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Our thirty year journey

Our story starts in 1989, the first post "Meeting Jim" lays out the framework for the events that follow. The subsequent posts will build on that narrative.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Bob Arrives

My brother Stewart had been operating the ranch for many years and had established the winery with my other brother Graham in 1985. However their partnership only survived a year and Graham moved away and Stewart continued to run the winery.  Then in 1988 Stewart moved his wife and children to Washington State and began commuting back and forth from there. So Stewart’s energy was split between trying to keep the vineyard and winery functioning while building a life for his family in another state.

Jim talks up his brother

During Jim's frequent trips to the ranch, he saw a need for someone to be present during Stewart’s absences. Jim suggested that his brother Bob come up from Southern California because he had the practical skills to keep the ranch going while Stewart was in Washington. Also, a difficult situation had arisen at the ranch caused by Stewart's absences and Graham's poor choices.


Although Graham had left the ranch in 1986 when he and Stewart parted ways over business matters, my mother called Graham back in 1989 to help her get the Bed and Breakfast up and running. My mother had applied for the Bed and Breakfast permit in 1987 and had subsequently put a fair amount of time and money into turning the ranch house into a bed and breakfast. But she had her real estate business to run in San Francisco and had no desire to move to the ranch and run the bed and breakfast once all the permits had been approved in 1989. She and Stewart were not getting along because of Stewart’s frequent absences and his lack of interest in the ranch so that is why she turned to Graham. 

Graham actually got the bed and breakfast running with Stewart’s help. Although they didn’t advertise or promote the property, in the summer of 1989 some guests actually found out about the property and ventured there. But when the fall came, Graham began moving undesirable people on to the ranch. By the time I became aware of this development, a couple named Tim and Judy, who purportedly had a lease but were living rent free were staying in a one bedroom house on the property.  Some guy with a vicious pit bull was living in the basement of another house that Graham had moved into.  We discovered gunshot holes in our stable doors. One of our wine tanks had a bullet dent in it. Graham let Tim and his friends rent the tractor barn to use as a mechanics repair shop and they started piling up cars and motorcycles there.  We surmised that these vehicles were stolen property. Strange scary tattooed men were hanging out on the ranch.  Sometimes at night there would be seven cars parked outside the one bedroom house that Tim and his girlfriend inhabited. We knew that whatever they were doing was probably illegal and we felt unsafe.  My mother and father were also alarmed by the activities on the ranch and set up a family meeting in San Francisco with Graham to demand that he get rid of these people.  At the meeting, Graham got very angry and stormed out. He saw our discomfort with his friends as a personal affront, and didn’t think there was any problem with the situation he had created. Soon afterwards Graham started feeling the heat from the family and chose to move off the ranch to save face with his friends. So we had to take the next step.  With my family’s urging, I filed suit for unlawful detainer. Having just recently passed the bar, I had never done this legal procedure before. I filed the suit against Tim in the name of Stewart, Graham, Susan and Anita as partners of RustRidge. Jim served the complaint to Tim.  Then Jim and I started staying in the house next door to Tim, that Graham had vacated, so we could monitor his activities.

Tim was required to answer the complaint within the statutory 5 days.  He didn’t respond; so, we thought it would be a cinch to get him out.  Then I received a call from the Superior Court Judge of Napa County handling our complaint. He informed me that he had received a letter from Graham stating that I did not have permission to put his name as plaintiff on the complaint.  He said unless I could show that I had some authority for doing so, I had an ethical violation to deal with.  I was completely freaked out. Barely an attorney, now I had already put my license in jeopardy. The judge told me to send him anything I had to prove my authority.  He also told me he could sympathize with my situation. He knew of the people we were trying to evict since he had dealings with them in the court.  He also thought that my brother was “not operating on all fours,” based on the letter he had written, which he forwarded to me.  Stewart and I racked our brains to come up with a basis for putting Graham on the complaint.  I had recently represented Graham in a personal matter up in Chico, did that make me his attorney.  I had represented the ranch on a  delinquent account receivable.  Did that make me the ranch counsel.  Stewart dug up a power of attorney that Graham and he had with each other in their ownership of the winery.  All these documents were put together and presented to the judge.  When the judge responded granting me the authority to list Graham as a named plaintiff, it was based on Stewart’s power of attorney to bind Graham on matters relating to the winery. The BATF required that partners sign powers of attorney over each other and Stewart had the right to sue in his and Graham’s  name in matters concerning the winery. Phew! I had my first big legal lesson. We took Tim's default. But the suit didn’t end there. Tim and Judy continued to live in the house without indicating any signs of moving out.  

Given these circumstances, Stewart was willing to try Bob out.


Bob's arrival


It was in the early days of 1990 when Jim dropped me off at my Dad’s home in Tiburon while he picked up his brother at the airport. When Jim and Bob arrived later in the day to pick me up, the three of us climbed into the cab of Stewart’s blue Chevy truck and headed up to the ranch. As we left my dad’s house we could see San Quentin across the water and I could feel Bob’s energy as he looked towards the prison where he had spent 11 years of his life.
Bob seemed wizened, his deep blue eyes had seen a lot. he wore a tattered coat very close to his body as though he was very cold. Despite his appearance he seemed very pleasant.  When we got to the ranch, we put him up in our guest bedroom.  We did not allow him to smoke in our house; he had to walk out on the deck. Two things we found out right away.  He did not know how to use the spigot to get water from the tub to the shower and he didn’t know how to use a microwave oven. My brother and I wondered if he really was the mechanical genius Jim had told us about.  Also, Bob could barely walk from our house down to the Bed and Breakfast and back again. He was out of breath and appeared weak.  So we let him acclimate and get acquainted with the surroundings.  He liked his beer and was a prolific smoker and soon we moved him down stairs where he had his own living space and could do as he pleased.

Bob’s transformation was gradual but with every day working on the ranch his body changed until one day I saw him move like a cat, as he climbed to the top of the forklift.


We had to go through each step of the eviction process before Tim and Judy finally left. With Bob's presence, we felt more secure during this time. In February 1990, on the day when the sheriff was scheduled to officially remove them from the premises, Tim and Judy hauled away the last of their belongings at 10 am in the morning. The sheriff arrived at 1 pm to find an empty house.




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