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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Dec 8, 2013

The leaves on many of our trees don't even know how to fall off. They just turn to gold.
Darryl Manzer

Darryl Manzer

Got a call from some family members who live in Western Kentucky. Something about a pending ice storm and a week of temperatures staying below the freezing mark.

Of course, as every good Californian knows, upon hearing those words or something similar, we are to yell out, to nobody in particular: “Would those of you making all that noise in the pool please hold it down so I can hear this phone call from back in the cold country?” Or, the ever-popular phrase: “Everyone out of the pool! We have a phone call from…” You get the idea.

This week I was still looking a leaves changing on our trees. Bright yellow leaves of the cottonwoods that line Soledad Canyon and the Santa Clara River. Those folks back in the East have finished raking leaves just in time for an ice storm. From bare trees to slick streets and loss of electricity. The leaves back there last such a short time.

Our trees like to hang on. They seem to take on the wonderful Southern California “laid back” attitude. “Like, ya know, we’re changing colors, but winter doesn’t officially start until almost Christmas” and, “We take our time and let our leaves ripen on the branches to perfection.”

trees-color1

Photos by Darryl Manzer

Many of our trees seem never to have learned to grow leaves that turn colors and fall off. Not enough cold and snow for that to happen.

As fall turns to winter, we start to see the end of avocado season and the start of navel orange season. Talk about some fantastic colors. Big, bright and deep orange navels with a sweetness normally found only in honey.

I love buying a large bag of them and attempting to peel each one, keeping the peeling whole and in one piece as I expose that seedless bit of heaven. Not only do we bask in our warm winter weather; we can peel a little bit of that sunshine and eat it, too.

I was once in the produce department of a large “box store” in the East that was selling California navel oranges next to some ugly things called “Florida oranges.” Spying the produce manager, I grabbed a California orange with one hand and a Florida slightly-orange-with-black-spots-and-unripe-green-peeling thing that the store said was a navel orange. Holding them next to each other, I asked him to explain how any piece of fruit that looked like the Florida example could be within 100 feet of a prime California navel orange. He shook his head in disgust and muttered to himself something about “crazy Californians” and walked away in shame.

I would have been ashamed had it been my store and my produce department. The example from Florida didn’t even look like an orange. It was more like an old softball that had been tossed aside a fence and left to grow mold. It was just plain ugly.

trees-color3A couple of weeks ago I traveled from our fair valley to the city of Santa Barbara. All of those orange, lemon and avocado trees along the road had ripening fruit on every branch. There were also fields of flowers and tomato fields and … the phone rang. It was my son who lives in Virginia. He could hear the noise of the road, so I couldn’t use the standard phrases one uses on a caller from colder climes.

So I explained the sights I was seeing. The bright, very blue sky with the fields and harvest-ready orchards. As I approached the ocean, I explained to him the unrestricted view of our islands on the horizon. It just doesn’t get any better.

It is at times such as this, when I’m talking to friends and family in the much colder climes, that I enjoy our home state the most. Having lived back there in Virginia and Kentucky, I know what those phone calls are like when cold rain or snow blows into the side of the house. The times when roads are slick and ice forms on the ponds and rivers are when I would remember California the most.

I frequently sound like an advertisement for California. As I extoll the virtues of our vast and unique state, I am often at a loss for words. Just how does one describe the so-very-many great people, places and things that make up our home?

And just how does one do it without telling them folks in the colder climates that you’re sitting at a computer with a heavy coat on, and fingers hardly able to move in the cold room? I mean really, ya know. The temp here in Acton is only 33 degrees as I type this. I didn’t know our laws allow this much cold.

Got to talk to the county and Santa Clarita city about these temps. Maybe the politicians can share some of the hot air they produce. We can only hope.

For all you “come heres” who don’t know the rule, please remember to say those magic works whenever your relations and friends from those cold climates call in wintertime. All together, now: Everyone out of the pool! We have a call from…” Practice this phrase until you can say it in your sleep. And we say it whenever we get those calls, even if the pool is drained.

It is our way. Our California way.

 

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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