Erik McCornack, 46, still remembers the look on his grandfather’s face when he was 12 years old and got the old man’s yellow Jeep stuck in the mud on their sprawling walnut ranch in rural Paso Robles.
“He was always telling me, ‘Stay on the road.’ And sure enough, I decided to go off-roading one day in the rain,” he said with a laugh. “Grandpa came out there and said a few choice words and pulled me out with a chain on his tractor. He was a hard guy, so just one look from him and that was it. I never did that again!”
McCornack’s grandparents, the late Eleanor and Bud McCornack, raised their family in Shandon, where generations of McCornacks dating back to the 1860s farmed grain and barley on the Carrizo Plain.
Erik’s father, Ralph McCornack, now 73, met his wife, Linda (Iversen) McCornack, at a Shandon school dance when he was 15.
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“She was a few years younger and I didn’t know her, so I ran home and asked my mother if we were related,” Ralph McCornack said, chuckling. “Back then, the families were so big it was hard to know. But mom said no, she wasn’t, and I was happy about that.”
Ralph and Linda McCornack will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary this year.
While the family grew up in Shandon, Ralph McCornack said he spent a lot of time in Paso Robles, the closest city. He and Linda now live in Paso Robles on the same street as their son and daughter.
“I love living here — it’s my heritage,” Ralph McCornack said. “It’s home.”
As a boy, Ralph McCornack spent his days in Paso Robles’ city plunge and shined the shoes of Camp Roberts soldiers on Spring Street next to the former Hi-Ho Theatre.
In 1969, Eleanor and Bud McCornack bought a 209-acre walnut ranch in Peachy Canyon in west Paso Robles, and the whole family harvested the nuts together for decades.
Today, parts of the ranch have been sold, the walnut trees have stopped producing, Ralph McCornack is retired and son Erik McCornack sells real estate and sings in a local band called Soundhouse.
But Erik McCornack said his summers on the walnut ranch are among his fondest memories.
“It was just so great because you were learning a trade,” he said. “But more than that, you learned so much about life — how to shoot guns, and hunt a buck, and all that good nature stuff. All the things I take with me wherever I go.”
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• California Mid-State Fair, July
• Taste of Downtown & Arte de Tiza, Sept. 17, 2016
• Pioneer Day, Oct. 8, 2016
• Vine Street Victorian Showcase, Dec. 10, 2016
• Paso Robles Wine Festival, May 18-21, 2017