Drunks, Buffalo Tom & our Evil Green Agency

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Right off the bat, check your holsters and ammo. We’re going to capture Buffalo Tom for perpetrating one of the biggest train robberies in American history. That safely accomplished, we’ve some pretty birds to ponder, we’ll say hello to the Shepherd of the Hills, work on our penmanship and sing the Hart High Fight Song. Yes. Even you people from Canyon …

WAY BACK WHEN & THEN SOME 

Of, by and for the birds astaic used to be a major migratory bird area, with hundreds of different species stopping by to water up, rest and nest. On Nov. 18, 1849, famed wildlife painter John Woodhouse Audubon (son of ornithologist John James Audubon) spent a week here, sketching birds.

Homesteading the rocks ard to believe, but Vasquez Rocks used to be private property and someone’s ranch. The very first homestead of 160 acres to the otherworldly rocky vistas was deeded on Nov. 11, 1898, to Mrs. Bertha Wilkens. A little trivia? In the 1950s, Vasquez Rocks temporarily belonged to a developer, who was going to paint “The Rocks” in mile-high lettering ON the scenic treasure.

NOV. 10, 1919

The giver getteth astor Evans did a lot of giving during his career and it was a treat that the good Presbyterian minister was on the receiving end. Evans had gotten into a serious accident in which his steering locked up and he went over a cliff in Agua Dulce. One of his parishioners bought him a brand-new Model T so he could make his rounds of prayer and comfort.

NOV. 10, 1929

The Great Saugus Train Robbery oday is the very day of the 90th anniversary of the most spectacular train derailment robberies in American history. “Buffalo” Tom Vernon, an unemployed trick rider and cowpoke, derailed the West Coast Limited at 7:45 p.m. right behind the Baker Ranch (which today is Saugus Speedway). “Buff” had loosened several yards of track behind where Del Taco is today, watch the train flip over, then calmly walked aboard. Posing at first as a train official, Vernon walked among the injured passengers, pretending to help. Then, he pulled out a pistol and proceeded to liberate them of their valuables before disappearing into the night.

Vernon was a pathological liar and claimed to be the product of if not a broken home, a dead one. He claimed to be the son of a gambler/saloon owner and Cattle Kate, who ran a brothel in Carbon County, Wyoming. Later, Michael Cimino would make one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history based on the old tale. It was called “Heaven’s Gate.” 

Back to the train robbery t wasn’t hard figuring out who derailed the 5000-series locomotive and the cars behind it. Sheriff’s deputies backtracked his trail to a rail equipment shed and a letter that had slipped out of Vernon’s back pocket as he was crouching by the tracks. Buffalo (who also claimed to be friends with Buffalo Bill) was caught a few weeks later in Wyoming after derailing another train and dropping ANOTHER letter with his name on it plus his intentions to visit a girlfriend/hooker three weeks hence. He was arrested at the prostitute’s room without incident, tried, convicted and given life in prison. They let him out of Folsom in 1964, a frail and elderly man.

The train wreck site, by the way, became a large tourist attraction for the next week as work crews labored to remove the monster engine and cars and rebuild the wrecked tracks.

Newhall International Airport 
Workers were busy at Newhall International Airport, constructing a house, tool shed and office for personnel and equipment. The house was for a full-time caretaker, one J.E. Markely. The tiny airport was used as an emergency strip for when Glendale was fogged in.

NOV. 10, 1939

A stone cold crime he Newhall Ice House was robbed on this date. Seven bucks in change was swiped.

Outdoor wisdom on’t eat that pretty brownish-yellow fungus that grows near oak stumps. Period. R.E. Galbreath did and found it quite delicious until several hours later when he woke with severe stomach convulsions, a cold sweat and hallucinations.

Another perforated hunter hese Time Ranger treks would be a mite shorter if it weren’t for the near weekly misadventures of nimrod hunters and shootists. On this date, Tom Duddleson was walking a few feet in front of his father on a quail hunting safari. Some birds erupted from the shrubbery and Tom’s dad started firing, hitting his teen son square in the butt with birdshot. The lad was sewn up by our own version of Medicine Woman, Dr. Sarah Murray. As the good doc said: “The boy will be taking his meals on the mantle for the next few weeks.”

NOV. 10, 1949

Always kidding the digger d “Digger” Hilburn, town mortician and practical joker extraordinaire, was taking a lot grief a half-century back. His wife, Peggy, took over ownership of the Lulu Belle Dress Shop on the main drag. Alleged friends of Digger were accusing him of building her inventory from a lot of dead and heretofore clothed bodies.

Got the time? ill and Rose Anna Lechler celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They had settled on their Oak Canyon Piru ranch in 1889. Their grandchildren run the Lechler Historic Museum in Piru. Bill’s uncle, by the way, H.T. Hazard, was mayor of Los Angeles from 1889 to 1892. Out Piru way, H.T. once built a perpetual motion time machine that was powered by the rotation of the Earth. 

NOV. 10, 1959

On to victory Hart High Indians … art teaching legend Cecil “Good Child” Sims penned another hit tune, this being the new fight song for the Indians. The frail government teacher also composed Hart’s alma mater, which is still being sung today.

NOV. 10, 1969 

A country divided ice President Spiro T. Agnew came out with a stinging rebuke of anyone who would protest the Vietnam War, calling them “un-American rotten apples who should be discarded.” A rather prophetic Signal editorial said it was Agnew who was un-American and that perhaps someday, HE should be discarded. You always read it first in TMS. Interestingly over the hill, San Fernando Mayor Phil Jones (who spoke at a Newhall Park anti-war demonstration) was turned away at his own city’s Veterans Day ceremony, put on by the American Legion. Jones was against the Vietnam War but he was also a decorated World War II hero.

NOV. 10, 1979

Shoulda hung ‘em when we had the chance he drama of the little green district with the giant name continued. Members of the Northwest Los Angeles County Resources Conservation District had been elected to office on the promise they would dissolve the district that did nothing. The bunch was a collection of oddballs, from an actual institutionalized mental patient to one member who showed up to meetings with open cans of malt liquor in his back pocket. The NWLACRCD infuriated locals by initiating a local tax to fund their fact-finding vacation to Washington even when they had $200,000 in the bank. The bureaucrats were famous for buying themselves all manner of luxuries, from new cars to trips to Europe. Despite tons of bad publicity, fistfights at meetings and waste, it took years to disband the agency.

Drat. Wish we could just spend the entire week together. Thanks for the good company, saddlepals. What say. See you next Sunday with another exciting Time Ranger adventure? I vote yes. Until then — ¡Vayan con Dios, amigos!

John Boston has been writing about SCV history for more than 40 years. Read his historical tome, “Images of America: The Santa Clarita Valley” on Amazon.com. Check out his History of The Mighty Signal series on Saturdays on A1.

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