(Could I begin here? Maybe. But what I must do is get out the paper and pen and the legal pads and write. Which will happen. And I have some research to do, because there are a lot of gaps in the narrative. Which is OK for a memoir, I guess. But I really wonder why the Corderos and Donahues lost all their property in the Santa Barbara area. With the Corderos, so the legend goes, it was horses and women, in that order. But more seriously, the Anglo settlers harassed them and slaughtered and drove off their herds. Or so they say.)
It's time for this Westerner to step up and 'splain a few things to people who are still suckers for the mythology of grandeur, wide open spaces, and cowboy romance. The grandeur did exist, but the people were far too small to fit the legends they created about themselves.
My grandfather was a rancher and cowboy whose family owned the Donahue Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, an area now renowned for vineyards, golf courses, fine restaurants and various pursuits of the rich and rich wannabees in the Santa Barbara area. And that stupid movie I hated, "Sideways."
The family legend goes that a brother of my grandfather went on a cattle drive to Reno, and while he was gone my grandfather made the time with the sweet seniorita his brother was engaged to. They eloped and married and settled in Santa Barbara.
My grandfather's proudest boast was that he was never seen out of the house in shirtsleeves and always wore a hat. He said, " A man who does not wear a hat doesn't have the head to put it on." And he belonged to "the club," which is where the men hung out and socialized. This was a very small town, and he was an important man, married to a member of a Spanish land grant family, property owners themselves, and, in the West, he was not too looked down on for his Irish ancestry. He was the foreman in that area for road building crews that were manned by white and Chinese laborers. He kept the Chinese laborers under control by feeding them poorly and beating up the leaders.
The Donahues had seven children, two of whom died in their teenage years, one of diabetes and the other from being beaten up in a football game. After the parents died, the five surviving children moved to the SF Bay Area and the eldest did what he could for everyone. He married and had a family and was mainly involved with setting up a lithograph business with the financial help of his inlaws, and he employed his brother. Two of the girls married men with good prospects. My mother, the rebel, married a man who did not make a really good living for years, not because of anything exalted about him-he was an accountant--but because he was not particularly ambitious and just enjoyed hanging out with his cronies. With the exception of my mother, all the Donahue children became very well off subsequently and were securely upper middle class.
One thing that always intrigues me about families is the way they start out. A mature man falls for his brother's 18 year old fiance and elopes with her. The two families united by this marriage are property owners in the Santa Barbara area, and yet today there is no sign of their endeavors, aside from the rescue and partial restoration of the missions of Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez , and the streets that my grandmother gave Spanish names to at the request of the Chamber of Commerce in order to to add to the picturesque image of a quaint "California Spanish" town.
Because the eldest son lived in Berkeley, the brother and sisters went there, and my mother encountered left politics. She did not understand the kind of sophisticated people she encountered, who included Oppenheimer and his circle, but the resentment of the displaced colored her politics, and she became a member of the Communist Party. Later on, she was blackballed and never able to have the career in social work that she trained for.
The 50's were a bad time for a thinking woman with a penchant for left politics.
( If I continue this way and get it written, it would still have to be edited. And the chances of it reaching a large audience would be zero. As a workshop leader at a convention I attended once said, "Are you famous?" But nonetheless I will think about this and work on it and see what comes up.
Up to this point it is a history of my mother. Its shortcomings probably do not matter, since this is not about my life yet but is semi-fictional. I could place this as "stories my mother told me." )