When I met Sandy Richmond in Topanga in 1972, I was in “between” rentals since the state owned house that I was renting up Glen Trail was going to be torn down by the state and added to parkland. Sandy invited me to come and camp at her campground up Santa Maria Road ( she was given permission to live there by a land manager of a very famous celebrity) and she had already been living there a few years.
I said “Sure!” and was informed that one of my jobs would be to help Sandy with her hand-raised, bottle-fed (rescued), “leash trained” African Lioness named “Cara Jane” and help get her into her enclosure at night. Since Cara usually spent her days lolling around in the shade of a huge oak tree on her massive chain during the day she wasn’t usually in a mood to be led down to the old pump house, made mostly of concrete, to spend her nights. I had to take her favorite toy “stickus” and crouch down in the grass way in front of her and wiggle the stick encouraging her to run and pounce on me. Yikes! But we managed to get her safely enclosed each night and only had to listen to her massive roars when she went into heat around 2 years old.
Many of Topanga old timers will remember the meadow and maybe the time they went to visit the lion… sometimes the good old boys would come and sit around the campfire drinking beer until it was time to “pet” the lion. Usually Cara would tolerate it to a point but then rise up on her hind legs and embrace them, bringing them down to the ground with her and playfully wrestle or gnaw on a booted foot until they called for Sandy to get her off of them. Sandy was really the only one who could control her.
Sandy only finally left the Meadow when the big fire roared through there and went all the way to the coast and we had to move the lion outta there in the back of an old woody station wagon…across the valley! (Can you imagine driving in the valley, stopping at a red light, and looking at the car next to you and seeing a full grown lioness sitting up in the backseat of a car? We took Cara to the Wildlife Station in Little Tujunga where she lived out a long life in the company of another male lion.
Sandy was a friend to all animals, humans included, and my year and a half spent living in the meadow with Sandy was a lesson in unconditional love.
We lost our dear Friend of the Canyon, Sandy Richmond, a few weeks ago….someone I will never forget. I met her when she was a waitress at the infamous Topanga Corral where she earned $$ to feed a growing and very hungry lioness, Kara.
She lived in the meadow not far from the Corral where people would gather in the late 60’s and early 70’s, similar to a commune where people would come and visit and never want to leave. I would ride my horse there to watch Kara and Sandy have a beautiful bond and friendship similar to something you’d see in a movie, only this was real.
After the fire Sandy had to put Kara in a refuge where she would visit Kara. The bond and love was never forgotten between the two.
Later Sandy moved to Bandon, Oregon where people from the canyon would continue to visit our beloved Sandy, lover of people and animals.