Special to the Anza Valley Outlook
“I know they say you can’t go home again, I just had to come back one last time.” A song by Miranda Lambert really hit home for me when I got the chance to visit my birth place on Oct. 5. Thanks to Jackie Autry, the new owner of the ranch. It is now owned by The Gene Autry Foundation where they rescue horses that would normally go to the slaughter house.
I was born on, what was then Kellogg’s Farms, where my dad Ralph Nuciforo, managed the farm that I grew up on. I lived there for 13 years and I must say it was a great foundation for my whole being. Hard work was something that you did, there was no such thing as allowance you just did as you were told.
Summer gardens produced the food for the winter. If I didn’t eat all the tomatoes, they were canned. I loved tomatoes so much most of the summer I had a rash from the acid on my chin. All the fruits and vegetables were canned and preserved in the fall. I spent hours in the kitchen helping my mom, Shirley.
Mom taught me all the tricks that I still carry with me today. We canned everything we could for the winter food supply where my brother, Nick spent time with my dad weatherizing for the cold months. My sister Jennie was 6 years younger than me so she spent most of her time playing. The farm life was never really instilled in her like it was Nick and I. Nick is 1 1/2 years my elder.
Mornings were hectic in the Nuciforo household, mom made breakfast and calf milk all at the same time. Horses, cows, calves and pigs all had to be fed before we went to school. It’s a wonder we made to school on time, mom and dad had every second planned out, and maybe that is why I am very time oriented today. I don’t know how to be late, most often I’m early.
The farm was 395 acres full of Thoroughbred Racing horses. In the summer the grand kids of H. Clay Kellogg, (Mr. Kellogg founded the Kellogg nitro-humus fertilizer plant, his cousin is Kellogg cereals Company) would come live for the summer to break foals and do whatever ranch work was needed. There was always a long list. I would wake up early just to go out to watch all the workers do their jobs. I must have talked too much because after awhile my mom wouldn’t let me go out with them or she found things for me to do. So I would wait, trying to be patient, for them to get off work, because that meant we would all go to the lake for a swim. What wonderful memories I have at that ranch.
You know how you look back and it seems you only remember the bad things not always the good. I had two big accidents that sent me reeling. One is when I was 6 my dad had a welder on a trailer that he could move to where ever the job was. Well it was at his shop and I was climbing on top of it; it was probably eight feet in the air. I must have lost my footing and down I went, right on top of my head. Looking back, I could not see when I came to a few minutes later. I remember my sight was gone. That was the first time mom allowed me to have a soda pop waiting for my dad to bring the truck around to take me to Hemet Hospital emergency room. Doris Frazee, a resident of Anza who worked at the hospital, was waiting for me to come in and she took good care of me. I had a concussion but was fine otherwise except for the big knot on my forehead.
The second time my brother and I came home from school to find both of our horses were out, someone had not shut the gate. Well mom told us to go round them up and up them away. I was 10 at that time.
Nick, my brother had gotten his horse in first and I came later with Mike, my horse. There was a problem, Nick’s horse, Pony Girl was trying to get out while I was putting Mike in. There was a hose with-in my reach, I picked up the hose and wacked him on his hinny. The hose hit and I got kicked right in the right cheek. I was not hurt badly but let’s just say my cheek had a hoof print of black and blue for several weeks. When school came on Monday I reluctantly went because I was working on prefect attendance and did not want to mess that up. I did achieve my goal. My whole class laughed at me, I was ok with that because it was pretty funny.
I had many mishaps with my horse Mike, he was a big horse and I was a tiny little girl. I loved to ride him so bridling was a problem, he would lift his head and I could not get the bit in his mouth. My mom and dad would just tell me to figure it out; I never thought to go get a bale of hay to stand on. Mike had stepped on my toes; hit me in the head with his and just plain refused to cooperate. When I finally did get him bridled I would ride him bareback for hours. My mom would always know where I was because she said she could hear me singing from miles away. You see we lived in the small house with the five of us. I liked to be alone and Mike didn’t mind listening to me, it was a great partnership.
Life on a ranch is never easy and there is always work to be done and hardships along the way. But I had a great life and would not change it for the world.
Until the next time.