Last Chapter

 

In bringing this narrative to a close, I wish to say that I have endeavored to give my readers an insight into California Ranch life as I have seen it. Much more might be written without doing the subject full justice, and an abler pen might have gotten far more from the material used.

It has been my endeavor all through this narrative to give a little much deserved credit to some of our people who in my opinion, have been sadly neglected by many others in their writings on Southern California.

 

I refer to the Spanish Californians and also our Mission Indians.

Both of these deserve far more from the present California population than they have ever received. And it is my earnest hope that as our great state develops, as it is bound to do in years to come, people will better appreciate what we owe to those people.

 

When California came under the U.S. flag the Spanish Californians were the upper class, and the Mission Indians represented the lower.

 

Our great state was settled by people from every part of the civilized world. The fact that most all of them came here to better their condition financially, was the cause of the former inhabitants being crowded out of what had previously been theirs.

 

The old Spanish land owners were too easy going, and too hospitable to compete with the great throng that rushed to the West from all parts of the earth, all eager to better their condition. They soon lost out in the mad scramble for riches. But who of the real old timers have failed to admire the genuine dignity and ideal home life of those old Dons?

 

Only those of us who have visited in the homes of these old rancheros have any idea of the real true hospitality they dealt out to the stranger within their gates. The ideal life they led is a thing of the past and is something very much to be regretted. While anyone must realize that the easy going way in which they lived made it impossible for them to compete with the grasping, money making newcomers, yet when we are asked as to which class we think got the most genuine enjoyment from life, and which dealt out the most real true enjoyment to others, the answer is easy.

 

As for the Mission Indians, they have simply been crowded out of what was rightfully theirs for want of honest friends to take their part. Many people will say, “They were a lazy, shiftless race and would have lost their property anyway, so the white people might just as well have taken it from them first as last.” I have heard that opinion expressed many times by people who had evidently failed to stop and think what a lame excuse it was for the way a race of people have been treated. Does the fact that a race of people might have lost their property anyway excuse us of the crime of stealing it from them? As for their being lazy, I can say after some fifty years of experience with them that while they are not what we would call good managers of their own affairs, yet when working out for others as hired hands, they are as good as the average white man that works for wages. Some of the best harvest hands I have ever had, when living on the ranch, were Indians. And if I were going out today to look up a bunch of ranch hands, to work either on foot or on horseback, I would sooner take chances on a bunch of Indians that I could gather up in our back country than on a like number of white men that I could get together for the job.

 

As far as they might be needed for horseback work, the Indians would be far superior to the average white man, for they are nearly all good hands in that line, while there is not one white man in ten that can do that kind of work at all. When we speak of Indians the average person from the East immediately thinks of a naked, uncivilized fellow, like we read of in story books that go about hunting for a living and that no civilized person would want to have around them. No doubt if we went far enough back, our Mission Indians were just that kind. But that is one of the things we owe to the old builders of our Missions. They civilized the Indians, and taught them to work and dress much the same as working men of other races worked and dressed.

 

Another mistaken idea many people have when discussing our Indians is that they are a very dirty filthy class. From my observation I think they are at least as clean in their habits as the average white man.

 

I well remember when I was a boy of a number of Indians who were working at the ranch going up in a timbered canyon on Sundays a mile or two from the house, and where there was a nice stream of running water. There they would take their clothing off and wash it in the stream and also bathe themselves and then wait until their clothing was dry before dressing to come back to their meals.

You would rarely find a white man who would go to that much trouble to keep himself clean. And if you go among our Indians in the back country where they live, you will find almost all of them both the men and women dressed in remarkably clean clothing. While that clothing may be of a very cheap kind (the men in overalls and cotton shirts and the women in calico) yet you will very rarely see one whose clothing is not clean.

 

I have often thought that the good behavior of our Indians was due in large measure to the work and teaching of a good man who for many years was the priest in charge of the Roman Catholic Church at Old Town. I refer to Father Ubach. While neither the writer nor any of his people were ever Roman Catholics, yet it would be very hard for any one who wished to be fair and unprejudiced to fail to give that good man a lot of credit for the work he did among the Indians. What “Padre Antonio” said was law and Gospel with them. And many San Diego people will remember how, at his death, the Indians from all over the mountains came to the funeral (a two days’ journey for many of them) bringing loads of wild flowers to place on the grave of their beloved friend.

 

For many years he had made regular trips among them, marrying those couples who wished his services—baptizing the children, and praying for their sick and dead. And the respect they showed him during his life and the genuine sorrow displayed by them at his death showed that he had won their hearts in a way that very few ever succeed in doing. So, whatever our religious beliefs may be we should, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

 

Father Ubach was the Father Gaspara immortalized in Mrs. Jackson’s story of Ramona. The people of San Diego County will some day erect a fitting monument in his memory.

 

In bringing this narrative to a close I can look back over fifty years of life spent in San Diego County. Many changes have of course taken place, and the old days of cattle, horses and sheep have gone never to return. Those of us, who can look back to those days and nights too, spent in the saddle, can recall many hardships endured. But the pleasant parts of the life far outweighed the unpleasant, and it was a life that did not tend to make atheists…”I will lift up my eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help.”