Scott McIntyre has been a familiar presence in these parts for more than forty years, thirty-seven of them working for the Hollister Ranch as designated property and maintenance chief, tending to 14,000 acres of the great outdoors with dedication, skill, and an affable spirit. On Monday, June 1, 2015, just a few weeks before his retirement, I sat down with Scott for a conversation in the backyard of the former schoolhouse at Santa Anita where he and his wife Louise have lived for twenty-seven years and raised their now-grown son Dakota. With background sounds of wind chimes, bird song, and the occasional rumble of a passing train, Scott graciously shared his thoughts with me. He talked about respecting history, thoughtful caretaking and management of the land, the sense of community, and the unceasing wonder of being here.
NEVER TAKE IT FOR GRANTED
CW: We generally start out with you telling me your place and date of birth.
SM: Well, to back up a little, my family is from West Virginia and Ohio, and in 1950 my mother and father got married in Las Vegas on the way to California. I was the first McIntyre to be born out here, on July 2, 1952. They settled in the San Fernando Valley and a guy up the street was one of the original balsa wood surfers from Malibu, and that’s how I got into surfing.
CW: So you’re a native Californian.
SM: Yeah, the first in my family. So that would give you a little background. The surfing would let you know how I ended up here [at the Hollister Ranch] in the beginning.
CW: So when did you start to hear about this place?
SM: Oh, it was on the cover of Surfing Magazine in 1966. I was already a surfer as a little kid, so when it was on the cover, I said, okay, let’s check this place out, so we drove up and walked in. We surfed Razors. That was well before kook cords, as we called ‘em then…now they call ‘em surf leashes.
We used to surf Razors…and the guys who were here then, the Santa Barbara Surf Club, man, it was a little bit different in those days. There was a little more lawlessness going on then. They’d stone us from the road up above. People throwing boulders on us! We would be dodging rocks down the beach. It was an exciting place to come visit.
CW: Because members of the surf club were very proprietary about people coming to what they felt was their place?
SM: Yeah. A “locals” kind of thing. So we’d be coming in in the late 1960s and they’d be throwing boulders at us from the cliff.
CW: When you say “we”, you mean just you and your buddies?
SM: Yeah, me and my buddies. We had a little group. Valley surfers. Malibu was just over the hill, so we were the Vals, the Valley guys that surfed.
CW: So someone had a car…
SM: Yeah, or we got our parents to take us. When I first started surfing, my mom and dad would make me work one weekend all weekend at the house, and the next weekend they would drive me to the beach. So it was every other weekend. And I actually rode my bike to the beach a few times.
CW: So I’m trying to picture it. There wasn’t a gatehouse then. Or was there?
SM: There was a gatehouse out at the top of the state park. There was a guy in a trailer there.
I came through with a girlfriend from Lompoc once, and she talked her way in, so we actually got to drive in once in the late ‘60s. That was pretty neat.
CW: It was not The Ranch yet.
SM: It was all MGIC…no, it wasn’t even MGIC then. It was still the Hollisters. The old Rancho Santa Anita. It was the Hollister Ranch, but it was called Rancho Santa Anita.
As soon as I got out of high school, I moved up to Rincon and was taking care of a ranch back in Rincon. Six months out of the year the guy would go to Mexico and let me take care of the ranch. It was an 11-acre ranch, and we got rid of the ceanothus and planted lemons and cherimoyas and avocadoes. He’d go to Mexico in the winter, and I’d take care of the ranch so I could surf Rincon. It was perfect. He’d come back in the summer, and I started working here [at Hollister Ranch] around 1974, all through the summers…’74, ’75, ’76, ’77, ’78. And then in ’79, when MGIC had sold enough parcels, it became an owners’ association, and they said you have to hire your own people, and that’s how I got hired.
Those early years at the Ranch…one of my first jobs was working for Sam Scranton, up Las Panoches Canyon. We were planting Gypsophila, baby’s breath. Then I came over here, to Santa Anita Canyon, and we made 18,000 adobe blocks for Steve and Evelyn Roberts, and they built that first house up Santa Anita. In fact, Evelyn Roberts was just here visiting. I’ve known her forever.
Then we did a little dam for the Goodalls over there, a little dam up Santa Anita. We did foundations for Peter and Diane Vanderhave. Steve Roberts first hired me, and then I went out with Bruce Gale, and he hired me. I got to meet Joe and Jane [Hollister] Wheelwright, which was a real treat. I worked on their house in the mid-70s. They were super good people. In fact, when Jane wrote her book, The Ranch Papers, in the mid-80s, she inscribed it for me: “To Scott and Louise, old-timers” and we had to chuckle, ‘cause we were just kids, but we’d been here for ten years at that point. Not that many people were here. So she called us old-timers.
And then she said: “Plant native.” I’ve always kind of followed that advice.
And Joe, he scrawled in his almost illegible writing…probably his eye sight was already going by then…”perhaps you could add to the pool”.
SM: Dakota! [Scott and Louise’s son.] So we’ve been lucky that way too.
CW: It’s like you had the blessing of the elders.
SM: I know. It was really neat.
CW: So…I’m just gonna backtrack a bit…
SM: Sorry, I’m going really fast.
CW: No, this is great. You first began working here, for various people at the Ranch, in the 70s…
SM: Actually, when I was still working in the hills behind Carpinteria up Rincon Creek…before I was taking care of that ranch…we rented a house with a bunch of surfers, and one of the surfers was Rick Schock. I used to boat up here with Rick in the early ‘70s. Rick talked his dad into buying part of a parcel. We were camping in the creek here at Santa Anita in 1974. In fact, I have a picture, to show you how far I’ve come in the wrong direction. (laughter)
CW: Oh my gosh.
SM: That gives you an idea how long I’ve been here. That’s Rick and me at Bulito cabaña…you know, the old cabaña.
CW: With that iconic cliff formation in the background. You can tell where it is.
SM: Exactly. Here’s another one, of me and Weezie a couple of years later, up on de la Cresta. Look how young we were! (laughter)
CW: You’re still here. It’s great that you have such continuity in this place. And I’m jumping all over the place too, but since you mentioned Jane and Joe, do you have any anecdotes about them to share?
SM: Well, Joe was much more jovial. You knew ‘em. Joe was jovial, and Jane was a little more close to the vest. But she was a sweetie, and I was just lucky to get to know the older people. Jo was always cracking me up. When he started losing his eye sight, he really appreciated you saying, “Hey Joe! What’s goin’ on?! It’s Scott.” He’d go, “Thank you, Scott.”
But we got to work up there, and be around them. They were like, 75, 80, but yet they were so, so young at heart.
CW: I tried to interview them once. I went up with John Kiewit, sometime in the 1990s, and I was thrilled, but she was quite deaf by then, and he was blind, and they were both old and frail. John shook his head afterwards as we drove back down the mountain, and he said to me, “You missed them. What you’re seeing…those are only shadows of who they used to be. These people were so extraordinary, you have no idea.”
SM: Yeah. You know something? I’m thinking now that they weren’t 75 or 80 when I met ‘em. They were probably in their 50s or 60s! But I was only 20, so it seemed to me they were old. (laughter) Yeah, I thought they were so old! They drove that old Citroen that raised up and down and stuff. Remember that? The silver Citroen?
CW: Is it true they’d slow down slightly as they passed through the gate and hand the guard a bottle of whiskey at Christmas?
SM: I don’t know. I wasn’t ever a gate guard. Actually…wait a minute…I was! I’ve gotta add this to my story…
CW: Add it on.
SM: It doesn’t matter if I jump around, right?
CW: Heck no, let’s not be linear.
SM: Okay, so in 1979 I was one of the first guys hired [after MGIC], and they put me at the gatehouse. I sat at the gate during the day, and we had a log sheet that would handle about twenty cars per log sheet, and it was a huge day if half a log sheet got filled. There were many days that I would get two, three, or four entries per day. That’s a huge difference from the way it is now. I mean, to sit at the gate all day and have only three cars come in? Now you can have, like hundreds, in a day.
CW: That’s very interesting. That’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about: the differences that you’ve witnessed since you came here.
SM: Well, the number of people coming in, that just accents the difference. One of the first years here, I was mowing on a tractor, and I came out at Cuarta, almost to the main road, and I broke a tractor pin, which we carry on the tractor, but I’d already broke a couple of ‘em, so I had to walk out to the main road hoping to catch a ride to the barn. And I got out to the main road in the middle of the day and I walked all the way to the barn…it was before we had radios, even…walked all the way to the barn, got a pin…there was nobody at the barn either…and I walked all the way back to Cuarta, and I never saw a car coming either way that could have picked me up. There was never a car. That won’t happen today.
Here’s another example. I was talking to my friend the other day, an owner here, and I said here’s something to think about. He asked me the same question, what are some of the differences? We have a stack of “Road Closed” signs behind the barn, a whole bunch of ‘em, with chains on ‘em, and every year, at the first rain, except Las Panoches (we called Panoches the main artery ‘cause it went up to de la Cresta, and MGIC had built that house up at 22, and they had Gerschenbergs’ stone house and a couple of houses up Panoches…) but there were no culverts on any of the roads, so we closed ‘em for the winter, all winter long. That was 1978, ’79, a big El Niño year. Someone asked me, “How did you do that? How did people get to their houses?” And I said, “That’s the point. There were no houses.”
And in 1980, Charlie Eckberg was the manager at the time, and he hired Tom Tittle to help come backhoe, and we put in ninety culverts that year so people would be able to use the road system during the winter. At least it was dry. Because with no culvert, the rain would come, and it would just…there’d be creeks everywhere… no way to cross over. So all the creeks would wash the roads out every winter, and they’d put ‘em back together in the summer, but we’d close all the ranch roads for the winter. Isn’t that something?
CW: So who are some of the early people who came?
SM: When I first moved in here…I was over on Parcel 70… there was nobody here but cowboys and farmers. And they’re like, “You surf?” And I’m like, “Well…I used to.” It was a little bit of culture shock, ‘cause you know, here I’m movin’ into guys that do the backhoe, drink their beer, and cook their meat, and I’m comin’ from surfing and granola and peace and love and stuff.
Let me see. Paul Taylor was here then. I didn’t know Paul very well, but I knew Steve and Sharon Grimes, they live where Johnny McCarty lives now. They were really nice folks; they took Rick and I in for dinner quite a few times. John McCarty and his wife Diana were here; they were very young at the time. Bobby and Vickie Cota. Charlie was my boss, so I saw Charlie and Kelly a lot. But other than that, it was Jo and Jane, and cheez…the Schracks were here, remember the Schracks? They had parcel 5?
CW: I wasn’t here yet. I was still in New York. (laughter) What about the Cossarts?
SM: Kit and Beverly? It was Spencer I first met, and Spencer and I were playing pick-up basketball over there by Goodalls, who had a court. I really liked Spencer a lot. I knew Spencer way more than I knew Beverly and Kit…they were his kids. Spence and I just hit it off right off the bat. So they had the house off San Augustine.
And the Brady ranch was up over there, what they call San Augustine Horse Ranch, that was the Brady ranch, ‘cause that was the people that owned it before. And George Bignotti built up San Augustine, he was Mr. Indianapolis raceway mechanic, and also Andy Granitelli owned over there, and Granitelli sold to this guy Dick and his wife Pat Goodall who invented the artichoke heart-picking machine. Bob Noe and Tom Van Dyke, down at parcel 16, they were here in the summers. Obviously parcel 8 was there when David Lawler built up there…Bruce came later…actually, David didn’t build it, this guy named Steve built it. A lot of the names have changed, but I remember the first houses going up.
CW: Was there a sense of community?
SM: I would say it felt like a real community in those early days because we were out here, so far out here, together. It was an enlightened kind of feeling, like we’re all in this together. It’s a matter of size. When you’re in a small group, you’re closer. As a group gets pretty big, you splinter off in different directions. It just seems that’s how it is…
CW: I’m wondering about differences between people who actually live here versus people for whom this is a place to just visit…I wonder if they might have a different feeling about it.
SM: That’s a real astute observation. You start going up these canyons, and they’re all second homes now. Back then, everyone was living here and a lot of people thought they’d live here forever, but they’ve come and gone.
CW: Monte and I talk about this often. How can we stay here, as we get older? In a lot of ways it’s not an easy place to be. What does it mean to you, living here? I’ve always felt that it’s such a special place, because you can’t ignore the outdoors, nature…
SM: Well, that’s why I came here. When I first came here and saw… Jalama’s all part of it, Point Conception…this whole part of what the Chumash called the Western Gateway…to heaven. There is that feeling that this is a real special place…
And, jumping around, thank God we didn’t have the LNG port up in Cojo. That would have really changed the game. If they would have put in a tanker portico and a breakwater and trucks going through here all the time…that's the biggest fight we ever won. That was huge. The pipeline, maybe you can live with it, but having trucks going through here all the time and a huge facility at Cojo, that would have been terrible.
I’ll never take this place for granted because it is so spiritual in its existence.
But at the same time, it’s been my workplace for 37 years, so you can’t hide that aspect of it. And there are some strong personalities here, some people who have never been told no. A few.
But I’ll never take it for granted. I tell everyone, never take it for granted. It’s still the Western Gateway. It’s still God’s best creation.
It’s just my job that makes me want to change paths a little bit at this point. And I’ve done my time. I’m not leaving early, I’m not leaving in the middle, I’m not even leaving late…I’m leaving late-late. I’ve done my 37 years for this Ranch and 42 over all.
CW: What an amazing job, though. I mean, all this has been your office! I always picture you outdoors.
SM: I’m out all the time. In fact, when the computer age came in, I thought, “I could get stuck on this thing doin’ google earth or just learning like an encyclopedia, but if I’m just sittin’ in an office staring at a screen, I’m not doin’ my job. I’m supposed to be the caretaker for 14,000 acres. I gotta be out!” I won’t even see a part of the ranch maybe for a year sometimes, and I realize that’s too long.
CW: What’s your official title?
SM: Property and maintenance chief.
CW: At the risk of interrupting, I just want to say that I feel grateful we’ve had you here for all these years, someone who knows this place so thoroughly and cares about it.
SM: I do care. And I have walked pretty much every square inch of it.
CW: You’re feeling pretty good about the way you’re leaving this place?
SM: What I encountered in the 1970s was: “Here, fix this.” There’d been a lot of years of people not thinking about erosion and invasive weeds. So I’ve been really pleased with turning these roads into grass-lined roads, instead of just thistle, where you couldn’t even walk on the edges of the road. There was nothin’ but five-foot thistle everywhere back then, and roads with big erosion.
I’m really proud of all the weeds I’ve eradicated…a lot of the noxious, invasive weeds. I don’t think there’s any more castor beans (Ricinus communis) on the whole ranch. We had nine and a half miles of that Arrundo donax, that giant reed, and there’s only one patch left, over at Agua. We got ‘em all off the beach, the Arrundo donax, and we’ve been workin’ on the fennel, even though it smells great. And in the early days the co-op did a fantastic job in Alegria at gettin’ rid of that artichoke thistle…remember? And we’ve had this other bad thistle called the purple star thistle that we’ve been workin’ on.
And all the culverts we put in for drainage. I kid people, ‘cause I don’t have an official degree, I say, “I have a degree in ECT… erosion control technician…” That’s my forte. I look at stuff and see where the water needs to go without causing any damage. In the old days, people concentrated and discharged waters, and that’s a really bad practice.
It’s all about being pre-emptive. You have to know what to look for. You can save so much money by just preventing the problem before it happens.
CW: Any other memories from when you first came here?
SM: You know one of the saddest things? Sammy Anderson, who I worked under…he built all these roads for the developer in the beginning and I kinda got to work under him…he said it wasn’t until like 1969 or ’70 that they sent him over to the railroad town at Drakes and they bulldozed the whole thing down because the developer didn’t want people to see anything ugly. And they took away all the old farm implements! That stuff was still there in 1970! Can you imagine if we had an 1880s, 1890s Chinese railroad town still sittin’ over there? And they dozed it all.
CW: Some people have no sense of history. They have no sense of the past.
SM: Right. I know. It was there until almost 1970, and then they got rid of it.
CW: Do you remember seeing any of it?
SM: I’ve seen pictures. It was over there in all those eucalyptus trees, right as you go down to Drake’s beach road. You look over to all those eucalyptus trees…there used to be a little bridge that crossed over the tracks there. In fact, there was a tunnel from there that went all the way over to Sacate. There’s a picture in the office…I’ll show you if you come in the office sometime…I thought, this must be where the golden spike was, ‘cause you can see the tracks coming from both ways, and there’s just a bunch of dirt, and I could never figure out what it was, and I figured out it was from the tunnel…
CW: So you’re saying these were the Chinese workers who were brought in to build the railroad?
SM: Yeah! From what history I know, the Chinese did a lot of the railroad work, so a town sprang up around it, just a little bunch of shanties and houses right there in the eucalyptus trees. All dozed.
And think of all the farm implements. A hundred and fifty years of ranching around here, and it’s all gone. They just carted it off ‘cause they didn’t want anybody to see it. Every one of us would love to have one of those implements at our driveway! It’s yard art now! (laughter)
CW: So…do you have a favorite spot on this ranch?
SM: Oh God, there’s a lot of ‘em…one thing I really like about everybody that owns property out here is that they all think their place is the best of all. And I love that. How can you argue when someone goes, “I think mine’s the best”? I go, “It is, man…it is!” (laughter) I love that part.
CW: Maybe this is kind of a “new age” type of question, but I do wonder: don’t some places out here seem to emanate some kind of spiritual feeling? Like there’s something almost sacred about it. Do you get that sometimes?
SM: There are moments of epiphany being out here. Just this overwhelming…how gorgeous it is. It might be at night, even. Sometimes at night, with the warm winds and the stars…or early morning, or sunset or something. In the middle of the day, you’re working, there’s people driving around, you don’t think about that stuff, but when you slow down and actually look around, it’s all still here. Which is great. I mean, it’s always still gonna be here. There’s a few more people comin’ in, but overall, it’s not too bad.
CW: I hope so. There are always threats. We had to step up when there was that big movement to turn it into a national seashore. It sounded good to some on the surface, but the reality would have been bad.
SM: Yeah, I know. When you look at the fine print. Oh, they want hotels and gas stations along the Gaviota coast? No!
CW: It’s ironic, because the reason this place has remained relatively pristine is because it is such an unusual arrangement of ranching, managed access, and people living here but trying to minimize their impacts…
SM: I know. And I hope the whole Gaviota coast remains somewhat the same.
CW: So what kind of advice would you give to your successor in this position, or even to future generations of people living here? You can be specific or broad in your response.
SM: I would say plant native. A wise old woman told me that. I’m just passin’ it down the line.
As far as my successor, I would tell them to treat everybody the same…all the owners the same…whether they’re your best friend or you don’t particularly care for ‘em. It’s just a matter of bein’ professional and courteous.
CW: I’ve often wondered about this, Scott. Is there a dichotomy in the social structure here? Like are there owners who think, like, “I’m the owner, I’m the boss of you, I’m more important than you…” ?
SM: Sure, I’ve had that happen. Like at the beach at times. Some new owner will come up and say, “They let you go to the beach?” Like I’m supposed to be stuck on the porch with my ball and chain. Yeah. (laughter) You’re gonna get that once that in a while. Okay, I’ve got a couple of funny stories for you.
Remember Adalberto? The older Mexican gentleman that used to work at the cabañas? He would sing sometimes. He was an older Mexican guy. He was here for quite a few years. Anyway, we put in the outside showers at all the cabañas, and we asked everybody to use the outside showers to rinse off before you go inside, and take all the sand and junk from your wetsuit. So he was at Drake’s cabaña once, and he says some guy comes off the beach, covered with sand in his wetsuit, and takes off his booties at the outside sink, at the counter, where we all have our buffets and everything…he takes ‘em off and starts to rinse all his dirty sand and everything right down the sink, and Berto said, “No, no…rinse shower…shower over there.” And the guy says, “Don’t worry. Don't worry. I’m an owner.” (laughter) Now that’s a funny story. Wait, don’t worry, I’m an owner. (laughter) That’s not the point! So when you ask me about people…yeah, there are a few of those too. But most of ‘em are nice.
CW: I guess you meet all kinds, no matter what your job is.
SM: Okay, here's another funny story. One of the toilets had clogged all the way up because kids or whoever puts paper towels in there, and they don’t flush down, so people need to use it and the toilet fills up all the way and we have to like make a puree to try to get it to go down. Some owner comes in while we were doing that, and he goes, “You guys get to be here for free…don’t you?” (laughter) Not a good time to be sayin’ that!
I can laugh at ‘em, so they’re funny stories. Let me tell you one more. I was at a finance committee meeting once and we were going through the budget, and this lady goes, “I see you spent thirty dollars for a shovel. I can get one for fifteen.” That’s how minute they were going into detail. And I said, “Well, I can get one for ten or even five. But I need one that’s gonna last, so I spent thirty.”
And then this other guy says, “A thousand dollars for cold mix. What’s cold mix?” And I said, “Well, that’s the asphalt that we buy for potholes.” And he says, “Potholes? I don’t think we need to be worried about potholes.” So they just summarily crossed off that thousand dollars’ worth of funding for the cold mix that year. That was on a Friday afternoon finance meeting.
So here’s the funny part of the story. Monday morning I get a call from some lady saying, “Scott, the potholes out here are getting so bad on the way to our house it’s rattling my fillings! You need to get out here and fill ‘em.” Yeah. And guess who the lady was? The wife of the guy who didn’t think we needed to worry about potholes! Isn’t that great? I smiled, but didn’t say anything. “I’ll get out there and fix ‘em.” We still had a little bit of mix left.
But that shows you how diverse this place can be. Even within the same household, you’ve got one person wantin’ something, and one person just the opposite. I think that’s pretty indicative of how diverse this place is.
CW: You’ve done okay for all these years. What’s the source of your strength? What do you draw upon when you’re feeling shaky?
SM: This. Nature. The place. For sure, just being out here is a huge source of strength.
And obviously I only added to my life strength by my wife.
And just trying to do the right thing, you know. Tell the truth and do the right thing. There’s nothing to be worried about then.
CW: And what gives you hope? I always like to ask people that. What do you feel good about? What makes you feel like maybe we’re gonna be okay?
SM: Wow. That’s a great question. A lot of people our age are sayin’, “It’s over. It’s never gonna be fixed.” But I brought a child into this world, so I want to be optimistic. You have one too. I want to be an optimist. I want to say, “You know what? Maybe we can work it out. Maybe we can get better.”
I look at the pollution of the ‘60s, where you couldn’t even breathe. We fixed that. The Cuyahoga River...Lake Erie was on fire. So we have done some good things. And at least we're keeping our eye out now. Our river's not on fire. We have air we can breathe. So that gives me a little hope.
CW: Maybe we’re not so much in denial now. Right? Like, people admit climate change is a real thing.
SM: Hundreds of thousands of scientists all agree. You’ll always find a couple of anomalies, who say no, there’s no such thing, but most people recognize what’s going on.
I wanna have hope for my son and his generation, and I wanna have hope just because I think having hope is the right thing to do, instead of being negative.
CW: I agree, Scott. I think sometimes we have to act in hopeful ways even if we don’t feel that hopeful. And then it kinda kicks in.
SM: Also, I really love my plants. I love nurturing plants. That’s always a hopeful thing. You put it in a pot and hope it grows. You put it in the ground and hope it grows. That’s simple hope right there. It’s mindless work but it gives you pleasure.
You’ve got your macadamia trees down there. It’s fun to watch those year after year. And the citrus trees you have! My God! The one with those giant grapefruits! And the oranges. That kinda stuff. That’s good hope stuff.
CW: My mother-in-law, Nancy, is the lady of the trees. She's been tending to things for years. I see her out there sometimes just looking at those trees.
SM: That’s like my mother. She didn’t go to church much but somebody asked her once, “What do you believe in?” She said, “I believe in the trees. And the oceans. And the skies.”
CW: That’s beautiful. What was your mom’s name?
SM: Betty Lou. A Virginia girl. Betty Lou. She made front page LA Times once in the 60s. She was a police officer. A little thing like you, but she was a sergeant. It said, WOMAN NAMED SERGEANT. Oh my God, what’s this world comin’ to? (laughter)
CW: How many children did she have?
SM: Three. I was the oldest. I had a sister three years younger and a brother five years younger.
CW: And your mom, is she deceased now?
SM: No, she’s still alive. She’s ninety.
CW: Oh, I’m happy to hear that.
SM: Yeah. She’s having short term memory loss, big time.
CW: Where is she?
SM: She’s in Marin. When they came to California and raised us all….my home movies look like Bonanza!...in fifteen, twenty years it was just a crowded metropolis and smog. They raised those kids and then moved to Wickenburg, Arizona and lived there for the last forty years of their lives together. And then my pop died a few years ago and my sister and brother live up in Marin and they brought her up there near then.
CW: Oh, she’s so fortunate. That’s great.
SM: She was somethin’. She was a top-notch shot, too. You walk into her house, and the whole wall was trophies and the center was a black and white of my mom like this, with a gun, and she was the sweetest lady. She was like an angel. She was amazing. She was a tom girl. She grew up and her oldest sister was the babe of the family, she had all the boyfriends, the good-looker, even though my mom looked the same. But she was like a coach. She joined the WACS and drove the trucks in World War II down at the army bases in North Carolina with all the guys in the back and she’d be driving that big truck around for ‘em. Yeah...she was somethin’.
CW: Apart from your mom, and I’m sure Louise…is there anyone in your life that’s been a real hero or mentor to you that comes to mind? There might be many such people…
SM: That’s a really hard question. (pauses) It’s pretty sad that I can’t just pop ‘em off from the top of my head. It’s more like figures that you would read about in a book, more like prophets or Jesus, heavy weights, rather than people in my real life that I know.
I mean, Joe and Jane (Hollister Wheelwright). They were about as cool people I looked up to as anyone I can think of.
CW: So you’re about to face a pretty big change in your life, Scott. Do you have any thoughts on how you’re gonna navigate that? The reason I’m asking is that I’m sort of in that situation myself…
SM: Are you 65 yet?
CW: Not quite, but I’m basically…
SM: Well, I hear 65 is pretty good ‘cause you get to go on Medicare. I still got two years to go on that…
CW: But I think for all of us, maybe not Louise, who’s still working a lot, but for many of us…I’m not working a full-time job, my daughter is gone and doesn’t need me anymore…it’s almost like you have to re-invent your life at this stage.
SM: Mine will be simple. My knees and my hips still work. Kinda. So I wanna use ‘em before I’m 75 and maybe they don’t. So I have a short window there, where I wanna go out on the earth and simply walk the planet. In all these places I’ve wanted to go. I don’t need to go to Paris or London. I just wanna see my backyard, meaning the American West. From Colorado to New Mexico to Utah to Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Idaho….There’s so much out there.
CW: Hiking? Camping?
SM: Yeah, just hiking! I mean, my dad threw us in the station wagon when we were kids and took us camping every weekend. It’s in my blood. He took me backpacking when I was five years old. My mom’s got movie pictures of it. I look like a walking pack ‘cause my head… my arms come out at the sides and then there’s just these two little legs…it’s like a walking pack.
Thank God for me that I can get great enjoyment out of something so simple as just walking the earth.
And that’s what I wanna do. Just walk the earth.
I’m not afraid of work either, so I’ll definitely be looking for work, ‘cause I plan to stay in California and it’s hard to make it here. But for a little while I’m looking forward to finding out what a weekday is like, ‘cause it’s always been a work day for me. I’m gonna find out what a Tuesday or a Wednesday is. I haven’t known one in almost a lifetime.
CW: You have a house in Buellton, right?
SM: We have a house in Buellton. And I have my getaway. Cuyama...
CW: It’s sort of odd…the idea of this place without you. You and Louise are so connected to this community.
SM: Louise is having a harder time than I am, ‘cause she gets to go to work and come home…she just looks at this place and it’s nothing but beauty, and to me, a lot of times, it’s nothing but work.
CW: Maybe you can start seeing it differently.
SM: I’ll come back and visit. I’m in no hurry. People say “How are you gonna get on?” I’m going, no…look at me. I wanna get off.
CW: You just need some time.
SM: Exactly. I need some time. Vision quest.
CW: You know you’ll always be welcome here. You have so many friends.
SM: I know. I can call anybody and say, “Hey, can I come out and take a walk on the beach today?” And anybody would say yeah.
CW: Please include us. My mother-in-law, in fact, told me to say hello to you, and appreciates the work you’ve done.
SM: Hey you know, guess what? Your mother-in-law [Nancy Ward] is somebody I respect. And your father-in-law. Years ago, when all those trees came down on my house, I didn’t have any insurance. He pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet and says, “Here you go.” What a cool thing. I was like…thanks. I had lost all my cars, all my stuff…but what a cool thing! He was the only one who thought of helping. He just goes, “Here.” What a cool thing. I’ll never forget that.
CW: By his standards that probably was a lot of money.
SM: I know. I’ll never forget that. We lost a lot, but he was the one that actually opened his wallet and said, here, hope this helps a little.
But your mother-in-law, she’s in that Jane Hollister mode of planting native. She’s given me sycamores…I can show you where they’re at. All the ones she’s given me are doing well.
CW: Yeah, she really is a steward of the land.
SM: She’s been very helpful as far as the roads. Both her and Monte (Sr.), they were like pioneers in terms of getting the road system going up here. They’ve been good backers to me. They’ve done a lot.
Anyway, you guys have to come out to Cuyama sometime. I had a little lot in Tahoe that I bought in 1980 with Bruce Gale with paperboy money I’d made as a kid and saved it up. Like a fool I didn’t buy a twelfth here, I didn’t wanna spend it all in one spot. If I buy this place in Tahoe I’ll have a little bit left over. Anyway, after 25 years I sold it and went looking for a place by the beach, and about 60 miles inland at Cuyama is about as close as I could get. (laughter) But it’s pretty neat. I like it. To tell you the truth, I was actually looking for somewhere rural, ‘cause the coast is where everybody is. I call it Saturday Ranch ‘cause I go out there every Saturday and work on it. We’ve had it for ten years now, and I’m pretty happy about it now.
CW: Is there anything else you wanna say while we're sitting here talking?
SM: I’ll just say that most of the people here are nice people. A lot of times you hear people saying all you people at Hollister are this or that, but in any neighborhood, any country, any part of the world, you’re gonna go ten houses up the street and find the grumpy old man or the mean old lady, and we’re about the same. One in ten. You know what I mean? So with 1100 owners, you’re gonna have a hundred of ‘em that are mean. That’s no different than living in a town or village anywhere.
CW: I also think that you’re a nice person and so you elicit niceness…often times it’s the attitude we project that comes back to us.
SM: I’ve got another little funny story. One of the guys that had been a thorn in my side forever, that told me I could never do anything right and he was the expert on everything, I told him I was leaving, and he said, “You can’t leave. You’re the expert!” And I said, “Now that I’m leaving I’m the expert. All these years I didn’t’ know anything, but now that I’m leaving I’m the expert.” Isn’t that funny? (laughter) You can only laugh at ‘em.
CW: I think having a sense of humor will serve you well in any situation. So, any final wisdom, message, philosophy, or advice?
SM: I think we started by saying treat everyone the same, plant native, and really just stay on the erosion. But I guess that’s all work-related. The other thing is just be here now. Enjoy every day. We don’t know what’s gonna happen at any moment.
CW: It’s an interesting age we’re at, isn’t it?
SM: Yeah. We’ve already had a full life.
CW: Isn’t amazing how fast it all went? It blows my mind.
SM: I know. We’re in our sixties. We’ve had a total full life….a total full life. I mean, if we were to pass away now, we’ve still had a full life.
CW: Yeah. I hope it doesn’t happen but it would be hard to feel too sorry for us.
SM: My mom, thank God, she’s got short-term memory loss, so she’s over wanting to die. (laughter) When she was about 85, she goes, “Okay. I’m done. I’ve had this incredible life. I’m done.” And she called in hospice without any of us knowing. Hospice goes, “M’am, you need to be showing signs that you’re in the last six months of life.” She goes, “No, I’m ready.” (laughter)
Now she can’t even remember that that’s what she wanted. It was right after my dad died. She was, like, “I don’t wanna be without him. I’ve had an incredible life. I’m done. I don’t wanna be a glutton.” My dad died of a stroke at 87. He had a stroke and was gone in a week. My brother goes, “Sign me up for that.”
CW: I’ve been thinking about that a lot. My mother died just a few months ago and this sort of thing is on my mind.
SM: I’m sorry. How was her mental state?
CW: The last couple of years were hard. It was very depressing because the quality of her life was not good. But she was so game, such a trooper. She tried hard to make the best of things. She was brave. But there really comes a point, in my opinion…I mean, I don’t necessarily want to live to be 95 or 100. Unless I’m the rare exception.
SM: Right. Unless you’re still bikin’ up those steep hills like you do. If you can still bike up that steep hill…
CW: Yeah, if I'm still doing that and making sense, okay. But I don’t want to end up in some institutional setting where no one knows or cares who I am…
SM: That’s my mom’s problem right now. She just went from independent living. She couldn’t do it by herself anymore. So now she moved into assisted living.
CW: That’s where my mom was. At least your siblings are nearby, though. That makes a huge difference. But anyway, here we are, Scott. A nice moment.
SM: Yeah, here we are. Thank you for listening to me talk on and on. A lot of guys don’t like to talk too much, but I can talk.
CW: I really think it takes a certain generosity of spirit to sit and share, and I thank you for that.
SM: Well, if there’s anything positive that I can pass on to others, anything useful we can take out of my experiences, that’s good.
CW: You’re putting your voice in the archives. You’re part of the history of this place. So many people come and go. I just think it’s really important to hear their voices and write their thoughts down.