Rancho Point Lobos

Robinson Jeffers' depiction of the Central California Coast as a place populated by Anglo-American ranchers and laborers who were likely descendants of Mission Indians sounds probable enough, but this red-brown and white human landscape lacks the yellow tone of the people of the coast. The narrative poem Tamar is a conspicuous example and case in point.

Tamar takes place on an Anglo-American ranch at Point Lobos. The narrative lacks detail regarding the actual business of the ranch. A quick review of the history of Point Lobos reveals that Point Lobos was nothing like Jeffers' depiction of the Point ca. 1917. It was, rather, a modern, industrial, and largely Japanese place from about 1900 to well after the time when Jeffers completed Tamar. The canning enterprise had, in fact, enjoyed a boom during the Great War. Tamar was a story that took place during the Great War, yet the story has nothing to say about abalone or Japanese divers.

In 1897, about 17 years before Robinson and Una Jeffers first arrived in Carmel, a Japanese marine biologist named Gennosuke Kodani arrived at Point Lobos and began to harvest abalone. By 1900, Kodani had hired Japanese abalone divers onto his operation, and began using modern deep-diving equipment in the harvest. At about this time, an Anglo-American named A. M. Allan purchased Point Lobos and went into business with Kodani. Allan and Kodani built a cannery there that operated from 1902 to 1928, and accounted for 3/4 of California's abalone production. This modern operation was on Whalers Cover which, also marked by a scar from a granite quarry, was well within sight of Carmel Point, where Robinson Jeffers moved in 1919. When Jeffers published Tamar in 1924, the cannery was very much in operation.

Likewise, when Jeffers published Boats in a Fog in 1925, the cannery was shipping canned abalone out from Carmel Bay, yet Jeffers never wrote about the Japanese divers and their rich harvest of abalone, though in 1926 Jeffers published words that described how the soil around his home was "thick" with abalone shells. He acknowledged that Indians had harvested abalone at Carmel Point, and he lionized the white ranchers of the region, and even more the fishermen. He even wrote a good word or two for the Indians, yet nothing for the Japanese abalone divers of Point Lobos. Rather, he positively whitewashed Point Lobos, excepting of course his treatment of local Indians as disembodied rapists.

This whitewashing seems especially odd when one considers the oriental beauty of the cypresses native to Point Lobos. Did not the Japanese divers, themselves natives of our Pacific Rim, deserve to call this place home, and in their hazardous occupation deserve to be treated as part of the beauty of the coast?

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer