Palabras Pintorescas - The role of the Rancheros Visitadores

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By Editha Bartley

Those horrible winds continue to howl a I write this in mid February. I just discovered a news item in an old Albuquerque Journal. Los Alamos was the snowiest spot in the state in January 2001. We recorded 50 inches of snow, with a moisture content of 2.13 here at our Gascon station. Oh, for those good old days!

My grandfather Brown was a doctor, a rancher, and so much more. I never knew him, but stories about him still pop up today. He was a visionary and was very positive about life in general. He developed our Valmora Tuberculosis Sanatorium, got it up and running successfully, then became active in many other organizations.

I just discovered a booklet published in the early 1980s. It is a brief history of the Rancheros Visitadores, the visiting ranchers. This was (and still is) a large group of prominent businessmen from all over the country who get together to ride a long trial ride in California. Jack Mitchell bought a ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley there in 1929 and in 1930 he and friends started their first trail ride. Dr. Brown may have missed their first ride in April 1930 but he never missed a ride (always the first week of May) until 1936 (he died in 1935).

He was a founding member of this large group and I have a large photograph of him standing in a Rancheros stagecoach, with a huge smile on his face. He brought my father, Doc Gallenthien into Rancheros Visitadores in 1932 and I don’t think he ever missed a ride after that.

This little history booklet defines Rancheros Visitadores as a group of men who were attracted to it not only because they were horsemen or enjoyed horseback riding, but they liked the outdoors, the companionship and California’s history. They enjoyed being able to relive, to some degree, the life of the original rancheros.

Those rancheros were brought up in the tradition of helping their neighbors, cooperating with one another, riding many miles, helping with spring roundups, eating simply, sleeping under the stars, working hard and asking nothing in return but friendship.

This is a very exclusive club, and one has to be asked to join. The ranch-to-ranch rides have changed as civilization has taken over that part of California and most of the large ranches have been subdivided. Thirty five men rode the first ride, and today the membership is almost 1,000. A prospective member must ride with rancheros for three years before being voted in as a member. Presidents of our large corporation, all sorts of professional men, from doctors, lawyers to professors just rode horses, camped out and slept under the stars for a week.

Walt Disney and Bob Hope were members, along with many other well-known men in the business and entertainment world, including President Reagan.

My father always came home covered in trail dust, sore from riding for a week on a rented horse, and so full of all sorts of stories. They might have been tall tales, but this week of his life kept him laughing and loving the experience for a year, until the next ride.

Many trail rides have been started here in the west, but the Rancheros Visitadores was the first, I think. They always raised money for the many California missions and helped other charities as well.

This is yet another reminder that life can be fun. We just have to search it out, as they say.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.