Forty-Six Years Later

From Islapedia

Forty-Six Years Later (1967) by Clifford McElrath


After a forty six year absence from the island, Carey Stanton, the present owner of all but five thousand acres, invited Marguerite and me to pay him a visit. Needless to say we accepted.

Our host instructed us to be on the post office steps at Port Hueneme at eight o'clock on Monday morning and we would be met by Mrs. [ ] who takes care of the island mail. She would get clearance for us through the government gate onto the reservation and arrange transportation to the island on the govt. boat.

The preceding Saturday night we attended a barbecue given us by the Santa Barbara Historical Society where we met a large number of people whom we enjoyed very much. I also autographed a number of books and gave a short talk on the island. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informally friendly affair.

Saturday afternoon and night we were the guests of Wilson and Julia Forbes at their home in Montecito. It was quite a pleasure to meet them both and to have a chance to get acquainted with them as guests in their home.

We were told that it was a forty-five minute drive to Port Hueneme, but knowing that traffic would be heavy, we decided to go down Sunday afternoon and get our bearings. We had never been there before. We planned to spend the night in a motel.

Due to traffic and detours for road construction it took us well over an hour to make the trip and when we reached Hueneme no one, not even the village cop, knew exactly where the post office was. However, we finally located it and put up at a motel a couple of blocks away. It was the only motel we could find, but it was new and clean and we spent a comfortable night. After a sketchy meal of fried chicken and french fries in the town's one eating place, we returned to our motel knowing that we would have to go without breakfast as the chicken joint did not open until noon.

Mrs. [ ] met us, and after proper formalities, we boarded the govt. boat together with about a half dozen govt. employees returning to the their jobs on the island. The federal govt. has some installations there, probably radar, but since my understanding was that they are classified I asked no questions and no explanations were offered.

We finally got under way about ten o'clock. It was a beautiful day and the sea was like glass. On the way over we were able to get a view of Anacapa Island from an angle that I had never viewed it from before. It is much larger than I thought and is really three islands being cut into sections by narrow channels that looked from a distance as though one could almost jump across them.

Finally as we swung west along the coast of Santa Cruz Island I was able to pick out many familiar spots and landmarks. There was Pedro Point at the extreme eastern end of the island, the canyon where the Scorpion Ranch is located. The buildings were not visible because of the high cliffs and the narrowness of the canyon in which they are located, El Campo Grande on the mesa above the ranch where we used to raise hay, and the Montagnon which is the highest portion of the ridge from which Santa Cruz may have gotten it's name. As we cruised west towards Prisoners Harbor we passed Potato Bay, Mielquieres, China Camp and Aguaje Escondido with flat above it where Cuate Espinoza and I shot it out with rustlers many years ago. Next we passed the Water Canyon where rustlers killed and made off with two steers leaving only the heads ad entrails. This happened just a week before I left the island. Maybe they figured I would not be taking chances watching for them. Finally we arrived at Prisoners Harbor.

On the wharf were Carey Stanton and his mayordomo or gran jancho [honcho] as the Mexican hands call Henry Duffield. They met us with a couple of jeeps to take us to the ranch. There was another to take the govt. men to their station.

There were changes at Prisoners Harbor from when I had last been there. The old wharf was gone and a new one had taken its place.