Page 10 - R.G. Percy

On September 5, 1915 our first child was born, a daughter. About two months later, my father-in-law, W. S. Dunshee, offered to lease me his 3000 acre ranch in the Santa Ana Valley, with a couple of hundred acres farmland, and the balance cattle pasture. As I have said before my life's ambition was to become a rancher, and this was an opportunity to realize it.

I had no idea or expectation of this happening when I accepted the position of County Forester, at Mr. Foster's request in 1914. It was a difficult thing for me to turn down this opportunity, which I had no expectations of being able to become a rancher for years yet. On the other side l owed loyalty to Mr. Foster for the many kindnesses and help which he had given me through the years. I knew that it would be a big disappointment to him if I resigned as County Forester to take the ranch, and I made no decision for some days. I wanted Mr. Foster's advice and would follow it.

We met one afternoon in Foster Park, as we did frequently to go over plans for the improvement of the Park. As we sat under the oak trees at the big barbecue pit, I told him my story, and asked him his opinion of what I should do.

He did not say anything for a little time, and finally he said, "Gird, you will have to make your own decision, and I do not want to stand in your way. I did hope that I would continue to have you with me to carry out my plans."

I explained to him that I had six good horses of my own, and four more would go with the ranch, and 125 head of cattle, which I could pay for when I sold fat steers the following years when I sold them each year, and that the rent of the farming would be on a share of the crop, etc. It was a very good proposition.

Finally after thinking it over Mr. Foster said, "Do you remember what I once told you an executive was? A man who could get other people to work for him and then to supervise their work and see that it is done properly. Why can't you do both the Forestry job, and hire men on the ranch to do the ranch work, and supervise both jobs?"

That was a solution which had never entered my mind, that I could manage two jobs at once. "Do you think that I could do that?" I asked.

"Yes, I am sure that you are capable of doing it and I would like very much for you to stay with me too."

That was the decision which we both agreed on. I was now 26 years old and ready to tackle both jobs if he was agreeable to me doing it. That was what I did for the next four years, managed a 3000 acre ranch and developed the Parks and planted thousands of trees on the State Highway and the County roads and supervised both. I had not let Mr. Foster down, and I was now a rancher too. A very busy life, but I loved both jobs.

Our first big planting of trees on the new State highway was on the Rincon, from the Ventura River to the Santa Barbara County line, Palm trees sixty feet apart on both sides of the Highway. That meant that I needed more men than those at the Parks. At Seaside we had a team of good mules, and at Foster Park we had a team of smaller mules needed to properly care for the Parks. At Seaside, beside the Caretaker, we had two other regular men, at Foster Park only the caretaker.

We started a program at Foster Park which pleased the public very much. County Parks in those days were used by the local people of the County (today mostly by people from Los Angeles and other places). In trimming trees and removing dead ones, we had the caretaker cut up the wood, and on each Saturday put wood at each of the family barbecue pit and table for free use.