"A Passion for Farming: The Fred and Ruby Wasson Story"
Through much of 2009 and 2010 it was my great pleasure to work with Fred
and Ruby Wasson and their four adult daughters--Marcia, Kathy, Beverly
and Reta--in writing a well-known local family LifeStory. Fred and
Ruby's pioneer ancestors date back to the 1870s in grape growing,
winemaking and prune picking in Alexander Valley, California. Along with
what the Wassons shared about their rich and extensive history in the
valley, I was fortunate to include (with permission) information
summarized from an original manuscript by renown wine historian, William
Working with the Wassons was not entirely new to me because I had
previously interviewed both Fred and Ruby and the four Wasson daughters
for my Healdsburg Tribune "Neighbors" column and it was a dream come
true to be able to spend so much time with some of the nicest folks on
Besides having the benefit of William Heintz's manuscript which
contained rich details about both of Ruby's maternal and paternal
winemaking pioneer grandparents, I had Ruby herself who, at age 90, has
an exquisite memory. The Wassons also had many scrapbooks with great old
photos and details scribbled in the margins which helped put the whole
story together in a cohesive way. There was no scarcity of photos and
details as both Ruby and Fred told their ancestral and childhood
stories. Because they grew up in such interesting times in our country,
they could speak directly to the Great Depression years as well as rural
farm life before, during and after World War II and the relationship
between farming and wartime America.
One of the most interesting things about this work was the sheer depth
and breadth of the entire Wasson family's knowledge about Alexander
Valley. In a drive through the Valley, Fred and Reta showed me all the
historical landmarks and told me the history of almost every inch of the
Valley. My favorite thing about the book is how much the Wassons taught
me about Alexander Valley farming history with reference to grapes,
prunes and what I have termed "the grape's second coming".
I had weekly meetings with Fred and Ruby which usually also consisted of
a Wasson daughter or two (mainly Reta and often Bev). As the manuscript
grew, the daughters became involved in adding stories about their folks
and their own childhoods. Beverly was particularly helpful in adding
family photos and Reta found a collection of precious historical photos.
The last part of my work was editing the manuscript over and over again
and getting the approval of the entire family. We spent hours choosing
over 100 photos together, which I then scanned, titled and catalogued.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the talent of Dia Misuraca of Sonoma Web
Design who created the layout for publication by beautifully displaying
the photos and designing a book cover which exactly represented what the
Wassons had in mind. Dia used Lulu online publishing because it creates
professional quality over which the author and the layout person have
complete control, and it is very reasonably priced.
The final job before ordering the books was for me to again edit the
entire book proof not once, but twice and three times. I am so pleased
to say that it was entirely worth the effort when I saw the look on
Ruby's face as she read her story and the twinkle in Fred's eyes as he
signed his autograph for a fan! Again, my greatest pleasure comes from
knowing that my clients are completely happy with their investment.