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Whoa, a plastic bag!

Much bitchin’



Cowboys are Still My Heroes


[G]aviota’s surfers may be dudes, but are Gaviota’s cattlemen? I like thinkin’ not, but I’ve got to wonderin’ about the things that rattle um. Sure, each has a different style of wrangling, and everyone’s operation is unique, but their darn complaining is messing up my impression of our coastal scrub, chaparral, and barbed wire fences—and my image of cowboys.


These guys don’t ride the range with the sidekicks of other western ranchers. I’m thinkin’ of wolves, blizzards, brucellosis, grizzlies, buffalo, BLM managers, east coast hunters and frackers. All the same, out here on the coast they still find an awful lot to nag about—I guess I don’t understand. Maybe ranchin’ the shoreline is a ball-buster: plastic bags can kill cows; surfers and dogs can scatter um far and wide; train tracks and hiking trails can make grazing, roundups and cattle drives near impossible; litter blights a spread and Central Coast weekend warriors can spook their little dogies. About all that don’t seem to mess up their ranchin’ and pastures is trophy homes and beach cabanas. Like I said, makes me wonder.

Las Varas is the last true, really picturesque cattle ranch south and west of a long ways. Just about everything that once was is now orchards, vineyards, hobby farms, estates or overrun campgrounds. That Las Varas place, with the little farm house, barn, cows and pastures tilted toward the ocean, and live oaks all around, is an iconic landscape for countless locals and travelers. The way some of these cowboys ranch and gripe seems odd, but their ranching tradition is still elemental, visceral, right at the core of Gaviota—and me. It’s part and parcel of the California in my blood—the memories of my youth, the leather of my fabric.


People and cows have shared this coast for over two hundred years. These modern ranching guys and gals still help me feel right at home. A real cowboy can herd cattle anywhere. He knows a horse won’t run him into a fence, and that an ATV will—as well as too much bitchin’.