Chapter XI. That Which Followed After
About the towns, many of the natives gathered for work. In some places the authorities had the right to arrest them as vagabonds and hire them out as bondmen to the highest bidder, for a period often of as many as two or three months at a time, with no regard to family ties. Little seems to have been done to assist them to a better kind of life. In Los Angeles, when working in the vineyards as grape pickers, they were paid their wages each Saturday night, and immediately they were tempted on all sides by sellers of bad whisky and were really hurried into drunkenness. Their shrieks and howls would, for a time, make the night hideous, when they were driven by the officers of the law into corrals, like so many pigs or cattle, and left there till Monday morning, when they were handed over to whoever chose to pay the officers for the right to own them for the next week.
Near the Oregon line lived some of the most warlike and troublesome Indians of California. Here there were one or two severe fights, the worst of which was with the Modocs, in the northern lava beds. It was here that General Canby was killed. To-day the Modocs are still suffering keenly. In the upper part of the state the Indians have no lands of any kind, and noble men and women of California are working to secure for them their rights from the government. In the south, whole villages have been found living on nothing but ground acorn meal, from which miserable diet many children die and older people cannot long sustain life.
The Sequoya League, an association for the betterment of the Indians of the Southwest, has done much toward opening the eyes of the public and of the government officials to the unhappy condition of these first owners of the soil. Congress, in 1906, appropriated $100,000 to be used in buying land and water for those Indian reservations or settlements where the suffering was greatest. This was a good beginning, but as the needy Indians are scattered all over the state, much more is required before they can be so placed that they can earn a living by their labors.
Gradually the cattle industry, which was for so long a time the leading business of the country, gave way to sheep raising. During summer and fall large flocks of grayish white merinos could be seen getting a rich living on the brown grasses, the yellow stubble of old grain fields, and the tightly rolled nuts of the bur clover; while in winter and spring, hills and plains with their velvet-like covering of green alfileria offered the best and juiciest of food. This was the time of the coming of the lambs. As soon as they were old enough to be separated from their mothers they were put during the day in companies by themselves. A band of five or six hundred young lambs, playing and skipping over the young green grass they were just learning to eat, was a beautiful sight to everybody save to the man or boy who had them to herd. They led him such a chase that by the time he had them safely corralled for the night, every muscle in his body would be aching with fatigue.
Shearing time was the liveliest portion of the herder's life, which was generally very lonely. First came the shearing crew with their captain; next arrived the venders of hot coffee, tamales, tortillas, and other Mexican dainties; brush booths were erected and a brisk trade began. The herds were driven up and into a corral where several shearers could work at a time. Snip, snip, snip, went the shears hour after hour. It was the boast of a good shearer that he could clip a sheep in seven minutes and not once bring blood. As fast as cut, the wool was packed in a long sack suspended from a framework. The dust was dreadful, and the man or boy whose duty it was, when the bag was partly full, to jump in and tramp the wool down so that the bag might hold more, would nearly choke before he emerged into the clear daylight.
The passage of the no-fence law by the legislature of 1873, while it was opposed by the sheep and cattle men, was one of the greatest aids to the growth of agriculture, especially in the southern part of the state. It provided that cattle and sheep should not be allowed to run loose without a herder to keep them from trespassing. This saved the farmer from the necessity of fencing his grain fields, a most important help in a country where fence material was so scarce and expensive.
For some time after California's admission to the Union most of the events of importance in its history took place around the Bay of San Francisco and the junction of the Sacramento and San Joaquin; but early in the seventies the south land awoke from its long sleep and took part in history making, not in such stirring incidents as those of the days of '49, but in a quieter growth that was yet of importance in the making of the state. People in the East had begun to find out that southern California had a mild, healthful climate and that, though the sands of her rivers and rocks of her mountains were not of gold, still her oranges, by aid of irrigation, could be turned into a golden harvest, and that all her soil needed was water in order to yield most bountiful crops.
As little land could be bought in small ranches, those wishing to settle in the country chose the colony plan. A number of families would contribute to a common sum, with which would be purchased a large piece of land of several thousand acres with its water right. Each man received from this a number of acres in proportion to the amount of money he had invested. The first colony formed was that of Anaheim; then followed Westminster, Riverside, Pasadena, and many others, and by that time people began to come into southern California in large numbers.