Monday, August 18, 2008

This Old House

Proudly claiming its space on Calabasas' busy main street (part of the famous Camino Real) is the Leonis Adobe, a venerable structure that has been rooted to this spot since 1844. It's hard to recognize the original building -- it has been enlarged over the years -- but it has endured earthquake and development and stands to share its history with those who take time to stop in.
Miguel Leonis, from the Basque region of France, was a smuggler who had to take it on the lam. By marrying an Indian woman, Espiritu Chijulla, he acquired considerable land and livestock. Over the years he added to his holdings, controlling vast tracts of land by both fair means and foul. When he died, he left his wife a pittance.
Espiritu, whose family holdings had not been inconsequential, took the matter to court -- a bold move for a woman in those times. She received a fair settlement and lived on the property until her death in 1906.

My friend Lin loves history and the Adobe. She loves the educational program offered there -- children not only learn about the history but how early Californians lived. Turkeys, chickens, sheep, goats, horses and long-horned cattle bring the farmyard to life and docents demonstrate home arts like baking in the outdoor oven and making tortillas. (Leonis himself was a snob and insisted on French bread)

Lin is especially fond of Daisy, one of the resident longhorns. She shared this story about her grand-daughter -- a cautionary tale about literal interpretation. Lin and Ross were getting ready to leave town and she told her then-three-year-old grand-daughter, "Catherine, Daisy's going to have her baby while we're gone so I want you to be sure and call me when she has it." Days later Lin got a call from the excited little girl. "Nan, Nan, Daisy had her baby! And Nan -- it was a cow!" Lin says she had a Far Side-style vision of Daisy in a rocking chair, her udder in her lap, cuddling a swaddled baby.

Daisy, who's retired from motherhood, was hot and tired the day we visited -- not really in the mood to pose for a picture.

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