A Sebastopol Episode………..#15 (the 50’s)

Grandma doing her thing

The journey to Grandma and Grandpa Marvin’s in Sebastopol was more than fun, it most often was an adventure in itself,  partly because of the boat trip across the bay on the Richmond – San Rafael Ferry.   Mike’s Dad deciding on a late overnight visit to Grandpa and Grandma’s, the family settling back in the 37 DeSoto, the trip beginning.  The Ferry Boat ride across San Francisco Bay  fulfilled, the Willson’s continuing up Highway 101,  the Elder Willson halting their progression at Navato as was the norm,  the boy’s Dad stopping to buy a bottle of beer.  The DeSoto turning onto Highway #116 towards Sebastopol when Mike first noticed the visibility was beginning to subside.   At first just patchy fog, but the closer they got to Sebastopol the heavier the fog became.   As they approached the town, the car slowed, the normally bright lit streets now dimmed, shrouded in a dense fog.  The fog density having increased to a point that from the car that the darken stores on either side of the street were no longer distinguishable.  Mike’s dad telling the family that everything was fine as he could still see the railroad tracks that ran down the center of the road thru town.  All was well following the tracks until a sudden lurching, the car coming to a stop.  His Dad having followed the tracks to where they left the road, realizing the situation, having to back the car back onto the pavement.   Once  on the road, progressing very slowly, the atmospheric malaise beginning to thin,  the fog event another adventure fulfilled.

Where the tracks leave the road

There is always something  for a ten-year old to do when visiting Grandma and Grandpa at their rural country house on Molina Rd.,  three  miles north of  downtown Sebastopol.    The house was well off the road, down  a long drive with a wooden gate on the barbwire fenced in expanse.  The rural property encompassing several acres of land, Mike hearing the adults talking about the two acres of grapes that Grandpa  harvested on the land located on the backside of the house.  It never failed to amaze Mike that every time they came for a visit,  Grandma she was canning fruits or vegetables.  On occasion he and his sisters would volunteer to pick strawberries from the long rows in their giant vegetable garden situated in front of the house.   The actual residence  was a small two bedroom  home,  family and visitors were always welcome and if there was not enough sleeping room inside,  there was always the outside,  either in the tent like hut beside the house or  under the stars in WWII folding cots that for some reason were always in abundance and set up in a row beneath the long clothesline.   Mike was never concerned about the sleeping arrangements, if not outside on a cot, he would lay claim to the couch.  It was known to all there was an ongoing  problems with the small sleeping hut as it was also used to store seeds, grains and gardening supplies.  It seems the raccoons made a bonanza discovery with its contents, deciding to take possession and the start of  an ongoing battle to keep them out.   On one occasion  Mikes parents were spending the night in the hut hearing a visitor.    His Dad being waken by the noise wasn’t to concerned thinking it was a raccoon, reaching for a flashlight, assured that the light would scare the uninvited guest away.  Shining the  flashlight on the visitor,  its eyes staring back and then the pungent aroma giving notice that it was not a raccoon, but a skunk.  The nocturnal visitor realizing he wasn’t welcome, leaving the premises.  The next morning his Dad his thankful that the skunk didn’t have an issue with the light.

Acres of cattail

The dairy cows owned by a rancher across the way were pastured across from the drive and house and  in a separate pasture fenced off from the milking herd was the home of a very mean looking bull.   A good portion of the bull’s pasture was marshland and growing in one well dampen section were stalks of cattail,  the six-foot high stalks packed solid for what seemed at least an acre.   Mike and his sisters  would venture into the cattail pasture,  the three having a great time mashing down the cattail making paths and hidden rooms, their own secret hideaway,  but always being mindful that there might be a sudden appearance of a bull.  It was only later that Mike gave thought to the destruction of the marshland cattail, his realization,  a lesson learned.

Not a ladder but a spike








During a summer weeks stay  Mike had made friends with a boy name Sonny Iverson who live up the road on a nearby  farm.   The Iverson’s had an apple orchard and were also in the egg producing business.   The ten-year old spending time helping on the farm,  picking apples from a spike,   storing them in a shoulder sack and placing them in the wooden crates.    It was at this young age he learned that nothing on a farm goes to waste.   Another chore was to pick up all the fallen and rotten apples placing them in separate crates.  Once accumulated, the crates  containing  the bad apples were then loaded on the truck.  He accompanied the Iverson’s in the truck, watching as they dumped the apples into the receiving chute at the Apple Processing Facility in town.    Mike had to ask the inevitable question,  “what do they make with rotten apples?”   The answer came.  “apple cider vinegar”, another learning experience.

Guinea Hens – A watchdog in disguise.

The Iverson’s poultry endeavor included a couple of turkeys and  a pair of guinea hens allowed to forage for themselves.  The guinea hens were useful addition to the farm, subsiding on ticks, lice, worms, ants, spiders, an array of insects and weed seeds.  The hens were very aggressive and territorial,  the Iverson Farm belonging to them, their wandering freedom  serving a purpose.  Mike discovering that they were better than a watchdog,  soon learning to be careful when around them as they were very astute standing their ground not hesitating to initiate a charge  sounding a very loud vocal alarm.   The family’s interest other than their apple crop was laying hens, having  dozens of stacked nesting coops, the eggs being plucked from the unsuspected twice a day.    Mike inheriting a new chore, removing the gathered eggs from the collecting pails, placing them on the cleansing roller.    The mechanical appliance,  a machine that rotated the eggs on roller,  passing them under a sprayer so the water could remove any residue that had accumulated on the shells.  The eggs being removed and place in large container cartons, stored for shipment.

Grandma's ever lasting Gift...

Grandma’s everlasting Gift…

Grandma was a radio person,  Mike and her shared this common interest, maybe that’s one of the reason he enjoyed being with her.    She would listen to her soap operas during the day and in the early evening would tune in many of the  same programs that he enjoyed.    She subscribed to the book of the month club, the books mailed in sturdy folded cardboard boxes, Mike for some reason deciding they  were special, Grandma presenting him with a large selection, their purpose unknown, but to be explored.   He always admired the calendar with it’s picture hanging on her kitchen wall.  It was of a bear and her cubs going thru a fisherman’s  campsite foraging for food.  He never remembered saying anything to anybody about his admiration, but that Christmas Mike received a gift from Grandma, it was the calendar picture in a homemade frame, he decided Grandmas must be a mind readers.

Grandpa Marvin

Grandpa had two abilities that the young man had never witnessed in another person.   The first was, he could take hold of an electric fence, lifting the hot wire so you could pass under and not get shocked and do the same with spark plug wires on a car.   The second was clapping his hands catching yellow jackets or hornets between them and never getting stung.  The boy reasoned it was more of a mental determination rather that a physical attribute, but then again Grandpa’s are special.  Mike found that the effulgence of love resided in his Grandparents, something he would always remember.


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