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L.A.'s Outback : Where Anonymity Thrives and Storytelling Helps Residents Survive

June 16, 1991|STEVE PADILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If you ever visit Sandberg, Neenach, Quail Lake or Three Points, chances are you will arrive there by mistake. That's how most people find them.

Scattered like seeds across the northwestern fringe of Los Angeles County, these drowsy, remote communities-- towns is too generous a word--are mostly unknown and unsung repositories of the county's pioneer past.

But anonymity is just what many of the region's residents want, and most say they moved there to escape the creep of the city. "It can be boring as hell," Neenach resident Ron Hansen admitted. "But I like it that way."

Except for an occasional community barbecue or the annual mule festival, there are few diversions in the remote region, so the residents have become expert talkers. They will talk your ears off with stories, both modern and historic, about pioneering farmers and sturdy mule skinners, lost tourists and a reputedly haunted brothel, hungry deer and thirsty bears.

There's even a story, from World War II, about a local Nazi spy.

Socially and geographically, the hamlets are betwixt and between, partly in the desert, partly in the mountains and a good 30 miles from a real city. Lining California 138 and Pine Canyon Road, the communities are made up of ranchland and farmland between Gorman, the well-known truck stop on the Golden State Freeway to the west, and Lancaster, the big city to the east.

"Between Lancaster and Gorman it's a whole other world out there," said Jana Robinson, director of a real estate firm in the area.

Apparently so.

Residents swear that even the weather around Three Points is different. "It can be pouring everywhere but will be pretty here," Hansen said. "It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen."

A few residents still leave their front doors unlocked at night. But ignoring one of the many "No Trespassing" signs could provoke a show of firearms.

Sheriff's Deputy Mark Suhr, based in Gorman, recalled the time a woman near Sandberg caught a man trying to steal her truck. She called the sheriff's station to report that she had the man in the sights of her 12-gauge shotgun and would hold him at her ranch until deputies arrived.

Said Suhr, apparently in jest: "I was more worried about the suspect."

Interesting places, these communities. It's best to visit them one at a time.

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