Monday, November 6, 2017

A Perfect Couple of Hours in Cowboy Heaven

 view to the west from Hart Ranch

In a previous blogpost I wrote about my favorite place ever, William S. Hart's Horseshoe Ranch in the southern hills of Newhall California. In early October came the chance to spend a few hours of refreshing solitude at the ranch.

I left my car in front of the old ranch house, then walked toward the trail that would take me up the hill to Hart's Spanish-style house. The welcome sign at the trail head warned of rattlesnakes, and I shuddered thinking of the countless times my siblings and I scrambled up these hills through leaf litter (which is rattlesnake heaven) without giving a thought to the hazards.

At the gateway to the house I passed the turret pictured below, inscribed "La Loma de los Vientos," which translates as "hill of the winds." It's almost an apt name. Yes it is gusty on this hill at times, yet a better name could be "hill of the pleasant breeze."

I circled around the rear of the house to the upper level patio toward a park bench set in the shade of a few mature oak trees, whose leaves rustled in the breeze. If they could talk, their stories of past eras would be favorites around western campfires--Spanish explorers, Franciscan friars, cowboys and Indians, American military expeditions, Butterfield stage adventures, Hart's artist and cowboy and movie-star friends.

view of the house from my spot in the shade

For the next few hours I sat almost entirely alone, but not alone. My audio book played The Virginian by Owen Wister, my favorite novel, read by the ideal narrator in a fitting, not-quite-harsh yet serious, expressive tone. Set in 1880s Wyoming, it is the quintessential western novel: people alone or in small groups facing good vs. evil in a vast unsettled landscape. To be comfortable in the shade on a warm day, wafted by a pleasant breeze, listening to a treasured cowboy story at a cherished western spot--now that's a perfect afternoon!

stone pathway on the ranch

Hart's house
terrace overlooks the valley below

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