Friday, June 28, 2013

Masked Men Behind Every Rock

With the new Lone Ranger movie coming to theaters next week (July 3, 2013) I've been thinking about all the wonderful masked men that have galloped across Chatsworth filming locations over the years.

It all began with Zorro (Spanish for "The Fox") which was originally created in 1919, but found its way to Chatsworth and the Iverson Ranch by 1936, when Republic Pictures released The Bold Caballero starring Robert Livingston.

Among the many masked crusaders that plied their trade in Chatsworth's rocky hills were Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Batman, The Durango Kid and a plethora of other phantom riders who concealed their true identity behind a mask...

Zorro -- Movies, Serials and TV...

The Bold Caballero (1936) - Robert Livingston, Heather Angel, Sig Ruman (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Zorro Rides Again (1937) [serial] John Carroll, Helen Christian, Reed Howes (Iverson Ranch) Republic.  The above photo, courtesy of Bruce Hickey, is the famous Yakima Canutt.

Zorro's Fighting Legion (1939) [serial] Reed Hadley, Sheila Darcy, William Corson (Iverson Ranch)(Burro Flats) Republic

The Mark of Zorro (1940) - Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) 20th Century Fox

Zorro's Black Whip (1944) [serial] George J. Lewis, Linda Stirling, Lucien Littlefield (Garden of the Gods, Iverson Ranch) Republic

Son of Zorro (1947) [serial] George Turner, Peggy Stewart and Roy Barcroft (Iverson Ranch) Republic (photo courtesy of Bruce Hickey)

Ghost of Zorro (1949) [serial] Clayton Moore, Pamela Blake, Roy Barcroft (Iverson Ranch) Republic

"Zorro" television series (1957 to 1959) starring Guy Williams (Iverson Ranch) Walt Disney

The Sign of Zorro (1958) [TV movie] - Guy Williams, Henry Calvin, Gene Sheldon (Iverson Ranch) Walt Disney

Zorro, the Avenger (1959) [TV movie] - Guy Williams, Charles Korvin, Henry Calvin (Iverson Ranch) Walt Disney

Batman -- Serials...

Batman (1943) [serial] Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carrol Naish (Iverson Ranch) Columbia

Batman and Robin (1949) [serial] Robert Lowery, Johnny Duncan, Jane Adams (Iverson Ranch) Columbia

The Lone Ranger -- Movies, Serials and TV

Lone Ranger, The (1938) [serial] Lee Powell, Chief Thundercloud, Silver King the Horse and Lynne Roberts (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939) [serial] Robert Livingston, Chief Thundercloud and Duncan Renaldo (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Hi-Yo-Silver (1940) - Lee Powell, Chief Thundercloud and Lynne Roberts (Iverson Ranch) Republic

"The Lone Ranger" TV series (1949-1957) 221 episodes with Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels and John Hart (photo courtesy of Bruce Hickey)

Lone Ranger, The (1956) - Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels and Lyle Bettger (Iverson Ranch) Warner Bros.

The Durango Kid...

Charles Starrett gained fame for his role as the Durango Kid.  He first played his famous alter-ego character in "The Durango Kid" (1940), then between 1944 and 1952 he went on to make a total of 64 Durango Kid titles.  The Durango Kid films combined vigorous action sequences (often with speeded up camera work) and spectacular stunts performed by Jock Mahoney, all backed up with plenty of western music.

More Masked Men... (just a few of many)

Mystery Mountain (1934) [serial] starring Ken Maynard, Tarzan, Verna Hillie, Syd Saylor (Iverson Ranch) Mascot

Vigilantes Are Coming, The (1936) [serial] Robert Livingston, Kay Hughes, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Raymond Hatton (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Adventures of the Masked Phantom, The (1939) - Monte Rawlins, Betty Burgess and Art Davis (Brandeis Ranch) Equity Pictures

Kansas Terrors, The (1939) {Three Mesquiteers} Robert Livingston, Duncan Renaldo, Raymond Hatton (Burro Flats) Republic 

Phantom Rancher (1940) starring Ken Maynard, Dorothy Short, Harry Harvey and Ted Adams (Brandeis Ranch) Colony 

Heroes of the Saddle (1940) {Three Mesquiteers} Robert Livingston, Ray Hatton, Duncan Renaldo (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Covered Wagon Days (1940) {Three Mesquiteers} Robert Livingston, Ray Hatton, Duncan Renaldo (Burro Flats) Republic

Masked Rider, The (1941) - Johnny Mack Brown, Fuzzy Knight and Nell O'Day (Iverson Ranch) Universal

Trail of Terror (1943) - Dave O'Brien, James Newill, Guy Wilkerson (Corriganville) PRC

Mask of the Avenger (1951) - John Derek, Anthony Quinn, Jody Lawrance (Iverson Ranch) Columbia

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cowboy Wisdom -- Trail Tack Repairs

Will Rogers once said, "Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment."  That's especially true when it comes to keeping your horse tack in good repair.  Before riding your horse always check your saddle and bridle for loose, damaged or rotted parts.

Most of the important things I know about horse tack -- I've learned from mistakes made over my sixty year riding career.

Here's a few examples of things gone wrong:

Broken Off-Billet  (The off billet anchors the cinch to the rigging rings on the “off” (or right) side. While another latigo can also be used here, it is more common to use an off billet.) 

While galloping up a fairly steep grade my off billet snapped in half.  The saddle then made a 90 degree roll on my horses back, and gravity took over from there.  Somehow after the dust had settled my horse was standing uphill staring down at me with a questioning look as if to say, "how'd you get down there?"  Fortunately I was able to cut off a piece of my latigo and fashion a temporary off billet, so I could ride home.

Broken Mechanical Hackamore (A mechanical hackamore is a type of bitless headgear for horses where the reins connect to shanks placed between a noseband and a curb chain.)

We were headed home after a two hour ride when my rein suddenly fell away giving me no means to stop or turn my horse.  Fortunately we were walking at the time, and I was riding a pretty quiet horse.  The rivet that holds the shank to the nose band had failed and the shank simply fell off.  I suppose I could have tied the two pieces together, but since I was on a tired horse I opted for putting on the rope halter I always carry, and rode home with the lead rope tied to make a pair of reins.

Broken Bridle (A bridle is a piece of equipment used to direct a horse. The "bridle" includes both the headstall that holds a bit that goes in the mouth of a horse, and the reins that are attached to the bit.)

This has happened more than once and will likely happen again.  Bridle parts are usually held together with bits of leather wang or chicago screws, and both are are likely to fail on occasion.  Twice I've had a seemingly secure chicago screw fall apart allowing the bridle to separate from the bit which in turn allows the bit to fall out of the horses mouth yielding it useless.  In both cases I was lucky enough to get the horse stopped and make a temporary repair with a piece of leather wang.  Always remember that even with one rein you can double the horse (pulling the head back so he must turn a tight circle).

Broken Reins (Reins are used to direct a horse for riding or driving. They are usually made of leather, rawhide or nylon, and attached to a bridle at the bit.)

For trail riding I like heavy 3/4 inch wide reins with either water straps or swivels that attach to the bit.  Both systems can and have failed on a trail rides.  That last time I was in a fast gallop when the rein dropped off on-side.  I cajoled my horse to slow down, doubled him, got off and made the repair with a piece of leather wang while holding him with the one good rein.

Broken Stirrup Leather (On a western saddle, stirrup leathers are heavy, three to four inch wide straps under the saddle fender (which also protects the rider's legs from the sweat of the horse). Stirrup Leathers the stirrup.

I was riding an old 1930s Visalia saddle that used leather wang ties to the hold the stirrup leathers together (modern saddles usually have metal hardware -- such as Blevins adjustable buckles).  The wang had rotted, so the on-side stirrup fell apart on an uphill gallop.  Lucky again on a quiet horse, so I dismounted -- Indian style  (on the off-side) and made my repair with a piece of leather wang I always carry with me.

You need to be better prepared on Wilderness Rides

If I was on a wilderness trail ride I'd carry a lot more gear, but for local -- one three hour rides -- I reply on a few necessary items I always keep in a cantle bag on my saddle (photo below).

My Cantle Bag

I carry a nylon rope halter and lead rope, nail cutters, an easy-boot (that fits my horse), a few pieces of leather wang, extra Chicago screws (a dime for a screwdriver), and a simple first aid kit for my horse.

Will Rogers also said, "Most of the stuff people worry about never happens."  But, over the years I've discovered it's Murphy and not Rogers that's more often right.  You remember Murphy… he's the fellow that said, "If it can go wrong -- it will go wrong."  In addition to the above mentioned mishaps I've had horses lose shoes, pickup a nail in their hoof, and even cut themselves while passing a fallen tree, so even on an hour long local ride I carry a few essentials that might help us return home safely. 

On longer wilderness trail rides I carry an additional pair of saddle bags with the same survival items I carry on my canoe trips, see:

Solo canoe camping -- equipment checklist

Canoe fishing essentials -- make life easy

Don't forget to always carry a good horseman's knife, see:


Finally Will Rogers said, "Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce."  But, Roy Rogers once said, "When you get old you don't bounce -- you just splatter."

Happy Trails

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Richard Arlen

Richard Arlen (1899–1976) an American B-Western cowboy star who performed in 178 titles during more than half a century between 1921 and 1977.  He served in WWI flying for Royal Flying Corps, and in WWII he was a flight instructor for the United States Army Air Forces.

While he is probably best known for his role as a pilot in the Academy Award-winning "Wings" (1927) Western movie fans are more likely remember him as Buffalo Bill in "Buffalo Bill Rides Again."

Richard Arlen's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

Under the Tonto Rim (1928) starring Richard Arlen, Mary Brian and Alfred Allen (Iverson Ranch) Paramount

Alice in Wonderland (1931) [supporting role] starring Gus Alexander, Lillian Ardell and Meyer Berensen (Iverson Ranch) Unique-Cosmos Pictures

Big Bonanza, The (1944) starring Richard Arlen, Robert Livingston, Jane Frazee and Gabby Hayes (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) Republic

Buffalo Bill Rides Again (1947) starring Richard Arlen, Jennifer Holt and Lee Shumway (Iverson Ranch) Jack Schwarz   

Flaming Feather (1952) [supporting role] starring Sterling Hayden, Forrest Tucker and Arleen Whelan (Iverson Ranch) Paramount

Hidden Guns (1956) starring Bruce Bennett, Richard Arlen and John Carradine (Corriganville) Republic

"Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1959) TV series

"Wagon Train" (1959) TV series

"Yancy Derringer" (1959) TV series

"Whirlybirds" (1960) TV series

"Bat Masterson" (1959-1961) TV series

"Lawman" (1959-1961) TV series

Law of the Lawless (1964) [supporting role] starring Dale Robertson, Yvonne De Carlo and William Bendix (Iverson Ranch) Paramount

Black Spurs (1965) [supporting role] starring Rory Calhoun, Linda Darnell and Scott Brady (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) Paramount

Waco (1966)[supporting role] starring Howard Keel, Jane Russell and Brian Donlevy (Iverson Ranch) A.C. Lyles Prod.

Red Tomahawk (1967)[supporting role] starring Howard Keel, Joan Caulfield and Broderick Crawford (Iverson Ranch) Paramount

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chatsworth Movies -- The Terror Tiny Town

Some called it a masterpiece, some called it exploitation, everyone called it different.  "The Terror of Tiny Town" (1938) is a one-of-a-kind B-Western film produced by Jed Buell, directed by Sam Newfield, and it features 68 little people.

It's the world's only musical Western with an all-midget cast.  Many of the same actors were part of a performing troupe called Singer's Midgets, who also played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939.

Most of the outdoor scenes were lensed on the Iverson and Brandeis ranches in Chatsworth, CA.


It's a predictable Western about a pretty ranch gal who is being terrorized by a gang of outlaws led by a black hatted villain (Little Billy Rhodes).  Eventually she is rescued by the towns-folks led by a hero dressed in white (Billy Curtis).  

If you sit back and let your sense of humor take over this zany tale will have you howling as you watch pint-sized buckaroos walk under saloon doors, gallop around on Shetland ponies, and blast away with small frame six-guns (more suitable for grandma). 


Billy Curtis as The Hero (Buck Lawson)
Yvonne Moray as The Girl (Nancy Preston)
Little Billy Rhodes as The Villain (Bat Haines)
Billy Platt as The Rich Uncle (Jim 'Tex' Preston)
John T. Bambury as The Ranch Owner (Pop Lawson)
Joseph Herbst as The Sheriff
Charlie Becker as The Cook (Otto)
Nita Krebs as The Vampire (Nita, the dance hall girl)
George Ministeri as The Blacksmith (Armstrong)
Karl Karchy Kosiczky as The Barber (Sammy)
Fern Formica as Diamond Dolly
William H. O'Docharty as The Old Soak
Jerry Maren as Townsperson
Clarence Swenson as Preacher

You can watch the entire movie on YouTube at

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Learning To Ride A Horse -- Safely

When my grandsons were little boys I introduced them to horses, and as much as I tried to get them interested in riding horses the pressures of modern society prevailed.  They became fine baseball players, and straight "A" students, so I really can't complain.

Much to my surprise my daughter-in-law recently informed me my two youngest grandsons (both in high school) would like to learn to ride horses.

Rather than trying to teach them myself, I opted to pay for some lessons with a local ranch owner and horse trainer whom I really trust.  She has a wonderful track record of teaching local children to ride.  

I've been riding horses for more than 60 years, and there's lots of things I'd like to tell the boys.  I've thinking about the thousands of things one needs to learn to be a safe around horses.  

The Most Important Thing to Know -- Horses Are Flight Animals

Horses are complex animals that have survived and evolved for over 50 million years.  In the wild horses are prey animals that are constantly at risk of being eaten by mountain lions, wolves, and bears.  As a result they have developed complex patterns of behavior to successfully detect and avoid predators.  

A few years back I published the following article on the website of an equestrian nonprofit I headed (Chatsworth ECHO).

A Basic Safety Guide for Beginning Horse People

Getting involved in horses is a wonderful and rewarding way to learn new skills, develop a relationship with a fascinating animal, and meet new friends in the process.  Like many activities, however, equestrian sport also involves some degree of risk.  Horses are large, powerful animals, easily capable of injuring a person.  But, if you are well armed with a basic understanding of horses, a few hard and fast rules, and your own good sense, the risks are readily minimized.

    • Never touch or feed a horse without the owner's permission.
    • Approach a horse from the front or side, never from the rear.  
    • Announce your presence and offer your hand for the animal to smell.
    • Avoid sudden movements such as waving, running etc.
    • Speak quietly; avoid loud or unusual noises.
    • Keep young children and dogs under direct control at all times.
    • Sturdy footwear and an approved helmet are essential if you intend to ride.

Understanding Horses

The biggest risk in being around horses occurs when they are frightened.  At this time, their only concerns are escape and survival, and people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time can be hurt.  Therefore, the easiest way to prevent such accidents is to understand what frightens horses.

Horses are prey animals; in the wild, they are constantly at risk of being eaten.  As a result, they have evolved systems of behavior to help them successfully detect and avoid predators.  Specifically, horses are always on the lookout.  Their long necks, widely spaced eyes, and mobile ears help them be aware of things all around them.  This means that they see things "out of the corner of their eye" much better than humans, whose eyes are on the front of their faces.

Equine ears swivel in all directions, allowing them to hear and locate faraway sounds.  These abilities are crucial to horses' survival, because despite their speed, they are not as fast as many of their natural predators.  Early detection is therefore essential.

Figure 1:  Horses have a large field of peripheral vision and three blind spots

Having widely-spaced eyes means that the horse's field of peripheral vision is very large (Fig. 1), but it also limits his field of binocular vision (i.e., where he sees with both eyes at once) to a small area directly in front of her.  Binocular vision is essential to accurately judge distance and depth.  Therefore, most of the things a horse sees are only one-dimensional - and it is difficult for her to know exactly where they are.  In terms of the horse's survival, it really doesn't matter - all he has to do is run the other way.  But it does mean that horses will often "overreact" to little things behind and beside them.

Kasidy listening for direction during a mounted shooting event

Equine Body Language

Take some time to observe horses from a distance, and learn a bit of their body language.  When startled, a horse (like all animals) has three typical reactions.  Some will show all three in succession; others may show only one in a given situation.  If you can recognize these signs, you will be better able to predict and avoid danger.

First, a horse will usually freeze.  This makes her less noticeable to the potential predator, while allowing her to better identify the source.  The horse will usually look intently in the direction of the surprising stimulus, with its head up and ears perked.  The animal is often very tense, and a second startle may cause it to bolt.

Second, horses run.  Many will freeze momentarily before running, but many may not.  Prior to running, a horse may sidestep, spin, rear, or jump, and it is these actions which are particularly likely to injure onlookers.

Finally, if cornered, horses will fight.  Despite their size and power, they are really not ideally suited to warding off predators, lacking weapons such as horns.  They can, however, do considerable damage with their hooves and teeth.  Never corner a panicked horse.

Precious cargo and an intense Sunup listening for direction

Approaching a Horse

In terms of your safety, then, you should be aware that horses are most easily scared by sudden movements or loud noises, particularly outside of the animal's field of binocular vision.  Quick movements or loud noises in these areas will trigger fear reactions such as spinning or bolting, and you may get trampled or kicked in the process.

For this reason, avoid approaching horses from the rear or side.  Move to the head, giving the animal a chance to see you.  Most horses are more used to being approached from the left.  Announce your presence and put a hand on the horse's neck or shoulder so he knows where you are.  Offer your hand in a closed fist for the horse to smell.  Never run up to a horse, throw things toward a horse, or move in a quick or unpredictable manner.  Never stand directly behind a horse; he cannot see you well there, and you risk being kicked.

By learning about horses, how they perceive and react to the world, and by adopting a few basic rules of conduct, you can look forward to safe and enjoyable interaction with these beautiful creatures.

While Driving Your Car

Do you know what to do if, when in your car, you meet a horse being ridden or driven down the road?  This can be a particularly dangerous situation for all concerned: if frightened, the horse may bolt into the oncoming vehicle or jump into a ditch or fence line.  The horse may be injured, the rider or driver thrown, or your car damaged.

Your best strategy is to slow to a crawl, keeping to the opposite side of the road.  Dim or turn off your headlights, if possible, and turn down your car stereo.  If the horse appears particularly nervous, stop and wait for the rider to either enter a lane-way or wave you by.  Never brake or accelerate suddenly, both of which cause noise and throw up gravel.  Spraying gravel will certainly frighten and may even injure the horse.  Never, ever honk the horn.  When you are well past the horse, accelerate gradually and be on your way.

"Slow down" and "Pass wide" when you approach horses 
(from an another article I penned a few years back)  

My horse is a flight animal; that means her first reaction is to run from danger.

She has taught me that horseback riding is inherently dangerous and that there are significant risks involved with horses.  She is a powerful and potentially dangerous animal.

Any horse may, without warning, and for no reason, may jump up, forward, backward, or sideways.  She may become uncontrollable, run wildly, buck, bite, kick, or rear up without warning.

When she becomes tired, stressed, or cantankerous her behavior is unpredictable.   She may trip, stumble, and/or fall down when being ridden, led, or otherwise attended to.  Her eye sight is very different than yours.  She sees motion faster, but she does not see things as clearly.  She sees separate images on each side of her head, but she has a blind spot directly in front of her and directly behind her.

Weather, terrain, other animals, people and motor vehicles may adversely affect my horse's behavior.  She is afraid of car alarms, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, sprinklers, manhole covers, unusual concrete structures, things that are very black, things that are very white, blue plastic tarps, cardboard, balls rolling, flags, umbrellas, suddenly appearing dogs, skateboards, motorcycles, trains, tractors, and about a thousand other things she hasn't seen yet.

If you saw a loose dog in the street you would probably slow down.  When my horse is scared she is just as likely to jump in front of your car as a loose dog.

In general my horse can cause property damage, bodily and personal injuries, paralysis, and death to you or members of your family if your automobile hits her.  

That's why the California vehicle code gives equestrians to right to advise you to slow down or stop when we know our horse may be uncontrollable.

Section 21759 of the California vehicle code states, "the driver of any vehicle approaching any horse drawn vehicle, any ridden animal, or any livestock shall exercise proper control of her vehicle and shall reduce speed or stop as may appear necessary or as may be signaled or otherwise requested by any person driving, riding or in charge of the animal or livestock in order to avoid frightening and to safeguard the animal or livestock and to insure the safety of any person driving or riding the animal or in charge of the livestock."

Kasidy - a nice quiet horse - listening to her rider.

More about horses...

The Most Dangerous Horse

Cowboy Wisdom -- Halters and horse sense

Cowboy Wisdom -- Speak softly and carry a big stick

Still more cowboy and horse tales

Update June 29, 2013

Jody has done a fine job teaching the boys to ride... they cantered for the first time today and are thrilled.