Posted by: Mike James | August 2, 2009

Get Down, Hoe Down

In 1978,  James Gang Custom T-Shirts was beginning its third year. Business was booming and my brothers felt it appropriate to celebrate our success with our friends and family.

Time to have a party.

Fitting the company name, a outlaw/cowboy party theme was chosen. In a corner of the Pac Shores my older brothers outdid themselves, devising the James Gang Get Down, Hoe Down. A quaint party with three or four hundred OBceans, getting and hoeing down.

It was agreed that a party of this magnitude could not peacefully take place in the confines of Ocean Beach. It was time to head to them there hills. The Big Oak Ranch was a frontier town/amusement park in Harbinson Canyon outside of El Cajon. It was perfect, an isolated patch of land next to a nudist colony.

A $20 ticket (a bandanna) got you a t-shirt, all the beer you can drink, live entertainment, a BBQ dinner, a barn dance, a piece of hard earth to sleep on and a Bloody Mary breakfast.

The fiesta started with the Shoot-out at the O.B. Corral. The James Gang (my brothers and I) ambled down Main Street with six-shooters at our side, looking for the Sheriff and his deputies (Played by the Big Oak Cowboy Players). Apparently derogatory remarks were made about wearing flip-flops with cowboy hats. Soon shots were fired and as the script foretold, I and several others lay on the hot ground as the drama played out. Shotgun touting women folk finally came out the saloon and dispatched the rest of the men on Main Street. We then dusted ourselves off to a round of applause and beers.

On one corner a one-man-band entertained the crowd, playing a Willie Nelson tune with his drum, harmonica and guitar. In the dusty saloon a piano player cranked out songs as Obceans sang along. My brother Pat’s hands were soon bloodied as he strummed a rousing rendition of “She’ll  Be Coming Around the Mountain” on a washtub bass.

In the meantime, a horseshoe tournament and a Chili Cook-off kept the rest of the party occupied.

It was soon dinner time, hundreds were served carne asada and other Mexican fare while listening to a mariachi band.

As darkness fell, the barn filled with the Country/Western music of the band Tall Cotton. Everywhere you looked boots and bare-feet were stomping to the beat. Attempts at the Texas Two-step in short order became the O.B. Misstep.

Later that evening, gunshots were heard coming from the parking lot. We figured the Big Oak employees were firing off the rest of their blanks. Come to find out later, the owner of the ranch, Rock Kreutzer was knocked over the head with a crowbar by a disgruntled former Big Oak cowboy. The shots we heard were live rounds being fired by Rock’s employees hitting the fleeing attacker’s car tires. With sheriff helicopters overhead, the culprit escaped.

After the band played their last song the party-goers headed to their tents for much needed sleep. For those who lacked the foresight to set-up their tents before drinking, their sleeping bags and blankets soon haphazardly littered the hillsides. For those slackers the sunrise came to soon. Waking to the bright reality of the hard ground, after a day of consuming muy cervazas, was indeed torture. Not that the tent dwellers had it a hell of lot better.

Under the shade of a large (big) oak tree, salvation came as Rich and Ron James had laid out a liquid breakfast. Reminiscent of a zombie movie, the groaning masses crawled out of sleeping bags and slowly stumbled down the hill to consume the replenishing Bloody Marys.

People tend to forgot the pain of good party and James Gang Get Down, Hoe Down played out two more years at the Big Oak Ranch. Each year had it’s share of added drama though. The second year campers were woken to the sound of firefighter’s bulldozers putting out a brush fire a few feet from where they slept.

Shortly after the third event, Rock Kreutzer was convicted of shooting his son-in-law and is still in prison.

The fourth and last year had to be moved up the road to Stallion Oaks Ranch in Descanso. Of course being a ranch, there were horses. Of course, we came to find out, horses and beach drunks don’t mix. An inebriated female, known to be a six in the morning Beach Club Cocktails and Live Entertainment regular, tried to pet the wrong end of a nice horsey. She was summarily kicked in the shins.

After our insurance company paid her bar tab for the next year, we decided to call it quits.

If you ask a survivor about the James Gang Get Down, Hoe Down, you should see a smile cross their face and a twinkle in their eye, as they answer, “You know, I really don’t remember.”



  1. LIES!!
    ALL LIES!!!
    No one has that much fun!!!
    No one!


    Brings back memories Mike!

  2. any chance you can repost the pics?

    • Got it. Enjoy!

  3. I wasn’t in your memories, but as a little girl I loved that place. Thanks for your story! (born 1977)

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