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June 18, 1862: Orestimba Canyon

June 18, 2012

Camp 76

I had not spent a day in camp, save Sundays, since leaving Diablo, so [today] I resolved to stay in camp, write, wash, and do odd jobs. It was still hotter—above 100° most of the day, and 87° after eight o’clock in the evening. With a fresh breeze it stood at 102° for hours, and so dry that heavy woolen clothes after washing were perfectly dry in less than two hours. It may have been sooner. I looked in two hours after leaving them out and found them dry.

Well, I washed my clothes, a job I positively hate—I would rather climb a three-thousand-foot mountain—and to make matters more aggravating, just as I was in the midst of it, along came two women, one young and quite pretty, who were assisting as vaqueros. A rodeo took place near camp, and several thousand head of cattle were assembled, wild almost as deer. Of course it takes many vaqueros to manage them, all mounted, and with lassos. A rodeo is a great event on a ranch, and these women, the wife and daughter of the ranchero came out to assist in getting in the cattle. Well mounted, they managed their horses superbly, and just as I was up to my elbows in soapsuds, along they came, with a herd of several hundred cattle, back from the hills. I straightened my aching back, drew a long breath, and must have blushed (if a man can blush when tanned the color of smoked bacon) and reflected on the doctrine of Woman’s rights—I, a stout man, washing my shirt, and those ladies practicing the art of vaqueros.

The cattle were “marshaled,” in a close body on the plain near, with hills on either side, surrounded by vaqueros on horseback. The rancheros from adjoining ranches were on hand to select such cattle as belonged to them and get them out. A rodeo is always a spirited scene. The incessant “looing” of these three thousand cattle, the riding, the lassoing, etc., form a scene that an eastern farmer cannot well conceive from description. This is considered a fine stock ranch—several thousand head of cattle and hundreds of horses are kept.

Just after sunset a fine deer, a buck, came down to within three hundred feet of camp and leisurely looked at us. We had no gun loaded, and he trotted away unmolested, much to our chagrin.

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