This is a story about a REALLY GOOD FRIEND and a REALLY GOOD WIFE.
It started about a year ago when my friend, Mike Jacobs, offered to place a bet on the 2020 June North Dakota primary election. It seems he had made a bet on a candidate in a contested primary race but was having second thoughts, so he thought he might hedge that bet with a bet on the other candidate.
Turns out he had bet on the same candidate I thought was going to win that election, but he had changed his mind. He had bet a bottle of wine with our friend, Ron Rauschenberger, in that race. Now he wanted to bet on the other candidate with me. So I said sure, I’ll take that bet. I think Ron is wrong, and you were right, but if you want to give me a piece of that, I’ll take it.
Well, Election Day came and Ron was wrong. He lost a bottle of wine to Mike. Turns out Mike should not have hedged his bet. He lost a bottle of wine to me. So now all that was left to be done was the payoff. Problem is, between the time of the bet and the time of the election, a pandemic came.
Mike lives in Grand Forks. I live in Bismarck. We weren’t traveling. One possibility we discussed was just having Ron, who also lives in Bismarck, bring me a bottle of wine, since he owed Mike one, and Mike owed me one, but we decided that it would be more fun to get together sometime when it was safe. Nine months went by.
Last week, Mike said he was going to take a trip to Turtle Lake to see his aging sister. He hadn’t seen her during the pandemic either, but since he and Suezette had had their shots, and so had his sister, they thought it was safe to travel and go see her.
Well, that offered me a chance to not only see my friends Mike and Suezette, but to collect a bottle of wine. I told him I’d meet him at “The Turtle” on Monday afternoon. “The Turtle” is a large metal sculpture on Turtle Lake’s south side in a small park. It’s the best Turtle in North Dakota (sorry, Bottineau and Dunseith).
A little bit about Silver Oak. It’s a Napa Valley wine, the product of a winemaker named Brother Justin Meyer. I say “Brother” Justin because he used to be a monk, one of the Christian Brothers, of brandy fame. The Christian Brothers also made wine, and Justin learned his trade there, became one of America’s premier winemakers and then left the monastery to start his own winery.
I got to meet Justin Meyer once when Joel Gilbertson, he of Jeremiah Wine Co. fame, brought him to Medora, N.D., for a wine and food festival back in 1995. Sadly, Justin passed away from a heart attack in 2002, at age 63. But his wine lives on.
Once, on a trip to Napa, I toured the Silver Oak winery and tasted that year’s vintage as part of the tour. Best $5 I ever spent. Five dollars won’t even get you a sip today. Silver Oak is one of the most expensive wines produced in America. I’m not sure what Mike paid for that bottle, but I bet the first number in the price was 1. I sure hope Ron reads this, in case he hasn’t paid Mike yet for that bet last June.
Well, anyway, I got home in time to find Lillian in the kitchen, layering the meat sauce, mozzarella and noodles in a huge pan of lasagna. Now that is a REALLY GOOD WIFE. Lillian makes the best lasagna in America. I live for it. She makes it just three or four times a year, so as not to spoil me, and she makes it in these big pans so we get at least three good-sized meals out of it.
The lasagna went in the oven. The wine got opened to breathe on the table. We waited. Her daughter, Chelsea, showed up to share (just the lasagna, thankfully, she’s not a red wine drinker). We spent a joyful hour around the table, eating, sipping and talking about an upcoming celebration we’re going to have, when the two of them get their second shot and finish their two-week waiting period (I’ve had mine, and my two weeks is up Thursday). I’m not sure what (or where) we’ll eat and drink that night, but it’ll be hard to top what my REALLY GOOD FRIEND Mike and my REALLY GOOD WIFE Lillian did for me Monday.
Nate Alme March 9, 2021 at 6:57 pm
Jim, I love your writing. I grew up at Balfour ND. I found your blog years ago and always look forward to your posts. I don’t believe we ever met, but Cleo Cantlon was a neighbor and close family friend who I recall mentioned your name. I wish you good health and much happiness.Reply
Alan Webster March 9, 2021 at 7:01 pm