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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.

The train 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 villages. 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 area. F 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)

Old Corner Saloon - 2002