“The Pratts homesteaded just below Cold Spring on Manzana Creek. They had a stepson by the name of Eddy Fields. At the site of the Pratt house you can still see a large “E” and “F” carved into the trunk of a live oak tree.”
-Historical Overview of the Los Padres National Forest, E.R. “Jim” Blakley and Karen Barnette (1985)
The oak is fairly thin and ordinary, unremarkable, another tree in the forest like so many others. Not like the oaken hulks aside the grassy flat several miles away on the west end of Sunset Valley in lower Munch Canyon, which in their height and massive girth draw attention and would make good targets for a bored mind and idle hands.
The oak must of been a relatively minor tree a hundred years ago when he carved his initials into it. I wonder why Eddy chose it. Maybe it just happened to stand between his family’s cabin and the nearby uncommon pocket of the creek that holds a perennial pool, where I imagine he might of played.
The Pratts stayed only a short time on Manzana Creek and apparently never proved up on their homestead claim. They sold their stove to Edgar B. Davison, a forest ranger who used it to outfit his Fir Canyon station on Figueroa Mountain: Edgar B. Davison’s Fir Canyon Cabin (circa 1900).
There is a pocket of clear cool water in the creek by the oak. This in the month of July during a record drought while most of Manzana Creek is dry. At the moment of this writing a stack of rocks sits on the bank above the pool to note the uncommon availability of good water for passing hikers in an otherwise dry landscape. It wasn’t a bad choice for a site to stake a claim as a homesteader.