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1978 - St. Francis Dam site becomes a State Landmark [story]


Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Tuesday, Nov 5, 2013
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

Got a call that 100 mules were going to be staying the night at Whitney Canyon.

I couldn’t figure out how they could get that many members of Congress – House or Senate – to move away from the Washington lobbyists so fast.

So I headed over to see for myself and found out it was 100 real mules.

I did ask the mules some serious political questions. Funny, every answer was better than what we hear from those in Washington, D.C.

Yes, the braying of mules sounded so much better than the words we hear from our representatives. I’m near ashamed they represent me.

Lots of our neighbors showed up to see the mules, take a picture or 20, and talk to the folks tending those critters. For their part, the mules brayed and ate some hay and had a little water and, in general, just stood around being mules.

There was a time, when a large herd of stock was gathered, be it horses, sheep or even mules, folks of the SCV might show up to look them over, and you couldn’t tell the locals from those tending the herd. Boots and hats. Jeans and chaps. Nothing had changed at the time for more than 100 years.

mules110413bOn Monday when the locals showed up, they wore sandals and worried about stepping in the droppings that come out of the north end of a southbound mule.

That brings to mind a way I was told to tell the difference from a real cowboy and a person dressed like a cowboy. The boots of a real cowboy have that stuff on the outside of their boots. Politicians never have it on the outside of their boots.

Now this whole mule thing is to help celebrate the completion of the delivery of Owens Valley water to Los Angeles. We don’t get any of it here in the SCV. It just passes through on the way to the big city in that huge pipe that crosses our valley from the north to the south. We don’t get a drop.

Anyway, the mules will go on down to the “cascades” you can see just off the I-5 and Highway 14 split.  Hope they turn it on so folks can see that water. I used to love watching that as we were stuck in traffic on Highway 99 on our way to or from that lesser valley to the south of us.  In this parched land, to see so much water pouring down a hill – it was a miracle, I tell you. Suddenly bursting forth from the dry and dusty hill, dotted with sagebrush, was this water.

This was the water supply that was needed to develop Los Angeles. The Los Angeles River couldn’t do the job any more. The city needed a large and reliable source of water. So they found it. About 250 miles to the north. With a little sleight-of-hand and many more less-than-ethical proceedings, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was born and got the water. Then they built the pipeline.

Good old LADWP. Family that lives south of here used to call it, “Drip and Tingle.”  The Owens Valley was pretty good farming and ranching land before then. Looks more like Mojave or Boron there now. But Los Angeles has water.

mules110413fBy hook or by crook, they got the water. Lots of water for the farms, dairies and orange groves of the San Fernando Valley, and in such abundance that folks started building houses – with swimming pools and fountains. Streets were laid out and the Pacific Electric trolley car system was extended into the San Fernando Valley. All of this took water.

Then folks planted more trees and even palm trees that take a lot of water and … well, soon the mighty Colorado River was tapped for use in the glorious City of Angels.

But almost 100 years ago, the first good water supply was pushed through our valley. Motive power was mules, for the most part. Those mules hauled the sections of pipe and pulled the scrapers that moved the dirt and carried supplies.

Those mules, like the ones in our valley today, provided service without complaint.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. I know SCVTV recorded a lot of video of the mules being so good at Whitney Canyon. Can we send some of that video to Washington and Sacramento so our representatives can see what a real ass can do? Good training for our reps.

Right now the ones in Whitney Canyon are a little more useful.  I don’t think the others can be trained. They just like to bray and eat and leave droppings.

And if they wear cowboy boots, we know that none of it will ever touch the outside of those boots that are already full of it inside.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

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1 Comment

  1. Jack says:

    Check out some of the original photos of mules used in the construction of the LA Aqueduct:

    http://waterandpower.org/museum/Construction_of_the_LA_Aqueduct.html

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