John Boston | The Ongoing Sin of Ignoring Our Wm. S. Hart Park

John Boston
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I swear hardly at all. One should save the SHIFT/Top Of The Keyboard for issues vital or recalcitrant. So. Here goes. 

For The Love Of Mike, Get Your ¡£!#ª∞%$›fi™ Butt In Gear. 

City of Santa Clarita. County of Los Angeles. Cobwebby Third Party Interested Volunteers. Friends Of This. Foes Of That. Bloated Bureaucrats Stretching To The Ends Of The Known Universe. Grinning-Out-Of-Context Politicians. Useless Dolts and Consultants. 

A Consultant? It’s someone who knows 106 ways to have sex but doesn’t know any women. 

All of you. Get your butts in gear. 

There’s an important City Council meeting coming next week. Cowboy up. Wipe away the sniffles. Don’t let me hear any whining about Hands Tied/COVID-19-through-2,086 or that a dog, cat, bison or transgendered bison who identifies as Karen-Bruce-Chris ate your Environmental Impact Report or that you’re feeling a curious itch to kick this issue further down the road so that a blue-ribbon committee of the aged, imbecilic and useless can further study it. I know each and every one of you. Don’t do it. 

Open. Up. Hart. Park. Completely, including the mansion. While the park itself is “open,” the Hart Mansion has been closed and collecting cobwebs since the onset of COVID.

Get your butt in gear. Stop filling hard drives and filing cabinets with public records and your annoying “Hammina hammina hammina” simpering excuses and tedious red tape.  

It’s a sin what you’ve been doing. 

I’ve written, taught and lectured on Santa Clarita Valley history for more than 40 years now. I can assure you. The importance of the lanky, steely-eyed silent movie cowboy star who lived in that mansion a century ago is vital to this city, valley and even our nation. 

Hardly anyone knows about Hart’s true contributions. More out of habit, we fall into this kabuki theater, like an old nun tiredly mumbling the Rosary. We pretend to beseech memories, recite hosannas, without even knowing what we’re saying. 

Over the years, hundreds of Western actors have solemnly paid tribute to William S. Hart. They’ve noted that this one man created the cookie cutter mold from whence all other American West heroes and villains were created. That, in itself, is an amazing factoid of history and culture. But, it’s a small part of the story of why Hart and the wonderful, peaceful isle of tranquility is so important. Again? It’s a sin — a sin — how we’ve mistreated the treasure that man left us. 

It’s a heck of a park. At least, it used to be. Vermin, from ants and mice to human pond scum, have been gnawing away at mansion and grounds. Vandals try breaking in to buildings or just destroying for the sheer meanness of it. It’s an estate for the homeless. Visitors show up from sometimes hundreds of miles away because, for years, the frigging website hasn’t been updated with the well-duh frigging message that the frigging mansion has been frigging closed. 

For years. 

This abandonment has brought sissy power struggles. Absolute eye-wateringly stupid decisions about storage of priceless artifacts are enacted. Wave after wave of invasions of pursed-lipped Mandarin civil servants, tiptoe about in silk robes, huffily claiming dominion over ranch, park and mansion. 

Enough. Consider that behavior as — over. It is time to Cowboy Up. 

Cowboy Up. THAT is the heritage left us by this elderly ghost, the multi-millionaire actor who was brought up poor, often on Indian reservations. He became a Shakespearean stage actor, who took 500 years of the deep questions of morality and ethics of Western Civilization and blended them with The Code of The West. The true, the deeper West that defined the greatest civilization. THAT is the resume topper the guides often fail to mention on the tours. 

There are people in Hungary today, the Ukraine, China, South America, who laughingly — but still with a fearful respect — refer to America as the land of “a bunch of cowboys,” idealists who cling to a silly notion that there is a Right and there is a Wrong. That vital part of our American identity? It was invented by William S. Hart. It was carried, for a century-plus now, by generations of not just posing cowboy screen stars, but by the heartland of America. Hart took a deep, psychic and spiritual portion of Shakespeare, blended it with boots, guns, swagger and saddle, then embodied it for millions to see.  

What is this spiritual truth, recognized even in the most hardened heart, that Hart inspired? 

That a hero — doomed to failure and perhaps his own death — tries anyway. 

That’s it. That’s the everyday life lesson. 

It’s so much fun to dress up as a cowboy or cowgirl. It’s grander to ride a horse and see the world from atop it. It makes the world go ’round, to break bread with neighbors, let music seep into our souls, laugh, dance, be polite, thoughtful, kind, genuine and essentially that man or woman you’re supposed to be. It is profoundly necessary to be reminded — that there are times, hardscrabble and trying —  that we need to stop. We need to catch up with ourselves in prayer or reflection. We need to discover that inner hero in each of us — no matter what the consequences so frightening. 

That’s why William S. Hart is important. 

There’s hundreds of great stories about “Two-Gun” Bill. There’s his giant hats and Western regalia, his corny “aw shucks” demeanor, his real-life adventures and long-forgotten romanticism. A series of dramatic trials lasted a decade after his death in 1946 when he left his estate, and legacy, to the people. He didn’t leave Hart Park to be turned into a bed-&-breakfast, sign-rich government employee dream or especially a ghost town. 

We’ve all done a terrible disservice, not so much to Hart, but, to ourselves. We’ve been wretched stewards for not keeping the flame of our community burning. 

You know, Bill Hart often played the villain. But, so rare in humans, he changed. Completely. I ask those involved, be the hero, the good and non-self-serving steward you were born to be. The people of Santa Clarita, America and visitors far beyond would like their park back. 

John Boston has been the local historian for nearly 40 years. 

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