Scrapbook Eighty Four…


JULY 2014


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.

MK and Susan on a sneakaway in Aspen.

MK and Susan on a sneakaway in Aspen.

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.”


Code of the West

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.

Susan wears her working face as she peers out of a “secret” chamber in Kiva A at San Lazaro Pueblo. She and her daughter, Perry, helped us with the excavations.

Susan wears her working face as she peers out of a “secret” chamber in Kiva A at San Lazaro Pueblo. She and her daughter, Perry, helped us with the excavations.

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


Scrapbook Eighty Three…


JULY 2014


I don’t know if many of you will appreciate this scrapbook item. It’s my eulogy for Mike Kammerer. He was a man who stood singular in most crowds; a self-made man of rare bark who built a $15,000,000 home. When he died he left another $75,000,000 in a checking account in Jackson, Wyoming. He had three wives and his two divorces happened because he didn’t know how to say he was sorry. He loved Peggy’s hot muffins and often called her to ask if he could come to dinner. She always said yes.
This story was presented before about 300 close friends outside his home by his pool. It reveals what I thought of the man. It has been edited only slightly to fit this occasion.

SANTA FE MAY 1-5-06 043

Mike Kammerer supervises Forrest as he excavates Kiva B at San Lazaro Pueblo. Suzanne Somers stands guard.

Final words for MK

I wondered what I could say at a time like this about a man like Mike. And then I thought about the time he and Susan closed the Indian school at Santo Domingo Pueblo and took all of the children to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque – and then sat with them on the grass and ate pizza.

And I thought about his support of the under appraised teenagers from Wyoming who come annually to camp at San Lazaro Pueblo to excavate and learn the disciplines of life. The hundred thousand dollars Mike invested in those young men and women paid dividends that continue to grow as they emerge from children at risk – to productive citizens. And when their transportation broke down Mike gave them a new seventeen passenger van.

Nothing about Mike Kammerer was common – rather he was a man of extremes – and his personality touched the spectrum at both ends. He was always full of new ideas and no challenge was large enough to retard his charge. I remember his chase to find Amelia Earhart – his desire to produce nitrogen fuel cars – and of his plasma destruction  process to destroy solid waste. I look back now with beautiful memories of a hundred lunches and dinners – and can still hear the melancholy echo of a thousand forgotten laughs.

His mind was like a bee in a meadow of spring flowers as he darted from one challenge to another – this beautiful home – his huge four engine airplane that could land in the middle of any ocean.

Each of his projects was the best one – since the last one – or until the next one. Even so, his knowledge of the subjects he faced each day was conspicuously exceeded by his enthusiasm for what he was doing. His aspirations were huge – and his relentlessness – his impatience with conditions which impeded or slowed his progress was matched only by his over flowing reservoir of vitality.

Mike was happiest when he was under his cowboy hat. During the last ten days of his life I lunched with him twice and each time he wore his hat and roping boots and spurs. When I asked about wearing spurs in the restaurant – he just spread a wide grin at me. That was Mike all over.

On the 9th of May, he and Susan (his wife) went into their bedroom to watch a movie. He said that he would be content to spend the rest of his life with her between those four walls. And when he was slumped at her feet he was still wearing his roping boots and spurs.  He never opened his eyes again but he was where he wanted to be – at home, with the one he loved. I know he still has a smile in his heart, and I hope his hat and boots and spurs are with him now, as he strikes his final trail.

There was a high octane quality about Mike – an overt, manly charm. But what his good friend Sally Denton remembered most were his “incredible blue eyes that could alternate from an impenetrable glacial lake to the most inviting Caribbean lagoon.” Those are her words, not mine!

During these last two years Susan was a moderating force in Mike’s life and he told me just a few days ago that he wanted to be a better person, – a better husband – a better father – a better friend.

He said that when he was a young man his father was displeased with him – and thought he was worthless – and asked what he had done in the last year that was worthwhile. Mike just said, “Well, I made a million dollars for one thing.”

Mike was at his best when he was quiet and reflective and we often spoke of ways to simplify our lives. But fickle is the finger that points at winners – so we find ourselves here today to celebrate the life of Mike Kammerer. And although he has passed from our view he will never fade from our memory. His childish, giddy laugh was volcanic and could erupt and spread across his face like a tidal wave – making you laugh and want to be with him.

So now, I sense Mike’s agreeing presence and remember him as being a man of great vision that was taken from us in the moment of his greatest blossom – and left us with a grove of evaporated hopes and demolished dreams. But from Mike’s seeds have grown a beautiful symphony of creative combinations in the form of his children – Rudy and Kristen, and their life partners, Yvonne and Tina. And while the world is poorer with the passing of Mike Kammerer we are still blessed to have his wife Susan and her children – David, Corinne, Perry and the wonderful Eric. We are thankful to have wallowed in Mike’s brilliance for a time that was way too short. But all things that belong to man change, and we must be part of that change, however painful it is.

For life is a game of poker,
And happiness is the pot.
Fate deals you four cards and a joker,
And you play whether you like it or not.

In closing let me say that I hope your memories of that indelible man are as vivid as mine. If you look into the full moon you may see him sitting beside the great council fires of history – arguing with Rasputin – or Shakespeare – or Sitting Bull. All of that is within him. Mike is not resting – he has too many ideas and too many things to do.