Although the term “Renaissance Man” has become something of a cliché, it’s hard to think of another way to describe Steve Deming of Redondo Beach.
Whether it’s as a musician, horseman, poet, developer, photographer, writer, singer, longevity buff or open-trail crusader, Deming clears all the hurdles.
He also gets into trouble now and then, especially when it comes to fighting for open access to the beautiful tree-lined, ocean-view trails on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Deming, who stables his two horses at the Empty Saddle Club in Rolling Hills Estates, said that a few residents have taken to blocking trails because they object to horses and/or strangers infringing on or being near their property.
Always one to seek creative expression for his emotions, Deming, who looks 20 years younger than his 72 years, gave voice to his frustration in “The Trail,” one of 50 poems in his 2011 book, The Source—Poems of the Trail.
As he does with all the poems in the book, he prefaces "The Trail" by explaining the motivation behind it, how existing trails in suburbs such as Rolling Hills “are dying." He goes on to state, "To the extent that we can protect the active trails, and rediscover old easements and renew them, the life of our system can be extended.”
Two separate stanzas of "The Trail" read:
A vista of the ocean
a place where eagles nest
The fences kept encroaching
new houses crowned the crest
One day a shiny steel contraption
raised to block the path
Not in some obscure outcrop
…it cut the trail in half
A few weeks ago, Deming saw that yet another resident in Rolling Hills “had blocked the trail that runs behind their house, even though it’s been there forever,” he said. “It’s absolutely a prescriptive easement and a public trail access.”
The next thing Deming knew, “I was accused of tearing the ‘No Trespassing’ signs down, and the sheriff put me in the back of a squad car in handcuffs,” he said.
If nothing else, the event allowed Deming to broaden his trail crusade and reach a larger audence, including home owner associations.
The incident perfectly describes Deming's passion, whether it's for the preservation of trails or his deep affection for family, his cowboy pals and horses.
In an interview at CBRE, Inc., the real estate firm in El Segundo where he has worked for nearly 40 years, Deming was in his casual business guise, meaning a shirt and khakis as opposed to cowboy boots and hat.
Juggling his numerous creative identities (poet, musician, horseman, etc.) at night and on weekends, the CBRE vice president specializes in “multi-family housing land” weekdays, meaning he sells land to developers for apartments, condominiums, and single family tracts, a market that “is just beginning to pick up again,” he said.
An idea for a poem can spark anywhere, however, he said, something that started when Deming was 11 years old and wanted to buy his mom a Mother’s Day card but was short on cash. He wrote a poem instead.
His mother later responded with a poem of her own, which has been included in The Source. A part of it reads:
I’m glad to share, I know I should
This hobby just begun
Someday the World may know it too
This talent of my son
Born and raised in Inglewood, Deming, the youngest of three children, attended Inglewood High School and UCLA, where he majored in economics, a sign that the left and right brain were already in a battle for supremacy.
Praising his parents (“I had a wonderful childhood,” he said), Deming told how his mother reigned as manager of the Morningside High School cafeteria for years, and his dad, forced to sell his Inglewood grocery store after removal of a throat tumor, went into insurance.
Deming’s love of horses began in 1975, when he joined Coldwell Banker (now CBRE), and watched the horses in the canyons of Mandeville Canyon on his drives home.
Married at the time, Deming wanted a home in Palos Verdes with room for horses. “I found one and bought it, and I’ve been into horses ever since,” he said.
Although Deming’s poetry focuses primarily on cowboys and horses, he writes about his children by his first marriage (daughter Devon, 38, and son Ryan, 36), as well as about his fiancée, the woman he describes as “the love of my life,” Sherrie Edwards, a mid-40s horsewoman and surfer.
Engaged “off and on” for 10 years (“It’s sort of a joke,” he said), the two live in an ocean-view condo on the Esplanade with Edwards’ son Bodhi, 15, who is “almost as beautiful as Sherrie is,” Deming said, his grin widening.
During one fracture in their relationship, however, the developer/cowboy/poet wrote of making the long trek to Santa Ynez (“The Trail to Heaven”), where Edwards had taken refuge.
Sometimes when you tell me
That you need time and space
It makes me sorrow full
I long to see your face
One thing that draws the couple together is their love of horses, including Edwards’ butterscotch-and-white Tennessee walker, Sedona, and Deming’s bay quarter horse, Doc.
Several of Deming’s poems deal with the communication between horse and rider; one, “Bishop’s Lodge,” relates to his Doc.
We hadn’t gone too far when I thought to turn around
But ‘Doc’, my faithful bay, spoke to me without a sound
“You have friends,” he said, “with other things to do
But, I have only twenty years or so to ride the trail with you"
Prior to the interview, Deming had just returned from a five-day ride on Catalina Island, where he serves as el presidente of Los Caballeros, a group of 80 riders, some from as far away as Belgium and Belize.
Catalina is just one of Deming’s favorite riding locals, which, along with the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Ynez Valley, he photographed for his self-published book.
“The Source is my second book,” he said. “My first one was a murder mystery called Catalina, which I recorded into a book on tape and self-published as a CD.”
He’s most proud of The Source, he said, because it’s more than just poetry. “It’s also photography and artwork,” he explained. The pen and ink drawings of cowboys and horses are the creations of Keith Christy, a noted Western artist whose paintings command $10,000 to $15,000.
The two are old friends and members of Los Rancheros Visitadores, “the granddaddy of riding groups,” Deming said. Founded in 1929, Los Rancheros is composed of 1,000 riders who spend a week-long camp out every year on the 7,200-acre Janeway Ranch in Santa Ynez.
“So when I got ready to publish this book, I called Keith and asked him if he would like to do a coffee table book” with poems, photographs and art, Deming said.
Music entered Deming’s life about 35 years ago, when he bought himself a harmonica at REI for Christmas. “I thought riding a horse was the perfect place to play a harmonica, because nobody could complain about the terrible quality of music while you were learning,” he said.
Now a member of the California Cowboy Band, Deming and his band mates have a CD out, Riding Catalina Again, and two of their songs, “Riding Catalina” and “Dying Breed,” are available on YouTube.
The cowboy band, alternating with Deming’s poetry readings, are star attractions at the annual Palos Verdes Peninsula Horsemen’s Association Cowboy Poetry and Music Festival in January.
He likes the juxtaposition of poetry and music, because the music accords time to absorb each poem. “It’s kind of like walking through an art gallery,” he said. “Each poem is a word picture. And if you just focus on the word pictures … I think people tune out relatively quickly.”
The poet/musician, who sang with the Rolling Hills Covenant Church Choir for nine years, sings along with the band, their signature song, “God Bless America. “I belt that out as if I knew how to sing,” he joked.
As if real estate, music and poetry weren’t enough, Deming is writing a book about prolonging health and longevity. Live Well, Live Long will trace the evolution of food supplements and health regimens, including the benefits of HGH (human growth hormone), testosterone and diet.
“I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about five years ago that said 50 percent of the people who are 50 years old today will live to be 100,” he explained The huge shift in longevity prompted him to research advancements.
“There are so many things available to us now that weren’t available five, 10 years ago, and the fact that people are taking advantage of them is wonderful,” said Deming, a living example of what HGH, testosterone and eating right can do. “At an age where most people are starting to bend over and slouch, I find myself walkin’ tall.”
When he retires in the next year or so, Deming hopes to “start traveling the cowboy poetry circuit,” which includes Monterrey, Tucson, Santa Clarita and Albuquerque.
Most certainly, he will go to Albuquerque in November for the Western Music Association’s (WMA) Annual Western Music Festival, where he has been nominated as 2012 Cowboy Poet of the Year and his book, The Source, nominated as Cowboy Poetry Book of the Year.
Meanwhile, he will continue to fight to keep existing trails on the Palos Verdes Peninsula open to riders who cherish them as much as he does. As he says at the conclusion of “The Trail”:
Should I say, “Goodbye my friend”
And let you die this way?
Or should we ask our neighbors
To give your life a stay?