'growing' up on a ranch
by, 08-06-2008 at 03:28 PM (2194 Views)
I told a bit of a falsehood, I guess. I didn't actually grow up on a ranch. I grew up 'around' a ranch, for whatever that's worth. I spent a fair amount of time at my Aunt's ranch in Livermore.
My actual home was in Castro Valley, CA; a small suburban settlement of neverending housing developments in the East bay area. Our house was on top of a hill that (on a good day) enabled views clear to San Jose and San Francisco. Castro Valley was caught in a situation unique to California: stuck between the country life and the crime and grit of slum neighborhoods closer to the bay. Upon his departure from the Army two years ago, my Brother discovered Castro Valley had completely lost the battle against becoming a slum itself. It doesn't look bad, but it's crime-ridden and hardened more than ever now. A fair portion of my time growing up was spent wandering the lower streets getting into trouble, but that's not what this specific blog is about.
Back to my Aunt's ranch!! For the first twenty years of it's existence it was a sprawling expanse of rolling hills. A long gravel driveway made it's way through sheep pastures and up a small hill prominently featuring the Ranch house. In classic Ranch house fashion it was one story tall with a jillion rooms, wrapped tightly by open decks and lush groomed lawns. The back lawn was actually big enough to house our own brand of amateur sporting events during my Aunt's many get-togethers.
To the rear, the hill gave way to a small valley with horse pastures and another hill with the barn. The barn was huge by my standards, and behind that lay yet the biggest portion of the property, one open pasture with larger hills. That large pasture lay over and behind those hills to be skirted by wineries and other ranches.
It was here that my Aunt boarded horses (usually for free to friends) and raised her own world-class arabians. I've spent quite a few vacations deep into the Sierra Nevada horse camping with my own family and my Aunt's large entourage of friends and equine associates.
At the ranch itself, I spent many weekend days and summer days working and simply enjoying the ranch life. The 'simple life' and clean air bore a stark contrast to the dramatics and filth of the East bay. It's easy in that light to see things for how they should be, and even know how you want your life to be when you're an adult. Why suffer through a high cost of living only to live a hurried life in air that doesn't feel good in your lungs?
Unfortunately, in recent years the activities have taken a downturn, as has the ranch. My Aunt's octogenarian status has meant that she started gradually reducing the amount of horses she had through natural atrittion. A fair amount of her original ranch property has been sold off to bloodthirsty developers which promptly built ugly look-alike houses on top of the once beautiful rolling golden fields.
I haven't been back; I've only heard from my brother as to the way things are. I don't think I want to go see for myself, either. Have you ever held a certain place or house dear to your heart because of time spent there as a child? Surely going to see the place won't do anything for me but bring me down. It's not like a gravesite that you visit regularly to pay your respects; the death of the ranch leaves fond memories that don't need to be replaced with a new vision of the way things are.