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Tall Tales of an Old Ranch

Clyde’s Ranch has been around for quite a long time. For about 150 years...before
the road was, it existed. Twenty five years before any other settlers appeared in
Lone Pine Canyon, it was. First setted by the Swarthouts...members of the 1847
Mormon Battalion that was assigned to the Cajon Pass of San Bernardino Valley, it
was later bought by Almon Clyde. The cattle claim turned ranch, and then famous
Clyde Apple Ranch, was once the stomping grounds of the famous western
lawmen/gunmen Virgil and Wyatt Earp. Just a short few miles to the east of
Wrightwood, California, the famous ranch is owned by the Clyde Family. Over the
decades, they have seen many, many changes.

The drilling of petroleum oil had replaced coal gas, and the flickering of
kerosene lamps within the lone house cast eerie shadows as evening and late night
breezes caught the flame. When lamps were out, darkness was absolute. The light
from the fireplace illuminated only part of the house. Out of the shadows appeared
the arms of the Clyde family, reaching for a heat source and huddling together.

Alone in a dark canyon, it was completely different from the family’s other life
in the San Bernardino Valley, where population swelled and street lights helped
you see the hand in front of your face.

During harvest time in Lone Pine Canyon, darkness was full of the woman-like
screams of a mountain cat prowling nearby, the banging of black bear scrounging
around for a meal, the chirping of a family of raccoons searching under the house,
the meaty thunk! sound of two Big Horn Sheep rams dueling in the orchard. As dawn
breaks, the shadow figures of Indians making their way up a ridge for nuts from
the pinon and pine. Silent in their walk, they seemed to float in a solemn column
along the top of Pioneer Ridge to the west of Clyde Ranch. A sober looking horse
thief shakes out a loop and captures a gelding, a rough hand covers its muzzle to
prevent a whinny of fright. The outlaw, joined by some Ute who had their own
stolen mounts, held a dirty finger to his lips as he threaten a little Indian boy
assigned to watch the corral not to make a peep. Four years later, as a warm
morning sun begins to paint the Cajon Pass and Lone Pine Canyon, a slow moving
sheriff posse surrounds a make-shift corral in the same area and takes into
custody bothersome thieves. One was an outlaw named Robert Graham.

Even in present day the Clyde Ranch sits in silence. A single phone line stretches
to the main house, and even though a generator sometimes brings power to it, the
same eerie shadows cast by kerosene lamps so long ago can still be seen in the
house today. The dark is still filled with the sound of wildlife passing
through...and the screams of a mountain lion. One hundred and fifty years have
passed, making the ranch a little spookier. Worn and warped outbuildings sway and
creak in the wind. Tree branches scratch the main house roof and windows, creating
sounds similar to those caused by someone-or something-from the ranch’s long past
trying to get in.

Imagine the many things that have happened at this quiet place over the last one
hundred and fifty years. The good, the bad, and normal...and the strange.

It’s a perfect area for the breeding ground of ghost stories. But, are they tall
tales...or something else that had materialize into something real?

It was October of 2007 when three men made conversation in the Wrightwood
Historical Museum. One was your humble author, the other the caretaker of present
day Clyde’s Ranch and the third a local respected retired fireman. The
conversation centered on local history, and then our past occupations. The oldest
of us was once a fireman in Fontana (now Rialto) his story of meeting an old
Paiute Indian was mighty interesting. The Indian would show up at the fire station
now and then and he would share stories of his life and how as a little child he
and his brothers and sisters were hired to herd stolen horses for local outlaws.
His family lived at the old Muscupiabit Indian camp grounds near the present day
Hwy 15 weight scales. Many decades previously, raiding Ute and Paiute parties had
helped forced the Serrano Indians away.

The old Paiute shared that for two bits (20 cents), a quarter, or even a dollar,
the little ones were hired to move the stolen horses from Lytle Creek’s Sycamore
Station, through present day Apple White Campground, north to Crowder Canyon and
over to Horse Thief Trail. The outlaw’s ploy would work and they got away with the
stolen horses scot-free most of the time. This happened around 1900 and at the
same time another Paiute Indian boy, rumored to be known as "Two Bits", was hired
to watch a horse corral between Clyde’s Ranch and Lost Lake. Being somewhere
between 12 and 17 years of age, Two Bits wore his hair long in the old-fashioned
way, down to his shoulders. Dressed in a long baggy shirt and worn pants, he was
always seen with a leather medicine bag filled with small shinny pebbles that hung
from his neck by a leather lace. One day he was seen guarding the empty horse
corral...the next day he simply vanished! Was he killed by a threatening outlaw or
wild Indian?

Thirty eight years later many residents and road department employees were busy
digging out after the Great Flood of 1938. Amongst the displacement of rocks, mud
and trees of the terrible flood that washed out Camp Cajon, was found the bones of
a small child. It is said that an old timer in the area identified those bones.
Ancient hands gently removed a rotted pouch from the little bones, "This is Two
Bits! My Lord, he came home." Did Two Bits come home, or is this simply a tale
spread around a campfire? Maybe it would take sixty more years to answer that
question.

The three men continued to talk in the museum, but the finishing of the tale of
"Two Bits" did not occur until after an astonishing revelation from the present
caretaker of Clyde’s Ranch. Gary, a man of rare intelligence and a thirst for the
Clyde Ranch’s long history, at first seemed hesitant to share his story. After
some encouragement he finally did: It was about 1996 and he was alone at the main
house of the ranch when the scarcest thing happened! it was cold that night and he
decided he'd lay down in front of the comfortable wood stove to sleep. Suddenly,
it got even colder! His hair raised on the back of his neck and a little touch of
electric current was suddenly in the air! At first he thought his son had returned
home and was standing behind him. As he turned and looked down the hallway towards
the bedroom he saw just the upper portion of a small person staring at him! A
figure was simply there… between solid and vapor, maybe? Gary wasn’t sure; at
first he thought it was a little Indian girl, then a small Indian boy.. its hair
kept in the old-fashioned way, down to its shoulders. The shape stared at him, and
then it slowly drifted out the window and out of sight. Was it the imagination of
a man staying by himself on an isolated ranch? Or was it something else? Gary
remembers, "Ya know, I can't recall if he wore a small leather thingy around his
neck, but it sure was unnerving."

What has happened at Clyde’s Ranch, as well as Lone Pine Canyon over the last one
hundred and fifty years is still being sorted out by local historians. Most of it
has been hard ranch and farming life for the family. But some of it has been
filled with laughter...and a little bit of music.

Once again it is around 1996-97, the caretaker lives alone and working full time
on the Clyde’s Ranch. Was it fatigue or loneliness that made him hear music in the
house? It came from the basement, just under the aged floorboards of a creaky
house. Chocking his head to the side to make sure he was hearing right, his
suspicions were confirmed. Yup, violin music...perhaps a touch of a fiddle. The
caretaker quickly walked over and opened the doorway to the basement and the
violin music immediately stopped!

"Okay...I’m hearin’ things," he said out loud to himself. As he closed the


basement door the music started up again! Repeated actions would confirm that he
needed some alone time; open door-no music...close door-music; open-no violin
music...close-oh boy! more violin! A little bit shaken, Gary took a walk around
the ranch to see if he heard anything else out of the ordinary.

Quiet...Ah...it was finally quiet. He barely had time for his blood pressure to go
down as he returned to the main house. As he walked inside there was the violin
music! And as he opened the basement door once again, it stopped! Gary never said
if he heard the violin music since...or he just learned to live with it. Was it a
case of fatigue or a wild imagination of a man living alone? Who knows. Two weeks
later, he shared the incident of the music with ol’ Robert Clyde, owner of Clyde’s
Ranch. Bob said, "That’s interesting that you would say that. My uncles used to
play violins in the house all the time!"

If you happen to drive by ol’ Clyde’s Ranch, ponder on this; are these mysteries
two of many that are guarded by the quiet canyons of Clyde's Ranch, or are they
simply tales tales of an old ranch?

Terry Graham, Wrightwood, California

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