The Ascent of a Barbarious Court Squatter


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Pittikin were proud of having given a banquet which no other settler would dare surpass in Alamar. Pittikin and Mrs. Hancock, the elder. Darrell, in the presence of our friends here, that I fulfilled my promise to him, and have spoken to our friends here, the heads of families, and they will speak to those who are not present, and we will meet to hear what the Don has to say. It was finally agreed that Clarence would call on Mr. Mechlin that evening, to notify him that the settlers would meet the Don on Monday afternoon at 2 o'clock on the porch of Gasbang's house.

There is no other principle distinctly, certainly and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light, it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.

The Ascent of a Barbarious Court Squatter

The one great principle of American law is very much the same; our law-givers keep giving us laws and then enacting others to explain them. The lawyers find plenty of occupation, but what becomes of the laity? And by a sad subversion of purposes, all the private land titles became unsettled. It thus became not only necessary for the Spanish people to present their titles for revision, and litigate to maintain them in case of any one contesting their validity, should the least irregularity be discovered, and others covet their possession , but to maintain them against the government before several tribunals; for the government, besides making its own laws, appeals to itself as against the land-owners, after their titles might have been approved.

Thus the government washes its hands clean, liberally providing plenty of tribunals, plenty of crooked turnings through which to scourge the wretched land-owners. Don Mariano had been for some years under the lash of the maternal government, whom he had found a cruel stepmother, indeed. As it was arranged with Clarence, the meeting would take place that day on the broad piazza of John Gasbang's house, this being the most central point in the rancho. The heads of families all came—the male heads, be it understood—as the squatters did not make any pretence to regard female opinion, with any more respect than other men.

All the benches and chairs that the house contained, with the exception of Mrs. Gasbang's sewing rocker, had been brought to the porch, which was quite roomy and airy. At ten minutes before two, all the settlers were there, that is to say, all the old men, with their elder sons. Clarence, Romeo, Tom and Jack, sat together in a corner, conversing in low tones, while Gasbang was entertaining his guests with some broad anecdotes, which brought forth peals of laughter.

Mechlin, arrived in a buggy; his two sons followed on horseback. Clarence had time to look at them leisurely, while they dismounted, and tied their horses to a hitching post.

The Ascent of a Barbarious Court Squatter by Jacque D'Artichoke - FictionDB

He has only a cold salutation to give, while Victoriano will be laughing and talking to everybody. But, perhaps, you are right, and he is changed. I think he is less reconciled than the others, to have us, settlers, helping ourselves to what they consider their land.

He certainly was far more talkative four or five years ago. I used to work with them in ploughing and harvesting time, and both boys, and the Don, were always very kind to me, and I can't help liking them. His sons and Mr. Mechlin did the same. Clarence arose, and so did the other young men with him, returning their salutation. The elder Darrell, Pittikin and Hughes followed this example; the other settlers nodded only, and remained sitting with their hats on, looking with affected indifference at the trees beyond. Some nodded, others grinned and winked, others smiled silently. Mechlin, take this one.

Clarence came forward and offered three chairs. Mechlin took his arm and presented him to the Alamars.

His sons shook hands with Clarence cordially, and accepted the proffered chairs. We understand you perfectly. All saw the fine irony of the rejoinder, and laughed heartily. To do this, and yet not ask that you give up your claims, I have one or two propositions to make to you. The reason why you have taken up land here is because you want homes. You want to make money. Isn't that the reason? That little point, you know, I must keep in view. I believe this is what most of you say; is it not? No, most assuredly.


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The rainy season would still be irregular and unreliable, I think. Yes, I may say, I feel sure, it is a mistake to try to make San Diego County a grain-producing county. It is not so, and I feel certain it never will be, to any great extent. This county is, and has been, and will be always, a good grazing county—one of the best counties for cattle-raising on this coast, and the very best for fruit-raising on the face of the earth. God intended it should be. Why, then, not devote your time, your labor and your money to raising vineyards, fruits and cattle, instead of trusting to the uncertain rains to give you grain crops?

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What are we to do for a living in the meantime? I can let each of you have a number of cows to begin with, and give you four or five years' time to pay me. So you see, it will be with the increase of these cattle you will pay, for I shall charge you no interest.


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  • To give back to you our homesteads? All I want to do is to save the few cattle I have left. I am willing to quit-claim to you the land you have taken, and give you cattle to begin the stock business, and all I ask you in return is to put a fence around whatever land you wish to cultivate, so that my cattle cannot go in there. So I say, plant vineyards, plant olives, figs, oranges; makes wines and oil and raisins; export olives and dried and canned fruits.

    I had some very fine California canned fruit sent to me from San Francisco. Why could we not can fruits as well, or better? Our olives are splendid—the same our figs, oranges, apricots, and truly all semi-tropical fruits are of a superior quality. When this fact becomes generally known, I feel very sure that San Diego County will be selected for fruit and grape-growing.

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    In two years grape vines begin to bear; the same with figs, peaches and other fruits. At three years old they bear quite well, and all without irrigation. So you would not have to wait so very long to begin getting a return from your labor and capital. Moreover, an orchard of forty acres or vineyard of twenty will pay better after three years' growth than one hundred and sixty acres of wheat or barley in good seasons, and more than three hundred acres of any grain in moderately good seasons, or one thousand acres in bad seasons.

    You can easily fence twenty or forty or sixty acres for a vineyard or orchard, but not so easily fence a field of one hundred and sixty, and the grain crop would be uncertain, depending on the rains, but not so the trees, for you can irrigate them, and after the trees are rooted that is not required.

    The Squatter and the Don

    This rancho has many deep ravines which bring water from hills and sierras. These ravines all open into the valleys, and run like so many little rivers in the rainy season.

    By converting these ravines into reservoirs we could have more water than would be needed for irrigating the fruit trees on the foothills. In the low valleys no irrigation would be needed.

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