It is high time that I set down all that I knew or ever learned from having met my first husband's grandmother Margaret Fashauer, Hagemann, Lavann. Quite a lady. I can safely claim that I had never met anyone as strong minded as she. She put the Boss in Bossy. In a group setting, such as with family, she reigned supreme. She told everyone how it was going to go and God Help you if it went different because you were surely going to do what ever it was over until it was right. In one on one situations she was a sweet as pie.
I met my first husband at my first job working at Fairchild Semiconductor. I was working on an assembly line putting together electronic components and he was a general fix it guy. His mother worked in another department. He started there because he had just returned from serving in Viet Nam and needed employment. His mother suggested he apply at her place of work and there you have it.
Eventually we drove to Grandma Lavann's ranch for a visit. Her ranch is located in Northern California one valley north of Ukiah. She owned about 500 acres of mostly timberland that had formerly been small Italian vineyards prior to prohibition. Anyway I learned bits and pieces of her history over the years and here is most of what I learned.
Margaret Fashauer was born about 1900 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father was a postmaster. She was the youngest of five children, she had all older brothers; Louie, Joseph, Anthony, Frances. Her father decided that St. Louis was not far west enough. They moved to Los Angeles.
Margaret remembers riding on a trolley car out into the country and the gentleman took pot shots ta rabbits off the back of the car. The family did not stay there long. Her father purchased land in Mendocino County. The roads were too rough and nearly impassable so they took a ship up the California coast and off loaded their possessions on the coast a few miles from their land. Her mother truly thought she had been dropped off in the worst wilderness. Eventually the ranch grew into a compound of houses for all of the boys. They stayed bachelors for a great deal of their lives. I have visited that ranch compound a few times. I went there once with Margaret to gather up fallen walnuts. There was a lovely grove of black walnuts growing there. Stomp on the fallen walnuts to break off the husk and wear gloves to pick them up unless you want permanently stained black fingers. Margaret grew up on the ranch doing for the boys. Her life was a bit like “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” only there were only four brothers and her parents.
She met Charles Hagemann when he and his father came to the compound to purchase a pig. He liked what he saw and began courting Margaret and they married and moved to a small farm about 20 miles further east of the main compound. He was a Navy veteran having served as a cook on a ship in the Philippines during the Spanish American war. She still had his favorite rolling pin when I was there. I was a long slender dowel with tapered ends. I loved that thing. I have seen similarly shaped dowels used on The Cooking Channel.
They had three children; Stanley, Phillip and Helen. Helen was my mother-in-law. Very tall lady whereas Margaret could look me straight in the eye. The ranch where they lived was located in what was then known as “Little Italy”. They were surrounded by four or five small farms/vineyards all owned by Italian families. I only remember a couple names; Fratti barn and Geovanetti.
They owned property on both sides of the county road and the property north of the road had an open area used as a dance hall Margaret would sit inside a large hollowed out redwood tree stump and collect admission and sold sausages. There was also a set up for an archery range for bow and arrow for those who wished to try their hand. This concern brought in a little extra money. She told me that she had her babies in Willits at a lying in hospital. The length of stay was about ten days. One of her confinements involved her taking the stage from her home to Willits, the journey took several hours. They stopped for lunch. She was in labor at the time and did not let out a peep.
Her people were German Catholic. I have seen the book entitled, “Father Knieppe's Water Cure”. He was very famous in Europe for this book. I know for a fact that Margaret used the water cure on herself. She also used it on Helen when she contracted pneumonia as a young girl. Remember, this was before antibiotics. The Water Cure consisted of wrapping oneself in wet flannels or towels, then wrapping the whole body in a large rubber sheet and staying in that all night long to sweat out the poisons. This was quite effective for fevers.
The local farms produced a lot of red wine. During prohibition, the local Italian farmers sold them off and Charlie bought them up as well as the left over wine. At one point the 500 gallon redwood vat now used for well water was full of wine. Charlie drank most of it. He also drank himself into kidney failure. Margaret took care of him until he died.
This left Margaret a widow with three young children. One of the neighbor, Victor Geovanetti began courting her and they eventually married. He proposed but she told him she would never marry a Geovanetti. So they changed his name to LaVann and they married. They kept sheep and had a large orchard below the house. The barn was large and when I visited it there was a small tear drop shaped trailer house used for over flow guests. The house itself had two bedrooms downstairs and a full attic upstairs with a couple full sized beds. That is where everyone slept during hunting season.
Yep, I had married into a hunting family. There was a fall dear season that I usually participated in. I was mostly along for the extra deer tags, but I was given a rifle, showed which end was the pointy end and sent off uphill to a feral orchard. Sure enough, a lovely coastal buck wandered into view and I shot and he dashed off. I walked down hill to check and found blood. Dammit! Now I had to track the deer. I kept walking to the bottom of the draw and found the buck resting there and I carefully finished him off through the neck, as I had been shown. I trudged back to the ranch to tell the boys of my kill. They hiked back with me and I learned how to field dress a deer. First thing I learned was that all the ticks on the deer start fleeing as the body temperature drops and there were hundreds of the disgusting thing. So they got the deer dragged back to the ranch. Margaret gave a lesson on how to properly skin a deer after it had hung a couple days. She had a method for carefully sectioning out the scent glands and the anus and wrapping all that business in some newspaper. The carcass was butchered. The heart and liver went into the house for cooking. There really is absolutely nothing better for breakfast than fresh fried venison liver in bacon grease. Seared very quickly and not cooked until dead, dead, DEAD. Yummy. I never did come to care for venison unless it was ground up and mixed with either pork or beef for burgers but the family loved cooking the damn thing up into steaks.
Margaret kept a small herd of sheep, about 20 or 30. She kept the hay in the barn and she had them fooled into thinking they would get a wonderful meal when she called. She would go out into the main parking area, close all the gates, open the field gate and called in a loud voice, “Come sheep! Come sheep!” and by God within 15 minutes the woolies would come trotting in to nibble on a very thin handful of the baled hay. She would count them and then when they were finished they went back out to pasture to other older barns and what not on the property.
She also sheared the sheep. She kept a very large bag of wool,the kind that farms routinely fill from a much larger herd. She hired some people to shear the sheep and got that bag full finally. Once it was full, she loaded it up into her pickup truck and took it to the sale barn in Ukiah.
She owned a Caterpillar tractor left over from her younger farming days. She had to hire a lowboy to haul it off to be serviced and tuned up. It came into use when she decided to log some timber. Now, logging in California required rather expensive environmental impact studies unless the logging operation is less than seven acres, I think. So Margaret selected seven acres worth of timber very carefully to be harvested. This helped pay the tax bill. She showed me the bill one time, it was about 50k for her 500 acre ranch. At one point she and Victor had set up a series of funds that paid interest every six months once they matured. This gave a set bit of money on the books at a time when Social Security had not even been thought of. I would see her get her notifications in the mail and she would dutifully enter it all into a lovely big accounting book.
One time we picked apples from a very large tree on one of the little Italian farms, the tree was what she called a Cooks Seedling. The apples made the most amazing apple sauce. Another fun fruit tree growing near the house was a couple fig trees. I had never tasted ripe figs. They are quite wonderful with cream on them. Also the fallen figs get ripe and fermented. Bees get drunk on ripe figs and cannot fly, just buzz drunkenly in circles on the ground.
The property had huckleberry bushes growing on it. We would go pick huckleberry's and keep an eye out for black bear who like the ripe fruit very much. A hand picked huckleberry pie is pretty darn good.
Margaret was more or less the entire Altar Society at the little Catholic Church in Philo. I attended many times with her. First thing I learned is that there is no such thing as Sunday School for kids, the kids attend the service with the adults and it got noisy. I tried to sit in the back row so I could take Charlie outside for a breather. I remember one Christmas, she cut several fir trees to decorate the altar. One time we went in and she was completely surprised to see the little church decorated for a Quincereana, uh if I got the spelling correct. It was a Mexican tradition to celebrate the 15 year old girls womanhood, the place was decorated for a wedding and the girls all wore what looked like wedding gowns It was very colorful. The priest was very busy, he had three parishes all total to cover for services.
One time, the services were being provided by a Priest who was on sabattical from seminary and he was spending the summer and living in a little cabin on the Navarro river. Father Kevin, told Margaret and I to come by, he had a small plastic wading pool that we could use for Charlie. So, we dropped by on a lovely sunny day. Called out at the house, no answer. We walked around back and spotted a couple people sitting by the river a few hundred yards away. We hollared and waved. Pretty soon Father Kevin started walking back. As we stood there watching, Margaret asked me what kind of swimming suit he was wearing. I peered and suggested that it might be a string and bag kind of thing. She suddenly gasped, grabbed my hand and hauled me back around to the front of he cabin, “He's naked! He is not wearing anything!”. We heard him call up if it was okay for him to come up as is, “No Father Kevin it is not!”, he laughed and said he would dress and be up in a minute. We managed to get the wading pool in the back of the truck and Margaret managed to drive us home laughing her head off.
When any grandchild visited her they would be routinely assigned chores. One time, Pat was tasked with taking her gigantic cat food bag full of empty cans to the particular little farm where she dumped her garbage down the well. Pat came back and announced proudly that he had dumped the cans down the well. "Where is my cat food bag?", "Down the well" said Pat. "Go get my bag, I did not say to throw it away". So Pat had to go back, get down into the well, not to far down fortunately and retrieve the empty cat food bag. Yeah that happened
She stayed as independent as long as possible. The last time I saw her was at Charlies wedding in Sonoma. She had gotten a little stringier looking and she told me that I had gotten fatter and younger. She told it like she saw it. She remained on the ranch and eventually had live in care and lived into her 90's.
God Bless Her.