National Geographic : 1942 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine If you look hard-and use your imagina tion-you may find in the sands around Point Loma's base a few black spots, where the old time whaling men heated their try-pots. To day whales still frequent these waters. Most of Point Loma, today, is given over to Army and Navy uses. Without a permit and an eagle-eyed escort you can't even go out to the "Old Spanish Lighthouse," much less have a look at the great coast-defense guns or the fat, hog-shaped mortars that seem to lie sleepy and sluggish in their hidden, camouflaged pits. Today Army and Navy wives play golf on a neat 9-hole course at the Naval Training Station. New shirts are issued by thousands to Army and Navy recruits, perhaps on the very spot where Cabrillo put new shirts on those Indian boys. Unique link with the Spanish past in San Diego County is Sefior Cave J. Couts. His West Point father, Lieut. Cave Johnson Couts, marched here with the 1st Dragoons in 1848, mapped the line of march, and married into the Spanish Bandini family, which had built the rambling Guajome ranch house, best sur viving example of a hacienda home from the days of the dons (page 66). With its own saddle and blacksmith shops, shearing shed, private chapel, and outdoor oven that can bake 100 loaves at once, this house also has a semitropical patio choked with fruits and flowers, and musical with sing ing fountains. Built for Indian defense, its thick adobe walls have high "airholes" instead of windows, and its ancient tiles were made long, long ago at near-by mission San Luis Rey. First Iron Safe from Peru Still in use here is the first iron safe ever seen in California. Made by hand, and locked with a giant key, it was brought here from Peru by Jose Bandini, once Spanish admiral at Lima. His son Juan founded the California Bandini family. Fiction and the theater paint only the more idle, romantic aspects of this old-time ranch life. They exalt palatial ranch homes, horse races, bear baiting, bailes, fiestas, beautiful guitar-playing sefioritas, and the gallant cabal leros with silver-mounted saddles, gold-braided costumes, and wide sombreros. But romance writers say little of flies and fleas, of woman's work with cooking, sewing, soap, and candle-making, or the rough, dan gerous lives of the cowmen. Roping and skinning thousands of half-wild animals, dry- ing the stinking hides, packing them to the beach for loading on Boston windjammers- all as described in Two Years Before the Mast-was bone-breaking work. "In the great drought of 1863," said Sefior Couts, "we drove both cattle and half-wild horses into the sea and drowned them-rather than see them die of thirst. . .. Hunting in my youth was our best fun. . . We roped wild horses and shot everything from geese to mountain lions .. "Look at that big scar on my left hand. A lion did that. When I was hunting, as a boy of ten, a lion grabbed my dog. I shot the big yellow cat. As he rolled over, I tried to pull my dying dog away from him-and he grabbed my hand." Baja California, San Diego's Neighbor Wild horses and burros long plagued the ranchers here, eating up grass needed by cattle; in Baja California both still abound. I once joined in a hunt for them. Indians, riding a day ahead of Roy Benton and me, set signal fires beyond Benton's Ojos Negros Ranch to indicate they had located the herd. We chased them two days, wearing them down, then roped five worth keeping and breaking. Scrawny runts, too light for use, were roped by the Indians, just for the fun of it. Hair of their manes and tails was cut off for braid ing riatas,or hair ropes; then the wild, fright ened creatures were turned loose. Stretching across San Diego's back country are many fruit and farm communities whose present titles derive from historic Spanish land grants. Wealth in that prodigal era was meas ured in land and cattle. Early ranches gave their musical names to many places, such as Pefiasquitas, Cuyama, Santa Maria, Valle de San Jose, Santa Mar garita, Buena Vista, Santa Ysabel, Rinc6n del Diablo (Devil's Corner), and Guajome (Place of the Frogs). Few such vast ranches now remain at all intact. One is the great Santa Margarita; another is the old Valle de San Jose, now called Warner's Ranch. To those pioneer carefree cattle days, some what like the ante-bellum days of the South, modern San Diego owes a debt. From the audacious, adventurous, yet polite and aristo cratic dons, she inherited a certain poise and dignity, a calm and serene way of life that still rests gently on her inner self, despite the strange, unexpected thousands who have surged suddenly upon her long-peaceful bosom.