Mondays with Melitas – 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,

I guess.)

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.


3 Comments to “Mondays with Melitas – January 27, 2014”

  1. Dad used to talk about as a kid spending the summers on Rancho Santa Margarita riding herd and sleeping under the stars. He said his jeans could stand up by themselves because they were so dirty!! I think I would have loved being around at that time. I am a country girl at heart!! Can’t wait to hear more.
    Love you,

  2. Dear Mena,

    I used to wonder if the stories I heard about how much land the Forster family owned were true. Now, I see they were. I can’t wait to hear more and see pictures.

    I love you,

  3. Will be waiting anxiously to hear the rest of this one.
    Love, Marcie

Leave a Reply

"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
Wendy Price, Palm Desert, CA

Read More: Writing Teacher Reviews

Amherst Writers & Artists

Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.

writing retreats for women

International Directory of Writing Workshops