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2014 - "Become Ocean" by John Luther Adams (CalArts BFA 1973) named winner of 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Music [story]
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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Sunday, Dec 2, 2012

Darryl Manzer

I was having breakfast the other day with Mr. Renly, my little basset hound, at the Egg Plantation in beautiful downtown Newhall.

The location seemed so familiar to me. I know it is near a house that used to sit on that part of Walnut Street where a classmate of mine lived. Just can’t remember who or what the exact address was at the time. I do think it was near the old library.

I rode a horse to that library once. Just had to drop off a book. Think old Suzy helped fertilize some of the shrubs there. In those days it wasn’t an environmental disaster – just a little fertilizer.

I remember riding over the hill on Market Street, and some folks on Valley Street had horses, so I could water Suzy in the their trough. From there it was a slow walk back to Pico. Fun!

Suzy was a good horse. Oh, she did have a tendency to bite folks when a carrot or apple wasn’t offered. She only did it to me once before I got trained. I always had a treat for her after that.

Mr. Renly

My aunt and uncle brought a city kid to Pico once, and Suzy gave him a little love bite. The kid didn’t come back – or maybe he didn’t return because I told him he could relieve himself on a stretch of electric fence we had at Minnie-Lotta Canyon (where the old bakery foundation sits). Don’t think I’ve heard a scream like that since then.

City folk up in Pico and Towsley scare me a little. I was leading a tour there not long ago, and a friendly rattlesnake was sunning itself at Johnson Park. I know to look for them out of habit. Hard to hear them if you’re hiking with your iPod cranked up to full volume and the buds are clogging your ears.

Those city folk also like to build “monuments” or leave something noting that they passed by a spot. We used to call that “litter.”  And what is the fascination with that water/oil pond in Towsley? Does everyone have to stick something in it to see that it is really oil? Why?

Those hills and mountains to the west of Newhall are a lot more wild and natural today than when I lived in Mentryville in the ‘60s. The wells are capped, and vehicle traffic is a Ranger passing by maybe twice a day. There are no cattle on those hills now. The wildlife has returned in force.

We did see a mountain lion or bobcat once in a great while. A few snakes, too. There were deer and quail and dove. But there weren’t the numbers of those critters that we see today.

The rattler was just minding its own business.

Oh, I left out coyotes. That population has really grown since the canyon has less activity.

As those lands return to a more natural state, the folks who visit Towsley and Pico should remember to watch for those critters. Trust me, they don’t want to be around people any more than you want to meet some of them up close and personal-like. Please be careful.

I forgot to mention skunks. Usually they mention themselves. Not by sight, I might add. Don’t attempt to pet the pretty little black kitty with the white stripe. Tomato sauce and juice baths are not fun.

While you’re up in those canyons and hills to the west, please remember that cell phone service can’t reach most of Pico Canyon from the bakery to the end of the canyon. In case of emergency, you’re in trouble. Towsley has a couple of cell-less spots, and the more southerly open space area west of I-5 also has limited cell service. Again, take care.

Standard Oil trucks all had a two-way radio in them. Service was pretty good except in Pico. Like cell phone service today, the two-way radio had dead spots. Like the time a cow fell on the truck my father was driving near some wells in the Hasley Canyon area. He was able to reach another company truck that relayed the message to the production office in Martinez Canyon.

The cow landed on the roof of the truck when it got too close to a steep bank near the road to a well. The bank caved in, and the cow tumbled onto the truck’s roof. Mashed it pretty good. The cow survived. The truck didn’t. I can almost picture the look on the face of my father’s boss as he was told a cow dropped on top of the truck.

Almost as funny as thinking of that city kid and the electric fence.

Couldn’t repeat those events now. Just another part of life in the SCV then.

 

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 Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. DennyO says:

    OK, a cow falling on the truck roof trumps “raining cats & dogs.”

  2. Well, that’s not the only thing that ever fell on a truck. My brother-in-law had a mountain lion land on the roof of his pickup by the Y out on Pico Cyn. Rd. years ago.,, while he was driving down the road. The cat was okay and kept up his run after he bounced off of the hood again on the other side of the truck. It scared my BIL half to death, but the teasing he got from family and friends for years was worse. Just life in Pico Canyon. It was never dull living out there.

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