A remarkable dam survivor on four legs.

Harry Carey Ranch house and garage-cropped

Three years after the St. Francis Dam collapsed and its flood waters wiped out most everything in San Francisquito Canyon north of Los Angeles, actor Harry Carey and his family had recently returned to the wood-framed ranch house that was high enough on the hill to survive. Later, fire would destroy it, so they rebuilt it out of adobe as seen in this photograph.

In 1980, Harry Carey, Jr., himself a successful character actor, told Don Ray and Bill Thomas a heartwarming story that he watched unfold from the front porch, which looked out to the right of this photograph in the direction of where their famous trading post had been before the flood washed it away, along with the caretakers and thousands of farm animals. Harry Carey, Jr. was just ten years old when he and his father saw something that seemed impossible.

“We were sitting on the porch. It was summer, like July, and we saw this brown horse, and he came loping across. Now this was a loose horse.” Carey recognized the horse that was walking across the hayfield that had been recently mowed.

“It was a horse called ‘Eighty-eight.’ It had been a bucking horse, and he had an “88” branded on him,” Carey said. “We hadn’t seen him since before the flood.

“He survived the flood.”

So three years after the dam broke and erased most of their ranch from the face of the earth, Harry Carey and his son, Harry Carey, Jr., discovered that a bucking horse that had been part of the rodeo show they had put on each weekend had found his way home.  Miraculously, it had not died along with all the other horses, cattle and sheep.

“Now, where he came from, God only knows,” Carey, Jr., said in 1980. “He might have been up in the canyons or something. You could see his ribs. So we ran down the field. We corralled him up against the fence and everything, put a halter on him . . . and put him in the back corral.”

In the three years that Eighty-eight had been wandering around in the hills, he had mellowed out — enough that he took on a different job after he regained his strength.

“The kids used to ride him around,”


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