Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

If We Can See Live Oaks in Kansas, We Can 'Discover' WMDs in Iraq
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 6-12-2005.
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Darryl Manzer, 2004     I've never understood how the California Live Oak tree grows in so many places around the world. I thought it was native only to California.
    How about those dirt roads (in Placerita Canyon) that we saw on the TV show, "The Dukes of Hazzard"? They are the only dirt roads that can cause tires to squeal. I don't know how they did that; do you?
    A few nights ago I watched the William S. Hart film, "Tumbleweeds." It was a copy of the 1939 reissue of the film. (The original was silent). Mr. Hart spoke in the introduction of the movie. That part was filmed on his Horseshoe Ranch in Newhall. In the background was what is now called Wildwood Canyon and Happy Valley. It was the only real part of the whole flick.
    "Tumbleweeds" would have you believe that the California Live Oak grows in Kansas and Oklahoma. It also shows vast cattle herds being driven from the Oklahoma Indian Territory. The only thing is, the plains it shows look a lot like the areas near Castaic where The Newhall Land and Farming Co. had some rather large herds. Or it could have been the San Fernando Valley in 1925. But those pesky oak trees kept showing up throughout the film.
    Those oak trees have been near Dodge City, Kan.; in various films and television shows about Texas and a few Midwestern towns — if you believe Hollywood. I've even seen them show up in films and TV shows about Europe. "Combat!" was one of the shows.
    I wouldn't be too shocked to see a news report from Iraq that shows them, soon. It would be a lot safer for the reporters just to stay home and report the news from a backdrop in Placerita Canyon.
    We, the public, would accept the oak trees, just like we've accepted them in "locations" all over the world. Of course they could use Vasquez Rocks and we would think it was Iraq ... or Jordan ... or some planet on "Star Trek."
    Silent movie star Tom Mix had a publicity photo showing him and his horse jumping over Beale's Cut. It was about as real as the proof of weapons of mass destruction, not yet — never — found in Iraq, but used as evidence to go to war. But give them time. Soon we may see a report from Mosul (Vasquez Rocks) with those elusive WMDs sitting on the ground near where Captain Kirk battled the Gorn in an early "Star Trek" episode. Worse yet, we'll accept the report as true.
    We'll accept the report because we want to believe our country did the right thing by invading Iraq. We want to return to that simpler time when the United States always got to wear the white hats and everyone else wore the black hats. (In a William S. Hart Western, only the "good guys" got to wear white hats.) We wish to have life be just like a Western movie of times long past when the "good guys" always win, then kiss the girl and ride off into the sunset.
    If we wish in one hand and pour sand into the other, guess which will get filled first? (You former military types will know it took some doing to keep that question "clean.")
    Our country is in a quandary about this war. About the only folks who seem to like it now are those who hold stock in the various companies that got fat, "no-bid" contracts to work for the military in Iraq.
    I still find it odd that the company once headed by the current vice president got an almost direct pipeline to get money from the United States Treasury. (Didn't Halliburton once build some pipelines?)
    So here we are, just like William S. Hart in "Tumbleweeds." The big rush is about to begin and we're stuck in a makeshift jail. Only this time, we have to wait a couple of years to get out of that jail, and nobody outside is going to help us.
    Heck, we don't even have a horse to help rescue us. We're just stuck. Only we built the jail.
    We saw the charts and graphs. We saw the photographs. We just knew there were WMDs in Iraq. We believed Iraq was a direct threat to our country. We believed a country without a navy or a flying air force was going to attack us. We just saw it all and believed.
    And we also know the California Live Oak tree grows just about anyplace in the world. It has to be true. We've seen it in films for almost 100 years, and now see it "live" on TV.
    If it isn't true, we all may have to change the color of our hats.

    Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.

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