Ranch of the 3 String Beans by Viola Moore, Movie Stars Parade, April 1950

Three fellows in blue jeans and cowboy boots were leaning on a rickety fence in a canyon just this side of Santa Monica.  They all had reddish-brown hair springing back from square foreheads and they all had blue eyes.  The two little fellows were called Mike and Bob, and the big fellow, doing all the talking, was their father, Robert Walker.

"Now that we've bought this place we are going to have to work hard to get it into shape." He was saying.  "This fence, now --- what would you say ought to be done to it?"

Bobby, the nine-year-old squinted judiciously.  "Ought to be painted. White," he offered.

Mike the eight-year-old had an idea, too.

"Ought to be scraped first.  We got to get all that old paint off."

Robert Walker nodded.  "That's a job for the two of you. There are some long handled scrapers in the garage. You can get to work with them tomorrow,  and after that, we'll get some white paint and you can paint the fences.  I'll put you on regular weekly salaries during school vacation, and you can save the money to buy anything you want.  How does that sound?"

It sounded swell.  So good in fact that the boys wanted to go to work their very first day at the ranch home that Bob Walker had bought for them. But the shadows were falling, and Emily, their housekeeper was calling them in to supper at the knotty pine Lazy Susan table. 

After supper they squatted on their heels before the giant fireplace in their living room, for there was no other furniture, and they held a competition to decide on a name for their rambling ranch. They thought of all sorts of names to fit an oak-shaded piece of land that cut off from the main highway at an odd angle, and dived deep into a canyon near the Will Rogers ranch. But non of the names seemed just right.

Then, Bob Walker senior who came up with the perfect tag.  "Let's call it the Ranch of the Three String Beans, because that's what we skinny guys are --- string beans." 

The kids liked that.  Next day they got Pedro their houseboy to paint them a sign to hang at the entrance gate.  And Pedro spelled it out for them in Spanish.  "El Rancho de los Tres Ejotos". They tacked it up for all to see, and then went to work on their fences, while Bob began hauling in red bricks for the new driveway.

Six months later you'd hardly know the place.  They've got a bright green lawn lapping round the house.  Shrubs and flowers sprout in the shade of the giant oak trees, and the white fences gleam.

Inside, the house is much the way they found it.  There is no furniture in the living room, except for their Lazy Susan table and chairs that they use for dining, play games, and reading history.  But the boys have their own bedroom furnished with couch beds covered in he-man rusty brown spreads, and their own fireplace.  Bob's room has a huge four-poster canopied bed stuck squarely in the center. There are guest rooms too, and each has a fireplace.

Emily, who doubles as nurse and housekeeper for the boys, is a placid lady who understands kids thoroughly, and can cope with young cowboys when they track in mud on their high-heeled boots.

Though shekeeps a motherly eye on the boys, it is Bob who really takes over their upbringing.  He has worked out quite a program for his developing youngsters.  Every weekend he supervises fast-moving boxing matches between them.  The winner gets fifty cents, and to see them go at it, you'd think the "purse" was five thousand dollars.  Young Bobby is the real athlete, who is just mad about sports.  Mike is the one that wants the fifty cents.  He's got saving plans of his own, and is going to be the business man of the family when he grows up.  Robert and young Bobby are going to be the actors.  They've got it all worked out, they'll play together as "The Messrs. Walker" in movies to be produced by "Michael Walker".  That's the way you'll see their names on the marquees of theatres all over America --- so say Mike and Bobby.

That Bobby is going to be an actor, is a foregone conclusion.  He is the one chosen by his fifth grade classmates at "Black Foxe" Military Academy, to tell stories and act out dramas.  Last year he surprised his father by winning the school's most highly prized award, the Presidential medal for the best all-around boy.

Both boys love history and historical novels of the Dumas type.  Bob reads aloud to them every evening when their homework is done, as they gather round the table.  Sometimes they play Mike's favorite game "Monopoly" and to see the little boy gathering in his sheafs of paper money and puzzling over real estate buys, you just know he's going to be a financial wizard one day.

All three "String Beans" share their love of the great outdoors that stretches from their doorstep in rambling and riding trails toward the misty Pacific Ocean.

Spur-of-the-moment trips in their family car are another delight.  One weekend the Walker clan decided to go to Yosemite. So they piled into the car and sailed off into the early autumn fog for Yosemite.  About two miles along Sunset Boulevard it suddenly struck Bob that the Park was going to be a mite cold that time of the year, even for his toughened young ranch "hands".  He ought to call the trip off.  But how to do it?  The kids had set their hearts on going to see the famed wildlife and tall trees.  Bob narrowed his eyes in thought.  What would be better bait for these wild westerners?  A colorful character of some sort.  A sheriff, maybe.  Ah, he knew just the one!"

"How would you like to meet a real sheriff, boys? He asked. "A fellow with a big badge and a ten-gallon hat and a special car for taking radio calls?"

"Gee!" said both boys, their eyes rounding with awe.

"Is he in Yosemite?"

"No. He's in Victorville.  His name is Zeke, and he's got a couple of daggers that he took away from some desperadoes a while ago.  He's a tough hombre, the sheriff."

"Then why don't we go to Victorville?" asked Mike, practically. "I want to see the sheriff." Shouted Bobby. "Daddy, I want to see the sheriff."

"Okay, don't yell." Said their father.  "We'll go to Victorville.  I know a ranch where we can stay where there's swimming and hunting.  Maybe you boys have got the right idea."

Smiling craftily to himself, Robert Walker turned his car in the direction of the desert town beyond the San Bernardino mountains.

They drove through the still, warm desert, and watched the miles of Joshua trees slipping past, their arms twisted against the blue background of the distant hills like so many regiments of grotesque dwarfs. 

They spent their weekend with Bob's old friend Zeke.

The sheriff took to the Walker lads right away.  He showed them the pass where the Mormons came through. "Dead Man's Point" they called it.  And the kids were still with wonder.  Dad came from the Mormon country --- Salt Lake.  Then they went target shooting and the sheriff gave them each a .22 rifle as a present.  He gave them the daggers he took away from the desperados, and he let them ride in the radio car and listen to the police calls, while his big brass badge gleamed in the sun, and his big voice boomed out with thrilling stories of the wild west.

Bob Walker thinks this was about the best vacation the kids ever had.  Months later the kids are still talking about it. 

"It was just one of those lucky ideas." he grinned.  "Now if we'd had a girl along, we couldn't have done it.  She'd have been dressed for Yosemite, and that would have been that.  There are advantages to being just three guys alone.

There may be advantages, but there must be disadvantages too.  Though the kids are grand fun, Bob is feeling the need for some life of his own, some comradeship of people his own age who can share his talk of good books, and music, and world events.   Because he has not furnished his living room yet, beyond a fine green carpet, and the table they use fir dining, he has not entertained often since they moved in.  He has had one big party, and that is one that he'll remember for quite a time.

He went to Pete Lawford's house to a party and met thirty new people whom he enjoyed so much that, as he shook hands with his host at the close of the evening, he impulsively decided to give a party himself the following week.  Bob invited Pete, and his thirty friends down to the ranch, for a midnight buffet, and they came, in a body, with ten other people they had picked up on the way.  They sat on the floor before the huge wall-high fireplace and they played records on a portable machine somebody had brought.  Somebody else played a bass fiddle, then Keenan Wynn and Pete Lawford started clowning around and kept the gang laughing until dawn.

"It was a good party." Said Bob with some satisfaction, as he knocked his pipe against the fireplace.  "And it was all due to the guests.  Maybe it wouldn't have been so much fun if there had been furniture in the room.  Next time I'll try a party with furniture.  If it doesn't work out, I can always dump the sofas and chairs, because I've learned that it's the proper mixing of congenial people that makes a party go, nothing else."

He's turned out to be something of a psychologist himself after his sojourn at the Menninger Clinic, and he's learned valuable lessons in dealing with his boys.  For instance, Bob worries sometimes that they are rather excitable at mealtimes and don't always eat all that they should, but he's made it a rule never to comment on their lack of appetite.  If they don't want their spinach, they don't have to eat it.  Sometimes its hard not to try and push food into them when they are shooting up so straight and thin, but Bob knows that peace of mind and pleasant conversation at mealtimes is far more good for them that unwilling eating.  Nothing but pleasant topics are discussed at table, for Bob is emphatic in his belief that mealtimes should be happy times.

"Both the boys have good temper." He says, "And by that I mean, good, hot tempers.  I encourage them to express their grievances, because I don't want any pent-up feelings to come out later in life and cause maladjustments.  They get disciplined, when they need it, with the back of a hairbrush.  Their punishment is just as swift as their tempers, and then we forget all about the matter.  I think I can say, the boys respect their Dad."

They not only respect him, they think he's the greatest guy in the world, and they are planning new adventures for their summer visit to the ranch.  Jennifer Jones, their mother, now Mrs. David Selznick, has custody of Bob and Mike for the early months of the year, and then they go back to Bob and life at the "Three String Beans".

Ranch life has been astrengthening factor in Bob Walker's life. He's worked hard at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in "The Skipper Surprised His Wife,"  and on the board of directors at the Screen Actor's Guild too.  He's starting to go out again, socially.  There's no one girl in his life at the moment, but there's surely room for one who wouldn't mind putting on blue jeans and scuffling with the kids, who might like to take odd trips at any moment, or who would give up a Saturday afternoon to watch two youngsters box.

Looking at Bob Walker, this girl will see a young man with a tanned face, a lanky frame, and a gentle look in his blue eyes.  She'd feel that he's had a tough trail to follow in the past few years, but that he's found peace and satisfaction at last in owning his first plot of land, his first house.  Looking at him she'll think, "Here is a man who was not meant to walk alone.  And, the right girl will know what to do about it. "

Copyright Movie Stars Parade

Articles Index