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Today in
S.C.V. History
June 25
1859 - Outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez escapes from prison while serving sentence for grand larceny in SCV area; recaptured in August and sent to San Quentin [story]
Tiburcio Vasquez

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Saturday, Oct 18, 2014

darrylmanzerI should have known not to drop in at an event with people who don’t agree with some of the things I write. I forged ahead anyway. I kept remembering the ancient words of wisdom: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

The event was the celebration of the anniversary of saving the old oak tree known as “Old Glory” out on Pico Canyon Road in Pico Canyon Park. I missed that 2003 event. I think I was at sea doing something for the Navy … like testing a submarine or something.

Anyway, I’m happy they saved that tree. It came close to getting killed many times in its life. It is a huge and beautiful tree. I know it is a huge and beautiful tree with a charmed existence.

Some people claim they got engaged under the branches of that tree. I would imagine it was also a place for couples to do some things that may have necessitated a proposal. I wouldn’t know. I was too young, or I plead the “fifth” on grounds it definitely would incriminate me.

Anyway, the oak trees in Pico are especially magnificent this year. I think it is because their dark green leaves stand out in such a vivid fashion from the yellow and dry grasses around them. I also marvel at their resiliency. My short hike this morning up to the old bakery in Mentryville led me past many old oaks that have survived many wildfires over the years. The leaves burn and then return to the former glory of our native trees.

"Old Glory" in 2013.

“Old Glory” in 2013.

Here in California we are so blessed with trees. The giant redwoods, our oak trees, bristlecone pines that are older than the redwoods, windblown cypress trees and the thousands of cottonwoods that line our otherwise dry and dusting rivers.

That last group has yet to start turning colors for fall here in the southern part of our state.

Whatever the tree that is in our state, all of them are beautiful.

I love it when I go to an event expecting to hear about the great and wonderful thing we are celebrating, only to get a lecture on another and quite unrelated subject. I almost started laughing as the other subject was brought up. We were standing within four miles of the first commercially produced oilfield west of the Mississippi River. I think some of the old oil pipes that carried the crude oil from the wells to the old Pioneer Refinery on Pine Street in Newhall were beneath our feet.

So we hear about how the Keystone Pipeline is going to destroy the entire Midwest and pollute rivers, kill wildlife and generally change the world. The gentleman gave some data on the size and strength of the piping that would be used for the proposed pipeline. Seems plenty strong to this old submariner. But what do I know about piping and high-pressure liquids?

Like the time there was a small leak of oil from one of the rigs on the platforms off of Carpinteria. Personally I had a difficult time telling the difference between the oil seeps in the cliffs and along the beach at Carpinteria State Park and the reported oil spill.

Quigley watches the tree being moved down the road in 2004.

Quigley watches the tree being moved down the road in 2004.

I know of only one major spill in Pico Canyon in all the years there was oil production there. A pipe broke because of a large boulder. Oil contained and picked up. Sand and soil in the creek that was oil-soaked was taken out of the creek bottom and used on the canyon road. A year later nobody hardly remembered the leak.

I am not concerned with the engineering and safety of the proposed Keystone Pipeline. At least not when I’m celebrating the saving of a grand old oak tree in Pico Canyon. It felt like a case of “bait and switch.”

I love it when folks who know little if anything about piping design tell me about the strength of piping. “The pipe walls are going to be a little less than a half inch thick.” In the engineering world, that makes for some pretty strong pipes. There are some on submarines that are that thick and keep water out of the people tank just fine. For many, many years.

But if you don’t know, it all sounds pretty scary. “If the pipe breaks, the Oglala Aquifer will be contaminated with hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.” I’d agree if there weren’t safety valves designed into the proposed system. A lot of oil may spill, but the flow of oil would be stopped before millions – no, thousands – of gallons are spilled. And that is only if the pipe breaks completely. A crack or partial break could have containment in minutes.

But I was there to celebrate a tree … not to think of a pipeline 1,500 miles away. I also had to laugh that while tree sitter John Quigley did much to save that tree in the 71 days he was in those branches, I think one reason he was able to do so was the fact William S. Hart High School took some action to save the tree.

For a long time, we had a bus driver for a few kids who lived in the Pico Canyon area, and he tended to go a bit fast. More than once he was speeding around the corner and nearly lost control right at what became “Old Glory.” That bus driver was put on another route, and the tree was saved. At least we think it was.

Mr. Quigley saved it again. Those lovers can remember the proposal. We kids on the bus can remember the driver, and our valley has a Champion Tree.

And with that, we all got into our fossil-fueled vehicles and went home.


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. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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1 Comment

  1. Steve Petzold says:

    Remember to Vote No on Measure S. It’s a very bad deal.

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