My Home

Just fifteen miles East of Disneyland, Norco is a city of contradictions; ramshackle dwellings sharing property lines with multimillion dollar estates; modern shopping centers sharing customers with old style feed stores and blacksmith shops; FedEx vans delivering computers while sharing road space with horse-drawn wagons hauling hay. Dubbed, "Horse Town USA," Norco is an odd and wonderful place to live. The name itself has always put me in mind of a bus stop town in some unknown James Dean movie. 

 

I was welcomed to Norco by Jerry, my cowboy realtor. He certainly dressed the part. When I met him, Jerry was wearing denim jeans, western boots, a chambray shirt with bolo tie and a wide leather belt clasped with a prominent buckle formed in the shape a Colt six-shooter. After introducing me to his wife, who doubled as his business partner, Jerry took me on a tour of his city...on horseback. As we made our way along Old Town's main thoroughfare, we passed a granary, several veterinary hospitals, the Ranchland Grocery Mart, a couple of tack outfitter stores and enough mounted riders to populate the casts of three John Wayne westerns. At the far eastern end of the road was an equestrian center. Pointing to it, Jerry announced proudly, "the best damn rodeos on God's green earth are held here yearly." 

 

Before revealing my future home, Jerry declared that his throat was parched and he suggested that we stop off for a liquid refreshment. Falling into step, I confessed that I too had a hankerin' for something cold and wet. After tying our mounts next to a conveniently placed watering trough, Jerry and I strode into the "Saddlesore Saloon." This is where I got my first taste of genuine sarsaparilla. Now you might think that this traditional western dust quencher is made from extract of the sarsaparilla plant, a tropical vine distantly related to the lily. But you'd be wrong. A cousin to root beer, sarsaparilla was originally made from a blend of birch oil and sassafras, the dried root bark of the sassafras tree. Sassafras was widely used as a home remedy in the nineteenth century. Taken in sufficient doses, it induces sweating, which some people thought was a good thing. Sarsaparilla apparently made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers and headaches. 

 

While testing the flavor of this old-time drink in the corners of my mouth, I made the acquaintance of three or four ranchers and an equine Vet dispensing free advice on the proper treatment of colic in Norco's favorite animal. In the corner, holding court before a group of variously livid and bored locals was one of the town's council members. I never did catch the particulars of this ad hoc citizens' meeting, but it was no less an inflammatory issue to some than the secession debates of 1860 and no less tedious to others than a testimonial to Millard Fillmore's years as a country schoolteacher in New York State. 

 

Having slaked our thirst and allayed any concerns over the vitality of small town democracy, Jerry and I bid our farewells and pushed on to my home-to-be. In yet another of many incongruities, this Pikes Peak property sits at the crest of a remarkably gentle hill overlooking the city. What the spread lacks in flat, horse-stabling land, it more than gains in the magnificent scenic view that it offers. I bought the place on the spot. That was over fifteen years ago. Of all the decisions I have ever made, this was among the best.  

WraithSword WraithSword
56-60, M
2 Responses Mar 20, 2009

Well shucks, Ma'am...I reckon I just aim to please.

For an Irish-Englishman you certainly get around Rick. You also spin quite a yarn. I'll bet your a favorite at your loca ad hoc citizen's meetings. <br />
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Your stories are much appreciated, pard'ner.