Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Lizard Slayer

I worked for  the Fairlea Ranch in Badger, Ca. for a's a long story how I got there. It seems like another life ago. The ranch is owned by John Hyde and his wife Kate. John is a movie person. I was never into movies, but John and Kate are. It's their bread and butter and a way to have a very nice ranch. It had meager beginnings and has lately become a very sucessful cutting horse facility. Goggle Fairlea Ranch and see what happens.

In my time in California, I learned that there are very few "real" Californians.  Darden Bowman was a real Californian. He left the mountains one serve in World War II. He came right back to the mountain when he got home...and never left except to go on a bull buying trip every year.

The Fairlea Ranch was near the little town of Badger, California. Badger had one resource. The Sierra Glenn Store, owned by someone who "wasn't from there". Gil Vosburg, US Navy Ret. decided to move to the fresh air of theHigh Sierra foothills. When I got there Gil owned the Sierra Glenn Store. Why an intelligent retired Navy man bought such and ablaltross is beyond me.  I think his wife was of that mind, too.

The Sierra Glenn Store had everything, groceries, the post office, gasoline, Diesel fuel, hand tools, BC Powders Indian moccasins, rat bait, greeting cards... and...and...and. a Beer Garden! An oasis for semi intelligent conversationalists.  Coffee in the morning, and beer in the evening, with the same people every damn day!

Now Darden Bowman, as I've said, was the only real California Cowboy left in the High Sierra's. The rest of us were new to the area...and I damn sure wasn't a cowboy. Darden had been there long enough to still have lifetime grazing rights inside the Sequoia National Park. I imagine every home in Japan has a photo or two of Darden. He was the most photographed cowboy in California.

Every year Darden drove cattle up from his ranch in Pinehurst, (Pop.56) to Sequoia National Park and back down to the San Joaquin Valley to calve every fall. It was a treat to get to ride part, or all of that,the last of the old "cattle drives" in that area. Japanese tourist in Sequoia National Park went stupid when they saw a herd of cattle, flanked by people who actually looked like rustlers, with a bunch of half wild-looking cow dogs thrown in the mix. Cameras, lights, action! 

Cows are not used to flash bulbs, friends and neighbors. When  jumped by camera happy Japanese tourists,  they soon give notice that Hollywood is not for them. Cows are big, but they ain't slow to react;  ask any cutting horse. As we say in the cow business they "skyed out". Japanese tourist do not have a phrase book for what Darden called the tourists as he goes off in pursuit of his cattle.

Irregardless of  his manliness, horsemanship, cow sense, and all things that made him the unofficial cowboy domo of Badger, Darden not enamoured of the common lizard. Not Rattlesnakes, friends, no sir!  He'd grin down a rattlesnake. Darden did not like lizards. I  had it on good report that Darden had been know to tear down a big wood pile to get at a small lizard and stomp the life out of it.

EnterGil Vosburg...

Gil was a Navy man and showed up at the store everyday in khakis and a ball cap, or no hat at all. Now in cowboy country, that ain't the cowboy way. Bluejeans, long sleeved, pearl button, western cut shirts, and a  cowboy hat...THAT'S the cowboy way. Now Gill heard about his head gear transgression daily when Darden and the rest of the boys came in about 4:00 for refreshments.

One day Darden came in, took his seat at the picnic table with Jim Lynch and the rest of the guys. A round of beer was ordered . Gill came out with a handful of long-neck bottles... and a cowboy hat. Darden was excited  He told Gill he knew he'd come around, welcome to the fold! As Gill leaned over to offer Darden his beer, a rubber lizzard fell on the table.

The table took flight, beer went everywhere, people fell on their butts. Darden started stomping and cussin and cussin and stompin'. He finally figured it out, but it made no difference, it was a damn lizard! Gil was joined in his laughter by every beer splattered cowboy in the place. Darden is still a'cussing Gil, and Gil is still laughin', and has never worn another cowboy hat.

I'm sure if you look carefully in the gravel parking lot of the Sierra GlennStore, you might find small pieces of a rubber lizzard to this day.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great story. I knew Darden as a kid, he was a fellow rancher of my Uncle Cleo. I remember brandings at the ranch, great memories. Thanks for sharing your story!