BRANDING DAYS JANUARY 27, 2014
If you take the Ortega Highway east out of San Juan Capistrano,
you will be passing through some of the immense Ranchos of the past.
The Rancho Mission Viejo is the main one that you will pass through,
to the north is the Rancho Trabuco, and to the south east lies the vast
227,000 acre Rancho Santa Margarita from 15 miles inland to the coast,
and from Oceanside north almost to San Clemente. Our US Marine
Corps uses about one half of this acreage with a 99-year lease, which
has some 40 years to go. I have no idea what happens at the end of this
term. This gigantic area was made up of Spanish and Mexican Land
My Great Grandfather, Don Juan Forster, and his wife, Ysidora
Melitas Pico Forster, owned all this for a number of years, and at one
point in time, Don Juan was the largest land owner in Alta California.
When he passed on in 1878, his heirs sold these 3 Ranchos, but the
Forsters still had several smaller Ranchos around San Juan.
The above has been only a bird’s eye view of the history of this
area. It should be a huge tome of the times, but I want to get on with the
story about the cattle that roamed around, and in the spring the young
ones had to be branded, etc. to grow up to be nice steers and go off to the
meat packing house and be some nice steaks for hungry humans.
These “babies” were separated from their “moms,” and were
herded into holding corrals, and then several at a time would be let
into a large corral — the main arena where all the action took place. A
cowboy on horseback would rope a little guy, then several cowboys on
foot had to get the critter all tied up so other cowboys could do their
job. There would be a groups of cowboys who did nothing but wield the
branding iron, from out of the hot coals to the rump of the scared and
wounded young gonna-be steer, then there would be several groups just
de-horning the “patients,” and other groups who took care of de-testicle- izing. (Don’t tell me if I spelled that wrong. I could’ve used other words,
When I was 6/7 years old, I would go off with my uncle, Titán, who
belonged to Aunt Mae, and have a great time at these brandings. There
were always some other kids to join up with, and either watch for awhile,
and then play for awhile, whatever.
I took pictures later on during the 50’s. I will bring this to a close
for this week, then we’ll have the rest of the story next week along with
pictures. There will be focus on my Swallow Bar to tie in with the cattle
Bear with me.
MELITAS FORSTER MONDAYS WITH MELITAS