Hazen Cowan (1890-1972) was raised on Sonoma Mountain, the oldest son of homesteaders James and Agnes Cowan. He and his brother were rough, tough rodeo riders, and as Jack London’s foreman he hauled rock from local quarries to help build the Wolf House.
Hazen often brought wild horses from Nevada and wild mustangs from Mexico that he’d either break and ride, or drive over Sonoma Mountain to the slaughterhouse in Petaluma. Jack London’s prize Shire stallion, Neuadd Hillside, arrived at the Ranch in 1913, the same hard year that his beloved Wolf House burned. Neuadd Hillside died just three years later, just months before Jack’s death. Charmian wrote this afterwards:
“I tell you, Mrs. London,” said Hazen Cowan, our cowboy, who had care of the stallion, “I hadn’t cried since the last time my mother spanked me, until Neuadd fell down. He wouldn’t lie down till he was dead, but stood there shaking all over.” Hazen pulled a freckled hand across his hazel, black-lashed eyes: “I’d really slept with him, lived with him, for months, you know.”
Hunter S. Thompson opened his story in Cavalier Magazine with this description of Cowan:
At a crossroads (here at Glen Ellen, Calif.), in the Valley of the Moon, in a weatherbeaten shack of a bar called the Rustic Inn, is a photograph taken in 1914 of a man named Hazen Cowan. It is a fuzzy, yellowed print, and kept under glass because the paper is getting brittle. It shows Cowan on horseback, wearing a white shirt buttoned at the collar and sporting a black head of hair. He is also wearing a slightly disbelieving expression that must have been common in those days when people looked into cameras. But the picture “came out,” as the saying goes, and you can tell by looking at it that in 1914 Hazen Cowan took no guﬀ from anybody.
He still doesn’t, even though today he is an old and wizened man who gets around in a new Ford pickup instead of on horseback. His voice is still crisp with the ageless authority of an old soldier or a retired bandit, and in Glen Ellen he is a bit of a hero. He was a friend of Jack London’s: he worked for him and drank with him and he was the last man to see London alive. Around here that is quite a distinction…
Cowan is one of those men who likes to take his drink in the afternoon. On a slow day last summer he pushed in through the Rustic’s swinging doors and sat down at the bar in a stray beam of sunlight that poked through a dirty window on the street. The bartender, an earthy sort of country squire named Chester Womack, was holding forth with a guitar. “Hello, Hazen,” he yelled. “Say, the Missouri Kid was in here yesterday. Wanted to know if you were still fallen’ oﬀ horses like you used to.”
“That bum,” muttered Cowan. “He couldn’t ride in a wagon.”