Bud Lutge: a remarkable man who first came to Tehachapi when FDR was President
Land of Four Seasons
June 10, 2023
When Bud Lutge first started coming to Tehachapi in 1936, in many respects it was like another world from the Tehachapi of today: there were only about 1,000 people living in town and perhaps two hundred more in all the outlying areas combined, just a few roads were paved, and Bud's father Harry Lutge owned a 1,200-acre cattle ranch that stretched from Highline Road all the way up Water Canyon and encompassed the small lake and all the property now belonging to the Norbertine Associates of St. Joseph. Bud went on to live in Tehachapi for the next 80 years, until his passing at age 94 in 2016.
Despite his advanced age, Bud had amazing recall and could often name not just the year but the actual day and month that events in his life took place – he remembered without hesitation that he graduated from Burbank High School on February 1, 1940, for example, or that his cattle had to deal with a snowstorm in Antelope Canyon on May 1, 1941.
Bud was born in Burbank and began life on January 31, 1922, the son of Harry and Flossie Lutge. He was born at home on his family's 400-acre dairy, which was known as the Ideal Certified dairy. The property was later sold and subdivided, of course, and it included a portion of what is now Riverside Drive.
Bud's father Harry had grown up on a farm in Indiana and was a skilled cattleman who owned a succession of dairies – after he sold the Ideal Certified dairy, in 1929 he bought one where the Wayside Honor Farm (now called Pitchess Detention Center) is today in Hasley Canyon. He then had a dairy in Placerita Canyon, and he opened a creamery in Burbank to process the milk – it was first called Bear State Creamery, and later the name was changed to Burbank Creamery.
Bud's first job was driving a truck hauling 10-gallon cans of milk from the dairy in Placerita Canyon to the creamery in Burbank. As a teenager, Bud would have to stack the chilled 100-pound milk cans three high and rope them in to hold them in place for the half-hour drive to the creamery in a non-refrigerated truck. He learned to put his thigh, just above the knee, near the bottom of the heavy milk cans to help lift them so he could toss them into place.
Another of his earliest jobs was on a milk run for the creamery, delivering milk to struggling households who were "on relief," meaning that L.A. County would pay Burbank Creamery for the milk for these needy families – at a cost of two cents per quart, or eight cents for a whole gallon's worth of milk divided into four quart bottles.
Harry Lutge made a decision that would change the course of Bud's life when he bought the 1,200-acre ranch south of Highline Road in 1936 for $10,000 at a sheriff's sale, which probably meant that the property had either been foreclosed on or sold for unpaid property taxes. Harry later acquired another parcel that brought the total acreage to 1,640 acres. Bud would come up regularly to work on his father's ranch, which unlike Harry's other ventures was intended for beef cattle rather than dairy stock. Some of Bud's school friends would come up with him, and on one occasion, three of his teenaged friends climbed the hill above the Tehachapi Eastside Cemetery and rearranged the white painted rocks that formed a "T" for Tehachapi into a "B" for Burbank. "Of course Bakersfield got blamed for it," Bud smiled when telling me about it, thinking of the long-ago prank, "No one would think to blame kids from Burbank."
On one of these Tehachapi trips, Bud and one of his friends gave a ride to some Tehachapi girls who had walked into town to check for mail at the post office. One of them was a tall, beautiful Tehachapi girl named Helen Frerichs, who lived with her family in a house up in Antelope Canyon, near the old Summit Limestone Company lime kilns.
Antelope Canyon is a picturesque canyon located in between Blackburn Canyon, in what is now the Old West Ranch, and the property that is now Tehachapi Mountain Park. After meeting Helen, Bud was smitten. On November 14, 1941, Bud and Helen had Helen's brother Jim, who was two years younger, drive Helen down Antelope Canyon on the rambling, narrow dirt road to Highline Road, where Bud picked her up. "Everybody called Highline Road 'the Poleline' back then, and it was a dirt road too," Bud remembered. "We drove to Las Vegas and got married – we eloped. I was 19 years old and Helen was 18. She used to kid me that she was the one who was legal but I wasn't," Bud laughs. Oddly, the age for getting married without parental consent in those days was 18 years old for a girl, but 21 years old for a boy, so Bud was underage even those he was a year older than Helen.
Although the Frerichs would have preferred that Helen wait longer to get married, they knew that Bud was a young man of quality and they were happy that Helen chose him. As for Bud's parents, "Helen was German and my Dad was German too, so of course he approved completely," Bud told me.
The young couple moved into an old house on the Water Canyon ranch, and Bud bought 150 head of cows from Cananea, Mexico, to stock the ranch, and he also leased Antelope Canyon from the Wyman family for additional forage. "The cows had all been bred and were pregnant, and they were pretty wild too," Bud recalls. "There was usually cattle feed available by April 15, but it had been a stormy year and there wasn't hardly anything for them to eat yet, so we fed them bean straw hay. We ended up losing 17 head, and I called in a veterinarian and my Dad got a vet up there too, but they were never able to say for sure what killed those cows. We were able to save some of them by giving them a shot of 500 milligrams of calcium gluconate once they were down, but you'd have to keep one hand on the saddle horn, because sometimes that shot would work immediately and those cows were mean enough that they'd get up and come right at you. "
Bud soon got about 30 head of replacement cows shipped by train to Tehachapi, and they were unloaded at the railroad stock pens, which were located next to the tracks on railroad property, about where the parking lot for Kohnen's Country Bakery is now.
Early on the morning the cattle arrived, Bud, Helen and Helen's brother Jim Frerichs were on horseback and they opened the corral gates and started driving the 30 mostly Hereford cows up Curry Street. "The cows kept getting into people's yards and eating their plants as we moved them up Curry Street toward the mountains," Bud remembers, in what was surely one of the last cattle drives on foot up Curry Street. "It was kinda of mess but we got them up there, we just drove them right up to the old barn that sits at the mouth of Antelope Canyon. We went to move all the cattle further up into Antelope Canyon on May 1st and it was snowing, so we moved them into a more sheltered part of the canyon. I was worried about them – they weren't elk, they didn't know how to scratch through the snow to get feed, and they were from Mexico so they'd never seen snow before, but they did okay and we didn't lose any from the weather."
On October 30, 1942, a man walked to the Lutge ranch from the Uncle Sam Gold Mine in Water Canyon, telling Bud and Jim that he had heard an airplane crash. The miner was down in an underground tunnel when he heard the impact, so he was confused as to which direction the sound came from, but Bud and Jim set out on horses to see if they could find an accident site. The two young men saw a small amount of smoke rising from near Tehachapi Peak, so they set off in that direction. They eventually discovered the crash site of a military A-20 bomber, which had cleared the peak but apparently crashed into trees and come to rest 30 feet below the peak. There wasn't much other than debris, according to Bud, and the scattered remains of the four crew members. A hot fuse had landed on an old dead log about 100 feet from the main crash site, and it was the smoldering log that had produced the thin smoke column that served as a signal to find the crash site.
When the military came to investigate the crash, Bud was asked to show investigators where the crash site was, so he rode up on horseback while the military people walked. "Once I showed them where it was, they informed me that I was no longer welcome at the site," Bud remembers, "They may have had a secret Norden bomb sight aboard the plane that they were concerned with someone finding."
On another occasion, Bud and Jim went riding in search of six missing calves. They left early in the morning and rode up between Tehachapi Peak and Double Mountain, then way to the east and down into Oak Creek Canyon, where they came to the old Rawley Duntley homestead. There was still no sign of the missing cattle.
"Mrs. Duntley told us 'If you boys will chop some wood, I'll make you some lunch,' so we did and she did and we got some needed food," Bud told me. "Then we still had to ride all the way home, but we continued on down Oak Creek Canyon, then rode back home west along Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road and then on the Poleline (Highline Road). That way was much quicker than retracing our tracks. I'd branded the calves, of course, so they were identifiable, and the Tejon Ranch found them during a roundup and I had to go pick them up."
The Lutges saw a big change in their lives when they got back involved with the milk business and bought a dairy in Newhall in 1943, milking about 150 cows and moving to Los Angeles County for a time. Bud and Helen's family kept growing until they had five children – Dennis, Dale, Dean, Debbie and Dina – and they eventually started the Antelope Valley Dairy near Lancaster, and later the famed Mountain Lanes Bowling Alley in Tehachapi, but that's a whole other story. . .
Bud Lutge was a rugged, impressive man whose first-hand knowledge and life experiences in Tehachapi went back to the 1930s and continued almost into the 2020s. He was wise and kind, is still remembered fondly by Tehachapi oldtimers.
Keep enjoying life in the Tehachapi Mountains.
Jon Hammond is a fourth generation Kern County resident who has photographed and written about the Tehachapi Mountains for 38 years. He lives on a farm his family started in 1921, and is a speaker of Nuwä, the Tehachapi Indian language. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.