by Elsie Lenton Corwin

Many of the exciting early events of the Loomis Ranch centered around Hazel Looms, later Hazel Thomas. She was a rugged huntress, hiker and camper, never happier than when she was out on the trails.

Hazel had spent many weeks roaming these mountains with her father, Captain Loomis, when he was tramping over hill and valley looking for good mining claims years before they began to homestead the ranch. In fact, Hazel and Orval, her husband, spent their honeymoon in 1911, camping up at the mine, having packed in over the mountains from Acton. She describes the huge oak tree still growing up there, as being the second largest one in California. It measures nine feet in diameter and twenty-six feet around its huge old trunk. It must be centuries old and spreads its leafy branches far and wide to shade the hillside. There is also a tall straight lone pine (we called it the Trail of the Lonesome Pine) standing sentinal on the ridge that is a landmark to be seen from afar. Orval thinks that the trees haven’t grown much since those early days. Mother Loomis agrees, saying “Probably not; just like people, trees get their full growth in size and then they just grow older”.

There was no cabin at the mine in those days and so they lived in tents even though the ground was covered with snow! Hazel and Orval loved this country and were very happy when camping there and working on the mine.

But long before this, in fact in 1906, - what a long time ago that was – Hazel and her sister, Anna, Captain Loomis and a man name Ickleberger, went on a hunting trip to Alder Creek Canyon. When the campers had spent many days in the wood they needed to hunt for fresh meat. Well, Hazel was making her way up the trail looking for deer tracks with her younger sister Anna following close behind. Hazel still remembers impatiently that Anna was very noisy and kept breaking twigs, making enough disturbance to scare the wild animals away. She says that she kept telling Anna to walk quietly, but that Anna wasn’t too much of a hunter.

However, in spite of cracking twigs, they soon saw huge buck tracks on the trail. The buck (that’s the male deer) makes a much wider and longer track than does the doe (the female deer), and you can always tell the difference when you see them. Hazel and Anna quickly followed the tracks and sure enough up on the flat they saw a great big buck just bounding up on the rocks. Hazel took aim carefully, for she was a fine woodswoman and she got the buck with one clean shot through the shoulder. He was a huge fourpointer, which means he had four tips on each side of his antlers, indicating that he was about four years old. He was really a big one weighing about 135 pounds. You can see those same antler hanging in the lodge for Hazel saved them as a trophy of her first big hunt.

Hazel had many other exciting hunting experiences through the years. Once when she went out hunting, needing fresh meat, she looked and looked for tracks, but saw nothing at all. Finally she found herself clear on the top of Mt. Pacifico – a very long way from home. Being tired and discouraged she started to sit down to rest when all of a sudden out of the trees stalked a big gray-brown buck! Well, she got her meat, for which she was very glad, but this time there was no one with her to help carry it home. It was all up to her and somehow she struggled home, about 30 miles on the old Indian Trial, with her catch over her shoulder. “It grew heavier and heavier each mile of the way home”, she told me, “but,” she continued, “we needed the meat so I just carried the deer home”.

Once as late as 1944 Hazel killed a huge bobcat that was molesting her nice fat chickens. Another time she got a hawk, a big one with a six foot wing span, that had been hanging around the rabbit pens. Many wild animals and some birds dearly love to catch and each chickens and rabbits and they have to be constantly protected from such preying enemies.

The old hawk is still in the lodge too, for Hazel cured and stuffed the bird and wired its wings so that it seems about to swoop down and out through the door.

Hazel has proven her hunting prowess many times since she got that huge buck, but she has always hunted to get meat for food or to protect their domestic animals from being eaten by the forest animals. There were many times too when the deer and the rabbits ruined trees and garden, eating the new tender growth and doing a great deal of damage. They aren’t always as friendly as they look – these fleet-footed furry forest creatures. Sometimes humans just have to protect themselves and their food, especially in so remote a place as the Loomis Ranch. Like her father, the Captain, and her mother too, Hazel was and still is a fine shot and no animal ever suffered at her hands.

[Source: The True Loomis Stories by Elsie Lenton Corwin, Wandalee Thompson Collection (2006.38.1)]