by Joe Koller
Due to a brief but spirited railroad rivalry back in 1887, C.B. Orvis was able to
ride from Chicago to California on a $2.50 ticket! On the train Orvis heard talk
about three crops a year, fruit orchards, ideal climate, sea fishing, and
business opportunities. Other hopefuls riding on their cut-rate ticket on that trip
also had dreams of success in the land of milk and honey, western style.
"What's your@line?" came at him from across the aisle.
"I'm a vet," Orvis said, "not a war vet, understand." He smiled. The pride in
his new diploma was apparent. At twenty nine Orvis possessed the hands of a
plow- man, the looks of a rancher, and the mental drives of a scientists The
borrowed funds gave hopeful promise of a potentially bright future.
"A horse doctor?"
A veterinary," he corrected. Stable grooms and foaling nurses were horse
doctors. Charles Bruce Orvis was a college trained vet.
disgorged its passengers at a station in Los Angeles and new arrivals were
engulfed by a laughing, mining populace in a fiesta atmosphere. Orvis lingered in the city long enough to admire its floral attractions, and study
its picturesque denizens. He also enjoyed the clip-clop of horses' hoofs on
both tawdry streets and palm lined boulevards.
In the southern countryside outside the city he discovered the ruins of Junipero Serra's
colonizing efforts. Here, 22 0 where the Bear Republic and state authorities had extinguished land grant
rights, the old Missions had become communities of culture and enterprise,
steeped in heritage and linked by pioneer trails. Gray-haired retainers on the
Dons' estates boasted of their past glory. Their kinsmen, brave adventurers,
fought Indians, built adobe shelters, planted grape arbors and green crops,
converted savages to better living, and made the desert more habitable.
These earlier ranches raised blooded bulls needed for the fighting rings of New
and Old Spain.
Longhorned cattle had been brought in from Mexico, and became so numerous
that they were killed for their hides that were exported, while buzzards and
beasts fed on their carcasses. Such glory was now gone.
The new trend was apparent. Dr. Orvis observed that short-homed cattle
were replacing the gaunt longhorned yokes still used in field work and on ox
drawn freighting outfits. Mexicans herded cows, goats, and sheep outside the
In this region of warm climate, nature's bounty and easy indolence, one still
found evidence of pride in horseflesh. Fine mount or team and equip- age
was the mark of society.
Orvis was accorded grand hospitality at some haciendas, but
sensed distrust of himself, a stranger, at other establishments. He learned that sometimes visitors posing as buyers and breeders were in reality spies for renegade bands.
Rustling activities were attributed to the gold rushes around the San Francisco
Dr. C.B. Orvis, pioneer stockman.
After the diggings there played out, camp robbers moved south to operate near
the Mexican border that provided both a sanctuary and a market for their operations.
Of the horse breeds, the Arabian and the Morgans seemed most
popular. Orvis also saw many fine Palominos and thoroughbreds of other types. Horse
breeding was far ahead of improvement in other livestock. One horse rancher
used a government stallion to raise good, light weight mounts for the U.S.
Cavalry. At Army Remount Station Captain Pitts, a veterinary, welcomed Dr.
Orvis as a colleagues
From shop talk Dr. Orvis learned that California was ideal for the breeding of
horses. Its climate farred f"ing any month of the year. Grass, water, and hay
was excellent on the Remount range. The station's main loss of animals was from
thieving activities, carried on despite the broncho busters who wrangled
horses on the range. New horses were held in quarantine and trimmed up
before being relayed on to cavalry posts.
Orvis happened to be watching the work of the cowboys when a wrangler
informed Captain Pitts that the estrayed bull impounded at Padra Spring was acting queerly. He would not eat, was down and appeared sick.
Orvis counted five sombreroed Mexicans on horses around the pen.
These riders were staring at the bull. "Snooping caballeros," the wrangler
remarked. "It's Chihuahua," Captain Pitts answered. "Ranch boss."
Charles (Doc) Bruce Orvis on horse Roany
and Cattle buyer Tom Curry on horse Billie Rat Tail"
(Continued Page 2)