3/30/09

Ranching in San Diego County

From the LA Times:

A way of life slips out of range

An excerpt:

A semblance of the Old West survived in the folds of the backcountry around Ramona and Julian well into the 20th century. Faded black-and-white photos of ranchers and their families line a wall in the small museum at the Santa Ysabel Indian Mission. The weathered faces look to be those of pioneers. In fact, the snapshots were taken in the 1930s and '40s, a time when old hands sensed an era was fading away.

The headline on a 1934 story in The Times about the area's depleted range described the future bluntly: "It's 'Last Round-Up' This Time!"

"Three score grim-faced men met here today," the story begins. "They came minus the hopes of their youth -- minus the vision of mighty herds with which to feed the multitude of city dwellers, without the rollicking songs of men of desert and mountain. They brought instead a feeling of pathos and despair, for they came to plan the beginning of what may be the end of the great range cattle era in this county."

Today, the range has been subdivided and developed, the water sucked away by cities, the grass thinned by years of drought. With the beef industry consolidated far from Southern California, raising cattle in these mountains is as viable a business as selling surfboards in Nebraska.