The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Those Valleys of home

The Spirit of Tehachapi


The Tehachapi, Brite's and Cummings Valleys are all sheltered with surrounding mountains which seem to protect us from the sweltering desert on one side and the heat from the great San Joaquin Valley on the other. In past years when someone would say to me, "Oh it has never been this hot !" or "It has never ever been this cold before!" I always answer, "Yes it has." It's true. There's not too much new in weather around here that hasn't happened before.

This past summer with its consistent hot days – day after day – seems to have been vying for its year in the sun. You'd think we were Bakersfield or Mojave! That isn't the Tehachapi way. We're used to a variety of weather; sometimes all in one day. We've always told people that if they don't like the weather, just wait a while.

I'll bet a few hundred years ago, or more, the early residents of our valleys, the Kawaiisu, were sometimes heard to say, " mutz taru'id " which translates into, "very hot." * Those long ago residents of the three valleys, called themselves "nüwa" (the people). One can surmise that during a hot day they might have taken a quick dip in a convenient mountain stream or small lake which were plentiful. Moving forward a hundred years or more and things began to change geologically.

The experts have theories as to why our water levels are lower, why it's hot, why it's cold, etc. I am glad they're trying to figure it out. Some say, civilization. That's a good bet. Get a bunch of people together and they use more water, cut down forests, build cities - polute the air with industry. Wait, though, some say it's the earthquake we had sixty-five years ago. Why not toss that in, too? Then comes the big one; Global Warming! Of course, blame the past summer on Global Warming and be done with it. Blame everything on that and get on with our lives.

The once flowing streams are now dry gullies and the lakes that I used to view with pleasure are more like mud holes. Brite Lake is still good but remember, it is a man made lake. Need a lake? Make one!

Still, I do recall that in 1937 when my father had a farm in the Old Town area, we had two year round running streams. Our dogs always had fresh, running water to drink. I remember hearing the frogs singing (croaking) us to sleep at night. The drinking water that was piped into our house came from a natural spring. The winter of '37 and '38 was wonderful for kids for it gave us great, deep snow during the year.

Dry farming was still big in the three valleys. Walter Brite, Frank Brite, Joe Leiva and farmers of the valleys, had fields of barley waving in the breeze and only mother nature's rain watering their fields. My father decided to plant sixty acres in oats instead of barley. There was no market for it so he sold the crop to a sheep man, and the herd feasted on that beautiful crop. I'll bet it was good.

The middle thirties found a new crop for the three valleys plus Sand Canyon: potatoes. They were beautiful, mostly russet potatoes but they did require ground water being pumped to keep them irrigated. Tehachapi citizens were on their toes and imported Feather River water in for irrigating.

During harvest time someone would dig a potato so large that it would be brought to Joe Sola's barber shop and it would be displayed in the shop window. While the potatoes were being dug the whole town was dusty.

Sometimes I will slip and call the large buildings next to the railroad tracks, potato sheds. Usually I will be corrected by someone who says, "You mean apple sheds." I just say that they were potato sheds first and their purpose was for assembly line production, sacking and readying potatoes for shipping by rail.

J.C. Jacobsen, long time grower in Tehachapi, once told me that at one time there were more than 5,000 acres under cultivation in the three valleys. Beginning about August the harvest required loading 100 railroad cars per day for a fifty day period.

Seeming to have strayed from the subject of the "long, hot summer," I can return long enough to say that when someone tells you on some future hot summer day, "It has never been this hot before!" you can tell them about the "summer of twenty seventeen." It can be filed away in the statistics with other hot summers. We'll wait and see how the winter turns out. Might as well do just that; wait and see. It's just as Mark Twin said, "Everyone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it."

*Local author, historian and native Tehachapi resident, Jon Hammond, is also fluent in the Kawaiisu language. He provided me with the two necessary Native American Kawaiisu words I needed.


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