Since my eulogy for Mike Kammerer appeared as Scrapbook eighty-three on Dal’s blog several folks have asked me to say something more about the man and his home. This is going to be fun.
I went through the house construction with MK and it took me three years. For two of those years it was the biggest mess I ever saw, with workers lumbering around carrying objects that looked too heavy to carry. I told MK his debacle would never come together. He just laughed at me, and it did.
The kitchen ceiling was made of Mexican bricks that were cemented in on a slant so their edges would stick out. The effect was wonderful but I couldn’t understand how they did it.
The master bathroom had a shower that was 300 square-feet in size. It had a fireplace in one corner and an 8 foot-wide waterfall decorating the back wall. I guess MK wanted to be comfortable while he cleaned up. And the same shower contained another smaller shower over there in another corner. It was glassed-in and his wife preferred that one, saying “I didn’t feel comfortable standing naked in the middle of a large room with no clothes on.” She had a quaint way with words.
The eleven bathrooms in the house had sinks that were hand-shaped from solid rock, and each one was a different style. The gym was just off the master shower and a stone bathtub was in there somewhere. The huge his-and-hers closets looked like something right out of Imelda Marcus with clothes and shoes lined up like they had been measured in.
The outside on the north side of the house looked like a small Mexican village from the 1880s. MK’s custom built stagecoach was there by the carriage house, as was a store fully stocked with mercantile goods of the period. Guest facilities that continued the country feeling seemed to be everywhere. MK could sleep 56 people. Goats, sheep, peacocks, and other petting animals were there just for fun.
The church, a replica of the cathedral in Santa Fe, stood stately in its place on the far end of the plaza by the gate. He built it to get married in, and gave $25,000 for the wooden 17th century Spanish, hand-carved door.
The outside on the south side of the house was inhabited by the swimming pool, hot tub, bathhouse, and about fifteen large sit-on rocks that had their underneaths carved out to house speakers for the audio system. One never knew they were there until one strolled by and the stones started playing music. When the well pump shorted out MK trucked water in from sixty-miles away to fill the swimming pool. Flower gardens, fruit trees, grape vines, and large western bronzes abounded the pool area.
MK was a calf roper who aspired to the rodeo, and he was pretty good. His collection of horses and longhorn steers was housed in what I called the Kammerer Hilton. It was located on the fenced-in west end of his 175 acres.
When entering the property from a county road, two blocks from the Eaves Ranch movie set where John Wayne made movies, you passed MK’s five bedroom house that was built many years ago by the Underwood typewriter family. Then another 500 feet, and adjacent to a lushly lilypadded pond, was the front entrance to the villa. A larger-than-life-size bronze (MK bought the entire edition of fifteen) stood like a sentinel beside a small stream that fed the pond, which I stocked with damsel and dragonfly eggs, game fish, crawfish, snakes, frogs and turtles. MK gave Peggy and me a smaller version of the bronze. Ours weighs only 65 pounds. The tacked-on plaque reads, “Code of the West by Herb Mignery, dedicated to Forrest and Peggy Fenn, keepers of the code and folks to ride the river with.”
When Mike divorced his second wife he was suffering from several maladies, one of which eventually took his life. I “made” him hire Susan Bodelson who was a very special woman, and coincidentally, a registered nurse. She came from a family of ten children, seven of whom worked for me at one time or another. Her brother Danny made the illustrations for my TFTW book.
While Susan was pampering Mike back to health they had a whirlwind romance and eloped without telling anyone – not even me. He loved camping with her in the Pecos wilderness on rainy days and nights, and then more rainy days and nights. Many dinners under the stars were private to them alone and when they surfaced to enjoy a libation at Vanessie’s Piano Bar they sat close, and probably wondered why they were there at all.
But their life together was short lived, an account I spoke to in my eulogy. When Mike died I fabricated two ½ inch hearts in wax, cast them in silver, linked them forever together, and strung them on a chain for Susan. One had her name on it and the other, his. Inside a hollow in her silver heart I placed one of Mike’s small cremated bone fragments, and sweated it over with a silver plate. That was seven years ago and Susan has not moved on like she should have. Her heart remains with Mike and she still wears the little necklace I made for her. I think she likes it. ff