Santa Cruz Sentinel
April 27, 2004
riter’>By SHANNA McCORD
Sentinel staff writer
— To say that Alan Little, aka the “Road Ranger” of Highway 17, was a one-of-a-kind character, would be
putting it mildly.
To say that Little cared about his fellow man would be an understatement.
And to say that Little
didn’t live life to the fullest would be flat out wrong.
Little died Wednesday at his home ranch in Watsonville after
battling brain cancer for nearly a year. He was 55.
“It was always like, what is Dad going to do next?” said
daughter Heather Little, 25, of Boston. “He was just a character, a wonderful, weird, intelligent man.”
with his personality, Little “stole” his own car the day before he died and drove to Monterey to get a haircut,
said son Trevor Little of Astoria, N.Y.
“He was really ornery. He could be cantankerous and ornery,” Little
said. “But he was my No. 1 fan, supportive in everything I did. For that, I’m eternally grateful.”
became a reliable and familiar face to drivers who commuted over the hill between 1979 and 1983, when he patrolled the highway
between Los Gatos and Scotts Valley looking to give roadside help to stranded motorists.
He is said to have fixed more
than 12,000 cars during that time. Repairs ranged from overheated engines to flat tires and broken water pumps. Never did
Little ask for a dime more from drivers than the cost of parts.
“He spent so much of his life giving positive feelings
to other people,” said Little’s mother, Mary Mueller of San Jose. “He was a very interesting young man.”
received the Road Ranger nickname partly because his gravelly voice was said to be remarkably similar to that of the original
Lone Ranger of radio fame in the 1930s. He also dressed the part, with a gray, western-style jumpsuit, black cowboy hat and
His stint as Road Ranger drew national attention and Little become something of a folk hero, giving interviews to
NBC’s “Real People” and CBS’s “Evening Magazine.”
Santa Cruz resident Wayne Stanton
remembers Little coming to his rescue when he and a couple pals had set out on a hunting trip in Colorado in the late 1970s.
Early in the morning, barely a couple miles over Highway 17, the water pump in their Chevy pickup went out, Stanton remembered.
“We were standing around with the hood up wondering what to do and this guy came up and said, ‘I’m the
Road Ranger’,” Stanton recalled. “We laughed, but he turned out to be our savior.”
are hundreds of other stories just like Stanton’s, Little’s family asks motorists who have Road Ranger rescue
tales to write of their experiences and send them to 1115 Trafton Road, Moss Landing, CA 95039. The family will compile the
anecdotes to make a memory album, and file it with a local museum.
Little was diagnosed with brain cancer last June. By
the time it was discovered, it had already grown to dire proportions. He underwent surgery that reduced the cancer only slightly,
his stepmother, Ikey Little, said.
Even then, faced with a life-or-death situation, Little told his doctor that he would
have the surgery only if he could still go on a previously planned sailing trip on the waters north of Vancouver.
always did it his way,” Ikey Little said. “He had no fear.”
During the past year, Little underwent chemotherapy
and radiation that did little to hold the cancer at bay. While watching himself deteriorate, Little kept his sense of humor.
would tell us that his IQ was dropping,” Ikey Little said. “He told us it went from 89 to 79. The other day he
told us it was 43.”
The role of Road Ranger was only one way in which Little left his mark as a model citizen.
quit high school during his junior year to join the Army. He trained at Fort Ord in Monterey and Fort Lewis in Washington.
He served two tours in Vietnam, earning nine medals that included the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry
“I didn’t want him to join the military,” his mother said. “But he gave me no choice.
He brought the papers home one day and said he was going to join whether I signed them or not.”
malaria in Vietnam and spent three months recovering in a hospital on Okinawa, Japan.
He continued active duty in the National
Guard, serving as sergeant in charge at the armory in Gilroy until retiring in September 1993.
During retirement, he worked
on the family ranch in Watsonville.
“It’ll be a big hole when he’s not there,” Mueller said.
Shanna McCord at email@example.com
Alan Norman Little
BORN: June 22, 1948, Watsonville.
DIED: March 31, 2004, at his home ranch in Watsonville.
Quit high school during junior year, then earned a GED. Associate of Arts degree, Cabrillo College, 1993.
Ranger’ of Highway 17, Army sergeant, rancher.
SURVIVORS: Son Trevor Little of New York, N.Y., and daughter Heather
Little of Boston, Mass.; mother Mary Scott Mueller of San Jose; sisters Bonny Le Pape of San Jose and Donna Sheehan of Gresham,
Ore.; brothers William Little of Moss Landing and Roger Little of San Jose.
I served with Alan in the Army Reserves, a fellow sergeant along side him. Alan was quite a man and he was fun. We used
to do extra duty from time to time, all illegal as all get out but a lot of fun, pure Infanrymens works and Alan was one of
the best in the field solders I ever saw. He even had his own cannon range and a home made bazooka, mortar and howiters that
See you later pardner.Reply
Alan picked me up hitch-hiking in 1993 and I stayed at his place in Watsonville. He missed the Road Ranger days fiercely,
it seemed. He had some great weed too. I just went online trying to find out if there was any old footage of The Road Ranger,
there had been one or two episodes shown on local TV, I believe, where he had dramatized his actual efforts. Now I find he’s