The first two or three miles of the increasingly steep, barren hill country may be observed from town. Then the roadway begins to twist and turn, the terrain becomes more interesting, and the beauty of the canyon comes into play.
Some 16 miles westward from the freeway is Frank Raines Park, named for our 36-year county supervisor who ably represented the West Side from the ’20s to the ’50s. The county-owned land was developed decades ago by nonviolent prison labor housed at the site before newer facilities were built nearly 50 years ago at Laird Park near Grayson.
The roadway up the canyon was gravel and dirt 50 years ago, and then was gradually improved by the county until it was paved to the Santa Clara County line a few miles west of the park. There it meets up with a good paved surface that will take motorists to both Livermore and San Jose, the split coming at a junction in the picturesque San Antonio Valley. The drive to San Jose goes over Mount Hamilton and offers an opportunity to stop at the century-old Lick Observatory, which has interesting free tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Should you plan a drive up Del Puerto Canyon, give yourself some time to enjoy it. If you want, take a picnic for a stop in Frank Raines Park, which also has a small camping area. You just might find yourself alone. Springtime flowers add to the enjoyment, but watch for folks on motorcycles and bicycles who enjoy the twisty roadway.
If you are fortunate, you might spot some wildlife: fox, bobcat, coyote, deer, elk, badger, mountain lion or eagle. Keep your eyes open.
A grisly find
Last weekend’s find along the Del Puerto Canyon roadway of the bodies of two young men bound and shot is the latest reminder of the remoteness of the canyon. It is the only public roadway into the West Side hill country between Tracy and the Pacheco Pass west of Los Banos.
Some Pattersonites may remember that 25 years ago, a state highway employee was found early one morning in his auto parked only a few hundred yards west of the freeway. He had been on his way to work near Santa Nella and had apparently pulled off the freeway and parked. A shotgun blast through his car window took his life. No leads to solving the murder were ever announced by authorities.
But it was an infamous act in September 1978 that brought nationwide attention to the canyon. A 15-year-old girl crawled down the road some three-quarters of a mile to the freeway, where a trucker and his wife found her nude and bleeding. Her arms had been severed by a hatchet.
Mary Vincent’s attacker, Lawrence Singleton, had raped her, chopped off her limbs on a concrete abutment and left her to die. Some weeks later, a fisherman hooked onto one of her arms in the San Francisco Bay, leading to the arrest and conviction of her attacker.
Singleton was sentenced to only 14 years in state prison and was paroled after eight years. However, he was placed on death row in Florida after he struck again in 1997, stabbing to death 31-year-old Roxanne Hayes. He died of cancer in late 2001 at age 74.
Other dumped bodies have been found in the canyon from time to time, and the county keeps watch for marijuana-growing activities, giving the nearby canyon its dark side.
Can it be?
Marilyn Monroe dead for 50 years?
Those of us males in my age range — experienced, heading toward antique-ish — first experienced Marilyn on the silver screen as a titillating airhead. Then she married Joe DiMaggio, our diamond idol, and we realized maybe there was more to her than fluff.
However, my screen siren was Kim Novak, who smoldered in every flick in which she starred.
But back to Marilyn. Gone 50 years?
Big week in Patterson
Local stores are about to run out of candles.
Last Sunday, Aug. 4, Bertha Criswell observed her 103rd birthday. The longtime Grayson and Patterson woman is our oldest resident.
Next Monday, Aug. 13, Lawrence “Lodi” Harrison will turn 101. He, too, has spent most of his adult life in Patterson.
And this Saturday, Aug. 11, Anita Garza gets added to our 90-plus list. A big party with relatives coming from out of state is planned for that day. She moved to California in 1949 and to Patterson three years later, making her a 60-year resident of this community.
She ups the count of our 90-plus list to 65. Any more?
From the mail bag
Mr. Swift: HM, your housemate, hasn’t been mentioned recently in Fast Talk. Is she OK? — Concerned
Dear Con: Yes, HM is OK — in fact, better in those weeks when she isn’t mentioned in this column.
Support for USPS
The mail arrived Monday at about the time this column was being written.
Among the catalogs and advertising fliers were no fewer than seven requests for money. Two different envelopes came from the Red Cross and one each from UNICEF, the Cancer Center, U.S. Olympic Committee, National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. And then there was one bill.
It’s a good thing the nonprofits are using the Postal Service, or its operating deficit would be much worse.
For the sports fan
Remember back in the spring when Albert Pujols went many weeks without a home run for his new team, the Angels?
Some said it was Pujols’ switch to the American League. Others hinted he had peaked with the Cardinals. But as of last weekend, Big Al had blasted 24 homers, including six in his previous five games. Don’t give up on him yet.
I recently received a list of paraprosdokians. These are figures of speech in which the latter part is surprising or unexpected. Such as:
You don’t need a parachute to skydive. You need a parachute to skydive twice.
Moms, don’t forget to send ’em off to school Monday. Wouldn’t want you to forget.
Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at email@example.com.