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Local News / Land Of Four Seasons


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  • Ron Hayton, the wizard of rattlesnakes

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jul 6, 2024

    There is a longtime Bear Valley Springs resident who has caught and safely relocated not dozens, or even hundreds, but literally thousands of rattlesnakes over the course of his life. His name is Ron Hayton, and he started catching rattlesnakes under his grandfather's tutelage when he was only five years old. Ron, 79, is a retired L.A. County fire captain, and decades ago he started the Snake Guys snake relocating service, providing free assistance for area residents. Ron's volunteer efforts...

  • A Winchester Model 1894 owned by only Native people

    Jul 6, 2024

    The late Nuwä elder Harold Williams had a Winchester Model 1894 lever-action carbine, the kind made famous by actor (and eventual Bear Valley Springs resident) Chuck Conners on the show The Rifleman. This gun, developed by famed firearm designer John Browning, became the one of the most popular non-military rifles ever made, with the millionth model being presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1927. The particular firearm owned by Harold Williams was first seen in the possession of a Nuwä I...

  • Pincher bugs: what are they, and why are there so many this year?

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 22, 2024

    If you have been finding lots of pincher bugs or earwigs in your house or yard this spring, you are not alone. It appears that 2024 has been a banner year for them. So let's look into what they are, and why there are so many this year. Pincher bugs are insects with forcep-like structures at the end of their abdomen called cerci, and these cerci are of course the source of the name pincher bug. Or "pinchy bug," as little Kylah started calling them when she was three. They are also called...

  • California Flannelbush: lighting up the hillsides

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    If you drive through the narrows of Banducci Road these days, between Brite Lake and the Alps Drive entrance to Alpine Forest, you'll see that the hillsides to the south are alight with the bright yellow blossoms of one of the Golden State's most epic shrubs: California Flannelbush (Fremontodendron californicum). A couple of hundred scattered shrubs, the size of old apple trees in an abandoned orchard, are glowing with the bright lemon yellow of their waxy flowers. The Flannelbush branches are...

  • Quotes worth sharing

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    "The beatings will continue until morale improves." – Bill Mead...

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    “You can hide de fire, but what you gwon do wit de smoke?” – Uncle Remus Fiber artist Nancy Yeager Rice framed this saying and hung it on her wall as a gentle reminder to visitors not to smoke around her textiles....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    “It’s like you create a pottery piece up until a certain point, and after that it’s up to the fire gods. There’s a degree of unpredictability. You can’t be a control freak and be a potter. Watercolor is the same way – I think that’s why it was easy for me to make the transition from watercolor to pottery.” – Sue Conrad Tehachapi artist Sue Conrad was a talented watercolorist for many years before becoming a highly regarded potter....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    “A day without sunshine. . . is a lot like night.” – Chalkboard at Kohnen’s Bakery...

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Chinese Proverb...

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    "I was involved in Scouting growing up and I also did a lot of camping and hunting, and I noticed that the most organized outdoorsman had the best time. If you're organized, you aren't having to spend time looking for a flashlight or a knife, or worrying about what you've misplaced or forgotten to bring." – Lennis Janzen Lennis Janzen is a longtime Tehachapi entrepreneur who started Crooked Horn Outfitters and has designed a variety of outdoor gear....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Jun 8, 2024

    "I failed shop class when I was in high school. And then many years later, Chuck Connors, who was my neighbor in Bear Valley, gave me some fence posts and old boards to burn, and instead I made a table out of them. One thing led to another and eventually I was supporting my family by making furniture. So many people go to jobs they don't like, but I love doing this, and getting paid for it is like butter on a biscuit." – Woodie Putnam Woody made furniture in Bear Valley Springs for years for h...

  • The biggest Joshua tree

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|May 28, 2024

    If a tree lives long enough in the right conditions, with a lifespan measured in centuries rather than years, it can grow so large that it dwarfs the rest of its kind. There is a Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) growing near California City that fits this description. It is simply a magnificent specimen, an amazingly large version of the familiar Joshuas that populate the Mojave Desert east of the Tehachapi Mountains. Different environments have what biologists call indicator species – d...

  • The creative artistry of bird's nests

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|May 11, 2024

    A male songbird darts down onto a sunny patch of bare soil and catches a few small insects in his bill. In the warm sunlight, he flies into a nearby tree and pauses there, clasping a branch. Then he flies to another perch in a different tree, and then another, and suddenly he swoops furtively into a leafy area and leans forward over a neat cup nest, as four little open mouths stretch upwards and clamor to be fed. A woven circular nest is keeping the next generation of birds warm and protected...

  • Vine-ripened Tomatoes: the home gardener's delight

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|May 11, 2024

    The best vegetables for home gardeners to plant are those that are hard to find in stores, like unusual varieties, or those whose flavor is most enhanced by being allowed to fully ripen before picking. These include melons like cantaloupes, honeydews and others, and of course one of the most treasured garden delights: tomatoes. You can buy tomatoes in the store year-round, of course, but they tend to thick walled, not very juicy, and not particularly flavorful. Varieties developed for...

  • Bird's Eye Gilia: a beautiful flower with secret markings

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    This wildflower year in the Tehachapi Mountains may not be a superbloom (whatever that means), but a slightly wetter than usual winter and spring has produced some beautiful flowering events here and there. One of the species that benefitted from this year's conditions is a gorgeous low-growing wildflower named Bird's Eye Gilia. This flower is not on most people's "wildflower must-see" list, but it should be, because these little blossoms are charmingly beautiful. Bird's Eye Gilia even has...

  • Quotes worth sharing

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    "When you're behind the curve, time moves twice as fast." – LeRoy Rice LeRoy is a retired Kern County Fire Captain and woodworker, heavy equipment operator and blacksmith....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “This is no hill for steppers.” – Sylva Peck Perry Sylva was a pioneering Kern County woman who was strong and indomitable, and she used this expression when someone was facing obstacles in life and needed to toughen up....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “Here comes my neighbor – he’s a big wheel. You know what a big wheel is? It’s something that goes around and around, and the dogs use it to piss on.” – Herbert Nelson Force Herb Force, a longtime Tehachapi historian and homespun philosopher whose observations tended to be a little cynical, said this in reference to his neighbor who was an elected official in the City of Tehachapi....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “New churches and new bars in Tehachapi tend to be well-patronized.” – Capt. Richard “Dick” Pitcher, USAF Ret. Dick Pitcher retired from a career in the Air Force and then had a second career at CCI in Cummings Valley. He was active in the Tehachapi Lions Club....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “Oh how I long to muse on the days of my boyhood, Though four score and three years have fled by since then, It brings sweet reflection, as every young joy should, For merry-hearted boys make the best of old men.” Lyric from The Bard of Armagh – Patrick Donnelly...

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “Don’t forget, when you marry someone, you’re not just marrying them, you’re also marrying into their family and getting all their relatives as well.” – Betty Mead...

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “You gotta run with whatcha brung.” – Stock Car Racing Rule This was an early rule in dirt track stock car racing, which meant that drivers couldn’t swap out a car or an engine if there were problems, but had to stick to the vehicle they brought. It applies equally well to people and their brains, since replacement isn’t an option and folks have to do the best they can with they have....

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    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 27, 2024

    “Living is tricky, like licking honey off a thorn.” – Old Folk Saying...

  • Pogonip: a rare weather condition comes calling on cold nights

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Apr 13, 2024

    This winter and spring we've had the good fortune to have an average amount of precipitation, about 11.5 inches worth of rain and snow. And though we have had snow, it was a pretty mild winter without exceptionally low temperatures, so we had almost no examples of an unusual weather condition called pogonip. The word pogonip is derived from a Shoshoni word for this phenomena, and it refers to what is basically frozen fog that forms on exposed surfaces during very cold, windy nights. The result...

  • Chia: a useful and unforgettable native plant

    Jon Hammond, contributing writer|Mar 30, 2024

    You never can tell from one year to the next which wildflowers will benefit most from that winter's combination of overall moisture, the timing of precipitation, air temperature, soil temperature, etc. One species that is doing very well this spring is remarkable plant known commonly as Chia. Chia (Salvia columbariae) is an annual plant commonly found growing on sandy or rocky hillsides, roadcuts, and sunny chaparral slopes throughout the Kern County mountains. Chia has a very distinctive...

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