JIM STILES: The history that lives in my fridge

Jim Stiles
Free Press Columnist

Being married has brought me more happiness than I deserve but it’s also been revelatory. I was a bachelor for most of my life and apparently, according to my wife, I have a few quirky traits that until now I thought were normal.

One day, a while back, I peered into our refrigerator and realized there wasn’t enough room for even one more item. Tonya saw me trying to wedge leftovers next to the zucchini and suggested we take stock of the contents and see what could be tossed. I nodded warily.

“OK,” she said. “First, there’s a can of maple syrup in the back. It’s been in there since we met. We should use that up or toss it.”

“Well,” I said, “That syrup’s been in the fridge since 1984.”

Tonya said, “1984? You were still a ranger at Arches.”

“That’s right.”

“This isn’t even the same fridge. You moved it from one fridge to another?”

“Actually I moved it from…let’s see… It’s moved three times in 28 years.”

“But you’re not even sure it’s edible.”

“Yes…that’s right. You see, honey…it’s historical.”

“The maple syrup is historical.”

“Yeah. Mike Salamacha, my ranger buddy at Arches, brought that syrup back from Vermont. I’ve been traveling with that syrup ever since.”

Tonya seemed slightly amused. “OK, the syrup stays. What about this?” She held up a jar of jelly. “Surely I can throw this away. It looks sort of disgusting.”

I grabbed the jar out of her hands. “No way. That’s jelly from Lil McCormick. I could never throw that jelly away.”

“But,” Tonya pleaded, “There are strange things growing in that jar. Look!”

It looked gruesome. “But Lil was a dear friend of mine. She was a school teacher in Moab for decades and was a wonderful friend. Read the label. It says, ‘To Jim..from his ever lovin’ Lil.’ How could I throw something like that away? Lil died years ago and when I see that jelly I think of her. That jelly triggers good memories.”

Tonya put the jar back on the shelf. “Next? What’s this?” She held up a small opened bottle of white wine. “Surely we can toss this.”

I smiled at the sight of that bottle. “Oh yes..Mohammed Tabouch.”


“I was riding Amtrak from San Antonio to L.A. It was January 1989. They let me board early because the train was going to leave in the middle of the night. But I boarded the wrong train, fell asleep and wound up on a siding at 3 a.m. When I woke up and realized what had happened, I ran into the station almost in tears. They put me on a plane to El Paso and I met my own train when it came through the next afternoon. After that, the AMTRAK people wouldn’t let me out of their sight, for fear I’d get lost again. They assigned a guy named Mohammed Tabouch to watch me. He gave me this wine in hopes I would get drunk and sit still.”

“But you didn’t drink it.”

“I drank a little…But I wanted to save it as a memento.”

Resignation shadowed Tonya’s lovely face. “And this?”

“Ahhh…my bottle of ‘Night Train Express.” Bill Benge brought that back from Gallup, N.M. Horrible stuff. I miss that guy.”

“But you want to keep it.”

“Of course.”

“So, in order for you to maintain this historical connection, we need to reduce the capacity of our refrigerator by about 15%.”

“I’d guess it’s no more than 10 to 12%.”

Tonya sighed. “I don’t know if I’ve ever known anyone who had a historical fridge until I met you. And now I am married to him.”

My wife was about to close the door when she spied one more item, in the far rear left corner. It was a bottle of Kulmbacher beer.

“Now this…this rings a bell,” she said.

“Oh yeah! That’s the beer that Ed Abbey gave me in 1987.”

Tonya pounced. “Yes! I knew it sounded familiar. You mentioned it in “Brave New West.” But in your book you DRANK the beer. How can it still be in our fridge?”

“I can explain. Actually Ed gave me two Kulmbachers. He said if I ever met my soulmate I’d be ready to celebrate.”

Tonya smiled. “But you drank one of them and I’m your soulmate. Technically, this beer belongs to me.” She grinned menacingly.

Then she took the Kulmbacher and put it back in its rightful corner. “If it means that much to you, we’ll leave it right where it is…right where it belongs.” She kissed me and went outside to pick more zucchinis.

Just then, I knew I was the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Jim Stiles is publisher of the “Canyon Country Zephyr — Planet Earth Edition.” It ran for 20 years as a print publication and is now exclusively online. He is also the author of “Brave New West — Morphing Moab at the Speed of Greed.” Both can be found at Stiles lives in Monticello, Utah, and can be reached at

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