"Honest Injun, there's a heap of good livin' here!" -- Famous 0ld Hwy 99 billboard hyping Chowchilla, CA - back when folks had a sense of humor.
(From 2007 BG) There's the real californios.
Then, there's the recent (1990's-2000's) reincarnated version, which consists of
SPOTLIGHTS...MOODLIGHTING...PRIMPING JUDGES....CAMERAS...ACTION! BIG MONEY....BIG ENTRY FEES...LOTS OF SCREAMING...BIG HYPE...BIG DRAMA...LOTS OF GROUPIES...BIG EGOS...OH MY GOSH....
Today's version of a Californio is a gaudy, gorgeous and garish type, a mostly serious, very often arrogant, over-the-top, money-is-no-object, mega-traditionalist. Thought to be extinct until just recently - this type was just another shotgun chap wearing, rubber horn wrapped rodeo cowboy who ran around groveling at the feet of Benny Guitron – they suddenly became “reincarnated” sometime in the mid to late ‘90’s after having multiple religious-like epiphanies reading Kurt Markus’ Western Horseman articles on buckaroos. They are presently going full bore re-claiming their turf, their traditions and their egos. Former and present haunts include The Tejon Ranch, the HC, Miller and Lux, Flournoy’s, the Niles Hotel and Saloon; this type has been also sighted in Visalia and at the Truck America truck stop out of Bakersfield at the foot of the Grapevine on 99 (but those seen there should not be confused with one of Buck Owens’ buckaroos).
The Godmother and Godfather of todays' "Californio": Gwynn Weaver and hubby Dave Weaver, back when he was "merely" a buckaroo in Oregon....in a picture taken by Alan Doane who gave us permission to use it.... Below: Pretenders to the throne? Or "Californios"? Saviors of tradition? Or mercenary wannabes? Well....there's plenty out there who'd say either about these Eclectic Horsewomen and cocktail party divas Emily Kitching, Mindy Bower and Gwynn Weaver....
If you want 20 inch fringed armitas, 30 inch tapaderos, $1,000 North Valley Hat Co. made to order flat black vaquero hats trimmed in gray satin ribbon with Frank Hansen stampede strings, hours of serious lectures on horsemanship enough to make you gag and enough Jeremiah Watt, Leon Gage, Larry Fuegen, Les Iveson and Mark Dahl silver inlaid and plated gear to be visible from the space shuttle, look no further. When Californios go to Mass, instead of lighting candles for Mom and Father O’Malley, they light them for the Dorrance Brothers, Joaquin Murrieta and Arnold Rojas. Their hats are the classic Californio style: black with either beige or gray ribbon binding - a style that Nevada Types were into before this latest reincarnation of Left Coast Cowboys. Their tapaderos are longer than long, perhaps a mere five inches off the ground if they are riding the typical California sawed off Quarter Horse. The record length shu-flys hang from their mane hair cinches and the longest Luis Ortega riatas swing from their hands, but reportedly, some of the shortest male appendages swing elsewhere; note that although widely spoken of, this anomaly has not been verified.
If accosted by a Californio, they are easily placated if you remember to insert the word brio into your conversation several times, being mindful to roll the “r”. Never comment on their Cheyenee roll or back cinch - remember, its only a figment of your over-active imagination - and if they prod you, say something like “Nice centerfire you're riding there”. Observe closely as their demeanor quickly softens, their eyes glaze over, they get that faraway look in their eyes and swell up like a toad. Name dropping should always include Dave and Gwynn Weaver, Ernie "God" Morris, “Father” Pat “Punchy” Puckett, “Monsignor” Martin Black, “Friar” Richard Caldwell, Arnold “Chief” Rojas, Duane Rossi, the Roesers, John Estill, John Lacy, Henry Miller and the Harris Ranch. And of course, Buck Brannaman, or Brahman, or Banana Bread, whatever.
Californios are big into manana. It usually takes them till the next day to finish coiling up their 95 ft reatas. What, me hurry?: is their mantra. They don't particularly work well with others in a profit-driven outfit as they are usually too busy perfecting their over the left shoulder double-triple overhand six coil de la lookout you suckah that they will throw fifty yards out in order to try and snag some unknowing calf at a branding.
When not gazing contently at their crisply pressed white-shirted image in a silver inlaid hand held mirror or a reflective pick up truck window, this type - along with the real californios, can often be found at the Californios Ranch Roping and Stock Horse Contest sucking up to Gwynn Turnbull Weaver and Ernie Morris, the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, Rancho Santa Margarita Ranch Roping, Paso Robles Gathering, the Monterey Cowboy Festival or the Descanso Vaquero Show. Today's type is frequently seen at Buck "Banana Bread" Branaman clinics and Peter “Soup” Campbell flat hat fests. Both the real thing and the posers are found as far south as the San Diego area; central valley and the central coastal areas are ‘hotspots’, and they range as far north as Modoc County where they can be found on ranches near Susanville, Likely, Alturas, Ravendale and Madeline. More areas that one is likely to run into a Californio or a wannabe replica thereof, include Templeton, Bakersfield, Taft, Weed, Lancaster, Bishop, Willows, Lone Pine, Big Pine, Fish Lake Valley, Coalinga, Hollister, Salinas, Visalia, Tollhouse, Fresno, Paso Robles, Ft. Tejon, Lee Vining, Mariposa, Bridgeport, Onyx, Dos Palos, Livermore, Atwater, Raymond, Turlock, Porterville, Coalinga, Termo, Orick, Red Bluff, Dunsmuir, Delano, Quincy, Mojave, Willits, Biggs, Cantil, Inyokern, Marysville, Tehachapi, Santa Maria, Arvin, Santa Clarita, Gorman, Taft, Buttonwillow, Shoshone, Searles Valley, Eagleville, Gorman, Santa Barbara, Camarillo, San Juan Capistrano, Lake Crowley....to name a few spots...
The Californio Types
"The land of fruits and nuts, steers and queers!" --- Anonymous
It’s important to recognize there are two epochs of this big feeling bastard that are more or less time-stamped. Some explanation is of course, in order.
You got the first Cro-Magnon bunch that came along from down Sonora way, did the fandango, drank a lot of sangria wine, said a lot of Hail Marys, sired a mess of kids, got into grizzly bear roping, chicken snatching, senorita yodeling, and dallied and vuelta’d their way through the California Mission system. There was a lot of romance, and the whole flaming gig gave Tyrone Power a job as Zorro in the 1940’s but here now, we get ahead of ourselves.
These original vaqueros peaked in the 1800’s and their ill begotten sons and daughters went on to hang out at places like the San Emedio and Tejon. It’s all a blur of Picon Punch and bearskin saddlebags from there until about 1982-86 when the real end of the wagon empires began and these cocky bums couldn’t find any work other than breeding buckaroo groupies from Bakersfield to Adel; it was impossible to find anyone they could con into giving them a riding job that required more than tossing fancy loops in a tiny pen, trailering 3 miles to gather a 7 acre trap, etc., so they caved in and went to working for Family Dollar, gold mines and NDOT. The reincarnated pre-1990’s, pre-Weaver Californios cluster types biggest sin was typically copious alcohol consumption, silver spoons sticking out of their mouths and single rigs, in addition to the fact that that they hailed from overpopulated has-been burgs like Sanger, Clovis, Red Bluff, Alturas, Bakersfield, Galt, Santa Ynez, Tulare, Glennville or Lebec.
Your original Prunie, as they were affectionately dubbed, was typically a high-headed, sometimes spoiled, often handsome and arrogant prick who hailed from this “land of fruits and nuts, steers and queers,” but at least held on to his gender. Surrounded by cutting horse trainers and snaffle bit futurity coke heads, back cinches and taco hats, your purist white-shirted grim lipped, pre-1990’s Californio type usually vacated this state on a regular basis from around 1945-1985, and showed up on wagons in Nevada or Oregon in a weak attempt to find like types who didn’t laugh at his Ralph Turner lace ups and single rigged Bob Kelly or Garcia jinglebobs. The badgering they typically got from Merv, Packer, Ellison and Maupin was merciless but they put up with it and were either run out of Dodge or made way for as the second coming of Tom Dorrance. At their height, this legendary bunch was a slick combo of some of the best and worst to be found in buckaroodom.
Now, they’re either dead, dying, drunk, deranged, expats, millionaires going on exotic African hunts, retired, driving semi trucks, getting kicked off of Facebook for riling a bunch of panty waisted (and wasted) race baiters (“Honest Injun – there’s a heap of good living here in Chowchilla!” being one of their favorite lines and guaranteed kiss of death from liberal censors,) or showing up drunk at the Fort Tejon civil war reenactments quoting Arnold Rojas chapter and verse.
THE IRREVERENT GUIDE THAT TAKES NO PRISONERS
Then, you have the post 1990’s into the 2000's and onward to the present Californio (also referred to as Californicators) types, the bane of the purist Californio, the spawn of Buck Banana Bread clinics, “vaquero series” DVDs, too much money, online saddle shopping, and a culture that revolves around excess silver on excess gear, all of it priced out of any real working hand’s budget. Color coordinating outfits complete the look with fake flowers taped on straw hats and matching eyeglass frames for the femmes. These latter day clones in their flattened Reata Branaman hats are the ones who more or less ruined the type with cookie-cutter outfits, faggot-magnet 2 ft fringe dragging off of squared off, bastardized chinkmitas with triple layers of pink, orange and green fringe, and now, in the latest rage to further commercialize the genre, fringed purses to match. Trained in small arenas, never the brush; if you had them rope anything bigger than a 150 pound Angus calf outside, they’d go into meltdown mode. This thin-skinned, always politically correct sub-type Californio “ranch rodeo roper” is adept at throwing 132 different shots in an arena but couldn’t last ten minutes on a brush outfit in Arizona let alone a 1970’s day under Brian Morris on the Circle A. These are the ones who also confuse White King with Yeti chest coolers and typically insist on prayer before brandings. They breed faster than a pair of armitas that look like a kitchen apron fucking a hula skirt in Santa Fe...
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