“Pablo Vasquez, slender, grave,white head and beard, unbelievably poised and graceful. And his golden pony. Little hooves flicking like white butterflies, golden skin polished and glinting in the sun. They pass. An era passes on those twinkling hooves.
“The stage draws up to the porch of the Schuyler House. Quick leaves, hand shakes, and you board it,climbing to the high seat beside Bob Rawles.
Wells Fargo’s box lies at your heels, and the reins of six horses, complex and demanding, are in Bob’s hands.
“You look at his seamed and weathered face. He is no longer young. Soon Eddie Campbell and Frey of Purissima will drive, and old Bob will linger at the stables, unable to leave the animals he has handled so long.
“From your high perch you survey the homes, the picket fences, the bursting, overflowing gardens. This is the land of the fuchsia, the geranium, the nasturium.
“Against the quiet neutrality of the sky and green-grey lands, the flowers flame with a passionate glory.
“The homes look loved and well cared for. The contentment reaches you on the high seat and you are happy.
“The hay is a long sea before you. Occasional fields of flex are heliotrope lakes. Eucalyptus and cypress fence the farms with sheltering walls.
“Purissima beckons, but Irish Ridge is your destination. There are the fields of potatoes for hungry San Francisco. This is your business today.
“A road winds steeply and curves from sight. Goldenrod and wild aster border it. You leave the stage and look forward to the climb. But here is John Ring, with his team behind you. You ride.
“On Irish Ridge, the fiddles sing. The merry quips and laughter ring. At night the lads and lassies dance. The old folk dance the clog.
“On Irish Ridge are Garrigans and Rings. On Irish Ridge the Caseys live like kings.
“The dusk of the dawn is in the barns as leather is flung on sleepy horses. In lamp-lit stalls the bit, collar and harnass are fitted. In the quiet of the morning, you are on your way to Amesport [ Miramar Beach].
“Six wagons are coming. Loaded high and heavy with potatoes. Kinds unknown today; Bodega Blues and Sonoma Rose and Peerless. Blue shirted, big-framed men quietly handled the teams. It is a land and a time of horsemen.
“Up through dusty miles. Dust in little cataracts falls from the wheel rims.
“On through the half-wakened town. Northward, where the whistle of an impatient steamer blows.
…To be continued…