Crows, murder, and the Julian Cemetery

A damp and chilly fog had drifted in though the mountains and around our Airstream trailer as I took our dogs on an early morning walk and spotted what appeared to be the strange image of an approaching dementor,* which I had first encountered here two years ago.

DSC_0070 Dementor?

It turned out to be one of the many ghosts of trees burned in the 2003 Cedar Fire.  As the morning sun burned off the fog, we enjoyed working on projects and viewing the wildlife around our campsite.  Suddenly, our attention was captured by a murder of crows angrily cawing and swarming* from one tree canopy to another and then we saw it.  A beautiful gray fox walked by, just fifteen feet away.  The crows followed the fox to the Cedar Trail and I followed with camera in hand. As I turned a bend, the fox saw me and dropped a snake that it had just caught.  The crows attention now focused on their next meal, the snake!

DSC_0310 A murder of crows  DSC_0329 Crow with snake

I left the crows to enjoy their brunch, while I returned to camp to enjoy my coffee and read more about Julian’s pioneers as recorded in David Lewis‘s Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery, complete with maps and photographs.  The nearby town of Julian was once an area where Kumeyaay Native Americas lived as seasonal hunters and gatherers.  During the winter of 1869-70, Fred Coleman, a Black rancher living in the area with his Kumeyaay wife, Maria Jesusa Nejo, discovered gold, and former Confederate veteran, Drue Bailey, homesteaded 160 acres of the land and named it after his cousin, Mike Julian.1  After the gold rush, people found the soil productive and many families chose to stay in the area.2 (View Julian’s colorful history in the KPBS video, “The Town of Julian.”)

DSC_0230 "Last Known Address"

David Lewis’s grandfather, Floyd Erving Lewis, is also included in his book, along with the curious story of Leandro Woods, and both are buried in Julian’s Haven of Rest, Pioneer Cemetery.

DSC_0238 Julian Haven of Rest Cemetery

Robert Y. Allen is also buried here and, the day after Howdy Doody paid his respects, I returned to the Julian Cemetery to find the gravesite of Leandro Woods, with the help of David Lewis’s book.  The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the town and David’s map shows that Leandro Woods is on the NE edge of the new section first used in the 1950s.

DSC_0227 Pioneer Cemetery overlooks Julian  DSC_0387 Newest section, Pioneer CemeterySo I carefully and slowly walked up and down this hill several times without finding Woods’ grave marker.  I did find the grave marker of Susie Coleman Williams, the daughter of Fred Coleman, next to the grave marker of her daughter, Clara Angel.

DSC_0348 S Williams & daughter Clara

I finally did find Leandro Woods’ grave marker, hidden between the large cedar tree and the barbed wire fence on the edge of the cemetery.

DSC_0369 Leandro Woods & barbed wire

David Lewis wrote that Leandro Woods was a Native American ranch hand at the Banner Queen Ranch and taught his uncle, Mike Mushet, how “to be a cowboy”, along with “the ways of the local Indians.”  In 1885, Leandro discovered gold, mined it, and after accumulating several thousand dollars, would throw parties at the Hotel del Coronado.*In 1954, his body was found on the highway embankment, just west of Julian.  In his book, David wrote, “Those who knew Leandro well, knew in their hearts that he was murdered. Leandro was missing two things when they found his body: the money in his wallet and the one thing a cowboy like Leandro would never be without, his favorite cowboy hat.” (page 72)1

DSC_0374 Leandro Woods grave marker


DSC_0243 This cowboy's hat Howdy and I say, “Don’t take this cowboy’s hat!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

1.  David Lewis, Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery, Headstone Publishing, Julian, CA, 2008

2. Kathryn A. Jordan, Life Beyond Gold: A New Look at the History of Julian, California, The Journal of San Diego History, Spring 2008, Vol. 54, Number 2

3. Charles R. LeMenager, Julian City and Cuyamaca Country: A History and Guide to The Past and Present, Eagle Peak Publishing Company, Ramona, CA, 1992, page 88.


Happiness in the cool mountains

California desert temperatures are now routinely in the nineties and above, so we and our Airstream Safari chilled out in the oak, pine, and cedar forests in William Heise County Park, 4200 feet above sea level, in the Laguna Mountains that intercept clouds and rain that would otherwise reach the desert areas.

DSC_0009 Wm. Heise Co

Daytime mountain temperatures were in the seventies and we made a point of closing the windows well before sundown to keep the trailer cozy during the evenings, but each morning, we woke to trailer temperatures in the fifties.  Since we were doing non-hookup camping here, we routinely turned on our Mr. Heater Portable Buddy at 5:45am and ran it for two hours, which brought the temperature up to 68-70 degrees.  By then, sun was streaming into the trailer as I savored hot coffee, NPR’s Morning Edition,* and summer reading.

DSC_0028 Coffee and summer reading

By the afternoon, sun was illuminating our homegrown Alstroemeria flowers on the other side of the trailer and had restored our Lifeline AGM batteries back to 100% via our two factory installed solar panels by mid-morning.

DSC_0057 Vista view & Alstroemeria

Mule deer and wild turkeys reside here, along with a plethora of wildlife, which quickly accepted us as part of the local milieu to the extent that at times we felt like we were in a Bambi movie.*

DSC_0153 "Luna Gobblegood" turkey

DSC_0054 Spotted towhee

DSC_0147-2 Acorn woodpecker

Spotted towhee (left),  Acorn woodpecker (right),  Merriam’s chipmunk (lower left) and Steller’s Jay (lower right)

DSC_0253 Merriam's chipmunkDSC_0043 Steller's jay

The goldspotted oak borer* continues to kill trees, which are cut down and its chips provide a natural mulch.

DSC_0075 Larry, Mac & Tasha on chips

As long as dogs are on 6′ leashes, they are permitted on trails here and our corgis love hiking on the Cedar Trail with its lovely oak and cedar trees and benches.

DSC_0081 Bench on Cedar Trail

During our 5-day stay, we had time to work on projects. Larry is seen below making one of four mid-19th century shirts (based on Saundra Ros Altman’s: Past Patterns, #10) for my work at a historic house museum.

DSC_0194 Larry making period shirt

DSC_0197 Larry's sewing (close-up)

DSC_0172 Larry's outfit for Howdy Doody


DSC_0404 Wm dressed for Whaley House

Three years ago, Larry made a new outfit for my Howdy Doody doll that I had as a child.  (The Howdy Doody show started the year I was born, 1947.)

Just before our trip here, I learned that Robert Y. Allen was the creator of the famed Howdy Doody face, was known as “Grandpa Bob” in the nearby town of Julian, died at the age of 99, and is buried in Julian’s Pioneer Cemetery.  So I brought Howdy Doody to pay his respects to Robert Allen on May 19, the anniversary of his death.  His grave marker is just a few steps away from Marshal South’s grave.

DSC_0208 Howdy visits Robert Allen's gravesite

With happiness in our hearts, we returned to camp with one of Julian’s famous apple pies* and celebrated life in the cool mountains and time with Howdy Doody.*

DSC_0246 Bill, Howdy & Julian apple pie

*This is a link to a YouTube video.