Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
I am a gopher rancher. Three years ago my wife and I gave up a one-bedroom apartment in University City and purchased Rancho Tuza. Our sprawling half acre Rancho is a few blocks outside the city limits which means that our neighbors can and do keep chickens. Bear Valley Parkway is about sixty feet from my front porch. It is the major route that serves access to Valley Center. Cars, trucks and casino busses whiz by the ranch at freeway speeds. It bothered me when we first moved in here because it is noisy and if I were to forget to close my driveway gate I was terrified that my Golden Retriever, Duro, would become road kill. I kind of like it now because there are no homeless people hanging around. The only people who brave my driveway are an occasional Jehovah’s Witness and the FED EX guy. Escondido is very different from University City. Instead of little old blue haired ladies pushing a walker and towing along a yappy little dog, we have chubby Hispanic women pushing baby strollers and trailing several pre-schoolers. I don’t know where I could look it up- but I bet Escondido has more strollers per-capita than anywhere this side of Lego Land. Occasionally I have to journey to town to get supplies for the ranch. We frequently have to go after essential fluids, such as beer and gasoline. Valley Parkway is usually my destination; it runs east and west through the entire city. It has every possible product or service that one would want or need. There are six supermarkets, three Mexican and three major chain grocers. There is a post office, Home Depot, a pawnshop, tattoo parlor and a seedy bar (El Rodeo). There are more places to eat than Andrew Zimmer could imagine. Near Home Depot is Spires Family restaurant. Be advised that you have to show your AARP card at the door. Another street of note is Grand Avenue. It runs through the historic center of Escondido. On Fridays from April through September there is a ritual called Cursing Grand. This is where a bunch of old white guys show off their equally old but very shiny cars. In the spring and summer Duro and I suspend our ranching chores to sit on the front porch. Duro lies on his rug and I sip a cold brew and count the people using their cell phones as they whiz by. Directly across the street from us is a very large field with pepper trees and super high weeds. There is a large colony of ground squirrels that live there and they attract a lot of attention from the local predators. There is a frequent flyer that is a Red Tail Hawk, (I named him Tony) There are also a couple of Turkey Vultures (Natasha and Boris) that are there to clean up any left over stuff or the remains of the subterranean rodents that fall victim to the speeding cars. When Tony scores or when the vultures are celebrating a meal, Duro feigns disinterest by scratching a flea or biting or licking almost any part of his body. I suspect that this is because he isn’t much of a hunter. He really enjoys tearing up a rawhide bone or a stuffed animal but he does not strike fear in the hearts of the local gophers. He digs lots of holes cocks an ear and prances around various gopher mounds but rarely gets his gopher. On the rare occasions that he does capture one it is generally in the middle of the night. He has brought his prize into our bedroom and proudly presented it to my sleeping wife. On at least one occasion the critter was still alive. Needless to say this disrupts the tranquility of the Rancho. When I praised him for his quest we both got banished to the living room for the rest of the night. I really enjoy the life of a gentleman rancher in Escondido. When we lived in University City we were cramped into a one-bedroom apartment with two parking spaces with more grumpy grandmas than you could shake a cane at. Now at Rancho Tuza I enjoy a two-bedroom house, my very own garage, a faithful (if inept) dog, a pond, fruit trees and more gophers that any man could ask for. Life is good being a gopher rancher.