from the Overland Monthly, Vol. XX, No. 119, November 1892

By Mary L. White

Although we have been unable to discover any biographical information about its author, Mary L. White, this account of her 1891 over the Santa Lucia Mountains from King City is an absorbing window into the land and culture of the region as it was more than a century ago.

This article was referenced in David Rogers' History of the Caves Ranch in the Fall 1999 issue of the Double Cone Quarterly.



IN a hollow on the seaward side of the Santa Lucia mountains, about sixty miles south of old Monterey, is such a community as one reads about, but seldom sees. Should you be dropped there from the sky, and told that there is no water exit, you would resign yourself to wait for a gigantic feat of engineering, or an improved flying machine. But if you gazed long enough at the impassable looking mountains to the east, your hopes might sight some means of rescue nearer than the millennium. Not that the mountains grow less formidable on close inspection — it is the habit of mountains to do otherwise; but you might by chance see a far-off mule with its rider tacking and veering down the ridge, and taking in general a course like a telescoped letter S continued indefinitely. Then, well for you if you are a good equestrian, tough of fiber, and bold of heart, for your exit is assured.

It was in August, 1891, that I bade farewell to civilization, and set my face southwestward, with this place as an objective point. About noon we entered Monterey County. Fremont's Peak loomed in sight on the left, and the names of the stations, such as Pajaro (Pä-hä-rō) and Soledad, reminded the passenger that he was on ground that had belonged to an earlier civilization than ours.

IMAGE: 'In the Salinas Valley.'


IMAGE: 'They Would Stand Without Holding.'


As we came farther south it grew hotter, and dryer, and dustier, and flatter. Trees became scarce, and the few that remained to illustrate the survival of the fittest had set their branches southward as if fleeing before the wind. Great wheat-fields spread out to right and left. The blue line of the Gabilan Mountains on the left, and a straggling line of gray willows skirting some small stream on the right, gave a needed relief of color to the glaring yellow of the stubble.

IMAGE: 'La Casa de Hidalgo.'


The passengers became fewer, and those who boarded the train were of a different type. The heat was intense, and the portly Spanish don took off his wide straw hat, and mopped and fanned with plebeian vigor. I could not help thinking these Spaniards a more social and happy race than ourselves. They took even the heat as a joke, and without descending to the loud or familiar, had soon established an easy good-fellowship in the car, which included in its embrace the few Americans among them. After the English, the Americans are certainly the least gregarious of human animals.

About half-past two p.m. we reached Kings City, a dry and dusty but thriving town. Here we left the train for the stage. But let no vision of a long, high-topped coach, with hurricane deck, and six, or at least four, prancing and restive horses, arise in your mind's eye, as it did in mine, until I faced and climbed into the stern reality. On the contrary, imagine, a little, old, dried-up, two-seated, shabbily-covered vehicle, drawn by two horses that looked as though they would stand without holding until they died from inanition, and you will be near the facts.

IMAGE: 'Baptiste.'


After driving westward for ten more flat, hot, and dusty miles we began to ascend a mountain, in the shadow of which it grew much cooler. This was a comparatively insignificant out-lying guard of the Santa Lucia Range, covered with scrub live-oak and chemisal brush.

After four o'clock we encountered many dirty-faced urchins with bare and dusty feet and gleaming tin pails, "just let loose from school," and occasionally we had a view of the homely and sometimes squalid interior of some redwood shanty, with the mother and half-a-dozen small children sitting about the porchless door.

After coming down the opposite side of the mountain we drove through groves of large white oaks, with graceful, drooping branches.

It was twilight as we neared the little sleepy hollow town of Jolon (Hōlōn). From thence the journey was to be on horseback, baggage being carried on mules. There is no regular means of conveyance at all, and even no mail-service beyond this point, except a bi-weekly mail by carrier to the Los Burros mines and Pacific Valley, thirty miles to the south-westward on the coast.

Through a mistake in dates I was obliged to wait here three days. One would scarcely remain from choice, at this season of the year, as Jolon enjoys the reputation of being the hottest place above ground.

The civilization, however, is of some interest as a study. English, Americans, Danes, Spanish, and Mexicans are scattered around. Ordinary social distinctions are dropped, and your vis-a-vis at table may be anyone, from a blacksmith or stage-driver to a retired army officer in the person of "mine host," or a Church of England clergyman, of which denomination there was a representative during my stay. If the days are disagreeable, the evenings almost compensate, and only fail to do so on account of their brevity. They are balmy as the tropics; the katydids made music, and we sat on the veranda in long stretches of easy silence, broken occasionally by the jog-trot gait and jingling spurs of some passing horseman. Occasionally one stopped and asked for the mail, or for tobacco, for our hotel is store and postoffice also. Two or three Spanish youths loitered on the steps, talking in soft broken English, or in their own more musical language. Our clergyman drifted, as it were, from his seat farther back, until he was among them, and though he had probably not met one of them before they mixed without a ripple, and the talk glided on, or paused, with equal unconstraint, as though they were friends of every day. One wondered if it was the touch of religion and humanity, or the effect of the climate.

IMAGE: 'By the Spring.'


Photo by Carpenter.

When the stage rattled in, even this sound was subdued into keeping with the scene. There was no hurry, no loud or quick tones, as it unloaded its one or two passengers and its few mailbags. Even these failed to create any excitement.

On Sunday we followed our Episcopalian to a tiny chapel among the oaks and manzanitas, where we heard the service read with simplicity and appreciation, followed by a simple and sincere little discourse on spiritual blindness. An after-dinner talk, which glanced from Matthew Arnold, Maurice, Kingsley, and Dr. Haweis, to Renan, with variations on Besant, the latest fiction, apostolic succession, and the Ethical Society, sounded queerly with its backwoods setting.

IMAGE: 'The San Antonio Mission.'


Photo by Jackson.

One evening at dusk — one scarcely troubles himself to count in such a place — a horseman jingled in, leading a saddled horse, and followed by a small black mule. He was "Baptiste," I was told, who had come to take me over the mountains on the following day. I shook hands with a dark, crippled, middle-aged little Spaniard, rather intelligent and kindly looking, but not speaking much Ingles, as he told me.

Next morning we rose betimes, intending to start at six; but it was half-past six when my baggage was strapped on the mule, and we were ready to mount. Probably never in his existence had that mule known the honor of carrying fifty pounds of Shakespearian and philosophical literature, with the English poets thrown in; but he seemed not to appreciate it, for he eyed the box suspiciously, and showed a disposition to kick when the blind was removed.

IMAGE: 'A Century Old Adobe.'


Photo by Taber.

By unusual good fortune a driver of a buckboard happened to be going our route, and for a consideration was induced to take me to the foot of the mountain; that is, as far as it is possible to go in any kind of conveyance. My driver, like my mounted escort, was Spanish, or Spanish-Mexican, and spoke even less English than the latter. He was of a different type, however, being stern and stubborn looking, while he of the horse was smiling and meek, and apparently childlike, though one now and then suspected a latent spiritual kinship to Bret Harte's heathen Chinee.

We had gone ten miles westward, when we came upon the ruins of the old San Antonio Mission, founded one hundred and fifteen years ago, and one of the most picturesque missions in California. It stands on a large plain skirted on three sides by mountains. Six thousand Indians once belonged to this mission, and the remains of their adobe dwellings dot the plain in every direction. A few gnarled apple and pear trees have survived the general decay, and seem almost animate with their weight of memories. The American spectator cannot escape the fancy that they contemplate him with a sad and reproachful look. "Where are the priests, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Indians?" they seem to demand. Swept away, — crowded out of existence, — the few that remain pushed into the mountains, or into the hovels of their old towns, degraded in character and physique, soured into sullenness, or forced into cringing and cunning. Even the remains of their civilization are fast vanishing, and will soon be a thing of the past.

IMAGE: 'Alder Creek in Autumn.'


IMAGE: 'A Redwood cañon.'


Photo by D'Estrella.

No thought seems to be taken to prevent the old mission from falling to pieces, a neglect one can scarcely regret when he contemplates the irredeemable badness of some "restored" California missions. Occasionally an artist with an eye for effective ruins happens along, and paints these old sanctuaries. Many daubers put them on shells and bits of wood, and furnish the bazaar stores of California watering places with "souvenirs of California," to sell to the gullible Eastern tourist for fifty cents. But the average Californian is a creature of the present. He looks forward, and not back; he has no time for reminiscence, and is in general a stranger to the sentiment of reverence for the old and traditional.

An hour before noon we drove up to an adobe house, the home of "Hidalgo," the driver. Evidently he was a bachelor, for there was no sign of women or children. A tall, Apache-like Indian appeared and cooked tortillas, and made coffee, which with melons formed the meal of the host. I had brought my lunch, and while I ate this, and shared the melons, Baptiste changed the horses.

I said there was no evidence of the presence of women, and I believe the Spanish master and the Indian cook were the sole occupants of the house. But a bucket of half-starved flowers hung from the edge of the porch, in its dry and desolate surroundings and rough human environment not without its suggestion of pathos. There were cats and dogs galore; probably kept to compensate for the lack of human society.

We drove five miles farther, though there was not the least evidence of a road. Another house marked the point where horseback travel became a necessity, but this one was built of redwood "shakes," and its entire surroundings seemed thriving and progressive. Its owner came up on horseback, — a young man, half American and half German, and wholly modern and alert. There immediately ensued between him and my driver a lively quarrel as to the ownership of the land and house. The former had the good nature of secure possession, and flourished in his opponent's face the proof in the shape of a legal document. He appealed to me as the only competent and disinterested party present to read the proof of his homestead. With the help of free translation by himself and Baptiste, Hidalgo was probably more convinced than was pleasant, for he mounted his buckboard and drove off in high dudgeon, threatening divers sorts of summary vengeance.

IMAGE: 'Muchacha Mexicana.'


Photo by Sanford Robinson, from a painting by Mrs. S.H. St. John.

We had ridden five miles under a burning sun when another adobe appeared. It was the home of Baptiste's mother, and the last house on this side of the mountains. We were glad to dismount and rest under the old vine-covered porch, while the mother cooked the dinner, and one of Baptiste's boys drove up fresh horses from the pasture. As these appeared on the gallop Baptiste stood ready, there was a whir, and one of the animals stood still, having learned from experience not to struggle against the riata.

The conservatism of these Spanish families is remarkable. Here was this house built of adobe, just as the old Californian homes of one hundred years ago were built. The old Mission grapevines knotted and coiled themselves over the porch. Chickens and little pigs shared the shade with Baptiste's children, just as other chickens and little pigs had shared the shade of other adobes with the muchachitos of a century ago. Here was a grown-up brother of Baptiste's, probably twenty-five years old, who spoke no English, not having been allowed to go to school for fear of contracting American habits, and being led away from the religion of his fathers.

When the dinner came there were tortillas, and rice, and beans. If the ghost of Baptiste's great-great-grandfather could have appeared, he would probably have forgotten the airy nothingness of his present constitution, and have fallen to with a natural appetite.

When we mounted again it was to begin the actual ascent of the higher ridges of the Santa Lucia. It would have been dangerous, and well near impossible, except with horses well trained to such climbing. Even the pack mules born and bred in these mountains sometimes lose their footing, and tumble down the cañon sides, when too heavily loaded, to the destruction of their own lives and the contents of the pack. Many times the path lay over immense bowlders, where our horses had to choose their footing with the utmost care. It was necessary to use two cinches to hold our saddles in place. Sometimes the ascent was actually forty-five degrees, and I found it necessary to hold on to the front of the saddle to prevent falling backward. At times the saddle itself would seem almost to separate from the horse, as he made a steeper pull than usual, and I was fain to cling with one hand to his mane. Guidance was unnecessary, and an unwise interference with an animal that understood its business better than its rider did. There were places where the path turned in unexpected and acute angles, and places so steep in descent that I wished that mane grew behind, as well as before the saddle. At such places my feet were often on a level with my horse's ears, and I seemed to be sitting on his neck.

After the partial ascent of the first peak the view was magnificent, but there was little time to look backward or sidewise, for fear of being dragged off my horse by a pine limb, or having my eyes scratched out by the chapparal. Nature seemed rather indifferent to our admiration, and perhaps regarded man's invasion here in the light of hostility. Even my feet were not safe, for the trail sometimes became an incipient and roofless tunnel, from whose narrow sides projected threatening bowlders. Once Baptiste turned, and said something about "mal camino"; I knew little Spanish, but understood this intuitively, and answered "Si, señor" with energy.

To the right a gigantic system of cleavage, extending for many miles, cutting through several ranges, and interrupted by the intervening cañons, had a raw, new look, as though, it had occurred too recently for the healing-over process to have begun. But Nature hereabouts, whether new or old, seemed sternly uncompromising and contemptuous of softer beauty. The peaks were thrown in rough and fantastic outlines. Some of them were formed of huge, bare bowlders thrown loosely on top of one another. The whole scene seemed either the rough playground or battlefield of some great, lawless, and irresponsible powers of nature. To the front and left the skyline of the great ridge was outlined by large, spear-like pines, some of them shaggy from age. Some had entirely lost their bodily drapery, and stood forth to the sky, white and staring skeletons. One of these was especially ghostly, — a smooth and silvery white, with gaunt arms thrown upward as if in denunciation or prophecy.

On the sides of many of the peaks were great stretch es and clefts of bare reddish land, as though unfinished by Nature, or scarred by conflict. Nature is almost too absolute, too consciously triumphant here, and too fierce. She understands you, in an aloof and self-contained way, even too well, for she knows your secret; but she does not regard you as "a man and a brother," or admit you to any confidence. You feel alien and shriveled. She is haughty and self-sufficient. If you have sinned she has no comfort for you, no sympathy with your frailty. She is something of Leonardo's Mona Lisa, — she is the law of Moses.

Sometimes in the sunless depths of a cañon the trail would lead us to some gentler retreat, where a cool spring was surrounded by bending ferns, and graceful alders, and clumps of young redwoods. Here we would stop to breathe our horses, and drink from the spring; and as we watched the loosened leaves float down from the alders, soundless, and the dusky light in the tops of the redwoods, and the notched leaves of the fern above the still dark water of the spring, the peace of Nature fell upon us, and it was easy to understand how baffled and world-troubled spirits of all ages, and those too finely strung for the world's discords, have been drawn to such places as a refuge.

It was when emerging from such a canon to the corresponding ridge that the ocean first burst upon us. Yet hardly the ocean itself, for it was entirely overlaid by a soft white haze. We were now actually at the top, an elevation of five thousand feet, and the descent began to be pretty rapid.

For the rest of the way the trail followed a pine-covered ridge. The cañons below were dark and green with redwoods. As we descended the short slopes the ocean was now and again lost to view, only to reappear through the framework of pines as we went forward on the alternating level spurs of the ridge.

The animals seemed to have forgotten their weariness, and now traveled well as we were nearing their home. Finally we came to the last descent, a great, rugged, gorge-broken series of declivities that formed the mountain side.

Below us lay the blue level of the ocean, from which the haze had lifted, the white, curving surf-line which was shut out by the cliffs directly in front, visible many miles on our left, far away to Point Gordo. The sun had set, and beyond the water lay great bands of rainbow colored mist. The ocean swelled and wrinkled in the dusky purple light The unappeased crescendo of its long roar first broke far to the north, and was then slowly caught up and crashed from point to point past me, at last dying away to the south in far echoing and unreconciled regret. Then from the nearer caves the theme of the dying refrain arose again in subdued reverberations of unrest, swelled, and went whispering through the caves in search of it knew not what, then died away again in accusing murmurs and low sea mutterings of its infinite discontent — leaving only the vague, heavy undertone of the deeper sea.

But where was la casa, my destination? I asked Baptiste. He pointed to a little hollow below a spur of the mountain side, where, half-smothered by trees, a small house was visible, lodged precariously on the mountain side, ready to slide to the sea three hundred feet below, should he of the seven-league boots give it a playful push with his toe.

I had ridden twenty miles, not to speak of the fifteen on the buckboard, and in spite of having rested myself by sitting my horse in various positions not taught by riding masters, I was glad to reach the end. A continued sojourn here developed both advantages and defects. Human beings are so few that every character is individual and interesting. Nature, which was at first too untamed and overpowering, seemed to grow more gracious, although, homely familiarity is still impossible, and attempts at close acquaintance are punished by soleless shoes and a humiliating sense of physical weakness.

Still, it is beautiful. Day by day the ocean sparkles under the sunbeams; the soft mist floats away up the gorges among the tops of the redwoods; the quails chatter and call from the cañons; the soft clouds form, and blend, and change, in the sky over the blue water; the white surf breaks languidly over the distant outlying rocks; the hawks dip, and circle, and pass, in the blue above; and the human heart falls into sympathy with this everlasting peace.

Were I a realist, I would tell of other things; of the ubiquitous tocalote* which is so discouraging to pedestrian habits; of the inability to get to the top or to the bottom of anything; of the beach, which looks so near and is so far; of small gnats that pursue and bite like mosquitos; of the too close proximity of cows and pigs; of a certain rooster who practices his newly learned crow near my window at 5 a.m. But I prefer watching the dusky shadows creep up the cañons, and the last glimpses of sunlight disappear from the ridges and die away on the white trunks of the sycamore trees; to see the sun himself drop behind the ocean, and the long bands of gold and purple form above his bed, as for canopy; to watch the red, and violet, and faint rose, fade from the sky, and the moon come up in the east.

As I write, the moon shines full on the water. Far out at sea a steamer glides past and fades away into the haze, leaving a faint black trail behind it. The light house glimmers from far San Simeon. The daylight is scarcely gone, and the pines stand black against the sky on the ridge above me. An owl calls from a tree near by. Just under the moon the water glints and shimmers into a thousand little silvery wrinkles. Farther away, where the swell of the ocean is visible, it lies in great satiny bands and curves, then fades away into blue and shadowy indistinctness, until it is lost in the far horizon.

* A Species of thistle.


The community is chiefly Spanish-Mexican — a kind of driftwood from the wreckage of old California civilization. There are seven families, and in all about forty-five souls, counting the infants, a numerous class. Besides these there are a few unclassifiable characters, loose tag ends of the community, of various, nationalities. There is a tall, loose-jointed old Nova Scotian, who grew up among the scenes of Evangeline, and at present subsists on Mrs. Alexander's novels. There is a hermit called "Rocky," who lives in a lonely cañon, and has serious objections to tramps. When one appears he gets his gun, points to a mound and cross near by, signifying to the new-comer that there lies the last one, and advises him to "git."

IMAGE: 'A mountain home.'


Over the ridge is the log-built home of an old German, where at windy times you hear all day the lonesome creaking of a certain tall redwood leaning against another, and catch glimpses through the pines of white-caps dancing upon the dark blue of the ocean. Here he lives by himself in one room, his potatoes and onions in a straggling heap in one corner, his dog and his flour under the bed, and his fine-cut tobacco poured for convenience in an open tea box by the stove. He himself is a great, stooped clown, in dirty blue ducking, his colorless hair flying about in loose tags, his small, pale blue eyes half-blind and glassy with cataract, with a scraggy blond beard, and a great grinning mouth stretched over large white teeth. He is a great reader of stories and of the press, although he must put the print within an inch of his best eye in order to see. Oddly incongruous with himself is his scholarly knowledge of German. He detects your slightest error and can untwist many a puzzling construction of Goethe and Schiller.

Across the canon from the German lie the broad acres of the grand don of the community; a proud Castilian a thinker, a philosopher, and a man of the world, suave, courteous, and diplomatic.

Even in this wild isolation there is the district school, a little terminal capillary in the great circulatory system of education, evidently in vital relation with the main currents, for a live county superintendent visits it once a year with enthusiasm and groans, — the enthusiasm for the school, and the groans for the trip; for he is a heavy man, and not an accomplished horseman.

There are sixteen children enrolled, but where they come from would sadly puzzle the raw beholder of these unkempt mountains. If you ask one of the children where he lives, he will probably answer you, if he can muster sufficient English. "0, right down there," pointing indefinitely down the mountain side, — by which he means a distance of perhaps three miles, which will seem six, if you walk it.

Most of the children, the few Americans included, speak Spanish with various degrees of fluency, and a very small degree of purity, while the English of the Mexican element is in most cases very lame and ludicrous. A few speak no English at all, and all the children of one family find it impossible to express themselves without the freedom of both languages. They will begin a statement in English, and finish it in Spanish, or vice versa, sometimes even changing from the one to the other several times during a sentence. They chatter along in this mixture with perfect ease and unconsciousness.

Considering their opportunities the Spanish-Mexican children are bright. They are quick at writing, language, and mechanical arithmetic, though slower in reasoning than Americans. In disposition they are restless and quick-tempered, but for all that they are sensitive, affectionate, and appreciative of kindness; less helpless than American children, quite as cleanly, and courteous up to their lights.

The limited experience of the children of this community is astonishing. None of them ever saw a negro, a Chinaman, or a circus, or had a picture taken, and very few of them ever saw a church or a train. Several of them as old as fifteen years have never been away from the place, and have as much difficulty in imagining what a plain is like as did Walter Tell in Schiller's play. One little American boy of twelve begged his father to take him over the mountains to see a wagon.

The homes of these people are very primitive. When they wish to build a house they fell a redwood tree, split some shakes, and hew off a few young trees for joists and beams. With these they construct a house of from one to four rooms, and concoct some tables and bedsteads of what is left over. The patent furniture of the schoolhouse, including a heavy three-by-four table, was packed over on mule-back the forty miles from Kings City. Stoves, chairs, provisions, and farming implements, are now all procured in the same way. While the lime kiln was in operation these things were brought by the schooner which landed at the kiln. The ranchers had then only to come with their mules and burros a few miles to claim their property and take it home. The kiln is said to have closed on account of mismanagement and failure to agree among the members of the company. It would seem that the mismanagement must have been gross to have prevented large profits, for it would be impossible to find a kiln more fortunately situated as to natural advantages. Three deep canons unite, pour their waters together, and break through the rocky cliff into the ocean, forming a smooth sand beach and natural harbor. Great bowlders of calcareous rock of good quality gleam on the mountains from cliff and crag. When rock was needed the men climbed a few yards up the mountain side above the kiln, loosened a bowlder with crow-bars, and sent it crashing down to where it was wanted. Fuel sufficient for years to come, and also lumber for barrel heads and hoops, is right at hand and owned by the company. A large sum of money has been sunk at this place. There are three large kilns and several well-built, substantial houses, besides the cottages for the workmen, which are so thickly strung along on either side of the road to the landing that the place has the appearance of a little town.

The operation of the kiln was naturally a great advantage to the community. Besides the convenience of supplies by schooner, the company paid a neighborhood carrier to bring the mail from Jolon, a distance of thirty-five miles, at least once a week. Now, there is nothing certain or regular about its arrival, most of the residents receiving little mail, and being indifferent about that little. It takes two days to go and come, and no one thinks of going merely for the mail, or seldom for anything less important than beans or tobacco. Sometimes, by good luck, you may get your papers and letters once a week for a while; and again it may happen to be three, and even four, weeks before you hear from the world and its vanities. If you are civilized, a general reader, and good correspondent, your mail will be brought you at such times in a fifty-pound flour sack. If the San Antone and Nacimiento rivers get up, or the snow lies on the ridge, you may be cut off for six weeks or two months. In the mean time you live on scenery and beans. If you are wise, you will have Shakespeare, Emerson, and a few of the poets with you, — you could hardly get novels enough to last. With these, and the great ocean in front of you with its human changefulness, the purple canons about you with their elusive shadows, the birds and gray squirrels glancing about on sunny days, and the big mountains at your back, you can manage to exist, if you are on peaceable terms with yourself.

Nor is your human environment without interest. The Spanish-Mexicans are generous and kind-hearted, and above all happy and care-free. No extent of poverty seems to depress them. Last fall when the rain was so late in coming, the ranges had given out, the bones of starved cattle littered the hills, and the American rancheros wore faces like deacons, the Mexicans still carried their happy-go-lucky expressions.

They have, of course, the weaknesses of the social temperament. They all drink a little, and smoke a good deal. Sometimes they fall out with the Americans or with each other, but he who has the largest supply of tobacco is sure to have all his enmities made up during the first time of cut-off connection.

They are rather improvident, and only spasmodically industrious. They eat, drink, and are merry, think little of tomorrow, and less of next year. If they have brown beans and coffee, and flour for tortillas, with an occasional pig or goat, they are satisfied. If they have potatoes, rice, and macaroni in addition, they are living in luxury. They care little for fruit and vegetables. The climate is perfect, and the soil in places well adapted to fruit and grapes, but they take little interest in trees and vines. They lack either the faith or the patience to plant and wait for slow returns. They raise -some potatoes and beans, a little hay for their horses, and wheat for their chickens. The soil on the little hollows and slopes is a rich light mold. This they turn up a few inches with a dull plow, sow, and scratch down with a home-made rake. What the birds and gophers leave does well if it escapes being destroyed by the pigs and cattle that get in through care lessly made fences. It is not troubled by the goats and burros, which prefer thistles and sage brush.

The women of these families are a more energetic and provident than the men. They often work in the field as well as in the house, and they all consider gardening and milking as exclusively feminine occupations as dishwashing. The washing and men ding are always neatly done, and the Mexican homes are much more cleanly than those of Americans of the same grade.

Morally, these people are no worse and no better than American backwoodsmen anywhere without the restraint of education and public opinion. I doubt whether to credit their race I type with quite the degree of frankness that is characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon, but of the cruelty often attributed to them I saw no evidence.

Their religion is, of course, Roman Catholic. You will find cheap prints of the Virgin in their bedrooms, and generally a tiny crucifix by the rude little crib of the youngest child. They try to get "out," — that is, over the mount ains, to have their babies christened by a priest, and some of the older children have been baptized where their parents were married, in the old San Antone Mission, now falling to decay.

IMAGE: 'The Don.'


Family affection among them is strong, and a new baby seems always to be welcome. Children learn to work. and become helpful early. Girls of thirteen often do most of the housework for a large family, and it is not uncommon to see a muchacho of five or six sent alone on horseback to a neighbor several miles distant. In fact, the boys learn to ride as soon as they can walk and talk, and as soon as they can throw a riata they are seen practicing on the goats and calves about. To ride well, to dance well, to throw the lasso with dexterity, and incidentally to speak a little English, is the ambition of all Mexican boys, and one they seldom fail to realize. If the ability to play the accordeon or strum a guitar is added, it is as the finishing touch of an already satisfactory education. The power to make love gracefully goes without saying, as it is a faculty born with them. A raw young vaquero in sombrero and overalls will often astonish you with a compliment and bow that would do credit to one of McAllister's four hundred. They fall in love easily, get broken hearts, go careening over the country on a pet mustang at fifty miles a day, break a few broncos, participate in a rodeo, attend a fandango, smile into another pair of eyes, and are well again.

Sometimes, of course, they are jealous, and there is the glitter of knives and a more serious denouement, but this happens generally only under the influence of liquor and in cities where there is no room for wild rides and spacious atmosphere.

The air of romance which we associate with the Spanish-Mexicans is not a creation of fiction. They have the artistic, impressionable temperament of the Latin races, are warmer blooded than we Anglo-Saxons, more restless, loving the extremes of indolence and wild exercise, hating above all things care and routine.

There is often a kind of brigandish dash and grace in the pose of some grizzled, bepatched, middle-aged Mexican, that reminds you of pictures of Italian bandits; and indeed, you feel, while in this community, that you are living in an unreal world, where the people are pictures, vanishing views of a life foreign and alien to ours.

There is a certain pathos [in] their situation. They are poor, and most of them are growing poorer. They will tell you that before the Americanos came the grass on the open spaces of the mountains reached their horses' necks, the cattle were always fat, and they themselves had plenty of money and good clothes, and ate their melons and tamales in the shade without a care, and never did a stroke of work out of the saddle. The Americans came in, took advantage of their ignorance of land laws, overstocked the remaining government land, which had been used in common, crowded them into narrower quarters, sold them brass jewelry for gold, and cheated them generally. It is not strange that they have a feeling of bitterness toward us.

With the help of the school, and the experience of work among Americans in the, towns and valleys of Monterey, the younger generation are becoming Americanized, and learning the adaptability of the modern Californian; but the old folks stay on the ranch, and eat beans and tortillas, and have as little variety in their social life as in their diet.

They have no general community life whatever. There is sometimes a picnic, sometimes a fandango, when Mexican friends come from places twenty-five miles distant, where a good deal of whisky is drunk, and many hot tamales eaten, and where the borrego (or sheep dance) and other fantastic steps alternate with the modern waltz and quadrille until broad daylight in the morning. Sometimes two or three beeves are killed, and the guests invited to stay for a second, and sometimes for a third night. But these protracted fandangos are now very rare. The people are too poor to have them. I was for a while a spectator of one that lasted one night. All ages from twelve to sixty were on the floor, and all danced with enthusiasm. It was very merry, a trifle free and easy, and a bit noisy; but with the exception of their peculiar dances and the unconcealed drinking, there was little that might not have occurred at a middle class society party.

Looked at from the outside, the lives of these people seem very barren. But I remember a little grave, on a hillside where the white carnations are overrun with wild buttercups and baby-blue-eyes, and recall a Mexican mother by the little cross; and I reflect that they have the experiences which make up life everywhere, — friendships, jealousies, love affairs, dissipations, broken hearts, marriage, and the mystery of life and death.

Most of these Mexicans lived formerly near old Monterey, or nearer the center of Monterey County, but have gradually removed to these scarcely accessible wilds, where another westward move would be into the ocean. Twenty years ago there was but one family here, a Mexican nucleus. Then a few years later came a large American family of the Joseph Smith branch of Mormons. Two daughters of the family, marrying stray Americans who found their way hither, increased the community by additions of numerous children. Later, several Spanish-Mexican families arrived. The place still looks so wild that it seems as though it might have been settled last year, but the ranchers tell you that it looked very different when they came. The whole mountain side was covered with an impenetrable tangle of underbrush, and the slopes and ridges with forests of pines. They are still fighting the former with fire and grub-hoe, and the latter with axes, with as yet no appearance of brilliant success. The trails near the beach when neglected for a year become impassable and almost undiscoverable, so rapidly does the underbrush grow.

As late as eight years ago deer were as tame and almost as numerous as the cattle. It was nothing unusual to see them in herds of fifteen, and to see forty or fifty in the course of a day's ride. They were frequently seen about the barns eating scattered hay with the cattle, and a few became quite-gentle. But their indiscriminate slaughter, and the sale of their flesh at prohibited seasons under the name of beef, has greatly thinned them. Even yet, however, you can seldom ride over the mountains without seeing several, and they often stand and look at you, or go on grazing, apparently without fear.

Other wild animals have disappeared correspondingly. Cats, foxes, and coyotes, are still plentiful, but the California lion is now rarely seen. Six and eight years ago both bears and lions prowled about the houses of the settlers, preying upon their goats and pigs. Several of the Mexicans show skins of lions which they killed with their knives, to prevent their dogs getting the worst of an impromptu fight. On one occasion an old Mexican found himself armed only with a riata when his dogs had chased a lion up a tree. He stopped, lifted off his serape, took a look at the animal, and proceeded to lasso it. Catlike, the creature watched as the lasso circled about the thrower's head. In a flash the thong had whizzed through the air to its aim. The lion jumped, luckily on the off side of 'the limb, and hung itself.

IMAGE: 'Rocky.'


The dexterity of the Mexican and Spanish in the use of the riata is equaled only by their originality in its application. Near an old adobe home on the inland side of these mountains is a great rocky mesa, a kind of cleavage some hundred feet high, covered on top with mescal and chemisal brush. The men of the family were coming on horseback from a cattle hunt, and going toward the cliff from the upper side, when the dogs from the house started a lion which had been skulking in a ditch near by. The animal made for the cliff, ran directly up its rugged perpendicular sides, and left the dogs howling below. The men galloped up to the edge of the cliff, swung their riatas, and drew dog after dog to the top. As each one came up it staggered about for a few seconds, and then was off with a howl on the track of the lion, which an hour. later was shot and carried home.

New as this region apparently is, it has at one time been far more thickly inhabited than at present. The soil of the high slopes next the ocean is full of the remains of abalone and mussel shells carried there by Indian settlements, and flint knives and arrow heads are found in abundance. Certain caves in the mountains show traces which prove that the Indians have been scattered all the way from the San Antonio Mission to the coast. One in particular, a kind of level excavation in a ledge of sandstone, which is so large that several dozen horses take refuge under it in stormy weather, shows the smoke-stains from their fires, and curious little excavations apparently used as receptacles for water or food.

Although these mountains seem so undeveloped, the immediate community of which I write can hardly expand to any great extent. To the north and the south the range is owned by a few large ranchers, the lime kiln company own the most and best near by, and the rich flats and foothills of the eastern slope comprise one large grant owned by a company in San Francisco. In between these ranches is a good deal of scattered government land, good in spots, but the good spots are not large enough to pay to file on them for stock ranching purposes.

There has been an immense deal of money made in these mountains, but cattle raising has seen its best days even on the larger ranches. The ranges have of late years been constantly overstocked, and the feed has greatly decreased in quantity. If one has a large ranch, stays on it, looks after his cattle, and manages well, he can still make money, but he cannot make it in the indolent fashion of former days, when great tracts of government land were free grazing range, and cattle owners were far between.

If these mountains are ever more thickly settled than at present, it will become possible only through a change of occupation to fruit and vine culture, and this in turn waits a nearer railroad, of which there is no prospect unless the Los Burros mines to the south, or the recently discovered coal ledge twenty miles to the north, should develop beyond expectation, in which case connection might be made coastwise.

So far as soil and climate are concerned there is no reason why fruit and grapes cannot be raised here as well as in the Santa Cruz mountains. Already near the town of Jolon I saw a settler clearing out the chaparral to plant a prune orchard, and farther west in the mountains, up the canon of the Nacimiento, an enterprising city man has found a rich school section, on which he is beginning a walnut grove.

But a railroad is not likely to pierce the Santa Lucia direct for several centuries. A better hope for the Rockland community is through water connection, which they themselves might make possible could they be made to understand the advantages of co-operation. Should they all turn to fruit culture, establish a cannery, a wine-press, and drying facilities, still reserving their more mountainous range for live stock, in a few years they could easily induce schooners to land regularly, and ship their produce. But the average backwoodsman, whether American or Mexican, does not spend his days seeing or hearing or practicing some new thing. Ignorance is notoriously afraid of co-operation; and sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, stockraising is particularly immobile as a department of labor, or of capital, as one may choose to regard it. Considering these things, it is altogether probable that the community will remain preserved, fossil- wise, in the sediment of its present peculiarities for some time to come.

IMAGE: 'An Intruder!'



After spending several months in this place I one day made ready to return to civilization. My baggage was strapped on a mule, and over the blue mountains and down the rocky trails we went, with magnificent sweeps of horizon and glorious atmosphere, — my dark chaperone, our young vaquero, and my- self. Twenty miles over the mountains, and we dropped, as it were, from the sky into the meadow below, and were at the home of Anselmo, a century-old adobe.

The next day we laid over. As I remember it the day is a vision of alternating wild rides and lazy dreams under big oaks — of silver glimpses of salmon in clear streams, alder-shadowed and sun-flecked, — of mad gallops over brush and ditch after bands of sleek horses and runaway cows, — of an April sun mistily aslant over sandstone cliffs, crowned atop with the spotted stalks of the mescal, — of acres of odorous blue lupin, filled with the hum of bees, — of a rest in this by the side of a panting horse, — of an odorous dusk, and a dash home in the starlit night.

The next morning it rained — a soft April rain, a mere caress for the flowers. The grass was gray with it, and the air was like velvet. Again we mounted and were off, with fresh horses and pack mule. The road was soon good — level for miles. We longed for a gallop, but our mule was "bronco," and refused to lead well. We soon devised a plan. My chaperone and I rode behind, shouting and brandishing our shawls. Off he went on a gallop, we following like mad through field and across creek for several miles, until the San Antonio Mission appeared.

Here we dismounted and gathered apple blossoms from a scraggy survivor of the old Mission orchard, and made bouquets of the fragrant Castilian roses, hanging deep colored and dewy by the old walks and tumble-down walls. An earthy and antiquated smell pervades the old building. We groped through the dark corridors and stumbled over broken tiles. Half the roof has fallen in, and lies piled up on the floor of the audience room. A walk through the long arches a look at the graves, and soon we mounted and were off again through the dewy air for Jolon; and the last picture I have connected with my stay in the Santa Lucia is a scared pack mule a-gallop with a shaking pack of valises, boxes of books, and bristling umbrellas, ourselves swaying around curves, and ducking under trees in jolly pursuit.

Mary L. White.

IMAGE: No Caption'