El Viaje de Portola: Rich OC White Guys on Horseback

Marker of the actual Portola Expedition, not the fake one
Brandon Ferguson

Editor's note: In our efforts to sloooooowly digitize the Weekly's old archives, we're publishing articles from our past every week until this reclamation project is complete in 2132. Enjoy!

Originally published April 17, 1997

The other weekend, Orange County observed an annual rite, the 34th Viaje de Portola, in which 210 horsebound hombres rode off into the privately held wilds of South O.C. for three days of reliving, more or less, the rustic life of early California. To be precise, we didn't actually observe it, since-aside from the cowpokes' be-hooved departure through the streets of San Juan Capistrano-the event is closed to the public. Only invited guests of the Rancho Mission Viejo cattle ranch went, and the all-male assemblage making like the Marlboro Man included land developers, civic leaders, our county sheriff, CEOs, lawyers and other professionals.

Thank goodness, because who knows what manner of mischief a passel of less civic-minded fellows might get up to given the chance to go native. Let us imagine, shall we, a transcript of a similar ride held in a less-cultured county with less pedigreed participants.

We join the party as they head toward the outback, their horses winding through Phase II of Stucco Woods Estates:

Lawyer Larry: Jeez, it sure is a narrow squeeze riding between these condos.

Developer Don: Go ahead, take a look in the windows and see what the poor rubes eat for breakfast. Their house payments bought that spread I laid out for you this morning.

Lawyer Larry: That was some fine vittles. Ah'm still picking the gnatcatcher pate from between mah teeth.

Another Developer Don: Larry, I know this is your first ride, but we usually don't break into cowboy parlance until we've cleared civilization.

Lawyer Larry: I'm sorry, Another Don, I just got a little excited, having this big horse between my legs and all.

Sheriff Tad Tates: Hey everybody, what's the Ebonics word for a transvestite?

Everybody: We give up. What?

Sheriff Tad: Susan B. Anthony!

Developer Don: Well, see, here's a clearing already: broad of vista, lush in the local grasses and shrubs, abundant in the animals that have eked out a plucky existence here since time immemorial.

Lawyer Larry: What do you call this meadow?

Developer Don: Phase III.

Sheriff Tad: Tarnation! Mah accent's com'n' on parful strong, dagnabbit!

By midafternoon, the relentless sun-surely not the several bottles of Cuervo-has taken its toll on the men's spirits. Call them saddlegazers if you like, but when they spot an immigrant family in a gully, they rise to the challenge.

Yet Another Developer Don: Injuns!

Sheriff Tad: Pull all the flagons in a circle!

Developer George: Careful, they might be packing ballots!

Sheriff Tad: Ah b'lieve we can bring 'em to justice with our lariats, but Ah'm radioin' the SWAT helicopter in to be on the safe side.

There is a confusion of whoops, gunshots, hoofs and helicopter blades. Soon the miscreants rue the day they ever crossed the border in search of ill-gotten work.

Sheriff Tad: Yew have the right to remain hog-tied and Mexican.

Judge Joseph: Court is now in session. Shall we get right to the sentencing phase? What we gonna do with these crim'nals?

Assorted voices: Maybe we can make 'em tan leather. Anyone bring a brandin' arn? This one's got a real purty mouth.

Justice is hard work, and the men are glad to set up camp at the CEOK Corral as nightfall nears. There is a tense moment when it seems the men might have to make their own fire, but their worries are for naught. Soon a line of limos appears on a dusty access road. As welcome as the cavalry, they disgorge their cargo of servants, caterers, sommeliers and call girls. We join the men many hours into their rustic revelry, as the rosy-fingered dawn tugs at their flies. The conversation is punctuated by gunshots, screams and the sounds of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, which was also limoed in for the occasion.

Sheriff Tad: Gorf! Plag! Yrrrch! Screeee-nibblet yowdah!

Developer Don: That's some fine cowboy parlance, Sheriff Tad!

Sheriff Tad: Retch! Glorp! Rolf! #$%^^@$#%!@%@aol.com!!!!

Another Developer Don: What's Sheriff Tad goin' on about?

Developer Don: Oh, he's just talkin' into the porcelain cell phone. Hey, have you tried the goat?

Another Developer Don: Don't mind if I do. Will you hold her for me?

Lawyer Larry: Lookit me, Ah'm shoein' horses with mah dick!

When the men finally return to civilization, they are plumb tuckered out by their encounter with nature, and perhaps a little humbled by her. They may be back in their Brooks Brothers suits tomorrow, but look close and you may see a new, wild twinkle in their eyes.


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