Take it or Leave it: The History (and Love!!!) that Lives in my Fridge…by Jim Stiles

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. I won’t begin to try and list all of them (there’s not enough room for a list like that, even in cyberspace) but let me relate one of them. I don’t share this information because I think it’s particularly interesting; I’m hoping that maybe someone out there shares my same quirk.

One day, a while back, I peered into our refrigerator and realized there wasn’t enough room for even one more item.  For one thing our vegetable garden is producing monster zucchinis at a rate much faster than we can eat them, and so we appear to be stockpiling them for the Apocalypse.  Tonya saw me trying to wedge leftovers into the fridge and wisely suggested that we take stock of the contents and see what we could throw out. I nodded warily.

“Okay,” she said. “First of all, there’s a can of maple syrup in the back. It’s been in there as long as I’ve known you. Maybe we should use that up or toss it.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m not sure you’d want to use that…It’s been in the fridge since 1984.”

Tonya looked at me. “1984? You were still a ranger at Arches.”

“Yeah…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…I moved it from one fridge to another, to another, to this one.  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 in 1984.  We both forgot it was there and when I moved to town, I brought it with me. I’ve been traveling with that syrup ever since.”

Tonya seemed amused, but not really. “Okay, so 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 honey,” Tonya pleaded, “There are strange things growing in that jar. Look at it.”

It did look sort of gruesome. “But Lil was a dear friend of mine. She was a school teacher in Moab for decades and back in the late 80s, when I was having one of my crises, she was a wonderful friend. Read the label on the jar. It says, ‘To Jim..from his ever lovin’ Lil.’ How could I throw something like that away? Lil died quite a few years ago and when I see that jelly I think of her. I like that the jelly triggers good memories.”

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

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 AM. 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 a buzz and sit still.”

“But you didn’t drink it.”

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

Tonya had a look of resignation on her lovely face. “And this?”

“Ahhh…my bottle of ‘Night Train Express.”  Benge brought that back from Gallup, New Mexico. Horrible stuff.”

“But you want to keep it.”

“Of course.”
“So, in order for you to maintain this historical connection to your past, 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.”

“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.

To read the PDF version of this article, click here.

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5 comments for “Take it or Leave it: The History (and Love!!!) that Lives in my Fridge…by Jim Stiles

  1. Bruce Berryhill
    August 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm


  2. Thom Moreau
    August 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Nice Jim. Ya know … ever time I hit the control button and roll the wheel for a larger font (or hit the + key) I think of you. I say that because I am doing it a lot more often these days. I would drink the beer with your soulmate, beer goes bad more rapidly than wine. Cheers.

  3. Annie Payne
    August 7, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I love this Stiles!! Love it! I need your mailing address so I can send the z money and you and Tonya some of my homemade jam. You and Tonya will be relieved to know that it needs no refrigeration until opening!

    But seriously with all the turmoil in the world it’s so nice just to read this article! I love a happy ending!


  4. Scott Thompson
    August 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Wonderful story!

    I don’t know how Gail puts up with my quirks, but by and large she seems amused by them. Kudos to her!

  5. hondo
    October 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    jim, iv got local [catskills,ny where i live] maple syrup in my frig for 20 years, got from friend, he said if you ever see mold ontop, scrape it off, its still ok, or you can reboil it, iv scraped it off 1 time, its never reappeared again, still sits in my frig,and will so till i croak, or use ,, excellent on tuna fish, love the zephyr, love the redrocks,, miss stayin at the prospector , now gone, but the apache is a gift,,

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