing in front of his barn.  I like the wagon full of hay behind them.

Cowboy Legacy -- French connection


The French Canadian Heritage of Lucy Pinsonneault


Lucy Pinsonneault, my 2nd great grandmother, also known as (aka) Lucy Passino, was born June 17, 1836, in Rutland, New York to Gabriel Pinsonneault (aka Gilbert Passino) and Maria Emelie Meunier Lagace (aka Mary Passino).

For more than 15 years I have been researching the French Canadian ancestry of Lucy Pinsonneault.  The difficultly of learning about her family began with the fact that her father and mother, both born in Canada, were illiterate and probably spoke little or no English when they first emigrated to the United States about 1830.

We know Gabriel and Maria were still in Canada in 1827 when a son Francis was born there, but they had emigrated to the United States and were living in Vermont by 1832 when their daughter Justine was born.

Lucy married John Galloway Brown January 23, 1861, in Philadelphia, New York.  She died February 2, 1917, in Creston, Montana.


The photo above was taken about 1910 at the Creston, Montana homestead of John and Lucy Brown.

Preliminary notes for Lucy Passino

Lucy's son Abraham Lincoln Brown listed his mother's maiden name as Passneau.

Lucy Passino Brown's death certificate listed her father as Cassino, born in France.  

The death certificate of George Pierce, Lucy's younger brother, listed his father as Gilbert Pierce, born Canada, and his mother as Mary Laggesie, born France.  

Here's good place to comment on evidence given for a death certificate.  The person the information pertains to is dead, so the supplied data comes from the often dim memory of a child or spouse.  Worse yet, someone else is writing what they think they are hearing, and of course nobody is checking the spelling at the time of writing.

In her family history notes, Lydia (Brown) Bailey, Lucy's grand daughter, listed Lucy Passino Brown as the daughter of  Gilbert Passino, born in France about 1815, and Mary Armstrong, born about 1817 in Canada.

Early public records for Gilbert, Lucy's father, had many different surnames

1850 US Federal Census, Rutland, Jefferson Co., New York:
Givarow Passinault, age 47 (1803), born Canada
Mary Passinault, age 40 (1810), born Canada

1850 New York Agriculture Census, Rutland, Jefferson Co., New York:
Givarow Passano

1860 US Federal Census, Wilna, Jefferson Co., New York:
Gilbert Passino, age 57 (1803), born Canada
Mary Passino, age 55 (1805), born Canada

1864 Wilna, Jefferson Co., New York Land Owner Map:
G. Pasino

1870 US Federal Census, Wilna, Jefferson Co., New York:
Gilbert  Pasnan, age 68 (1802), born Canada
Mary  Pasnan, age 62 (1808), born Canada

1870 New York Agriculture Census, Wilna, Jefferson Co., New York:
Givarow Pasnan

1877 Obituary published in the Carthage Republican (New York):
Gilbert Passino

1877 Headstone in Pierce Cemetery, Wilna (Fort Drum), Jefferson Co., New York:
Gilbert Passino

Pinsonneau became Passino -- Getting on the right track

Published in the Press Republican (Plattsburgh, New York) November 24, 2002,  a newspaper article written by Robin Caudell titled "French connection--From street signs to surnames: French-Canadian influence manifests itself in many distinct ways."   He describes:  "Remnants of a vibrant French Canadian past permeate the North Country.  Franco culture echoes in family surnames, names of geographical places and streets.  It is preserved in the architectural detail of private residences, commercial buildings and churches, and it’s savored in traditional recipes such as tourtiere and sliders.  'You have a sense that the culture as been fully assimilated, and there are relatively little current indications French Canadian culture existed here,' said Dr. Sylvie Beaudreau, a professor of history at Plattsburgh State."

[excerpt from a surname list published in the article] Current Name: Passino -- Original Name: Pinsonneau  

Quoted source: "Volume  III, Headstone Inscriptions, Clinton County, New York" by Clyde Rabideau Sr.

Breakthrough -- The death of ‘Mary’ Émélie Meunier dite Lagacé
Melanie Pierce, a distant cousin, wrote to me that she learned Mary Passino was, in fact, Marie Laggesie, and she sent me a copy of Marie's death certificate, which had been hand-written in French.  To be honest I was doubtful, but I sent a copy of the certificate to a genealogist and Lagacé family researcher in Canada.  The genealogist interpreted the document and advised me the certificate clearly states that Marie Émélie Meunier dite Lagacé was the wife of Gilbert Pinsonnault, of ( États-Unis) United States.  She also confirmed that Pinsonneau was very likely changed to Passino.

Armed with that information I quickly found birth and marriage records for Gabriel and Marie Pinsonneau online at ancestry.com.

Pursuing Pinsonneau -- Church records for Gilbert aka Gabriel Pinsonneau

Birth:  from Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 
Gabriel Pinsonneau
Event Year: 1801-1805
Event: Naissance (Birth)
Religion: Catholique
Place of Worship: La Prairie (Notre-Dame-de-LaPrairie-de-la-Madeleine)
Province: Québec

Marriage: from Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967
Gabriel Pinsonault
Spouse: Marie Emilie Lagasse
Event Year: 1824
Event: Mariage (Marriage)
Religion: Catholique
Place of Worship: Châteauguay St-Joachim
Province: Québec

During the past two years I have traced the Pinsonneau and Lagacé families to the very beginning of Canada's history.  I found over 200 French-Canadian relatives.  Some of them were farmers and tradesmen; more than a dozen had been involved in the fur trade as either couriers de bois or voyageurs.  


Maybe that explains my love of canoeing, and the silent places that can only be reached by paddle and portage.  Photo from a 1987 rendezvous reenactment.

Update September 23, 2013:

Gabriel Pinsonneau found on the 1830 United States Federal Census about Gabriel Painsam

Name: Gabriel Painsam; [Gabriel Painsoun]; [Gabriel Pinsawe] 
Home in 1830 Vineyard, Grand Isle, Vermont
Free White Persons - Males - Under 5: 2 [Nelson Francis b. 1826 and Moses David b. 1827]
Free White Persons - Males - 20 thru 29: 1 [Gabriel b. 1803]
Free White Persons - Females - 20 thru 29: 1 [Maria b. 1808]
White Persons - Aliens - Foreigners not Naturalized: 4
Free White Persons - Under 20: 2
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 4

Total - All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored): 4

Update October 10, 2013:

More information for Gabriel Pinsonneau aka Gilbert Passino...

1825 Lower Canada Census -- Gabriel Pinsonault found living in Chateauguay, Huntingdon, Lower Canada

Update May 14, 2015:

If there was ever a doubt about my Pinsonneau/Pinsonneault family heritage it has been dispelled by my ancestry.com DNA tests which have yielded dozens of links to early French-Canadian ancestors including shared ancestors.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Cowboy Legacy -- Nebraska 1869 to Idaho 1903



The photo above was taken in Kendrick, Idaho, about 1903, of David Jackson Bailey's family.  My grandfather, in the center of the photo with arms folded across his chest, was born in a sod house in Liberty Township, Nebraska, in 1886.  David, who was also known as Jackson, was a stockman, farmer and logger.
David Jackson Bailey was born in Moravia, Iowa November 19, 1865.  He married Lillian Amanda Pierce in Liberty Township, Nebraska, October 27, 1884.  He died May 12, 1949, in Lewiston, Idaho at age 83 from pneumonia, which was the end result of injuries suffered while breaking a horse.

More about Jackson from an article in the Lewiston Orchards Newspaper about 1946:

"Molasses Produced From Orchards Grown Sugar Cane"

AN ENTERPRISE in Lewiston Orchards meriting mention because of its pioneer character, ingenious construction, unusual production, and the personal history of the owners is the "one-woman-and-one-man" cane molasses factory operated by Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Bailey, whose combined ages total 156 years and who are one of the few couples in this section to have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Making molasses requires experience, foresight, energy and patience. The Baileys acquired these qualifications when they were a young couple residing on a farm on a bleak Nebraska prairie in the 1880s existing, for the most part, on what they were able to produce in a battle with the elements that in almost every alternate year dried up the corn, discouraged their efforts, and dashed their hopes. Even in the drought years, cane could be produced and molasses made to provide a sweet for the six children of the Bailey family residing in a three room sod house, so the parents became proficient in the art of reducing cane cider to molasses syrup.

It was around the turn of the century that the Bailey's gave up the fight with the wind and summer sun that destroyed their crops and decimated their cattle. They migrated to the West and settled on Bear ridge above Kendrick, Idaho where their seventh child was born and where they made their home until they moved to Lewiston Orchards 16 years ago.

When both Mr. and Mrs. Bailey were approaching the allotted three score and 10 years their children importuned them to retire from the farm. The habits of a lifetime are difficult to cast aside and while they acceded to the wishes of their progeny, they made no promises about refraining from continuing the activities they had found conducive to their good health and well being.

"Dynamite" Furnishes Power

On the five-acre tract to which they moved, they carry on with the energy and enthusiasm of young people. They not only raise their own fruit and vegetables, but sell a considerable quantity. They keep a horse, a cow, a pig, some chickens and a few hives of bees. Busy from morning until night, the Baileys sandwich in their operations at the molasses mill with other activities.

In the spring they plant cane on one acre of their tract and a passersby during the summer might mistake it for corn overlooking the fact that the tassel is missing. In the fall Mr. Bailey strips the cane while it is standing in the field, tops it to get the seed for the next planting, hauls It and piles the stalks near the molasses mill to await processing.

Mounted on a concrete pier it a convenient height is the cane press which has been In continuous use for more than 25 years. Above the press is rigged a home made power plant consisting of a long pole extending 10 feet on one side and four feet on the other. To the long end of the pole he hitches a fat, wise, old and trusty horse by the forceful name of "Dynamite" and on the other end places a bucket of rocks for a balance.

When the processing begins "Dynamite" reluctantly gets into clock-wise motion, the press begins to turn, Mr. Bailey feeds the stalks through and Mrs. Bailey on the opposite side pushes the squeezed stalks aside when they are later gathered up to be used for feed for the cow and to keep "Dynamite" in dynamo order. She Also watches to make certain the cane cider pours into the waiting barrel. After the barrel is filled with the liquid, operations are halted and the cooking process begins.

A fire is lighted in the outdoor cooking furnace under the long cooking vat and seven gallons of the cane liquid is poured into the vat and started cooking for three hours. Mr. Bailey must keep constant watch at the vat, stirring, skimming, and testing the bubbling contents.

"How do you know when it has cooked long enough?" an onlooker asked. "The same way my wife knows when jelly has jelled, " he replied. "It takes experience during which a lot of molasses is over cooked before one knows the right consistency of the syrup."


The 1945 photo above is of Jackson and Lillian Bailey with Dynamite.


Although both are approaching 80 years, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey are hale and hearty and ascribe their good health to hard work and temperate habits. "I could write a book about our pioneering experiences," says Mrs. Bailey. "We endured many hardships but we have a peaceful existence here in Lewiston Orchards and wonder why more people our age don't live on acreages where they can enjoy the pleasure of producing their own crops and the good health that continuous hard work brings about."

Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Bailey, with the aid of a trusty horse "Dynamite", operate a crude factory at their home in Lewiston Orchards where home grown cane is run through a press and the juice reduced in a nearby outdoor cooking vat to molasses. Although Mr. Bailey is 79 and Mrs. Bailey, 77, both are brisk and active and care for their five acre tract where they are more than self sustaining from the fruit and produce they grow. They are pioneers who emigrated from Nebraska to Idaho in 1901. They have seven children, 25 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren and recently celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.





Cowboy Legacy -- Iowa Territory 1845 to Nebraska 1869


I'm luckier than most folks.  I didn't need to watch ancestry.com's television series "Who Do You Think You Are?" to learn about my family history.  I only had to browse through mom's family photo albums.  Those wonderful old photographs portray a "cowboy legacy" handed down by my pioneer family as they gradually moved west from the original 13 colonies to California.

My study of genealogy has led me back to the beginnings of the United States, and Canada, and beyond.  I've traced both sides of my family back beyond the 17th century.  Some of my earliest ancestors go back more than twenty generations in old England, but I'm going to concentrate on my Western heritage after the Civil War and the invention of photographs.



The photo above is Orange Bailey's family: (front row, left to right) Orange Bailey, David Solomon Bailey, David Jackson Bailey, Sophia (Boyd) Bailey (back row left to right) Nancy (Good) Bailey, unknown gentleman, unknown gentleman, unknown lady.  The photo was taken circa 1895 in Iowa.

Orange Bailey was a descendant of John Baily (1618 - 1696) who was one of 28 families that founded Haddam, Connecticut, and a great grandson of Oliver Bailey (1738 - 1822) who fought in the French-Indian War and Revolutionary War.

In 1845 Orange homesteaded in Iowa Territory.  From "The History of Davis County, Iowa" published in 1882:  "BAILEY, ORANGE, farmer and stock-raiser, section 18, post-office Albany; one of the first settlers of Marion township, was born March 11, 1811, in Bradford county Pennsylvania. He was raised a farmer; when 10 years of age, came with his father, Smith Bailey, to Muskingum county, Ohio; and eight years later moved to Franklin county, Ohio where he lived seven years. He received his education in the subscription schools. He came to this county in 1845, built a log cabin and endured the many hardships a pioneer is subject to. When he arrived with a wife and four children, $150 was his entire capital, and in less than a year his wife died, leaving him the care of four small children, and a new farm to attend too. His farm now contains 110 acres, all under cultivation. He is a member of the United Brethren Church, and in politics is a republican. He was first married to Miss Lydia Wagner of Franklin county, Ohio; and they had seven children: William S., David S., Rose Mantie, Ann, and three deceased, Warren, Charley S., and Mary 0. Was married again in January 1849, to Miss Nancy Good, daughter of Isaac Good of Muskingum county, Ohio, and they have had thirteen children; Thomas J., Elizabeth, Rachel, James H., Frances M., Hiram, Emma J., Austin, and five deceased, Franklin, Ira, Peter J., and two in infancy."

Orange outlived both of his wives and several of his 20 children.  He died in 1905, age 94.



David Solomon Bailey's Civil War record: at age 26, residence Van Buren County, Iowa, nativity Ohio, enlisted on February 18, 1864, in Co G, 3rd Iowa Cavalry. He was wounded severely and lost a leg as a result of a shell that hit his foot on June 10, 1864, while in action at Guntown, Mississippi (battle known as Brices Cross Roads).  He mustered out September 8, 1865, in Atlanta, Georgia.  

He married Sophia Boyd in Moravia, Appanoose Co., Iowa, March 13, 1859. Sophia was born in Ohio December 20, 1836. She was the daughter of Valentine Boyd, a blacksmith, and Sarah Grooms. Sophia died October 14, 1908, in Elkhorn, Nebraska.

After the war David moved his family to Elkhorn, Nebraska, where he earned his living as a teamster driving a wagon pulled by a team of draft horses.  David died July 19, 1915, in Spring Grove, Nebraska.

Horses were a significant part of my cowboy legacy, so it's no surprise that they've played such a major role in my life.  Watch for future posts under the heading "Cowboy Legacy."






Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cowabunga -- the surf's up, dude


Depending on your point of view, California horses just might be luckier than most because they get to go to the beach.  

For the past fifteen years we've gone camping at Hazard Horse Camp with a large group of our equestrian friends.  Our horses enjoy trail rides--of about two miles--to and from the beach through sand dunes. Other favorite activities include a half-mile run on the beach, and if your horse is up to it. a romp in the surf.


Hazard is a primitive equestrian campsite for groups of up to 50 people.  The camp has pipe-corral stalls, pit toilets, and plenty of room for motor homes, but no hook-ups. Campers must haul in feed, and haul out their own trash and muck-out the stalls. Recycled water for horses only is there, but campers need bring their own potable water.


Our group is livelier than some, so camping usually includes some Gymkhana equestrian events consisting of speed, pattern-racing and timed games for riders, a luau complete with mandatory Hawaiian shirts, all-you-can-eat food, and more-than-you-should-imbibe drinks, and a late-night bonfire.

Hazard Horse Camp is located in Montana De Oro State Park on California's central coast.  The park features over 8,000 acres of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, and peaks where equestrians and their horses can enjoy the solitude and freedom found on the park’s trails.  The park’s name--"Mountain of Gold"--comes from the golden wildflowers that bloom in spring. Wildlife in the park includes black-tailed deer and the black oystercatcher. 


Maybe we'll see you on the beach.  Cowabunga -- the surf's up, dude!






Growing up cowboy -- in the San Fernando Valley


The image above is James Walkers painting of California vaqueros roping a bear, circa 1877.

In the 1800s vaquero traditions were established in California's San Fernando Valley by the Spanish missions and Mexican ranchos.  California's vaqueros were excellent horsemen who preferred well-bred stallions and the elegant dress of Spanish gentlemen-ranchers. Their horse-training methods included the use of single-rigged Visalia saddles, hand-braided hackamores, silver-mounted spade bits, and rawhide reatas.  Those trappings are still admired by horsemen today.

In 1914, something magical happened.  Filmmaker Cecil B. De Mille discovered the Valley while looking for a location to shoot his epic Western "The Squaw Man."  For the next 60 years, thousands of Western movies and TV shows were filmed on locations throughout the Valley.  The film industry became a major Valley employer.

In the 1930s, most of Hollywood's six-gun heroes worked for a single studio, such as Warner Brothers, Universal or Republic.  Many of the early cowboy actors, such as Gary Cooper, Tom Mix, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, and Clark Gable bought ranches and moved to the Valley.

By the 1940s, such celebrities as Barbara Stanwyck, Zeppo Marx, Janet Gaynor, William Holden, and Robert Taylor boasted of owning working horse-ranches.  Northridge called itself the "Horse Capital of the West."


In the 1940s and 1950s, when I was a child growing up, the Valley was still full of movie cowboys, beautiful ranches, and fine horses.  Where I lived, in rural Woodland Hills, most kids had a horse or two in their backyards.  As youngsters we rode our horses to Calabasas, Canoga Park, and Chatsworth on dirt roads.

Dad on Paint in our front yard about 1954.
If you look at the background of the photo above you'll get a pretty good idea of what Woodland Hills looked like in the early 1950s.



1952 - While attending the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, youngsters were sometimes treated to actually meeting their cowboy heroes.  I was one of those lucky kids who got a souvenir good luck coin directly from Hoppy. 

1953 - As a boy I played broomstick polo at Rosemary Gibert's ranch, an old equestrian center that long predated Hidden Hills.

1955 to 1956 - I attended the Los Angeles Sheriffs' Rodeo at the Los Angeles Coliseum and remember there being more than 100,000 fans in the stands.  One of those years--1956 I think--Roy Rogers was the Grand Marshall.

1954 to 1955 - Cowboy star Wild Bill Elliott lived just down the road from me on a ranch in Calabasas where he hosted Junior Equestrian horse shows.

1955 - The remains of what had been the Platt Ranch during the 1940s was about 1,100 acres in the vicinity of Bell Canyon. Before that it was formerly known as Rancho El Escorpion.  Miguel Leonis built an adobe barn here in the 1870s, and it still stood until the 1960s.  I remember riding past the old barn and dreaming of bygone days of the early vaqueros and cattle ranching.

1955 - There were plenty of interesting characters left over from an earlier era that reminded us of a passing West.  While out on a trail ride I met a fellow named Don Brandstetter.  He had a beautiful Arabian stallion named Balane.  We got to be pretty good friends, and Don showed me some great places to ride.  We sometimes rode our horses under Ventura Boulevard through a huge 8' diameter iron culvert, and we'd stop by the old Calabasas general store for a Nehi soda.

Don really loved that stallion and would do some mighty funny things with that horse.  I remember him holding up his canteen so he could share a drink with his horse, and I remember him inviting the horse into his house.  I'll admit ol' Balane had pretty good manners.  A special treat was watching Don and Balane in the Rose Parade dressed in full Arabian attire.


The photo above is my dad and me on Manton Avenue, Woodland Hills -- a dirt road in 1955.

1956 - Sheep herders were still bringing their sheep wagons, horses, border collie dogs, and herd of sheep to graze off the wild oats that grew across the road from my home in Woodland Hills.

1957 - The Valley was getting way too populated for my dad, so we moved to Oakhurst, a hamlet in the High Sierras (population 356).   I moved back to the valley in 1965, and now live about eight miles from where the photo above was taken.  Today the San Fernando Valley, if it were separated from Los Angeles, would be the sixth largest city in the United States.

If you'd like to know what Calabasas looked like in 1956 have a look at this short YouTube clip taken from an old 8 mm home movie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcD2ztO7jC8

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Canoe fishing essentials -- make life easy


Personal floatation devices (pdf) are essential for safety, but they can also be a helpful tool.  I use a NRS life jacket, and the two things I like most about are 1) It has a waistband that snaps, so I can unzip it when it gets warm and still feel like it will be with me if I capsize my canoe.   2) It has two generous pockets.  I keep a compass, whistle, and spare reading glasses in one pocket, and I keep a small waterproof Fuji camera in the other pocket (more about my camera later).  I also keep a serrated-edge Gerber knife attached to a lash tab and an Orvis Fly Fisher's Snip pinned to a pocket strap.



If you suffer from low back pain as I do, a good seat back is worth its weight in gold.  I have two different seat backs: the wooden one (in the photo above) is made by Old Town Canoe, and it fits nicely on their web seats.  I also own one from LL Bean called a SitBacker that has a built in padded seat cushion.  They both work fine and support my back.
For fishing tackle, I've discovered Flambeau's Kwikdraw soft tackle bag.  I like it because it has three plastic boxes for lures, swivels, etc.  It also has a large zippered pocket for an extra reel, line, pliers, stringer, etc.  It has a sturdy shoulder strap to which I've added a carabiner, so it is easily attaches to a canoe thwart.



I also carry a small dry bag.  A mountain man might have called it a "possibles bag," but I call it my "extras bag."  It contains things I probably won't need, but will be mighty happy I have with me if an occasion arises when I need them.  The small rubberized dry bag by Seattle Sports is about 7" in diameter and 16" deep.  I carry a paddle jacket, rain pants, polyester gloves, first aid kit, headlamp, air horn, sunblock, insect repellent, and a fire starter in mine. 


To capture photographs of wildlife, trip memories, and trophy fish I carry a Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP camera.  This is a 10 megapixal digital camera with 3x optical zoom and a 2.7-inch LCD screen.  It has 50 MB built-in memory, and It's waterproof to 10 feet deep.  For less than $250.00 it the best camera around for a canoeist.  I just wish they had these a few years back when I was carrying a cardboard box with a lens in the end that we called a disposable camera.  Those old photos were so poor I threw most of them out long ago.


 

In the photo above you'll see both of my canoes as they were outfitted for a recent fishing trip on the Snake River in Wyoming.  The Scotty rod holders sure made paddling easier.  Years ago I would troll with my fishing rod trapped under one knee and braced against the other knee.  Somehow I managed to paddle and fish at the same time, but a good clamp-on rod holder sure has not only improved my fishing but also made my paddling more efficient.

My canoe fishing essentials checklist

After nearly a half century of fishing from a canoe I've finally created a checklist of things that make my fishing trips safe, comfortable, and more efficient:

wooden paddle on leash
double paddle tied to thwart with bungee
topographic map in waterproof case
bear spray on belt (in bear country)
painter(s)  (two on river trips)
seat back and seat pad
baler and sponge
rescue rope and two carabiners [on river trips]
Scotty clamp-on fishing rod holder
rod and reel (rigged with lure) on leash
wood fishing net on bungee leash
personal flotation device (pfd) with knife, whistle, compass, and glasses
Fuji waterproof camera and Orvis fly fisher's snip
wide brim hat and floating, polarized sunglasses on lanyard
wool whipcord pants
nylon underwear, layered polyester shirts and fleece or wool jacket
water shoes

Hydro Venture dry bag:

paddle jacket and rain pants
polyester gloves
toilet paper in ziplock bag and trowel
small dry bag (wallet and keys)
mini roll of duct tape

Seal Line waist pack (inside dry bag):

headlamp with fresh batteries
insect repellent
sun block
handkerchief
air horn 
first aid kit
extra folding knife
survival fishing kit
fire-starter

Tackle bag:

plastic tackle boxes with lures
stringer
pliers
fishing license
extra spinning reel
leader and extra line

Lunch cooler bag:

lunch and water bottle