Farm On The Freeway

by Jerry Wilson | July 19th, 2018

Readability

Farm On The Freeway

A cur­rent por­tion of my scat­ter­shot career path, which this year has mean­dered from giraffe ten­derer to Willy Wonka to rub­ber band man, daily places me on a rather lengthy bus ride around and in a white col­lar Mecca known by the locals as Bishop Ranch and by every­one else as that place where yup­pies who don’t want to work in San Fran­cisco proper go for pre­sum­ably gain­ful employ­ment. Bishop Ranch, or at least the vast major­ity thereof, resides in the city of San Ramon, a tony San Fran­cisco Bay Area sub­urb where the police have so lit­tle to do they actu­ally come to stores for shoplift­ing calls, res­i­dents out and about have to duck drive-​by snub­bings, and a street fight is defined as two soc­cer moms reach­ing for the same latte at Starbucks.

There was once upon a time — sixty years worth of time, to be pre­cise — a ranch on Bishop Ranch’s sev­en­teen hun­dred and sev­enty acres, this era con­clud­ing in 1955 when the at that time cur­rent Mr. Bishop passed away and his heirs decided they’d rather cut and run than con­tinue to cor­ral cat­tle, thus sell­ing the land to West­ern Elec­tric. Fast for­ward twenty-​three years to when West­ern Elec­tric, by then on its deathbed as part of the AT&T monop­oly breakup that even­tu­ally gave us, um, AT&T, sold the ranch to a busi­ness devel­op­ment firm which imme­di­ately set out plant­ing as many con­crete wed­ding cakes with win­dows as it could fit into the avail­able acreage. They’re still plant­ing them, as daily I ride past a not unsub­stan­tial con­struc­tion site for yet another retail shops in the base­ment with apart­ments in the attic site cur­rently all the rage in these parts.

There has been at least some effort to main­tain Bishop Ranch’s rural legacy. The grounds have a mul­ti­tude of trees scat­tered about, oak and pine and euca­lyp­tus and even a few red­woods. A good por­tion of them give evi­dence by way of height and width of pre­dat­ing the build­ing frenzy, doubt­less present to both pro­vide wood for assorted ranch require­ments and shade for assorted cows and bulls to do what cows and bulls do, namely munch on grass while wait­ing for the next minor earth­quake to rum­ble through so they can get a free hoof massage.

Trees notwith­stand­ing, it’s impos­si­ble to gaze out the bus win­dow and not won­der what this land was like when it was man using nature rather than man sub­let­ting nature and paving over every­thing else. In the city where I was born and raised, a stan­dard joke when­ever any kind of new devel­op­ment came in was the regret­table nature of tear­ing down yet another per­fectly good empty field just for this. Pro­gres­sion pro­gresses even as man mul­ti­plies; all these peo­ple have to have some­where they can work and earn just enough money for enabling liv­ing the lifestyle they can’t afford. Yet, one won­ders if any sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Bishop fam­ily, or the Gale fam­ily or any of the other fam­i­lies who have traded their earthy inher­i­tance for an exceed­ingly large check, some­times con­sider what was once theirs and regret leav­ing their farm on the freeway.

A current portion of my scattershot career path, which this year has meandered from giraffe tenderer to Willy Wonka to rubber band man, daily places me on a rather lengthy bus ride around and in a white collar Mecca known by the locals as Bishop Ranch and by everyone else as that place where yuppies who don’t want to work in San Francisco proper go for presumably gainful employment. Bishop Ranch, or at least the vast majority thereof, resides in the city of San Ramon, a tony San Francisco Bay Area suburb where the police have so little to do they actually come to stores for shoplifting calls, residents out and about have to duck drive-by snubbings, and a street fight is defined as two soccer moms reaching for the same latte at Starbucks.

There was once upon a time – sixty years worth of time, to be precise – a ranch on Bishop Ranch’s seventeen hundred and seventy acres, this era concluding in 1955 when the at that time current Mr. Bishop passed away and his heirs decided they’d rather cut and run than continue to corral cattle, thus selling the land to Western Electric. Fast forward twenty-three years to when Western Electric, by then on its deathbed as part of the AT&T monopoly breakup that eventually gave us, um, AT&T, sold the ranch to a business development firm which immediately set out planting as many concrete wedding cakes with windows as it could fit into the available acreage. They’re still planting them, as daily I ride past a not unsubstantial construction site for yet another retail shops in the basement with apartments in the attic site currently all the rage in these parts.

There has been at least some effort to maintain Bishop Ranch’s rural legacy. The grounds have a multitude of trees scattered about, oak and pine and eucalyptus and even a few redwoods. A good portion of them give evidence by way of height and width of predating the building frenzy, doubtless present to both provide wood for assorted ranch requirements and shade for assorted cows and bulls to do what cows and bulls do, namely munch on grass while waiting for the next minor earthquake to rumble through so they can get a free hoof massage.

Trees notwithstanding, it’s impossible to gaze out the bus window and not wonder what this land was like when it was man using nature rather than man subletting nature and paving over everything else. In the city where I was born and raised, a standard joke whenever any kind of new development came in was the regrettable nature of tearing down yet another perfectly good empty field just for this. Progression progresses even as man multiplies; all these people have to have somewhere they can work and earn just enough money for enabling living the lifestyle they can’t afford. Yet, one wonders if any surviving members of the Bishop family, or the Gale family or any of the other families who have traded their earthy inheritance for an exceedingly large check, sometimes consider what was once theirs and regret leaving their farm on the freeway.

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