I keep an eye on the wood carved cowboy that surveys the Pacific Ocean from the F. McLintocks parking lot. The other day a man was refinishing it I and stopped to make a feature photo.
My first professional story was written about the carving and sold to a local magazine. In the days before personal computers, it was written on a typewriter. The magazine writing class I was enrolled in gave an automatic ‘A’ grade if a story was published. The professor just required that he get a copy of the writer’s original draft along with the clipping.
Aaaaugh, forgot to photocopy it.
When I went to collect the manuscript from the magazine editor he had thrown out the original.
In more ways than one.
Though the story published under my byline not a single sentence was recognizable.
I have no illusions about being a great writer but every sentence revised? Man that hurts, brother and sister scribes, I feel your pain.
At least the check cleared.
My friend Don, who had shot the photos, had a better experience. You could recognize his work when it was published.
In the days before spell check, I found the process of writing was torture. Photography felt much more natural. This was one of the formative learning experiences that pushed me down the road to Nikons and Kodak film rather than notebooks and Underwood typewriters.
My friend Don got married a few weeks back. Congratulations Don and Valerie!
And the magazine? It went out of business years ago.
Here is a Tom Fulks story from the then Telegram-Tribune Focus section from June 25, 1983. For the record, Tom’s story is better than either version of my stories.
He’s a rugged cowhand
Sculptors turn dead tree into eternal statue
His dark steely eyes stare out to sea, seemingly unimpressed that he has at last been set free.
This is a serious dude: a stern-faced, 22-foot tall cowhand who looks like he means business.
He’s not the type to brag about things, and hell would freeze over before he revealed the many secrets he has come to know over the years.
Had it not been for the careful strokes of a chainsaw-wielding wood sculptor — Eusebio Dalay, 66, of Monterey — this cowboy might never have been freed of the bark that covered him for so many years.
The Monterey Pine in which the cowboy was entombed was planted by rancher O.T. Buck on his pastoral Shell Beach site more than 80 years ago.
Later, the tree served to shade the front of a seaside gambling and pleasure saloon owned by the late Mattie Smyer, who, according to legend, purchased the ranch from Buck with earnings from a successful brothel she ran near the oilfields of Taft.
Smyer is reputed to have turned the Buck ranch into one of the most profitable brothels on the Central Coast during World War II.
The saloon was sold in 1973 to Bruce Breault and Tunny Ortali, who remodeled the structure and grounds and named it F. McLintock’s Saloon and Dining House.
While they are happy to discuss their thriving business and its steady growth, Ortali and Breault don’t like to talk too much about the saloon’s previous owner.
But they do tell people the pine was planted in the same month Mattie was born, and that it died of beetle infestation shortly after Mattie died several months ago.
Today, there stands the stoic cowhand, showered in light by powerful lamps at night, exposed to the sun and weather by day.
It juts straight up from the ground behind a white picket fence, next to American and California flags that welcome visitors.
Until it died, the tree — bedecked with shimmering lights and leafy limbs — stood as a landmark for the thousands of motorists who travelled U.S. 101.
Carved on the base of the sculpture for posterity are the words: “By Burlwood Ind. Inc., Eusebio Dalay, 6-16-83.
Dalay, a master woodcarver who left for the United States from the Philippines two years ago, knew how to make a portrait.
This coarsely-cut cowboy stands a little pigeon-toed with the slightly bowed legs of an experienced horseman.
The model for the wooden cowhand was taken from a large lamp that sits in the lobby of the restaurant. Being as authentic as possible, Dalay reproduced a spitting image of the statue.
The sullen-faced cowboy sands with his thumbs in his belt, rifle at his side, bandanna around his neck and bullets and six-gun slung low around his waist.
He also wears the traditional hat, vest, chaps, boots and bushy mustache, and stands on a saddle.
He faces the ocean with the determined expression of a contemplating cowpoke scanning the horizon.
Though Dalay was the master carver on the project, he received help from Burlwood president George Buck and vice president Joe Vallaire.
Dalay used several chainsaws to carve out the rough image of the sculpture, then broke out his chisels and hammers to do the detail work.
The Burlwood crew had to erect a scaffolding around the tree to carve it — an unusual twist for Dalay since he usually carves sculptures out of smaller pieces of wood.
When the sculpture was finished it was painted to preserve the wooden cowboy from rotting.
Though he may not be as graceful as the shady tree, the cowhand will no doubt continue to be an attraction as he stands silently watching over freeway travelers.
The cowboy is named after a friend of restaurant owners.
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