Tuesday, June 30, 2009

William S. Hart Ranch & Museum: It's hot!

This weekend CC and I risked heat stroke to visit the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum in Newhall -- a particularly desert-y patch outside of Los Angeles. And I'm still hot just thinking about it.

The ranch, which sits on 265 acres, served as the home of silent film star and director William S. Hart after he retired from showbiz. The site offers tours of his home, pictured above -- which sits on top of a gorgeous hill overlooking the vast, parched landscape -- as well as an enclosed barnyard full of ducks, pigs, chickens and deer; picnic tables; and a smaller ranch house that has kept many of Hart's belongings intact.

When we visited on Saturday, the place was far from bustling. There were a few families, but we had most of the place to ourselves -- including the smaller ranch house, which was eerily empty except for the sound of an informational film playing at the end of a long, narrow hallway.

Once CC and I toured that -- and frankly, I was eager to get the heck out of there despite the fascinating accoutrements of a man clearly enthralled by the cowboy way of life -- we hit the barnyard and watched as pot-bellied pigs sought comfort in their little homes. CC enjoyed gobbling with an over-sized turkey who was hangin' with the chickens.

On our way up the long and winding hill to Hart's stunning and well-preserved mansion, we visited the graveyards of his dear horse, Fritz -- complete with white picket fence -- and that of his two dogs -- which just had the sign "Dogs Graveyard." There was also a smaller bunk house, where I wanted to sit and drink a gallon of lemonade. (Note to self: Next time, bring a gallon of lemonade. Maybe two.)

When we made it up to the main house for the tour, I was ready for some serious air conditioning. Thank God they installed that, or I might have keeled over on the late actor's doorstep.

The mansion/museum is amazingly well cared-for. The second-story living area, above left, barely showed its age. Interesting note: The Kodiak bear-skin rug was a gift from fellow cowboy entertainer Will Rogers. Apparently, the two were good friends.

Despite the raging heat, I was glad I took CC to see a different side of Southern California. (She rarely makes it past the 818 area code, as we're 323'ers ourselves.) It wasn't hard to imagine what life might have been like so far away from Hollywood. (Just walk up that hill in late June carrying a toddler without the benefit of a water bottle, and you get the idea of ranch life instantly. Only without the horse.)

Next time, though, bring liquid refreshments. And lots of them.

William S. Hart Ranch and Museum
24151 Newhall Avenue
Newhall, CA 91321

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