The Time Ranger | Indians, Sex Scandals & Border Banditos

The Time Ranger
Time Ranger

The weather has been simply mellow lately, a little bit of rain, a lot of gentle sunshine. You can just hear the wildflowers and weeds just sighing in delight. I can think of no better way to enjoy it all than to take a trail ride into old Santa Clarita. Come with? 

This morning, alas, we’ll have to step carefully around a corpse. There’s the opening of the Bouquet Reservoir and, on the other end of the water issue, how an epic flood washed away the rodeo. 

We have a most sad tale of how Mexican farm workers were robbed of their entire seasonal paycheck in a daring below-the-border train robbery. 

Bonus, we’ve got rustlers, monkeys, killer bee girls and some amazing information on our local Indians. 

Shall we mosey into the mystic? 


POOR PEDRO & THE SEX SCANDAL — On April 6, 1772, Pedro Fages returned to the Santa Clarita Valley after a three-year absence. Fages was second in command to Gaspar de Portola in the original Aug. 8, 1769, expedition in the first party of Europeans here. Fages would become first military governor of Southern California and the state’s fourth governor under Spanish rule. He was also embroiled in the state’s first sex scandal. His wife accused him of philandering and worked in cahoots with Father Junipero Serra to get Pedro ousted from his post. There’s a Gavin Newsom joke somewhere, but, let’s not go there …  

FOR OUR PENANCE, LET US SAY THREE ‘OUR CHINIGCHINISH’ — The Indians of old Southern California, from the Bixby Ranch near Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley, mostly practiced a religion that was called Chinigchinish. Not much is known if this worship jumped over the hill to include our Tataviams.  

We have deduced that the local Tataviams may have practiced some sort of ritual celebrating death and beyond. The Indian remains here showed that the dead were folded at the hip and knees and buried with broken personal kettles. Over the hill in Chatsworth, the Indians may have buried relatives when a chief died. There is no evidence of that up here. There may have been, however, an annual mourning ritual on the winter solstice. 

Some of the last Tataviams, or, as they were called for nearly a half-century, Allikliks or l’Alliklik, were Candelaria (who died in 1912) and Sinforosa (who died in Newhall in 1915). Local historian A.B. Perkins noted that Juan Jose Fustero died in Piru Canyon in 1934. Later reports by Jerry Reynolds and from his 1924 death certificate had put his death a decade earlier. 

The 500 or so Tataviams who lived here in the late 18th century may have worshiped a god called Chu Pu. A few of the larger villages had a maypole in the center where Chu Pu was placated with food and gifts, but not blood sacrifices. Around the maypole, sometimes decorated with crow feathers, the Native Americans would dance, sometimes for days. They would pause every once in a while to blow in the direction of north, south, east and west. Sometimes, the male dancers wore a costume made of black crow feathers and white goose feathers, like a modern-day Aussie riding duster. They also wore condor feathers around the groin area. The last known dance of this kind was reported in 1860. 

According to Perkins, for the Tataviam, signs of evil could come from a fox howling, a raven flying directly over your head or seeing three owls together. 

Girls coming into puberty were treated to a ceremony where they were placed in a pit, covered in warm stones with aromatic herbs laid over the stones. They would stay in the pit for days. The women of the village would dance around them, singing women’s songs and no, it wasn’t Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.” The teenager would then be removed from the pit, have her face painted with red ochre and led back to the village, where they were given a lecture by the chief on how to live well. Then, they were welcomed into the village as women. 

The boys, upon entering manhood, would be given a hallucinogenic drink made of jimson, or, loco weed. 

There were about 25 semi-permanent villages throughout the valley prior to 1800. Throughout these villages, there were two and only two clans: the Coyote and the Mountain Lion. Each village had its own clan leader or chief. The Mountain Lion was the top clan and the chief came from that family. He was assisted by a member from the Coyotes. Mountain Lions and Coyotes could not marry within their own clan.  

This gets confusing, so pay attention. The Lions gave gifts to the Lions in the bride’s family. They were usually seashell and/or abalone shell beads. The suitor offered a gift of a rabbit skin cape to the bride and a small basket. 

Most interestingly, the Tataviam had a myth of creation similar — an exegesis similar to evolution, Genesis and the New Testament. This story depicts a dark void out of which was formed the moon, stars and Earth, which was first made of only rock, followed by water. Then came plants, then animals, then man, who migrated from a central location all around the globe. The son of the father died, but before he did, he told his descendants that he would one day return to live with them. 

How startling is that? 

APRIL 13, 1924 

FIRE BUG — Lawrence Marre, a prominent rancher in Santa Ynez, was arrested on suspicion of starting the 250,000-acre Santa Barbara National Forest fire. Back then, we were part of the SBNF. Marre was released on $2,500 bail. 

KNUCKLEHEAD — On this date, G.I. Leary was arrested and fined $100 for drunk driving and possessing brass knuckles. That would be the metallic boxing devices. Not the prosthesis. 

APRIL 13, 1934 

LOT OF GOLD STILL MIGHT BE THERE, BUT TAKE YOUR SCUBA TANK & FLIPPERS — On this date, the Bouquet Reservoir was completed, as was the newly paved Spunky Canyon Road. The reservoir was built smack dab over an old gold mine, once owned by Governor Gage. Interestingly, at 187 feet high, it was the exact same height as the ill-fated St. Francis Dam, which broke six years earlier. 

PRIMO LOCATION — This may have been one of the premier rentals of all time. Silent film star William S. Hart rented out his five-bedroom cabin on his ranch. Went for about $10 a month. 

APRIL 13, 1944 

CALLED OFF ON ACCOUNT OF FLOODS — The big Newhall-Saugus Rodeo was canceled. County work crews thought they had a chance of repairing Soledad Canyon Road and the Bonelli Ranch in time, but, their estimates were off by two months. Epic rainstorms changed the course of the Santa Clara River, wiping out the rodeo grounds at what would later be the Saugus Speedway. 

HISTORY REPEATS: BANDITS ATTACK BORDER CROSSERS — Farm labor was tough to come by in the valley during the second world war. We used to bring in trainloads of ag workers from Mexico. Eighty years ago, after picking season, the nationals were shipped back to Mexico. They crossed the border and their train was held up by bandidos. An estimated $95,000 in cash wages was stolen from the poor folk. 

THAT’S A LOT OF HAY & SADDLES — Lots of locals were down at the Union Stockyards in L.A. The Army held public auctions to sell 650 horses from the Cavalry. Yup. They still had a horse-based Calvary during World War II. 

NEVER TOO LATE TO START — In a Mighty Signal editorial, Fred Trueblood called for the abolishment of FDR’s New Deal when World War II was over. Fred never got his wish. 

APRIL 13, 1954 

WHAT A BIG BOZO!! — It’s surprising how many of these stories I’ve come across over the years. We had another Loose Monkey episode. Well. Technically, it was a baboon. Either someone abandoned the creature, he escaped or hiked a long way from Africa to get to Canyon Country. The young simian started showing up in the ranches and back yards of Canyon Country, raiding orchards and vegetable gardens. The creature grew bolder and broke into a few homes, helping himself to everything from unsupervised pies to boxes of sugar. There’s a picture. A baboon high on a sugar rush. A couple of farm boys, Tom Davie and Perry Hendon, laid a stealthy trap for their distant cousin and snared him when he was munching an apple. “Bozo,” as he had been called, went from wild ape to Saugus pet. Less freedom. More planned meals. 

MINUTES BEFORE OL’ BLUE EYES BECAME A STAR — If you ever want to know what Newhall and Saugus looked like in the 1950s, go rent or buy the Frank Sinatra movie, “Suddenly.” It was filmed almost entirely out here this week, 70 years back. Sinatra was the villain in it. It’s available, free with commercials, on Amazon Prime. Funny thing? “Suddenly” was an extremo cheapo low-budget movie. Same year, Sinatra would get an Oscar for Supporting Actor in “From Here to Eternity.” 

MISS THE SMALL-TOWN HUMOR — Some of you EPICLY old timers will remember the Solemint Store at the Junction. It was started in 1938 by Alf Clark. On this date, Larry Olsen and Percy Hanson took over the operation. Alf’s wife had crocheted a rather nice sign for above the cash register: “DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK FOR CREDIT. OUR REFUSAL WILL BE VERY POLITE.” 

THOSE UP-AND-DOWN APRILS IN NEWHALL — It jumped from a high of 73 to a high of 95 — in just one day a half-century back. 

APRIL 13, 1964 

THOSE UP-AND-DOWN APRILS IN NEWHALL, PART II — Sixty years ago, we had a week when the mercury didn’t climb out of the low 60s and the lows were in the 30s and 40s. One night, it dipped all the way down to 30. 

SNOW BIRDS — On Easter Sunday six decades back, a local group of Bluebird girls had an unusual egg hunt. Their troupe drove up to Mt. Pinos where they searched for the brightly painted eggs in the snow. 

APRIL 13, 1974 

THE COW BUSINESS IS NOT ALWAYS ROMANTIC — As hard as it is to believe, rustling was still going on in the 1970s, ’80s and even the 1990s here in the SCV. Three black Angus steers were shot on an Agua Dulce ranch. Some idiot went to the trouble of killing the beeves then just took 10 pounds off a hindquarter. One of the steers, which had been wounded in the leg, fell over a 150-foot cliff and was later destroyed by sheriff’s deputies. The cattle were worth about $400 each. Rancher Paris Nelson was having a time of it. Just a few days earlier, his neighbor’s dogs attacked and mauled two calves. They had to be destroyed. 

WORK ’TIL YOU DROP — Was it the beginning of a new, heartless and technological age in the Santa Clarita? On this date, an elderly Saugus woman who was working the midnight shift died on the assembly line. Her body lay where it fell for three hours while Thatcher Glass management waited for someone from the local funeral home to arrive. Thatcher had first called homicide, but, because it was a natural death, they did not come out. Eventually, a representative from the local mortician (who sometimes can act as coroner) arrived to remove the body. Meanwhile, Thatcher employees had to keep assembling bottles at the glass factory, standing right next to the corpse. 

APRIL 13, 1984 

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE OLD DIGS — Over the years, The Mighty Signal has had a few addresses. We started out in an old hotel in Downtown Newhall that soon burned to the ground. We were smack dab on what is today Main Street, moved, moved again to 6th Street and then over in the middle of Auto Row on Creekside. Forty years ago this week, Magic Ford had their groundbreaking ceremony on Creekside Road. The dealership moved from San Fernando Road (Main Street today!). Interestingly, the owner, Norm Gray, would be part of a group of gamblers who won over $1 million in a single Pick-6 thoroughbred racing bet. 

FORGET FORE. THIS WAS A FIVE OR A SIX — An unidentified golfer didn’t do much to dispel the myth of women drivers. She hit a tree so hard, her vehicle somehow managed to get stuck in it. By the way. The vehicle was a little electric cart at the Valencia Country Club. 

MY DESK WAS A MOVIE STAR — On this date, four decades back, “Invasion of the Bee Girls” aired on Channel 13. The low-budget horror flick had been made 11 years earlier in 1973, mostly in Newhall. Some of the scenes were filmed at the old Signal offices on 6th Street and, if you don’t blink, you can see my old desk and my modern electric typewriter prominently featured atop. 

•     •     • 

Well … what do you know? That spinning vortex yonder is our entrance tunnel to the good, bad or indifferent of 2024 Santa Clarita Valley. Thanks for the company. You saddlepals are good medicine for me. What say? See you in seven and we’ll ride together in another exciting Time Ranger adventure? Until then, “¡Vayan con Dios, amigos!”  

If you do love local history and reading about ghosts, myths and monsters, visit Boston’s bookstore at 

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