So I grew up in the Valley, hearing stories from my father about what the area was like when he was a kid, hearing him relate to me tales told to him by his father, and looking at gritty sepia images (check out my great-aunt Mary at her high school graduation! Crazy! And here’s my great-grampa on the left and, I think, his brother, in 1913, possibly during their work on the Orcutt Ranch) of my own great-grandfather in what was then the town of Owensmouth (now Canoga Park), standing against an expansive background of nothing but sky and earth, or beside one of the many homes and buildings he built (among them the Owensmouth train station and a Tyrolian-style “castle” on Owensmouth Street). One of the defining features of the early Valley were its lines of eucalyptus windbreaks, marching gracefully across the citrus and beanfields, demarcating property lines, clustering where the farmhouses nestled, making roads visible from great distances.
The fields are gone and many of the roads have been erased by new, more efficient freeways and highways, but the trees are still there. I love to find the old property lines, possibly matching one suburban tract development for a few blocks, then dissappearing, then reappearing several blocks down; or guessing at where a farmhouse once stood by searching for groves of the trees. They march right up the coast into Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Some folks say they were first planted at Shadow Ranch in the west valley; others claim they got their start up the coast. Wherever they were first planted, I don’t care; I’m just glad they were, because no matter where I drive in California, a little piece of my home (one that smells green and astringent and spicy) seems to follow me right along the freeway, on the old road, which is now mostly submerged under fallen leaves and the blacktop of the 101.
This photo was taken on my way to Lightning In A Bottle this last weekend, in Camarillo.