Peter C. Boudoures – October 17th, 2009

101_0040A couple of weeks ago I turned off Hwy 128 where the public radio station is located and drove down the left hand fork back into the woods and along the creek. About ½ mile in I arrived at the Boudoures ‘compound’ and met with Pete Boudoures, the family patriarch, and father of Jim who runs his construction business out of this site and lives nearby with wife Linda. “I was not given a middle name when I was baptized but I wanted one so I have always included the ‘C’ which stands for Constantine, after my father; it also helps people not confuse me with my grandson who is also Pete.”
Pete, now 85 years old, was born in San Francisco in 1924, at the same hospital, U.C.S.F., where he would later train and then work as a surgeon. His parents, Constantine and Francis had both emigrated from Greece around 1923, bringing two children (a boy and a girl) with them. Constantine had actually been in the States much earlier when he was just twelve years old and had traveled across to San Francisco, staying with an uncle and working on the railroads, and experiencing the 1906 earthquake. He went back to Greece when he was eighteen and just after his return there, World War 1 broke out and he went in to the army. Following the war he met Francis and they were married.
Constantine headed to the New World ahead of his wife and two kids who arrived in New York’s Ellis Island a little later only to be separated because the children had measles and had to be quarantined. Francis was distraught at this, particularly as she spoke no English and could not understand what was going on. It was eventually sorted out and she made her way out west and the family was reunited. She gave birth to twins, Pete and his sister, a year later. Constantine started a grocery business with his brother on Nob Hill, and they lived nearby at Leavenworth and Clay Streets, in San Francisco. “I remember walking just a block away from our house from where I could see both the Bay Bridge and Grace Cathedral being built in the mid-thirties – I would spend hours watching.” Pete attended Spring Valley Grammar School and then Marina Junior High, going on to Galileo High School from where he graduated in 1942. I reminded Pete that this was O.J. Simpson’s school and he replied with a wry smile, “Oh yes, we’re very proud of that!”
Pete grew up in a family that still practiced in the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church and had many Greek foods at home. However, unlike his older siblings who were four and six years older and struggled to assimilate, having spent their early years in Greece and knowing little English, he spoke it as a first language, only speaking Greek when at home with the family. “Most of our time was centered around the business and family. My Mother was ‘The Dean’ of Greek Pastry cooking with other ladies coming to our house to take lessons. We always had huge jars of Greek cookies at home – I should have been three hundred pounds when I was in my senior year at high school.”
Pete enjoyed school and from the early age of twelve or so he knew he wanted to go to Annapolis, to the Naval Academy, and be a navy aviator. “Everything I did at school was geared towards that goal and so when I graduated, with the Second World War going on, I applied, was accepted, and went on a waiting list. In the meantime I worked a couple of different jobs. Being a tall, strong young man people would assume I was a draft dodger and would say things to me on the street. Fortunately I could take pretty good care of myself.”
Pete worked as a ship-fitters helper down on the waterfront in San Francisco Bay, installing gun emplacements on freighters before, in September 1943, he was finally called up and reported to the Naval Air Corps for training, where he was to be for the next eleven months. Before he was through however the authorities realized they had too many pilots and the program was cancelled. “I went from almost being a naval pilot to be a simple swabi (regular navy).” For a time Pete attended the Naval School of Meteorology which led to his posting in the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific between Alaska and the Soviet Union where he became an aerographers mate, manning a weather station. They made forecasts and passed the information on to the fleet. “It was the most boring job – I didn’t do anything heroic in the war! We just observed the weather, although we were always on the lookout for an attack. On one occasion I was talking to a guy on a different base, who had become a friend as a result of our frequent radio contact, when he suddenly said, ‘Pete! Pete!… Jesus Christ there’s a great big….’ We lost contact. It turned out his entire outfit at Ft. Glenn, on the other side of the island to us, had been wiped out by a huge tsunami. We were in Dutch Harbor on the other side of the island and were protected… I read a lot in those days and that was what kept me from going crazy. Some of my reading led me to thinking what an interesting job being a doctor might be and that’s when I decide to become one. I had all the requirements for pre-med from my days at Annapolis so when I came home after the war I went to U.S.F. for my pre-med before heading to the Midwest to attend St. Louis University Medical School.”
In the meantime Pete remained in touch with a group of friends from his childhood days. (There are about five couples from those days who are all in their eighties now but who still keep in touch with each other). It was at a wedding of one of these friends where he met up with a woman, part of the group, whom he had known as a friend since he was twelve. “We knew each other so well that we got engaged a week later!” This was Patricia ‘Pat’ Ward, a daughter of the Revolution, “not officially but certainly qualified to be one” whose great, great uncle had died in the Revolutionary War.
After getting married in 1948, Pat and Pete moved into a house in the Sunset District of San Francisco for a few months before heading to St. Louis where they were to remain for four years. “We liked St. Louis except for the weather in the summer. We’d leave as soon as school broke up and head back to S.F. and did that every summer for seven years. The people there were wonderful and it was a good experience although there was not much going on compared to San Francisco.”
After their time in the Midwest, Pete, Pat and the children, there were three kid at this point – Bea Ann, Jim and Christine – returned to San Francisco and soon added two more – Mark and Irene. Pete began his residency at U.C.S.F – where he’d been born. “I eventually went into practice at my own office downtown and would use the hospital for surgeries. My specialties were general, thoracic (chest), and vascular surgery and over time I got to train many others.
During his years of residency and private practice in San Francisco, when not working or with the family, Pete could probably be found on the golf course. With his busy workday ahead of him, he would often tee-off at dawn at Harding Golf Course in the City and be in his office by 9am. He did this every weekday for many years and when he moved to Anderson Valley he continued to play both at Little River, Ukiah and two days a week drove down to Rohnert Park to play with old friends. “I gave my son Mark a cut-down 4-wood and he used it for every shot no matter where he was on the course – there is nothing that compares to teaching a kid something at a young age.”
“After many years I became disenchanted with surgery and the hospital politics so I moved out of it and went to Stockton where I ran an Emergency Room for ten years from 1978-88. I work for two straight weeks at a time then come home for a few days. It was a good move and I enjoyed it but in 1988 I had a heart attack and decided to quit. There are many ‘tight’ moments in an emergency room and I knew what would happen if I stayed in practice. I didn’t think I wanted to challenge it and risk anything happening.”
Many years previously, in the late sixties, Pete and Pat had decided they wanted a home in the country. After seeing many places they came across the site just south of Philo. “It was not far off Hwy 128, had a creek and lots of redwoods. It was perfect so we bought 143 acres for $43,000 in 1968. It had been the sight of an old mill and had a few broken down shacks and a large barn for drying wood – we used the woods from the shacks to build the houses here…I was in practice in San Francisco so initially we’d come up just for one night at a time and camp with the kids. Our eldest son Jim announced at an early age, ‘this is where I’m going to live’ – and he did just that, becoming a self-taught carpenter, cabinet maker, welder, machinist, and excellent house builder. We had built this house together by 1979 and were now coming up for weekend visits. In 1988, following my retirement, we moved here to live full-time.”
“I love it here, despite being a city boy. It is the greatest gift I have had, next to my wife, Pat. We used to go back to the City more but rarely do these days. Until a year or so ago, when I turned 83, Pat and I were still playing golf a couple of times a week in Windsor, an hour and a half away… I have other interests to keep me busy, such as my woodcarvings, and I’ve picked up my classical guitar again.”
“Over the years we’ve traveled a lot – to England, France, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii every couple of years. We went to Greece a few years ago, to my forefathers’ town, and met up with 23 cousins. We also did a six-week tour of the States in 1997 and have been to New Mexico and Arizona a few times too. We did that St. Louis thing for eight years in a row, every time looking forward to our return to the fog. We don’t go there now…. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than right here – heaven’s no… I was always kept busy here too – there were always endless jobs to do on a piece of property like this and for years I maintained the roads and dealt with the firewood, the water lines, and continued to do finish work on the house. We don’t socialize much in the Valley – Jim, Linda, and our other son Mark represent us here. Of course, now family takes a lot of our time – we have 12 grandchildren and 9 great-grandkids… Other than that I sit around here, in that comfortable chair with a phone, a dictionary and an almanac, sometimes watching the birds just outside.”
I asked Pete for his brief responses to various Valley issues…The Wineries? – “It’s kind of sad. The Valley has been converted into one huge winery, There is the one predominant industry here and many people involved in it do not seem to contribute much”… The Valley’s School System? – “I like it. They seem very considerate of the kids and many people give a lot of their time. Our grandkids have done very well coming out of the local schools”… The A.V.A. Newspaper? – “We subscribe. Except for when Bruce went away I have always liked it. I’m glad he returned. It keeps you in touch with Valley events”… KZYX & Z local radio? – “We can’t get it here – can you believe that? (They are next-door neighbors). We can only listen if we’re in the car which isn’t very often”… Tourism? – “Well without it the Valley would struggle. The roads here (Hwy 128 and Hwy 253) from outside keep many away I’m sure. If you suffer from car-sickness then I’d advise people to stay away.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Pete many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “Love”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “Toilet”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “It used to be golf until a couple of years ago…As a former surgeon, I am excited by what Obama is trying to get done on the health care issue. It is a very important effort and if it doesn’t get done we’ll be really screwed.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “The suffering of children…Less seriously, but still annoying, is when a group of people speak a language around a person who does not speak that same language. It is poor manners.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “Cello playing by Yo Yo Ma”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Hearing a parent screaming at their kid.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “That’s easy – ‘oh, shit’…”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “I guess some of the books I read that glamorized the doctor profession enough to induce me to become one… There was a film about the naval academy at Annapolis but I can’t remember it now… I love the folk singing by Andrea Bocelli, better known as an opera singer.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “As I mentioned, golf used to be a big part of my life. I started in my mid-twenties and played for nearly sixty years – that’s a lot of ‘oh, shit’s!”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “The thought of being a fighter pilot was something that excited me for years. Those Blue Angels really inspire me… On another level, plastic surgery might have led me to going abroad and doing some good with kids who had cleft palates or hair-lips. A couple of my friends did that.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Anything that would have meant me getting up early in the morning.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – Marrying Pat…and second to that the day I graduated with my M.D. degree.”

What was the saddest? – Perhaps the death of a dear friend from my days at medical school. Knowing him and what he stood for made him very special and his passing very sad.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “My sense of morality, a feeling for what is right and wrong. My sensitivity to the suffering of others.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I hate to think what he might say…May be he’d say, ‘Well Pete, I never thought you’d make it – but here you are’… I’ve been blessed and feel I can go to church anytime by just walking outside into the redwoods – that is my church.”

Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm  Comments (4)  

Christine Clark – October 10th, 2009

101_0037A couple of weeks ago I visited Christine at her Clark Road home – generally believed to be the oldest house in the Valley. Along with a cup of coffee she also gave me some delicious homemade rhubarb and sour cream cake, saying “Well I read the interviews every week and you seem to be well fed on your travels so I couldn’t just give you an Oreo cookie could I?”…Christine seems to be recovering well from her recent hip operation and we sat down to chat in the old living room surrounded by trinkets from her many travels, paintings by local artists, and amongst the original structures from a house built in the early 1850’s, not long after the first white settlers arrived.
Christine was born in the early 40’s, the only child of Earl Clark and Esther Reilly and they initially lived in a cabin on the Reilly Heights Ranch alongside Hwy 128. The Reilly Family had come over from Ireland in the mid-19th Century and the three brothers headed west, with two settling in Anderson Valley in the late 1850’s. James Reilly (Christine’s great grandfather) built the Reilly Heights House in the 1890’s but unlike many other houses built at that time it had a good foundation and therefore the majestic three storey red house is able to survive to this day.
James Reilly married Christine Gschwend, who was the daughter of Valley pioneer John Gschwend and was the first white child born in the Valley on August 23rd, 1857. She had a long life, dying at 103 in 1960, and Christine remembers her well. James and Christine had a son, Joel (Christine’s grandfather), who married Winnie Atkinson and they had two children – Stanley Reilly, who married Donna (Christine’s aunt Donna Reilly, who is still here also), and Esther Christine Reilly, Christine’s mother who married Earl Clark in the 1930’s. “My mother was a real tomboy. She had ridden an Indian motorcycle to school and she rarely wore shoes – her feet were as tough as leather.”
As for the Clark side of the family, Grandfather Thomas Clark was a doctor in Oakland and in the late 1910’s he purchased a summer home here in the Valley on Indian Creek south of Philo. In 1920, he bought the Navarro Fairhills Ranch on what became known as Clark Road. Christine’s father Earl had gone to U.C. Davis agricultural school and worked the family ranch with plenty of help from wife Esther. Over time Earl became the main apple producer in the area, managing and marketing orchards at various locations throughout the Valley and packing them at the large packing barn on the ranch. He was part of the Sebastopol Co-op of apple growers and when that enterprise failed the apple business went down quickly. “My Dad would turn over in his grave to see so many grapes here today. When he died our ranch was still full of apples but now we have had to plant grapes, in partnership with the Roederer Winery, and they are my livelihood. We only have about ten acres of apples left and that is just for sheep feed – our other business, one that has also undergone a great decline.”
Christine’s earliest memories are of growing up in the house where she now lives. “My parents were married for ten years and then they had me. Being an only child, my closest companions were my dog and my horse, who was a cousin to the famous Sea Biscuit from the Howard Ranch in Willits. I went to the one-room schoolhouse in Philo at first and then to the Elementary School on the sight of the current school. We had some wonderful views from this house all the way down the Valley but in the late forties and early fifties the Okies and Arkies came to the Valley and suddenly, almost overnight, there were tens of mills here and there was so much smoke you couldn’t see more than a mile or so. The newcomers just took over the Valley and the children of these new families were at our school and I started to talk like them. My parents didn’t like that so they sent me to stay at my aunt’s in Orinda in the East Bay. I did not want to go but it was a good school, although it was hard for a hillbilly girl like me to adapt. However, I did, and I also started to play tennis both at school and at a nearby country club and soon became a good player. I was at school down there for about three years but in 10th grade I broke my ankle in a horse accident and returned to the Valley and went to the High School at what is now the Elementary School site and then the ‘new’ high school – which they tell me is showing it’s age – and I graduated in 1960.”
“Growing up I was certainly a Daddy’s girl and a tomboy like my mother, rarely wearing shoes or combing my hair, and when I wasn’t in school I was always on the tractor or the fruit trucks with my father and I learned to drive on the ranch. Family was very important and with my grandparents we’d all have meals together every night and then on Sundays go to Navarro, to The Pardini Hotel, for a family-style Italian dinner. They had a bar and a restaurant with a big dining room with long tables and a scary bathroom upstairs! Sometimes, rarely, we’d go to Ft. Bragg to watch a movie on a Sunday. My cousins and I would swim in the Navarro River back at Clark Hole behind our property here. I learned to swim there at five years old and got $5 from my grandfather when I could get across to the other side… I went to 4-H Camps and when I was a teenager I got a summer job as a wrangler and cabin cleaner at the Tumbling McD Ranch – a dude ranch owned by the McDougall’s. I loved my horses and would ride to Floodgate in the middle of the road as a child – there was so little traffic.”
“I had a lonely childhood but it suited me and I grew to enjoy it very much. I never knew anything different – I even hid from my cousins when they came to visit… My father was always working – at the packing shed or taking crews to various orchards in the Valley, or driving the produce to Sacramento or Los Angeles; Tommy Burger was his driver for a time. I would go with him sometimes to Oakland, arriving at midnight, the busiest time of day in the produce business. My mother was a homemaker and kept a pristine garden, canned tomatoes and fruits, but she did socialize and played Bridge quite often at one of the clubs that were going in the Valley at that time. She could never go to bed when my Dad was out working and waited up into the night for him to return, working on her woodcarvings.” (Some of which hang in the room where we sat).
Upon graduating in 1960, Christine couldn’t wait to get away for a time. She went to Santa Rosa Junior College but then things went a little askew in her life – “Like so many others in their late teens I mistakenly thought I had all the answers.” She married and moved to Nevada for a time. The marriage did not work out but a son, Justin, was born and she stayed there for three years working at a cattle ranch and entering barrel races for fun in Fallon – “It was in the middle of nowhere…My parents were very upset – I’d had plans to go to U.C. Davis to be a vet… I finally got some sense and returned to California to go to the Empire Business College in Santa Rosa which led to me getting a job for a law firm where I stayed for twelve years. I got married again but realized I was better off on my own and we split up, getting divorced in 1989. We had bought a house in Rohnert Park in 1973 when that area was nothing at all. I was on the Commission of the Park and Recreation Department for seven years during that time and also got to play a lot of tennis, representing the Sonoma State team for a time and I visited the Valley all the time and played in local tennis tournaments with people such as J.R. Collins, Flick McDonald, Gene Herr, and Darren Edmeades… I eventually got tired of the same old office routine and my parents were getting older, so I chucked it all in and returned to the Valley in 1989, moving into the Reilly Heights house which was vacant but still in the family, as it is today – my son and his family live there now.”
On her return to Anderson Valley, she soon got into the local scene with Gene Herr talking her into joining the Community Services District (C.S.D.) and Eileen Pronsolino (Christine’s babysitter as a child and part-time employee at Greenwood Ridge Winery), telling her of a job at the winery. “Arlene Young was Allan Green’s (the owner) bookkeeper and she was moving to Alaska to open another radio station with Sean Donovan, who had opened KZYX & Z public radio here. I couldn’t even turn on a computer and then on my very first day I had been to Reno and got snowed in and couldn’t get back for the new job – not a good start but I’m still there to this day! It’s been a great job for me, two days a week, and Alan is a wonderful boss – he would do anything for you. I love it.”
Christine lived at the Reilly Heights house until she returned to the family home on Navarro Fairhills Ranch on Clark Road in 1997; after her mother had sadly ended her own life. “My father had been very ill and I think my mother basically worried herself to death about what was to become of us. He finally passed away following a heart attack about a year after my mother.”
Christine was left with two ranches full of apples – an industry that was in decline. She went into business with Roederer Winery who replaced the apple trees with vines – 100 acres at Navarro Fairhills and 35 acres at Reilly Heights. “We make money from the vines and we still have our sheep but that is not a money earner despite all the work we put in – Justin and me mainly. With sheep if something can go wrong it will. The market for our lamb is o.k. and we send them to Texas and Colorado along with the few remaining sheep ranches left in the Valley – Sam Prather, the Pronsolino’s, the Johnson’s, and the Pinoli’s. It is certainly a dying industry. The predators and the laws that protect them, have made it impossible, not to mention attacks by domestic dogs – a couple of years ago we lost 36 sheep in one night to two of those. That was terrible thing to go through – there was so much suffering. We now have about 160 sheep and will keep going as long as we can. I am already prepared for the lambs that will be arriving in the next few weeks – we shall get some mothers who cannot raise their lambs so I’ll be doing it. I have the blankets ready and if necessary will put them in a sink of warm water and even the oven to revive them and then hope the mother takes them back. If not, it’s down to me and Justin.”
Christine joined the Lions Club in 1989 and has now been the President for the past fifteen years. “I joke that it’s my ‘life sentence’ but the work we do is so important for the community in the Valley with our various fundraisers and sponsorships for the high school students. I also go to Mexico every year with the ‘Lions In Sight’, a group that takes glasses/spectacles to remote villages in Mexico. Judy Long and Joanie Clark go with me from our branch and this will be our eighth year. It’s amazing to see people’s gratitude when they get to see their grandkids properly for the first time, to read the Bible, to be able to sew once again. Never throw away your old glasses – contact us.”
Christine is also a member of the Independent Career Women (I.C.W.) group, the Unity Club, The Garden Club, and found time to get her pilot’s license thanks to the program run by Joe Fox. She used to be on the E.M.T. and Ambulance for many years is she is now on the Cemetery District Board – “from the living to the dead!” – and is a board member of the Historical Society. She continues to play a little tennis at the high school court where in the past she gave tennis lessons to various children as part of the Recreation Department’s program. “Hey, there’s not much in the Valley for the kids to do unless adults take the helm of something.”
“When I was growing up I couldn’t get away fast enough but I am now tied to the land here in many ways and it is important to me to be here. Ranch work is never all done. I just look out of the window and see things that need to be done. As my mother used to say, ‘Living on a ranch, the only way you know it is Sunday is because the Sunday paper is here’… I have my family nearby – Justin and his wife Christy and my grandson Tristan – and that is very comforting.”
I asked Christine for her responses to some of the current issues confronting Valley folk…The changes in the Valley? – “Well the increased drug presence does concern me. It is getting out of hand. We find it on our land and just rip it up. People never used to lock their houses and cars around her and now many do”… The School System? – “My grandson is just starting pre-school and I am concerned about the future of the school with these drug issues. Meanwhile I hope Beth Swehla can continue with her Ag Program – it is important that we keep that going in this Valley. I support the School Sports Boosters personally as well as with the Lions – I think sports are important in teaching team spirit and camaraderie”… The Wineries? – “I can’t say anything bad about them – they are my bread and butter and they are certainly better to look at than condos or a golf course. Logging, fishing, apples, and sheep have all virtually gone. I guess we should be grateful for the wine tourists for our incomes these days. This land has taken care of six generations of our family but who knows about the future? Wine seems to be the only answer at this point.”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – “I don’t buy it but get it off Christy every week. I like it and it has always been very good to me – and they finally spell ‘Reilly’ correctly. Bruce is generous in his comments about the Lions Club and his wife Ling was very helpful to me when I was on the C.S.D. I only read items about the Valley or things written by people in the Valley.”
I asked Christine whom she would vote for Mayor if such a position existed – “Well most of the candidates I would pick have passed on. I’ll go with Bill Holcomb – he has the car, can certainly talk, and I believe he would see both sides to most discussions.”
Over the past twenty years Travel has played a large role in Christine’s life. “I have been to many places around the world, mostly by myself with an organization called Overseas Adventure Travel – in groups of no more than twelve, staying at little hotels often off the beaten path. Sometimes I have gone with friends such as Joanie Clark or Eileen Pronsolino. I have been all over Western Europe, parts of Africa, India, Australia, Russia, South America, the Caribbean, Cambodia – the killing fields, and China. I’m off to Belgium and Holland next March for a river trip with Eileen Pronsolino. In the States I have not traveled as much. I do go to the Columbia Sheep Association annual meeting every year, wherever that may be. I’d like to go to South Africa and Antarctica would be great too. Knowing I am able to travel makes me feel good. I know I have the freedom although only for two weeks at a time. My mother’s big journey was to Jack’s Store this side of Philo.”
To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Christine many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “I can do it – I will do it”:

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “That would be the opposite – saying ‘I can’t’ doesn’t sit well with me.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Nature – looking out of the windows here and watching it all…The changing of the seasons… Animals in general inspire me, reviving an almost dead lamb is a wonderful feeling. I should have been a vet – I guess I am as I do all that around here… I also often cherish just being alone. I entertain myself.””

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Loud noises. Too many people talking is annoying. I enjoy social groups but like knowing I can go home and be alone. I do not have a cell phone.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “The wind in the trees, running water – not a leaking pipe though.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Cell phones ringing; that ‘bumble bee’ noise of small motorcycles; a jet ski on a lake disturbing a nice picnic; traffic at night if I am away – I am not used to it and it is very annoying; oh and the awful, ungodly sound of a coyote making a kill.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “ Growing up on a ranch alongside my Dad, I know them all but I never use them in front of other people. However I do swear with the best of them to myself. Sheep will make you swear too.” Christine then shared her favorite curse word/phrase with me and told me I was probably the first person to hear her say that for years, except the sheep of course!

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “Well what has influenced me in the last few years is the work of artist Georgia O’Keefe. I am fascinated by her and will definitely go and visit her museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico and take a class there of some sort.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “Traveling is certainly my favorite, and then when I am in the right place I just love to snorkel – I never want it to stop, it’s incredible. My favorite spot is Roatan Island off Honduras but I have also done the Great Barrier Reef in Australia where the Giant Clams were amazing, I’ve seen stingrays in the Caribbean, and swam alongside seals off the Galapagos Islands in the south Pacific. That is when I am happiest… I do like to watch nature and travel channels on television. My favorite is Anthony Boudrain’s travel and food program – I like his attitude and personality – I’d like to go and see him in Santa Rosa when he comes.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “A vet. Helping animals in some way.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “A dairy or chicken farmer.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “I am happiest right now, at this time of my life. I love what I do each day and have my family here.

What was the saddest? – “The deaths of my parents.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I feel I can do anything I want to do if it presents itself to me. That I am self-sufficient and very resilient and not a whiner – there is nobody to listen anyway.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Hi and welcome, Christine.”…And I would say, “Hi, now where’s the tennis court and Libby’s restaurant? And please don’t show me the sheep barn, I’ve done enough of that!”

Published in: on October 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barbara ‘Bobbie’ Peterson – October 3rd, 2009

101_0029A couple of weeks ago I met with Barbara ‘Bobbie’ Peterson at her home behind and above The Floodgate Store down towards the Deep End. Her son, Butch, sat in with us and our lively chat began…
Bobbie was born in Cloverdale, California, on Dec 6th, 1918, meaning she will turn 91 in a couple of months time. She was the third of four girls born to Rufus Bentley, the local blacksmith, and his wife Christine Thomson, both of whom were of Scot/Irish/English descent. “My Dad wanted a boy so bad he ended up just calling me Bobbie or more often ‘Bob’ and it has always stuck.” She spent her early years in that area before the family moved to Walnut Creek in the Bay Area to stay with her aunt when her father changed his job and became a machine worker at a fruit and vegetable packing plant. “He could work on and fix just about anything.” Bobbie attended school in nearby Pleasant Hill but she didn’t really like it other than just the sewing and cooking classes. “My mother was a dressmaker who worked out of home and sometimes helped me with my sewing. Once the teacher said I would not have enough material for a project but my mother knew better and I was able to finish my project despite what the teacher had thought– I nearly got kicked for that!”
They lived a largely rural area with many fruit farms around, the nearest large town being Concord a few miles away. The family moved again when Bobbie’s father began to work at Marin Municipal Water Department fixing shovels and picks etc and she went to Santa Rosa High School from which she graduated in 1936. She had been working at Woolworth’s in her final year at school but after graduation she went to Santa Rosa Junior College and found part-time work as a housekeeper for a dentist. “My parents were good friends of the President of the J.C. and they had a mutual friend who was an ‘old maid’ who needed assistance. I became the old lady’s helper and received free tuition in exchange and I also worked in the office at the college during that time.”
While at college she met a college football player, Bill Paula, and “we started dating and that was my downfall!” Bobbie said with a wide grin. Her father became very sick at this time and she left the college to help her mother and youngest sister take care of him. “My older sisters had already left home so I helped out. He was bed-ridden – I think he had Lyme disease. My mother was just a little thing but she took great care of him.” Meanwhile Bill and Bobbie were married in 1938 (“I think”), and moved in with his parents at their dairy ranch in Petaluma and over the next few years they started a family with John born in 1940, followed by Christine in 1942, then Robert (Butch) in 1945 and finally Jim in 1947. “We were at my husband’s family but his mother was hell-on-wheels, treating me like a servant and cleaning woman. I was not happy with this situation and went to stay with my sister for a time and when Bill called me and asked me when was I coming home I told him that it would not be until we had somewhere else to live! His mother actually mellowed in her later years and we became good friends.”
They moved to the town of Sonoma where Bill worked at the creamery and a year later they bought a dairy ranch of their own about six miles from the center of town at the city limits on Petaluma’s west side. They went about running the farm and raising the family. “We did not punish our kids very often but we were strict and instilled a work ethic in them. They had jobs on the farm both before and after school and they would have to do them or they’d get whacked with a paddle. It was tough times in chicken and dairy ranching in those days. We were part of a co-operative and along with many other dairies sold to a central distributor – it was the time when Petaluma was known as the ‘Egg Capital of the World’… We made many friends and always seemed to have relatives visiting and have many good memories of those days…In the late fifties sometime, we were thinking of leaving the ranch and I remember sitting the kids down one day and saying if they thought they might ever want to work in the dairy business we could lease out the ranch instead of selling it. They all replied, ‘Are you nuts!?!’…”
In 1958 Bill and Bobbie did leave the Ranch, trading it to a retired vet who owned a two-storey Victorian home with a barn in town. Over the next few years Bill was a janitor in the local school system and Bobbie found work in the office of The Petaluma Auction Company and later for the Petaluma Water Department. “At first, in the office, I could get away with using just one finger to work the adding machine but this was not quick enough for work at the auction so I learned to do it right and became really good at it.” Bobbie left the auction business and found work for two companies at the same time in the same office – one was in hay sales and the other an insurance company – before for the ten years until her retirement she was the bill of lading clerk at Nielson Freight Lines.
Interestingly, Bobbie had links to Anderson Valley in a few ways before she actually moved here. Initially her family had homesteaded here in the Valley in the early 1900’s, living in a cabin in the Yorkville Highlands area and building a five-mile long road to their place. Her grandfather would haul tan bark out for a living and they would have to walk down to the Valley floor to meet the stage as it came through the Valley stopping at the Yorkville Ranch to drop off milk and eggs. Then some years later, as a small child, Bobbie and the family would visit the Valley from Cloverdale and camp in Yorkville… Later, when Bill became ill with Multiple Sclerosis during his days on the dairy ranch, another link to the Valley was made. Bill had lost the use or control of the whole left hand side of his body – his face, his arm, and his leg. Specialists, even one over from Germany, had told him there was nothing that could be done – he would have to learn to get by. Bobbie’s mother then heard of a woman in Anderson Valley by the name of Claudina Pinoli who was a unofficial/unqualified doctor of sorts who had been achieving some amazing results. Bill’s uncle had seen her for some aches and pains of his own and told Bill and Bobbie that this woman had ‘the hands of a saint – you must se her Bill.’
They came to the Valley to see her. “She said she would need to see Bill for a couple of days so we rented a cabin at Van Zandt’s. I returned to get the kids from home and Claudina came with me. We had a great time on that visit and really got on well. The treatments on Bill worked great and each time we came up we all camped at Dimmick State Park on Hwy 128 towards the coast and Claudina would come and visit us there from where she and her husband lived at what is now Lazy Creek Vineyards. Eventually Bill recovered and was able to return to the dairy ranch and Claudina and I continued to be great friends, going on trips to Reno and Eureka together. I would visit her up here, at her house with the two-seater outhouse, and she would always made the kids feel special and give them a little ‘treatment’ for their aches and pains. She actually fixed Butch’s crippled foot that had been deemed untreatable by the other doctors – I became pregnant with my third child during the time when we were always coming up here so she always called Butch her ‘Anderson Valley Boy’.“
In later years Butch, home from serving his country in Vietnam, had sought solace and had moved to Anderson Valley in 1974, buying the Floodgate Store and the ten acres behind it. When Bill and Bobbie both retired in 1978 it was an ideal spot for them to live and be close by. On getting up here Bobbie went straight to work at the Store. “The Floodgate was an 8-stool beer bar, deli, and grocery store in those days. Sam and Margarite Avery had owned it for 27 years and it had been said, ‘there’s nothing you can’t get at the Floodgate.’ At first I did the books and the clerical stuff.” (Butch added, “Mother kept things afloat why I was getting stupid.”)
Bobbie continued, “We catered to the tree planters in the winter and the loggers in the summer. We had a pot-bellied stove in there and had a loyal customer base. We sold them everything from provolone cheese to beer but it was not just about making a living, we were there to provide a service too… Bill was kept busy on the ranch and at the saw shop that was alongside, connected to the Store. He was the Mayor of Floodgate! Over time I worked in the store out front and tended bar for many years. I never had any trouble with the customers and would just tell them off if they misbehaved and they’d always listen when I threatened to wash their mouth out with soap for any bad language. I had two dogs with me to help though – a German Shepherd and a Doberman. They were wonderful dogs and would sense if there was a bad customer around”…The Store was sold to Jerry Cox and Johnny Schmidt (see earlier interviews) in 1986 and it became the Floodgate Café.
Having been so busy at the Store and not getting out very much, over the next few years Bobbie began to socialize a lot in the Valley, something she continues to do to this day. She joined the Unity Club, The Garden Club, and The independent Career Women (the I.C.W.) and regularly attends meetings with friends Sue Davies (who very kindly picks her up and drives), Cleo Hickman (who is not well these days but who for many years was Bobbie’s traveling friend to places such as Alaska, New Zealand and Australia, and all over Canada), Wilma Brink, June Lemons, Joy – Sid Frazer’s mother, and Joanie Clark amongst many others. She also loves to attend the lunches at the Senior Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Bobbie continues to be arguably the biggest single exhibitor at the County Fair with her flowers. She entered thirty this year and her geranium won Best in Show. “I just love people to see them and I think my ribbons were all blue this year,” she adds with justified pride. She likes to attend many of the Valley events such as the tri-tip bbq’s for charity held by the Lions Club, the Spaghetti feeds, and the Crab Feed but her passion remains her gardening and judging by the many wonderful exhibits on her long porch/deck she must be kept very busy with it.
Husband Bill died in 1986 at the age of 68. The Store had been closed for a time and Bobbie had been helping to look after Mildred Peterson, wife of John Peterson a local sheep, apple, and timber man. Mildred passed away and Butch recounts the tale of his mother staying in touch with ‘Mr. Peterson’ as she always referred to him. That was until one day, after going huckleberry picking with ‘Mr. Peterson’, she returned to the ranch and announced that ‘Johnnie’ would be joining the Family for Christmas. Butch adds, “She was so nervous about this that she finally blurted out ‘What would you guys think if I were to get married again?’ We said we all thought it would be great and then at that moment John walked in and seeing the looks on all our faces said, ‘You couldn’t wait to tell them could you!’ He was a great husband to my mother for the seven or eight years they had together until he passed away.”
Bobbie stayed at John’s house, which he had left her, for a short time after his death but it was too big for her so she moved to back on to the property into a new house close by to Butch, daughter-in-law Buffy, and grandson John. “I love this home I have and I have my cat Tiggy and just down the drive there are Butch and Buffy who have been just so wonderful to me.”
Bobbie is a quite reserved lady and a pleasure to be around. She is a very unassuming and gentle and not one to ‘rock the boat’ in any way but I still wanted to get a brief response from her on some of the issues that concern many local folks…The Wineries? – “There are too many of them”… The A.V.A. newspaper? – My eyesight is nearly gone and I can’t read very well so I don’t read it”… KZYX local public radio? – “I don’t listen to it”… Changes in the Valley? – “Some are good I guess; some not so good. Livelihoods need to be made though”… The School System? – “I think it might need some new blood.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Bobbie, many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “I’m not sure but my family tell me I say ‘Quit acting like a boob’ quite a lot.”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “I don’t like to hear people say ‘I can’t’ – why not try harder?”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Working out in the yard or with my flowers and plants – it’s getting harder though. I love to sit and watch the hummingbirds on my deck too….”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Those yellow jackets chasing off my hummingbirds!”

What sound or noise do you love? – “I like to listen to music from the big band era… And songs by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin.”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Frost protection fans at the wineries making that awful sound in the night.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “I don’t curse – ‘dammit’ sometimes may be.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “My gardening. I like leatherwork too, and I used to love sewing. My eyesight is so poor now that it affects these and all my actions these days.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I’ve never really thought about that. I have had a real good life as it is.”

Is there a profession you would not like to do? – “I loved to work so no.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – “I have so many, it’s too hard to think of just one.”

What was the saddest? – “The loss of both of my husbands, especially Bill… Perhaps the saddest was the loss of my youngest son, Jim.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “That I raised four good kids. I suppose being a good mother is the best thing about me.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “Well, ‘Welcome Bobbie’ would be nice – though he’d probably say that I’d taken the wrong turn!”

Published in: on October 14, 2009 at 5:09 pm  Comments (2)  

Guido Pronsolino – September 26th, 2009

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I drove into the High Roller (Yorkville) region to chat with lifelong Valley resident Guido Pronsolino at his beautiful home off Hibbard Lane. His wife Betty greeted me and over the next couple of hours various family members, there to work on the ewe lambs’ hooves, joined us and made me feel very welcome, not to mention giving me a delicious sandwich and soft drinks.
Guido was born on October 6th, 1926 and therefore turned 83 the day before this interview is to be published. His mother and father, John and Theresa Pronsolino had both come over from Italy and settled in San Francisco where they had met and were married. In the early twenties they moved to the Greenwood Ridge, initially to the property of a cousin, Angelo Fratti, known as the ‘Godfather of Wine’. This was in the days of Prohibition, when the region was known as ‘Vinegar Ridge’ so as not to draw attention to the illegal activities up there. Three of Guido’s siblings, including brother Angelo, had been born in S.F. while his sister Albina and Guido himself were born up at the ranch that his parents acquired on the Ridge in 1924 and which is still in the family. “My father worked in the wine business but my mother did not like it up here at first – they had had a nice home in San Francisco. She had to become a farm girl overnight but eventually settled and they were soon raising cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and with the timber base they could buy anything else they might need to eat. Our home was like an open restaurant to any visitors who came by. We served wines that were either ‘Dago’ red or white – laborers wine, and if the family were about to eat you were welcome to sit down and join them – a good old Italian tradition.”
Guido attended the Signal Ridge Elementary School, “in what is now the house occupied by Doc Apfel, I believe. It was in walking distance up on the ridge and consisted of one room with private bathrooms.” By 1940 he and six other kids from the Ridge would get a ride in an old hearse down into the Valley to attend High School on the site where the current Elementary School is situated. “We spent most of our time up on the ranch where there was no electricity – we had lanterns. The nearest phone was in Philo at the Johnson Mercantile (now Lemons’ Market), which we would get to by horse and buggy. We would fish for trout, ride the steam engines going to the logging camps, and we kids would ride the rails on a cart taking food to the cookhouses at those camps. We rarely left the Valley but sometimes we’d go the San Francisco to see relatives and in 1936 or so I was there to see the building going on at the Golden Gate Bridge (which opened in 1937).”
“In December 1941 our teacher told us about Pearl Harbor and there was a real fear of invasion around here. I remember that when I delivered apples and vegetables from the ranch to the coast I had to drive without lights because of the blackout…I wanted to enlist and did so in 1942 at the age of 16. My brother Angelo was in the army in the Philippines and told me not to apply for that as I’d be on the front line immediately so I went into the navy instead and was in boot camp in San Diego at 17 to start a two-year stint which was mostly helping at a naval hospital. I didn’t do anything heroic.”
At the end of the war, Guido used the G.I. Bill to enroll at Cal Poly, the agricultural school in San Luis Obispo but when on summer break after his first year he was playing baseball in Boonville – “a big event that we rode down to on horseback every Sunday” – when Vernon Rawles approached him and said there was work at the Mailliard ranch for the summer. “He had taught me to shear sheep and knew I could also work dogs as a herdsman. I had raised a bummer (motherless) lamb as a kid on Greenwood Ridge and learned about dogs and sheep at a young age. I went to work for Mrs. Mailliard (Larry’s Grandmother) for the summer and stayed for forty three years!”
At school Guido had been dating Betty Smith, who was from a long-time Valley family, and they had kept in touch through letters when he was in the service and at college. “We did our courting in a Model T Ford and a buggy. I had thought about returning to college for a second year but I had not been the best scholar so when Dr Jim Wilson of U.C. Davis started a breeding program for imported Australian Marino sheep at the Mailliard Ranch to improve the fine wool in this country I decided to stay in the Valley and work on this new sheep project at the Ranch. I guess I became a ‘student of wool.’ Over the years I got to touch the fleeces on the backs of some of the finest sheep in the world and learned a lot about wool, sheep, and dogs. I learned to distinguish the best fleeces very quickly – I guess it was a god-given gift, and we sent them all over the country to various wool shows. They were well-received but breaking into the market against the well-established Rabelais sheep breed from France was very difficult to do and the sales we expected never really materialized.”
Guido and Betty were married in April 1948 and moved into a one-room cabin on the Ranch – “to us it was like having the biggest castle on Nob Hill in San Francisco!” Their three children arrived over the next few years – Ron, Janice, and Guy. With Guido out working the Ranch from before sunrise to way after dark, Betty was a homemaker, raising the kids and maintaining a prolific vegetable garden. It is said that Guido too, with his knowledge of grafting, ‘could take a stick and make it grow.’ “Betty and I are farm people and are very proud of that fact – we have been a great team for nearly 62 years.”
In the fifties, Guido started to enter sheep dog trials with other old pioneer ranchers such as the Beebe’s, the Foster’s, and the Ledford’s. “They were very different scenes than at today’s trials and the dogs were a little different too. We mainly had McNab’s but in the late fifties the Border Collis cam over and I started to have them too. They are two different kinds of dog. The McNab is good when they are out of sight working the sheep – you can feel pretty sure that when you get to the sheep there will be no blood. They are stand-up dogs, relaxed. The Border Collie is a creeping dog, intense, superior at lambing time, but if they go out of sight be ready to see some red when you get to the sheep! I didn’t get my first Border Collie until after my granddaughter Vanessa was born, about thirty years ago. That was Margie and I got her from Cy Francis. She was a very good dog, both on the range and on the valley floor and I had another special one in the early fifties – a McNabb Shepherd named Cappy.”
At times Guido has had as many as 25 to 30 dogs and would work about 1000 breeding ewes. “I was fortunate to own sheep and work with those dogs. I could pick out a good one from a litter but you never really know for sure until they are about two years old. You have to be both harsh and soft at the right times when training them – as you would be with children… I would work on horseback with six to eight dogs at a time on hills that were very hard on the dogs. They had to be smarter than the shepherd and be like mountain dogs at times… Over the years many sheep have been lost to coyote attacks so now we have four sheep-protecting dogs, a Giant Pyranee/Akbash mix, living out there with the flocks and haven’t lost any since.”
In 1960 they bought property on Fish Rock Road known as the Redwood Copper Queen Ranch in the hope that they could have their own sheep ranch. It consisted of 800 heavily cut over acres and contained the only registered copper mine in the County which had been mined from1863 to 1914. “I felt I could now start fulfilling my dream of raising a few woolies.” They performed controlled burns to create good feed conditions but they eventually realized that the property was a timber ranch, not suitable for livestock. “Much to my sorrow, I made the decision to back off from the sheep ranch idea and instead planted seedlings of Coastal Redwoods, Douglas Firs, and Pines. I feel good that we brought the land back to producing what was meant to be and we still have that property today.”
Around this time Guido and brother, Angelo, bought property, 200 acres, near to the original homestead on Greenwood Ridge and each had sheep there. Guido had flocks in many other places too, including one at the Yorkville Ranch for fourteen years. They had moved into a bigger cabin on the Mailliard Ranch and lived there for many years but in 1981 part of the Yorkville Ranch became available and Guido, who had had his eye on the property for some time, made his move and bought the 363 acres where they live today. With his sons, he started the Pronsolino Timber Company and logging became another part of his heavy workload as he continued his involvement with the sheep and sheepdogs, cattle, and dabbling in the wine business. However, he never lost sight of the fact that his #1 priority was the Mailliard Ranch. “The job at the Ranch was a beautiful thing for me and my family and I feel very happy that the Ranch is still intact and that the Mailliard grandchildren seem to appreciate all the work that was put in. I’m happy to see that Larry (Mailliard) is at the Ranch and will be the new ramrod out of the pack.”
“I have never been someone to take off on a vacation or a cruise. The only time I leave is for a camping and hunting trip to Modoc. I have always had what I wanted right here in the Valley, between Philo, Vinegar Ridge, and Yorkville, in order to fulfill my boyhood dreams – that’s pretty darn good. I don’t regret not traveling around the world. I kind of wanted to go and see Italy and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii but never did. I did get to Alaska once, on a cruise, and spent hours sat in the ship library looking out at the land, seeing things I never dreamt of seeing. I didn’t know if I was alive or had gone to Heaven. But I am very satisfied to own our land, to work the dogs, to have the livestock, and everything else I’m blessed to have ended up with.”
In the past Guido has served on the School Board, was a big part of The Woolgrowers Association – he was one of the originators of the annual Woolgrowers BBQ and Sheep Dog Trial, he was heavily involved in both County and State Woolgrowers organizations, and was a leader and a very active member for many years on the Farm Bureau, the F.F.A., and 4-H associations. “I have finally decided that is time to close the book. I have done nothing great, many people have done more than me. I was privileged to be in the right place at the right time. I hope I have been of some benefit to the community. If you have a common goal for a community and are constructive then that goal can be reached. I’ve eaten crow in my time quite a bit. I didn’t like it but if you’re wrong, you’re wrong – why not accept that?”
Guido and Betty now live a beautiful home, made from his own redwood and with rock he hauled out of the river. Up until the late spring of this year he was still working every day but his health has deteriorated and he now spends his days at home. He attended the recent Sheep Dog Trial at the County Fair at which he has been the public address announcer for many years. He has been attending the Fair itself since 1931 but believes this past one will be his last… He has many visitors from friends and a large family contingent that includes daughter Janice, son Ron and his wife Jennifer with their grown up kids Kristopher and Vanessa, and younger son Guy and his wife Sandy with their kids Russell and Marcie, not to mention great grandchildren and various nephews and nieces.
“We have a wonderful home and the land is pristine – we worked hard at keeping it that way and have done a good job managing it I think. There’s no spit and polish but the gates are all hanging and swinging…I thank our neighbors of the past who gave me the chance to learn the history and hardships of ranching and open space. I have always followed the phrase ‘Take care of your neighbors and they will take care of you’ and I feel privileged to have grown up here, to have raised my family here, to be a part of this community, and to have lived here all of my life here. I hope I have not stepped on anyone to get what I have. I have done nothing superior to others but feel I have done a good job in my heart; every day is a work day and I have been so fortunate to have ‘Tonto’ (Betty) alongside for the ride – she has been everything to me.”
I asked Guido for his brief responses to some of the topics that are frequently discussed in and around the Valley today… The wineries? – “Any part of our lands is prone to change. Before World War 2, the Valley was in the Stone Age but after the War veterans came back and wanted homes. Forests were cut back a lot here and people in the apple and sheep businesses were not happy with these new arrivals to a point. There were some hard feelings amongst some. However, they soon learned to accept the sale of their lands for the money they could get for timber. The wineries provide jobs and I accept them to a limit. I cannot be judge and jury and see the wineries as the coming of a new age to Anderson Valley. Again a new group of outsiders have arrived to work here and this has brought up more hard feelings. I just hope the wineries do not overdo it and of course I myself grew up with grapes so I cannot criticize.”
The A.V.A. newspaper? – “Ah, Bruce’s Rag. He and I go back a few years and I admire him for what he does. I remember when he and his bride arrived here – she was well liked. Many people either love him or hate him – that’s journalism, I guess. We get the paper every week and he does a good job. I’d like to see him cater more to the agricultural side of the Valley with a weekly column on some aspect of farming etc. I hear that his son Ben is doing a hell of a job with the High School baseball team – baseball was always important in the Valley in my day”… The School System? – “I can only go by what I read these days and I hope they are doing a good job. I was the Chairman of the Board for the Flight program started for the students when Bob Matthias was Supervisor and John Merriman ran it very well. We were ‘tarred and feathered’ by some local people for that but it was successful despite not being popular amongst many. I guess we were viewed then just like those who encourage the wineries are seen today…Then Betty and I still had 99% of our heavy equipment so we set up a vocational training class for the kids to learn about these machines. It too worked well but after three successful years we could no longer get insurance – that was too bad.”…Changes in the Valley? – “It’s fine. My ancestors and then myself had the privilege of moving here and starting anew ourselves. It was apples and wool and then later, timber. Now it’s wine. The Valley needs the tourists, I always said that would be the next thing, although I’d hate to see it get like Pier 39 in San Francisco or see the time when you can’t get a horse and buggy through Boonville safely!”
To end the interview, as I do with every guest interviewee, I posed a few questions to Guido, many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…

What is your favorite word or phrase? – “ ‘That’s gospel’ is something I say a lot – I’m not religious but it’s probably good to get something said in that direction!…’I’m just an old sheepherder, but’ is another favorite saying of mine…And I do have a dog who answers to ‘Jesse Goddammit’ so maybe that tells you another of my words”…

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “I’m not ‘Mr. Clean’ but I don’t like a lot of profanity, although using some choice words through the day is fine of course.”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “The land, the changes of the seasons, the new born lamb’s first wobbles and getting it’s first food from its mother, seeing the trees I planted grow. These kinds of things fulfill me and also effect me spiritually. That’s what it’s all about.

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “Losing friends and neighbors when they pass.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “Bagpipes – I introduced them as part of the Sheep Dog Trials.

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Boom boxes – standing and talking with a friend and being interrupted by the noise from one of those is wrong.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “I guess Auctioneering has been my golf.” (Guido has been the caller at auctions all over the State and beyond). “I have done it at many different events, even in Reno years ago where I looked up at the marquee there and saw Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis’ names up there. It kinda hurt that mine wasn’t up there too,” Guido added with a chuckle. “They still call me for the 4th July Auction here in Boonville…I use to love baseball and basketball many years ago and played on the school teams. My brother Angelo was much better than me but I always wore the school colors proudly…I love hunting in Modoc and even tagging ewes is an enjoyable hobby for me while others would say it was work.”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “I was always interested in steam engines, airplanes, outer space. I guess flying a plane of some sort would have been a job I’d have liked.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “If you are hungry and have to support others you will do anything I would hope. I guess in the old days collecting garbage would have been tough and not something I would have liked.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – An emotional Guido answered, “The day I married my bride. I think I’m the luckiest man on Earth…These days I lie in bed and think about the past a lot. I was given a better chance than many and I have been so fortunate. I believe Betty and I have been a very special team and our dreams have been fulfilled.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – Guido held up his hands, “That it was all done with these. I feel good that I’ve been able to spend so much time on the land that I love. Everything I have done has been for family primarily, and continues to be so. I think I did things in the right way and didn’t step on anyone to achieve my dreams.” (Guido’s daughter-in-law, Jennifer, added that so many of the people who have visited Guido since hearing about his illness have commented, ‘he touched my life.’).

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “These Gates are not open wide enough for you to get the sheep in! I’ll make sure you have someone to close it behind you – the good sheep need to be kept in here.”

Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 4:54 pm  Comments (3)