The Circle C covers thousands of acres of valley and foothills to the east of Fresno, California. Leave a comment if I’m missing something you would like to see and I’ll do my best to include it.
A large portion of the ranch is located in the flat valley just before the land begins to climb upward into the rolling hills of the Sierra. Irrigation ditches bring water to the thirsty orchards and vineyards.
The ranch house is situated on the valley floor and is styled after the practical and lovely Spanish haciendas of an earlier era. Thick stucco (adobe) walls keep the summer heat out (in the days before air conditioners). The house is two stories, The bedrooms have French doors leading onto individual balconies. You can see one of the family’s balconies in the upper left-hand corner of this picture.
The valley oaks behind the house actually surround it and give a lot of shade, which also helps cool things down during the 100+ temperatures in the summer. Our dining room opens out onto a patio full of colorful flowers. Everything about a Spanish hacienda makes a person think of bright, happy days. I love my home on the the Circle C.
Around back are numerous outbuildings. This is the hay barn, which doubles as the stable for the family’s horses. Most horses stay corralled outdoors. The ranch hands lasso their horses for the day. The saddle horses for the family and guests are often stabled. In addition to roomy stalls, each horse has a large paddock for air and exercise. Sometimes, I let taffy out on the range. This usually happens when I’m gone for an extended amount of time, like when I went to Miss Whitaker’s Academy in San Francisco Smuggles. Other buildings include a milking barn, chicken coop, forge (blacksmith), spring house, ice house, and more.
Surrounding the house and outbuildings are acres and acres of fenced, irrigated paddocks. This one here is where the colts stayed in Thick as Thieves. Far in the back by the tree line is the irrigation that cuts through this enclosure. It’s still a mystery how the Walker brothers could get so close, cut through wooden fences, and steal a dozen colts.
Peach orchards are an example of some of the fruit my family grows. Chad is grateful for the new irrigation ditches that crisscross the valley. We also grow grapes, all kinds of nuts, alfalfa hay, and even wheat. Wheat does not need the irrigation that the rest of the valley produce needs.
The main production of the Circle C, however, is cattle and horses. These valley oaks are a godsend to the cattle and horses. They need the shade too. As you begin to climb out of the valley floor and into the foothills, you will see more and more cattle. They roam all over the place, along with other ranchers’ cattle. At roundup time, the ranchers join forces and cut out the cattle that have wandered from their own rangeland and onto the Circle C. Our cattle range onto other ranchers’ range too. Horses and cattle have no interest in boundaries.
Every ranch needs a windmill and a stock tank. The irrigation ditches are for the produce, but the livestock need watering holes and natural watering holes dry up fast in the hot weather. This stock tank is filled as the wind blows and pumps water up from under the ground. An ingenious set up. Watch a windmill work!
Now that open range is not as common as it was twenty years ago, Chad and Mitch send the ranch hands out for the unhappy job of “riding fence.” They check for breaks in the barbed-wire fences. This was especially important when Mitch kept 200 fenced acres of his prize Angus heifers. He did not want just any bull to get in there. He wanted a blooded Angus bull, so the fences have to be checked regularly. Somebody cut them one day when Riley and I were racing home from trick riding practice (Courageous Love).
My special spot is in the foothills on Circle C rangeland. Chad showed me his own special spot, where he used to go as a young boy, and he passed it along to me. I ride here when I need to get away from it all or just to think. To my everlasting surprise, my family deeded over 1,000 acres surrounding this spot is as a wedding gift.
The creek does not always run strong and high. Although it is fed by an underground spring so it never completely runs dry, it can become a muddy trickled, especially in the fall, before the winter rains. This is what my special spot’s creek looked like (I’m sitting in the oak tree looking down) the day Cory, Rosa, and I found T.J. Silver half buried in mud. (Family Secret). Perhaps we should have left him there.
The north boundary of the Circle C ranch is the San Joaquin River. This river has given me problems a few times. The first time was when Troy Swanson nabbed his kids and planned to cross the San Joaquin when it was in flood. Crazy idea! I took the kids and ran off into the night rather than let Troy drown them. (Family Secret) The second time was after Macy put a tack under Taffy’s saddle blanket and I saw down. Bang! Taffy bolted straight out of town and headed for the river. (Thick as Thieves) The last time was when the Mexican outlaw, Procopio, and his cohorts kidnapped Lucy, Sammy, and me. (Courageous Love) He tossed the buggy into the San Joaquin and then we followed it for what seemed like forever in the dark, hoping to wipe away any trace of our passing. He was successful.