Rancho Life

In his book Seventy-Five Years in California, William Heath Davis describes the typical bay area rancho home as follows:

“The people lived in adobe houses, and the houses had tile roofs; they were comfortable and roomy, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Their furniture was generally plain, muostly imported from boston in the ships that cmae to the coast to trade.  Generally the houses had floors, but without carpets in the earlier days.  Some of the humble people had no floors to their houses, but the ground became perfectly hard and firm as if cemented.  The women were exceedingly clean and neat in their houses and persons and in all their domestic arrangements.  One of their peculiarities was the excellence and neatness of their beds and bedding, which were often elegant in appearance, haighly and tastefully ornamented, the coverlids and pillow-casesbeing sometimes of satin and trimmed with beautiful and costly lace.”

“The houses of the rancheros were usually built upon entirely open ground, devoid of trees, generally elevated, overlooking a wide stretch of the country round inorder that they might look out to a distance on all sides and see what was going on and notice if any intruders were aobut the rancho for the purpose of stealing cattle  or horses.  The house was placed where there was a spring or running water.  These houses stood out bare and plain. With no adornment of trees, shrubbery or flowers, and there were no structures, except the kitchens, attached to the main buildings.”

William Heath Davis provides fascinating descriptions of the workings of rancho:

“The breeding mares were divided up into manadas, or little bodies of twenty-five with a stallion for each, and so accustomed were they to follow their stallion that each band kept distinct and never mixed with other manadas.  The stallions were equally faithful to those under their charge and never went off to other bands. The manadas were formed at first by the vaqueros’ herding the band during the day and at night securing them in a corral.  They continued this day after day until the animals had become so accustomed to the arrangement that there was no danger of their separating.  They were then left to go free, and continued together month after montha and year after year. Except for this training to form them into manadas, these mares were entirely wild and unbroken.”

“The tails and manes of the mares of the manadas were closely cut.  The hair was utilized for ropes, made by the vaqueros by twisting and braiding together. I Once asked an old ranchero, Don domingo Peralta, why the manes and tails of the stallions attaches to the manadas were not cut also.  He replied, “Las yeguas los oborrecen.” (The mares would take a dislike to them, would lose their respect and affection for them and would not recognize them as their stallions.)”

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