Chapter Two:”The Coburn Mystery” Original Draft [1988]

Talk about money and the Coburns always brought to mind Loren Coburn’s penny-pinching ways In some circles he was called “the poor little rich man of Pescadero,” compared to Shylock, the money-lending character in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.”

There were all kinds of stories about Loren’s spending habits. Here’s a typical one:¬† Loren brought his wife and a dozen doughnuts to a restaurant and ordered one cup of coffee–to be shared between the two of them.

As the largest landowner in the area–and once the biggest in all of San Mateo County–Loren engaged in tenant farming. The arrangement called¬† for one-quarter of the crops to be turned over to Coburn.

Precisely 25%. The crops were meticulously weighed before Loren would accept his share and the tenants complained the he was so cheap he refused to give them some nails to fix the fences on his property.

All of the acreage Loren Coburn owned had once belonged to the rancheros–and it was even rumored that he got them drunk on cheap whiskey and then moved, to his advantage, the property boundaries (which in the mid 1850s could be a rock or some other geographical feature, easily moved by hand).


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