Blaine Stevens: when a roll of barbed wire becomes a wheel
Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi
March 19, 2022
My family first came to the Tehachapi area in the early in 1930s, when my maternal grandparents Fred and Daisy Fisher left behind the Dustbowl in Oklahoma and came to California to better their lives. Fred went to work in Tehachapi for the Sasia ranching family, and also dry-farmed barley at the Fickert Ranch in Bear Valley. The Fishers lived just off Giraudo Road in Cummings Valley in an old house that was built in the late 1800s. If you dropped a marble on the floor of my grandparents' house, you'd better grab it quick or it might roll under the refrigerator or the stove. That house was really old and the floor was pretty uneven.
My other grandparents, Kenneth and Fanny Stevens, also came to Tehachapi for opportunity, moving from Idaho in 1937 so Kenneth could work at the Monolith at the cement company. They raised five children in Tehachapi: Earl, Daryl, Blaine, Carlene and Dwayne. Their oldest, Earl, was killed when he was about 16 in a car accident in Antelope Canyon, comin' down the dirt road from the Summit Limestone Company quarry. My parents, Dwayne and Charlotte Stevens, raised their kids -- Blaine, Craig, Sharon and Dee in Tehachapi too.
I started out young working on ranches and cowboying -- I spent the summer of my junior year in high school working for the Rankin Ranch. One time me and Bill Rankin were doing some fencing and replacing a fence post on the top of a towering hill. Big Bill hoisted one end of a railroad tie up on his shoulder and led the way up a very steep slope, while I put the other end on my own shoulder and struggled along behind. I was also carrying a new roll of barbed wire, which weighs about 90 pounds. Together we strained and sweated our way up, each footstep sliding back a little.
When we had finally reached the top, I was exhausted and I dropped the roll of barbed wire. But instead of falling flat, the damn thing wobbled and then rolled like a wheel and bounced back down the hill all the way to the bottom, hundreds of feet below. Bill just looked at me for second, then raised his hand and just said 'Bye' and I had to go all the way back down and fight that roll of wire back up a second time. I also worked at the Rankin Ranch on weekends during my senior year of high school, and then 40 years later I started coming back once a week to shoe their horses."
– Blaine Stevens
Blaine is an extremely knowledgeable cowboy and horseman. He was raised in Tehachapi and is a father of four and a grandfather who first learned the skill of horseshoeing in Porterville right after he graduated from high school in 1972. In the ensuing years, he spent a 30-year career as a cowboy and eventually cow boss at the famous Tejon Ranch, but he always kept shoeing horses and never got completely out of it. After he retired from the Tejon Ranch, he went back to shoeing horses on a weekly basis.