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Seabiscuit, the VP & Me

The recent death of Walter Mondale brings back strong memories for me, back to when I and many other Mendocino County residents had a first-hand face to face meeting with the late Vice President Walter Mondale. The setting was a function at the Ridgewood Ranch, home of the famous racehorse Seabiscuit, owned by the Howard Family. The then postmaster general issued a stamp honoring Seabiscuit. Invitations were sent to a group of local residents to attend the function. I have a connection to Seabiscuit and the Howard Family through my maternal grandfather so I was one of the lucky ones who attended. Mr. Howard had the Buick distributorship for the western United States. My grandfather co-owned the Buick dealership in Ukiah in the 1920s.

For anyone who not has visited the Ridgewood ranch it is a beautiful property located between Ukiah and Willits. 

It was a spring day with lots of pageantry. As I remember the Vice President’s wife served on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. As I was entering the ceremony area then Sheriff Tom Allman passed me and whispered that the Vice President was in the audience. A short time later as people were greeting him. I got a chance to introduce myself and shake Mondale’s hand. Judge (ret) Jim King had just finished talking to him. I researched that Jim King is also a member of the Seabiscuit Foundation.

Meeting the Vice President was a great thrill but by circumstance I sat down at lunch with unknown couple. The man (a minister) happened to be Laura Hillenbrand’s father. Laura is the author of the Seabiscuit book later made into a movie. I had a chance to talk to Laura’s father about her lifetime disease that confines her to bed and how she researched and wrote the Seabiscuit book. She later wrote the book “Unbroken.” The lady with Laura’s father was her stepmother and only seldom joined the conversation.

So, in one afternoon I was privileged to meet the Vice President and his wife as well as the father and stepmother of author Laura Hillenbrand. I went home and reread the Seabiscuit book and when her second book was published I immediately purchased a copy of “Unbroken.”

So, the death of the VP brought back all of the great memories of a one-day experience at the Ridgewood Ranch. 

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