I was a seven-year-old girl living on the fringe of the Wild West. The year was 1951, and the place was the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.
Our little Ford coupe skipped across the sandy desert using only the light of the full moon. Shadows of Joshua trees danced around us.
As a tagalong, I sat alone in the back seat. My thirteen-year-old sister was our driver. Two teenage cousins, perched on the front fenders, searched for jackrabbits racing through the night.
This is when I learned what adrenaline was, and I wanted more of it!
Sixty-four years later, while writing short stories about life experiences, I noticed a common thread: my willingness to be in risky situations with confidence.
Where had it begun? This question took me back to that moonlit night and the homestead ranch where I once lived. My family’s culture of infectious laughter and hard labor under the sun is gone. The number of people who have lived, laughed, or worked on the homestead ranch is dwindling. I felt a sense of urgency to preserve this relatively unknown slice of California history. That urgency led to this book
I am pleased to present the story of my grandfather, Frederick Godde, who came to the United States in 1885, homesteaded in the California desert, and grew almonds commercially. The story of Frederick and his family is one example of many that shaped California’s agriculture-rich reputation.
Desert Almond Farmer: The Story of a California Homesteader and His Family is based on government documents, newspaper articles, family records, and my own experiences on the homestead. The main events in this story are true. Where there is no exact record, I have taken the liberty to interpret from what is known.
I never had the chance to know my Grandfather Frederick because he died before I was born. Writing his story using his voice helped me understand him and increased my awe of farmers.
– Mary Kaye Godde Stamets