I’ve been sitting here, thinking over the years that I have been at Grapevine, and my mind went back to our very first guests. They were a young couple from Switzerland, by name of Annie and Urs, and they were touring around the USA. They stopped in here for a few days, we had a great time with them, and they left. When they checked out, they paid with a credit card.
I was pretty new to the office part of the business then, and taking a credit card, in those days, meant using those infernal machines where you put the card in, and slide the gizmo across the top in order to get a carbon copy of the information. I did all that, but apparently all wrong – after they left, I found that the copy did not go through, and I had no information at all. This was pretty devastating, as I had no idea where they were headed to next, and we sure needed the money, so I did the next best thing. I sat down and wrote them a letter at their address in Switzerland, explaining the situation and asking for the credit card number.
I sent off the letter and waited, but in vain – nothing happened. After about three months I wrote the whole episode off to experience. But surprise, surprise!! Almost a year later, into the office marched Annie and Urs, brandishing the credit card, and an explanation. They were on a long trip across the USA – much longer than I would have imagined, over a year altogether – and, of course, had no idea of my mistake. After some time on the road, when they were someplace in the northwest, they phoned home, and got a good dressing down from Urs’ mother. “What have you two kids been up to!!” she demanded, “visiting some winery!!” It took a while for them to put it together – Grapevine … winery – all was explained, and we had a good laugh over it. They returned for many visits over many years, and then settled down to raising a family and starting up a business – in short, the usual routine of life. We have kept in touch by phone and e-mails, they have sent photos of their Swiss home and their sons, but often, when I think of them, I remember that first credit card episode, and the definition of Grapevine. And, as a result, I have wondered if the name of Grapevine is a drawback, or a bonus – it’s hardly a name one would associate with horseback riding! But then, if it had been left up to us to name the place, all those years ago, we might have named it something like Rearing Horse Ranch – this way, it’s at least unique, even if not totally descriptive, and it is, after all, the original, a hundred year old name of the canyon.
And, still along the lines of interesting guests, we have had our share of movie stars and television stars over the years, and some of these episodes also stand out in my memory. One of these concerned a movie star who had been very, very famous here in the 60’s, and who had then, for some unknown reason , moved to Europe and starred in many Italian movies. Years later she was making a comeback in the movie industry in the States, and she visited the ranch just prior to reporting on the set of “Ironweed” with Meryl Streep. I took her horseback riding – and I remember vividly her nervousness of being anywhere near tree branches. “No trees, no trees!” she would say any time we even looked like approaching anything with leaves on it – and the reason? If she scratched her beautiful face, she would be in violation of her contract! I found that interesting, if somewhat limiting. I would hate to be confined to careful living because of a job!
Another time, another famous movie star, this time a man. We were sitting at the picnic tables after a cook-out lunch, the others having already left. The only people with us were another, older couple, obviously not movie goers. As the movie star was in the middle of telling me some fun stuff that happens on movie sets, they took a look at his famous face and the lady asked “Are you in the movies?” I cringed, expecting an offended-ego outburst. Instead, he smiled pleasantly and agreed that yes, he was. He went up in my estimation about 1000 points!! Over the years I found that the more famous a person, the less they are concerned about being recognized and fawned over – it seems to be only the insecure, clinging-to-fame type who worry about such trivia!
Here’s another example of a famous person not taking herself seriously. We had a group of journalists here from Germany, and the most important person in the group was a young woman who had (this was at the start of the Gulf War) singlehandedly held down a continuous 9 hours of unscripted broadcast time – truly a feat of reporting stamina, for which she had won some kind of a television reporting award. We all went for a horseback ride, and, as the group was so important, I decided to lead the ride. And of course, I mistook the trail – I found myself on a narrow path heading straight for a big tree. As it’s not easy to turn around 12 beginner riders, I opted for the easier way. The tree was a bit above head height, and I knew I could go under it at a trot, if I bent down. I turned back and said: ”Everyone, bend down!” and went under. The famous star was right behind me. Too soon I heard an agonized shriek, and turned back to see her clutching the branch with both hands, the horse steadily chugging ahead. Horrified, I watched helplessly as her round behind toppled backwards off the horse and hit the deck. But she was a great sport about it all – laughed it off, and I wrote it off to experience! Another example of a person secure and self confident, and not taking herself too seriously – I wish that many other people would take this lesson to heart!