FATHERS | DAD LIFE
The Dad Bod
WRITTEN BY: PAUL HANKEL
What is Dad Bod?
Dad bod, in its simplest terms,
is the body profile that a male
acquires when he's comfortably
settled into his late 20’s/early 30’s.
Dad bod males are those who
look like they were, at one point,
physically fit, however have now
succumbed to 2-for-1 appetizers
and thick dark beers. The easiest
reference would be Andy Dwyer
from Parks and Recreation.
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How is Dad Bod acquired?
The answer is in the name, at least
in my situation: by becoming a dad!
Weekend flag football leagues, a
semi-consistent gym schedule,
and twice per week martial arts
lessons gave way to hasty fast
food dinners in between my son’s
sports lessons. Running 10k races
for charity was replaced by visible
back sweat from putting together
my son’s new bedframe.
My Fitness “Journey”
For the last nine months, I’ve
found myself using the pandemic
as an excuse to not use my gym
membership. I chalked my lack of
attendance up to not wanting to
possibly get sick and wanting to
social distance. In reality, I was
just being lazy and, due to plenty
of craft beer and couch time, found
myself quickly crossing over from
dad bod to just plain fat.
A few situations confirmed this status for me:
- I caught myself exhaling and grunting whenever I
sat down or stood up
- I was no longer able to simply bend down and put
on my socks, I had to put my foot up on the coffee table
or do this awkward backward bending pose
- I was visibly sweaty and winded from bringing the
groceries inside (in one trip of course, because I’m a
- There was a dark period, during the pandemic,
where I was one of those people who gets the ridiculous
50-ounce fountain sodas from the gas station
Needless to say, I needed to revisit an active lifestyle.
So, like millions of adult men, I spent the last week
of December 2020 watching motivations work out
videos, featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to get
myself pumped up about my cliché New Year’s goal
of getting back in shape. New year, new me! I also
bought hundreds of dollars worth of at-home gym
equipment on Amazon and, at one point was literally
days away from ordering a Peloton. After finding
out that dumbells are impossible to purchase online
during a pandemic for some reason, I settled on a
heavy bag, some resistance bands, pull up bar, foam
rollers, one of those massage guns, a fitness tracker,
and sweatproof headphones.
Surprise, surprise, the third week in January came
and went and my resistance bands were gradually
gathering dust on the floor of my room. So, I decided
to reactivate my gym membership, in the hopes that
the sense of community would motivate me. In reality,
I would show up, walk or half jog a few miles, shoots
some hoops in order to relive my glory days of being
backup point guard on my high school basketball
team, then hit the sauna. Needless to say, it was
In short, I’ve found that a hybrid model of exercise
works best for me. As someone who is on the road
half the week, it's not always feasible or possible to eat
correctly or hit the gym every day. I’m not going to dive
heavily into recommendations, as I am the furthest
thing from qualified and am in moderate shape at best.
However, I will defend to the death the sexiness and
appeal of the modern dad bod and all of its benefits
(we are the best cuddlers and our beer guts make an
excellent pillow). After all, if you can’t handle me at my
20 pounds overweight then you don’t deserve me at
my 10 pounds overweight!
A word of caution though – pontoon season is rapidly
approaching, and no one wants to be that guy that
wears a shirt to hide the rolls. Cheers! •
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VOLUME 8 • ISSUE 5
FATHERS // DAD LIFE
THE DAD BOD
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A
SNOW REMOVAL GUY
YOUR SAYING IT BAD
ABUSED EXPRESSIONS, WORDS AND TERMS
PERSONAL SELF EXPRESSION
VENISON & MUSHROOM GALETTE
ON THE COVER // MARK EMPTING
SHERIFF OF CLAY COUNTY AND FIRE CHIEF
OF DILWORTH FIRE DEPARTMENT
GROW YOUR GARDEN
REGARDLESS OF YOUR LIVING SITUATION
HAVING A BEER WITH
CHIEF METEOROLOGIST ROB KUPEC
VIETNAM VETERAN // RUSS STABLER
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urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 5
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: RYAN SHERBROOKE
WRITTEN BY: KATIE JENISON
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
It’s no secret Mother Nature can
be unpredictable, especially when
it comes to Midwest winters. We’re
no strangers to heavy snowfall and
white-out conditions. Since we are
used to the snow, it can be easy to
take clear roads, driveways, and
sidewalks after a snowstorm for
granted — but it doesn’t happen
by magic. It’s all thanks to hardworking
snow removal crews willing
to sacrifice sleep and family time so
the community can safely get from
Point A to Point B.
It may come as a surprise to some,
but planning for a snowstorm starts
long before the first flake falls. The
process begins with a contract that
determines just how much snow
needs to fall before snow removal
occurs. Contractors refer to this
threshold as a snowfall trigger.
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Clear roads, driveways, and parking lots are all thanks
to hard-working snow removal contractors willing to
sacrifice sleep and family time so the community can
safely get from Point A to Point B.
These triggers can vary from property to property
and typically depend on the client’s level of liability.
Commercial properties like grocery stores and strip malls
usually have a zero-tolerance trigger, which requires
snow removal for even a light dusting. Residential
properties such as apartment buildings usually require
removal for snowfall over an inch.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: RYAN SHERBROOKE
There are many moving parts when it comes to preparing
for snow events. Dedicated triggers make it easier for
contractors to coordinate snow removal efforts when a
storm occurs. They can plan routes and schedule crews
based on their clients’ triggers and how much snowfall
is anticipated. That said, we all know how fickle the
weather truly is. Things can change at any time, and
contractors have to keep a close eye on the weather.
Depending on the storm, snow removal crews will
typically wait to head out once the snow has stopped.
Until then, they stay busy preparing the equipment.
From snow plows to payloaders, each piece of equipment
undergoes extensive safety inspections. Crews will also
perform necessary maintenance to ensure equipment is
in optimal working condition before leaving the shop.
Most snow removal takes place at night when there are
fewer obstacles to contend with. It certainly makes the
job a little easier, but it requires crews to adjust to a
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PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: RYAN SHERBROOKE
new sleep and work schedule. Shifts
frequently run on a 12-hour swing,
so if there’s time, crews will try to
grab a little shut-eye before their
overnight shift starts.
Once the snow stops, it can take
anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to
clear. If a snowstorm lasts for
multiple days or is accompanied by
high winds, it can take even longer.
While some snow events may only
produce a few inches, the wind
can cause large snowdrifts to build
up. To combat long-lasting storms
and blowing snow, contractors will
perform a quick pass while waiting
for the storm to end. At that time,
they’ll clear residential driveways
and aisleways, entrances, and
emergency exits at commercial and
multi-family housing properties.
Snow removal isn’t a walk in the
park; it’s a fairly demanding job.
Snow removal isn’t a walk in the park ...
Crews work long hours operating heavy equipment and
shoveling by hand in often freezing temperatures. The
job also comes with a long list of dangers.
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Crews work long hours operating
heavy equipment and shoveling by
hand in often freezing temperatures.
The job also comes with a long list of
dangers, which is why contractors go
through meticulous safety training.
They’re also taught how important it
is to be aware of their surroundings
at all times.
One of the most obvious dangers they
face is drivers crowding snow plows.
Drivers tend to be impatient when
dealing with a slow-moving plow. To
prevent an accident from occurring,
plow drivers will pull off to the side
when they can to let vehicles pass
safely. In addition to other drivers,
snow removal crews have to be
aware of stationary obstacles such
as fire hydrants and utility boxes.
Contractors also have to keep an
eye out for signs of kids playing in
snowbanks. Large piles of snow are
the perfect place for kids to sled,
build forts, and dig tunnels. However,
there is a hidden danger to playing
in snowbanks, especially when snow
removal crews are out and about.
Only when the snow has been
cleared do crew members call it a
day. If they’re lucky, they’ll be able to
head home to enjoy a warm meal and
catch up on sleep. Some may only
get a short break before they have
to go back to work for a regularly
Despite the long hours and physical
demands of the job, snow removal
contractors find it rewarding. They
enjoy stepping up to the challenge
that each snow event presents and
take pride in a job well done. It is
a rigorous and time-consuming
process, but snow removal crews do
what they do to make our lives easier.
How can we return the favor?
Remember to give plows and
equipment operators plenty of space,
and if you can, park your vehicles in
the garage. Above all, try to be patient
and understanding. Snow removal
crews are often underappreciated,
but a kind word or a friendly wave
can go a long way. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 9
Your Saying It Bad
WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR
Ahhhh, the mighty eggcorn. You may
have never heard this word spoken,
but its meaning is relevant to every
Eggcorns are frauds—misconstrued
words created from a
misunderstanding or mishearing
of the actual thing. People have
butchered some terms and
expressions for so long that it’s
actually more common to say them
Before you feel judgment as you read
the following list of the commonly
misspoken, please know that I have
my own issues. This is written by a
girl who perpetually, by accident
utters, “hit the nail on the hammer,”
instead of “hit the nail on the head.”
Are you guilty of the following
speech crimes? It’s never too late to
retrain your brain and trade in your
eggcorns for the real steal.
Nip it in the butt
WRONG: For all intensive purposes
RIGHT: For all intents and purposes
Thine ears are full of trickery and doth deceive you.
This eggcorn takes the cape. This phrase was originally
taken from “to all intents, constructions and purposes”
from sixteenth century English law. It essentially means
“virtually” or “in every practical sense.”
WRONG: Nip it in the butt
RIGHT: Nip it in the bud
You’re nipping what in a butt? Nipping something “in the
bud” doesn’t sound any more reassuring. This phrase was
first recorded in the 1600s, and to “nip something in the
bud” means to kill or destroy in the first stage of growth.
WRONG: Case and point
RIGHT: Case in point
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I’ve said this incorrectly for 30 years. I am 30 years old. This phrase isn’t that dramatic
of an error, but the next time you need to emphasize that what you said is true, try to
remember your case is “in” the point you just made.
WRONG: One in the same
RIGHT: One and the same
Throw everything you just learned about switching
“and” with “in” and toss it in the paper shredder of
your mind because it’s the opposite with “one and the
same.” “Case in point” and “one and the same” are not
one and the same.
I could care less
WRONG: I could care less
RIGHT: I couldn't care less
When someone says, “I could care less,” you know they
actually do care. How can you tell? Because they’re
literally saying they care and have the capacity to care
less than they do. If you really don’t give a rat’s clap about
something, remember to say “couldn’t.”
WRONG: Taken for granite
RIGHT: Taken for granted
Don’t give me a stone-cold glance when I tell you, but you’re not being taken for
“granite.” Unless someone is mistaking you for a granite statue (are you really that
chiseled?) or kidnapping you to be used as a kitchen counter, they’re not taking you
Abused words and terms:
KIND OF WRONG, YET NOT: Escape goat
Ahhh, “irregardless.” My favorite aggravation is when
arrogant CEOs say this during meetings right after they’ve
brushed you off with an aggressive hand wave. They may
wear the pants of the company, but that doesn’t mean
they passed English class.
One of my darling grandmas says this. It’s common in
the American Midland dialect. One theory for how this
mispronunciation started dates back to a protestant
group called the Scots-Irish. They kept moving around
for religious freedom and eventually sailed from Ireland
to America in the 1700s for the same reason. They really
did a number on Warshington when they got here.
Since when did “es” make an X sound in modern English?
Once again, people getting an “es” mixed up with an X. I
don’t know which came first, the mispronunciation of the
word or the stupid, punny phrase of “Expresso yourself”
printed on coffee mugs and homely nightgowns for
You know all those animal sacrifices made by various
religions throughout time to atone for sins and pay honor
to God or the gods? That’s where the phrase “scapegoat”
came from. It’s hard to say “escape goat” is incorrect
because “scapegoat” is honestly just a shortening of
“escape goat.” So whatever. The goat doesn’t get to
escape either way. It dies.
WRONG: Card shark
RIGHT: Card sharp
The evolution of this term is exactly like a game of
Telephone. It started out in England as “card sharp”
because of “sharpers,” a term used for cheats, swindlers
and rogues. But we hear what we hear and “card sharp”
became “card shark.”
I know Ds and Bs look similar, but please take care of
your letters and show respect. Don’t call me a D for
telling it like it is.
For all intensive purposes
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PERSONAL SELF EXPRESSION
WRITTEN BY: KRISSY NESS
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
Body Art is an expression of one's
self, from head and body piercings
to body branding and scarification.
The history of body art goes back
as far as the 9th century BC.
The oldest mummified body had
ear piercings from 7-11 mm in
diameter, proving that body art is
at-least 5,000 years old.
People from all over the world
partake in body art for cultural
purposes or personal reasons. In
recent years the look of gauged
ears and face piercings have been
widely popular. If you take a look
around your community, you can
see people ranging from young
to old with their personal touch
when it comes to piercings. I have
had many piercings over the year,
from a nose ring in my left nostril
to gauged ears, which I have since
let close up and heal. Currently, I
have two piercings in each ear, and
my conch pierced on my right ear.
The conch is a band of cartilage
the stretches across the ear.
I had the chance to speak with
Chuck Kesler, a professional body
artist who has been working in this
industry since 1999. He began his
career at Sterling Rose in Fargo,
North Dakota, as an apprentice,
and worked there for three years.
After leaving Sterling Rose, he
opened Dead RockStar with his
family - a tattoo, piercing, and
alternative clothing store. "This is
when and where my interest in the
sterilization process began," said
In 2007 Kesler joined the
Association of Professional
Piercers and has attended many
of their conferences. "I was pretty
excited to be the first in North
Dakota to join this Association,"
exclaimed Kesler. Joining the
APP lit a fire under Kesler to
continue to grow his knowledge
in sterilization, sanitation, and the
art of body piercing.
Kesler has performed many exotic
piercings and body branding/
scarification in his career. One of
the most exciting piercings I saw
was the Rhino. This is where you
get a stud pierced through the top
of your nose cartilage mimicking the
horn of a rhinoceros. Another piece
of body art that caught my eye was
a back corset. Yes, it is exactly how
it sounds! Two rows of hoops are
pierced into the skin on either side
of the spine and ribbon is thread
through it creating the look of a
Body branding is essentially like a
tattoo where you lay out a stencil
and burn the design into
the body. Where-as
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a scalpel and the design is cut into
"We have a lot of farmers in this
area, and they come in to get their
farm logos branded onto their body,"
Explained Kesler. "With this area
being so conservative, you would
not think you would get as many
people in for this kind of work."
I was fascinated to hear this bit of
information. When I think of body
branding, a local farmer is not the
first place my mind goes, but I am
pleasantly surprised to hear it!
In 2014 Kesler encouraged local
promoters to join him in his idea
for a tattoo and body art convention
in Fargo, North Dakota. With
began the Rough
Rider Ink &
it has grown into an event many
people look forward to, including
One thing Kesler and I discussed
was the more psychological l reasons
people come in for piercings. Kesler
studied psychology a Minnesota
State University Moorhead, and he
took that knowledge with him as
he continues his professional body
art career. "I am always looking to
understand the root of the one's
decision to get a piercing," explained
Kesler. "Some of my clients who
come in are there because of body
image issues or are the victims of
rape and abuse. Some of the goals
being to take back their body and
make their own choices with what
they do with their bodies."
"WE HAVE A LOT OF
FARMERS IN THIS AREA,
AND THEY COME IN TO
GET THEIR FARM LOGOS
BRANDED ONTO THEIR
BODY." – CHUCK KESLER
This idea is something I had never
really given much thought to,
although it makes total sense. I
applaud these individuals who take
such measures to reclaim what is
In my opinion, this is a positive
quality in someone modifying your
body. Kesler is genuinely interested
in why you are there and how he can
better your experience.
As the years passed, Kesler found
himself in a kind of stagnant place;
his passion for body art was still
there but less enthusiastic.
"That is when I decided I need to
make a change," explained Kesler.
"When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it
renewed my passion for working in
Kesler is in the process of opening
Chuck's Body Art, in Moorhead,
MN. His mission statement,
Passion for Promoting Safe and
Sterile Procedures, has followed
him throughout his career and
will continue in his new space. "I
am hoping that my reputation will
prompt clients to follow me to my
new location," expressed Kesler.
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Venison & Mushroom Galette
RECIPE AND PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: JEFF BENDA
You will need...
- 1/4 pound venison steak, thinly sliced
- One refrigerated pie crust
- 8 ounces Bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- Fresh thyme and rosemary
- 1 egg, beaten
My 5-year-old daughter
and I had fun making
this quick and easy
dish together to turn a
North Dakota Whitetail
bottom round steak
into something golden
brown and bubbly. My
wife was impressed
when she got home!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute steak
in the pan for one minute with butter,
and season with salt and pepper or your
favorite steak seasoning. Set aside. Saute
mushrooms and garlic in the same pan for
two minutes. Set aside. Roll out pie crust
on pizza pan. In a bowl, mix ricotta cheese,
Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon each of
fresh thyme and rosemary. Spread ricotta
mixture over pie crust leaving two inches
around the edge. Spread cooked steak and
mushrooms over it like you would if making
a homemade pizza. Fold pie crust sides
over and brush with egg wash. Bake for 20
minutes until golden brown. Sprinkle with
fresh thyme and rosemary. Serve warm.
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ON THE COVER | MARK EMPTING
Sheriff of Clay County and
Fire Chief of the Dilworth Fire Department
WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
Mark Empting, fire chief of the Dilworth Fire Department and the new sheriff of Clay
County, has a long history with the area surrounding Dilworth, Minn. As a kid in the
‘70s and ‘80s, the small town of Dilworth was different than it is now. The railroadcentered
community is still close-knit and welcoming, but back then the residents
consumed a lot more spaghetti.
Growing up on the south side of the tracks in an area dubbed “Little Italy,” Empting
was primarily raised by his mom and grandparents, all full-blooded Italians. That part
of the community was where many Italian immigrants had settled a few generations
Neighboring the rambler-style home his dad had built, Empting and his family were
surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins.
“I lived within a stone’s throw of them. You really couldn’t get away with much in
Dilworth because everybody knew you,” Empting said. “I had family in darn near every
corner. It was a small town and you knew everybody. If I did do something wrong, it
didn’t take long for mom to hear about it. By the time I came home, she’d already had
a phone call telling her what had happened.”
"It was a small town and you knew everybody. If I did do something
wrong, it didn’t take long for mom to hear about it. By the time I came
home, she’d already had a phone call telling her what had happened."
Despite the unnerving sapience of loving yet watchful eyes, Empting’s childhood had
a lot of freedom.
“It was a time where you left the house at 10 in the morning and came home at dark.
It was fun. If your mom needed to get a hold of you, she knew about one of five places
she could call,” Empting said.
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ON THE COVER | MARK EMPTING
After he turned 5 years old, his parents divorced and his
father moved to the Iron Range in northern Minnesota
where he worked as a roadmaster for the railroad.
Empting’s mother worked at The Academy, a modeling
agency in Fargo. When she was at work, his siblings and
he would walk to their grandparents’ place, a building
downtown that held his grandfather’s barbershop below
and their apartment above.
During the many days he spent at the barbershop,
Empting could look across the street and watch the
activity brewing at City Hall and the Dilworth Fire
Department. He would even go over to talk to the
firemen. As time went by, his admiration grew as he
imagined the adrenaline rush of answering the call to
help people in their greatest time of need.
In 1991, only a month after turning 18, he joined the
Dilworth Fire Department. Still in high school, Empting
would occasionally have to leave class during a fire call,
but he was dedicated to his new role.
Thirty years later, Empting has experienced his fair
share of danger. Going into a burning building is always
precarious, but some situations have been particularly
"Probably the hottest fire I’ve ever been in
was a house fire where we were searching
for animals. When we were in there it got
so super hot it was melting the shields on
“Probably the hottest fire I’ve ever been in was a house
fire where we were searching for animals. When we were
in there it got so super hot it was melting the shields on
our helmets,” Empting said. “It’s been some great times.
Any member of a fire department is going to be kind of
an adrenaline junkie. That’s one of the reasons you get
into it. Those are actually fun times because you’re out
there helping the community. It’s the worst time of their
life, but you’re able to help them out a little bit.”
For the past 7 years, Empting has been Dilworth’s fire
chief. He stays out of the burning buildings now to
direct the situations at hand, but the knowledge and
experiences he has under his belt make him a vital asset
to everyone’s safety.
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ON THE COVER | MARK EMPTING
Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting and Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner teamed up to raise awareness for Veterans and the homeless
population in our community. They braved the arctic cold blast while sleeping outside on the evening of February 5th at the
Moorhead American Legion Post 21.
“I don’t necessary go in anymore to do stuff like that, but
I’m coming on the scene to make sure people are being
safe and that they have the resources they need to put
the fires out,” he said.
Up to the challenge
Along with his pre-established desire to help others in
need and satisfy his desire for an occasional adrenaline
rush, Empting soon figured out the next step he needed
to take and enrolled at Alexandria Technical College for
law enforcement in 1993.
“Law enforcement always piqued my interest as well,”
he said. “I saw some of the things that law enforcement
did when I would work alongside them in the fire
department, so I went to Alex Tech and graduated from
there in ’95.”
In 1997, Empting started working for the Glyndon
Police Department and served Glyndon and Dilworth
before being hired by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in
2002. He was promoted as a shift commander in January
2014, and less than two years later, he was promoted to
patrol lieutenant and then patrol commander to oversee
the entire patrol division.
Another milestone in his career happened this January
when Empting was elected sheriff of Clay County. “It’s
been a great and joyous career,” he said. “I wouldn’t
and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve had the
opportunity to mentor and teach new officers coming in.
That’s one of the things I’ve really enjoyed. It’s been fun
for me, growing and learning, and I learn things from
them every day as well.”
In all his years of serving, Empting, like every fireman
and officer, has faced a lot of pressure. But in today’s
tumultuous times, tension has been elevated to new
“Right now the profession is definitely getting a little
tougher and harder, but we’re really unique here in Clay
County because we do have a lot of strong support from
our community members. They support our mission,”
Part of their immediate action plan this year has been
to implement body cameras and more protective gear.
“Before we rolled these out, I definitely wanted to talk to
our staff to get their ideas and thoughts—and their buy-
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in, quite frankly. It was easy,” he said. “They wanted
body cameras to protect themselves and the county,
and it holds us more accountable too. Everybody was
happy to have them.”
As officers continue to get nationally scrutinized
because of devastating incidences of misconduct and, in
some cases, only partially revealed storylines, Empting
hopes Americans will come to a few realizations.
“I think a lot of our community already understands
that we are human beings and there are times we do
make mistakes. I’ve made plenty of mistakes over my
life and career, but I’ll be the first one to admit them,”
he said. “I understand you’re human, but it’s how you
address the mistake. Do you accept responsibility,
learn from it and move forward? I can work with that.
In our political climate, we don’t see people being
willing to say they messed up.”
While it’s difficult for law enforcement to anticipate the
future, some goals remain constant for Empting and
“We have such a great community here in Clay County.
We need to continue to work on maintaining their trust
and building the trust of people who aren’t comfortable
around us,” Empting said. “We continue to look at
what we can do to strive for excellence, what kind of
equipment and things we can give the staff to make
their lives easier and better, what we can do for the
community and how to better serve them. It’s not
necessarily a 5-year-plan, but it’s a daily plan where
you’re always looking for better ways to serve the
community and those who are working for you.”
Living the good life
From the seeds of servitude planted in a small-town
boy’s heart to the harvest of those dreams benefiting
the same community, there’s no doubt Empting’s roles
are a huge part of his life’s calling. If he could change
anything about the direction he’s taken, he wouldn’t.
He already believes he’s living his best life.
“I truly appreciate the support for the sheriff’s office
and the area I work. I don’t want to take that for
granted,” Empting said. “‘Living the good life’ is what
I’m doing right now, seriously. I enjoy our community
and the people that are a part of this team. They make
my life a good life. I can’t ask for a better group of
people than I have here. It’s been great, especially as
sheriff, and I can’t think of doing anything else.” •
“It’s been a great two years, especially as
sheriff, and I can’t think of doing anything
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 23
WRITTEN BY: JEFFREY MILLER
ew things are more satisfying
than being immersed in
nature. Hiking, hunting, bird
watching, skiing, the list is
endless. Growing your own food
ranks among the easiest ways to do
Productive gardens can range from
a planter on an apartment balcony to
24 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
an acre of land on a rural farmstead
and nearly anything in between.
Regardless of your living situation,
you can grow some of your own food
Container gardens are simplicity
at its finest. A wooden or plastic
container (don't use metal as it
heats up too much in the sun) with
holes drilled in the bottom to let
water flow through and filled with
potting soil can be used to grow such
vegetables as tomatoes, peppers,
herbs, or many other plants. The
downside is there is limited space.
While the amount of food that can
be grown in a single pot is small in
terms of weight, it's huge in terms of
Regardless of your
living situation, you
can grow some of your
own food each year.
Larger gardens yield more food and more work. It's
easy to get excited and plan a large garden in a backyard
in the spring, with the warm sun in your face and your
hands in the fertile soil. Reality hits in mid-summer,
when the weeds seem to be growing by feet each day,
the heat hangs in the damp air, and mosquitos try to
drain the gardener of every drop of blood. Too often,
the garden is abandoned to the weeds.
My significant other Melanie and I garden over a halfacre
of land on our rural homestead, Cottonwood
Bend Farm. As we both have full-time jobs, along
with summer kid's activities that seem to consume a
large portion of every week, we struggled to keep up
with the garden. That is, until we started using woven
The same fabric we use at the Soil Conservation
District for newly planted tree rows, it allows water
to filter through and smothers weeds. After laying the
fabric down in the Spring, we simply cut holes and
plant transplants into the soil. For crops that grow
from seed, such as okra, green beans, carrots and
many others, we cut rows a few inches wide by many
feet. Using a triangle garden hoe, a furrow is dug for
the seed bed and the seeds are introduced to their new
Moisture is the key to a lush garden. The fabric keeps
the soil from drying out prematurely, especially on
hot, windy days. While we still water when the skies
remain clear for weeks at a time, it is better than
watering every few days. When Mother Nature smiles
and provides abundant moisture, our work is even less.
For the most part, people today are cut off from
their food source. We simply go to the grocery store
and buy what we consume, giving little thought to
how difficult it is to grow fresh, healthy crops. By
investing time and effort into growing our food, we go
from being a bystander of the natural process to an
active participant. Digging in the soil, planting a seed,
nurturing the crop as it grows and finally harvesting
the fruits of the labor not only nourishes the body but
also the soul. It also reminds us of the work required
to feed our country and our world. This spring, I
encourage you to plant a garden and grow some food
for your table. I can guarantee you will gain a new
appreciation of the natural world!
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 25
HAVING A BEER WITH | ROB KUPEC
“IN SECOND GRADE
WE DID A UNIT ON
YOU HAD TO KEEP
A WEATHER DIARY.
WHEN THE MONTH
ENDED, I MADE A NEW
ONE, AND I JUST KEPT
GOING.” – ROB KUPEC
26 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
HAVING A BEER WITH
Born in Willimantic, Conn., an old
mill town on the eastern part of the
state, Rob Kupec knew he wanted to
be a weatherman by second grade.
Years later, he went to school for
meteorology in Albany, N.Y. But
before he started working in the
industry he worked other jobs, like
as a coffee salesman and an assistant
For nearly 19 years, Kupec has been
a recognizable face in the Fargo-
Moorhead area, bringing the forecast
to thousands of homes. At KVRR
FOX, Kupec has been the chief
meteorologist for 8 years, fulfilling
his lifelong dream of tracking the
weather for a living.
On a perfectly appropriate day of
fluffy flurries, Kupec and I met at
Drekker to chat about his life. Read
WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
on to find out if he’s ever had a ghostly
encounter and whether or not circus
peanuts candy should survive the
Good Life: Are farmer’s almanacs
legit or a bunch of malarkey?
Rob Kupec: They’re a bunch of
malarkey. There’s some interesting
data and good weather history,
but the predictions
are not very good.
GL: Why did
you want to be a
meteorologist as a
RK: In second grade
we did a unit on
weather and you had
to keep a weather diary.
When the month ended,
I made a new one, and
I just kept going. My mom took a
map of the U.S. and laminated it for
me. I’d take a dry erase marker and
make the daily weather map in my
room. Then we had a huge blizzard
in 1978. Nobody saw it coming. We
were in school and all of sudden we
were going home. I was like, wow,
how did nobody see this coming?
GL: Who was your
RK: When I’m presenting the
weather, I can identify things
I do that I totally ripped
off from my youth.
Growing up, there
was this guy on the
radio station named
Norm McDonald. He
would occasionally do
the weather in different
voices. He’d be like,
THE GOOD LIFE / 27
HAVING A BEER WITH | ROB KUPEC
“Oh, it’s my brother Igor,” and he’d
do the weather in a Russian accent.
Not only was he a goofball, he was a
super good meteorologist. Some of
the techniques I use are definitely
similar to his.
GL: Why did you move from Albany
RK: We moved here in 2000 for my
wife’s job. When she was looking
for a job, we didn’t want to move
any farther west than Minnesota,
so we stuck to that within about
GL: What did you do after moving
RK: For the first two years I was
the stay-at-home dad, and I didn’t
realize what a freak I was. We were
out at some event and somebody
said, “Oh, you’re that stay-at-home
dad that lives across from so-andso,”
and I was like, “What? This is
how I’m known around town?” I did
that for two years. When my son
was really young, he thought the
mother was always the one who
went out and worked. He was like
“There’s a kid at preschool whose
mom stays home.” He was shocked.
GL: How did you finally get into
RK: When my son got to
kindergarten, my wife was like,
“Maybe you should get a job.” I told
her I’d like to be a meteorologist,
so I took a few broadcasting
classes and one was taught by
Kevin Wallevand. He had me set
up a meeting with John Wheeler.
We kind of clicked and he said they
could probably get me in as the
fill-in guy. One night after Monday
football, they let me do the weather,
and there I went.
GL: What nationality is the last
RK: Kupec is Slovak and means
merchant. I’m a real mutt, though.
The biggest thing I am is Italian.
My great grandfather came from
Italy. We took a trip to Italy and
went to the town he was from. It
was the most amazing trip. Not far
from where I grew up there is a
cemetery where my other relatives
are who fought in the battle of
Bunker Hill—Revolutionary War
heroes. When I go back home
into the wooded areas that used
to be the farmsteads of where my
ancestors were, it’s a weird feeling.
“AT WORK WE HAVE A VENDING
MACHINE, AND ONE DAY CHUCKLES
SHOWED UP. I THOUGHT, ‘IT’S NIRVANA
AT WORK.’” – ROB KUPEC
28 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
And walking through the streets of
that little town in Italy—it was just
GL: Do you have any traditions?
RK: After doing the genealogical
research, we’ve kind of implemented
a Slovak Christmas Eve. When
my son comes home, he wants the
Slovak Christmas Eve. We have
sauerkraut soup, which is actually
really delicious. You’re also supposed
to put out a plate in case a traveler
comes, so we always set the table
with an extra spot.
GL: Which food should be canceled?
RK: Circus peanuts. Who ever
thought that was a treat? They’re
terrible. I do have affection for oldschool
candy, though. At work we
have a vending machine, and one day
Chuckles showed up. I thought, “It’s
nirvana at work.” I put the money in
and that row wasn’t working in the
machine. The people at the vending
company must have thought I was
a lunatic because I called them
and said, “You put Chuckles in the
machine, but I can’t get them. You
need to come fix it.”
GL: Do ghosts exist?
RK: From personal experience,
no, but I have known people who
have very convincing stories. In my
hometown there was this old place
called the Windham Inn. It dates
back to the 1700s. The story was
that a woman who had lost her baby
would walk up the road through the
Windham Inn where she used to
live. My middle school teacher lived
there. She came home one day and
her photo albums were scattered
about and all the pictures of kids
were taken out of the photo albums
and spread on the floor. She seemed
like a very normal person, not a nut.
GL: What does living the good life
mean to you?
RK: It means having the ability
to travel and see new places, but
always having a place to come home.
In my 50s I can envision retirement
somewhere near a large airport. I’ll
also have a camper and travel around
with my dog and wife. That would be
the good life for me. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 29
LOCAL HERO | RUSS STABLER
LOCAL HERO: RUSS STABLER
Being human and taking care of one another
WRITTEN BY: ALEXIS SWENSON
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
30 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
Russ Stabler, 72 year old Vietnam veteran, has lived
more life than most. In October 1967, Stabler enlisted
in the military 23 days shy of his 18th birthday. The
transition was made easier because he'd already
learned discipline and respect from having a good
"I did not like the idea of being drafted. I enlisted in
the Air Force because my dad was in the Air Corps
and my uncle was Air Force, so I figured that was the
logical step: become Air Force," said Stabler.
He originally applied to be an Air Traffic Controller.
"The Air Force in their infinite wisdom said, 'You're
going to control traffic son, but it ain't going to be in
the air,'" said Stabler.
As a cop on the ground, Stabler pivoted, making the
decision to apply for K-9 school to become a Sentry
Dog Handler. "My dog, Prince, didn't like anyone,
including himself. I think he got up in the morning
and bit himself just to prove how mean he was. I
called him Devil. He bit me three times and I was his
best friend; the one who fed him," said Stabler.
Unfortunately, Prince was put down two and a half
years later and Stabler then became a Security Police
Officer. In his 20 years in service, Stabler served in
Germany; Wyo.; Vietnam; Thailand; Hampton, Va.;
and Grand Forks, ND. He held various roles including
Airman and Missile Police Officer on a Security
In his two tours in Vietnam, Stabler served with the
Marines for a year and then the Army for a year. As
he was previously trained in explosives he assisted
his team (first the Marines, then the Army) in blowing
up enemy items including weapons and food. During
his second tour in Vietnam, Stabler was shot in the
leg and sent to a hospital in Thailand to recover.
After recovering, Stabler was stationed on a base in
Thailand issuing bedding and overseeing Change of
Stabler has always been fond of animals and even
living in Vietnam couldn't change that. His 11 ½
foot "pet" cobra named Charlie was especially fond
Stabler prefers not to be called a hero.
RUSS STABLER PICTURED FAR RIGHT.
For him, that is a designation reserved for the 58,000+ names on the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
of Stabler and would listen to Stabler's commands to
lay down and stay put. "I would feed him white rats
and he would curl up right next to me. He scared more
than one supervisor when they came up the wrong way.
Nobody would mess with me," said Stabler.
Back in the states, Stabler was a Security Response
Force Leader responsible for securing the ammunition
and weapons storage area at Langley Air Force Base.
Due to his experience in Vietnam and Thailand, he
was certified as Air Base Ground Defense. He quickly
became a flight trainer, teaching individuals to pass
their Quality Control exams. In the time that Stabler
took over the training, the pass rate increased from
25% to 98%.
When stationed in Grand Forks, Stabler was a
Security Escort Team Camper Alert Team Chief in the
Missile Squadron before moving into the role of Fire
Team Flight Chief. Stabler became a Master Security
Police Officer and eventually achieved his 9 level or
superintendent skill level designation.
Among the many medals and recognition Stabler
received from serving, the most impressive is the Air
Force Commendation Medal. Still, Stabler prefers
not to be called a hero. For him, that is a designation
reserved for the 58,000+ names on the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
AFTER THE VIETNAM WAR
Stabler met his wife, Nancy, in 1976 and married the
following year, 1977. After living in Grand Forks, ND
for several years, in 2009, the couple found themselves
settled in Hunter, ND. Sadly, Stabler's wife passed
away in 2015.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 31
LOCAL HERO | RUSS STABLER
"A lot of our friends were saying our
marriage wouldn't last a year. Well, they
were right. It didn't last a year. It lasted 37
½ years. I told her I wanted her for another
"A lot of our friends were saying our marriage wouldn't
last a year. Well, they were right. It didn't last a year. It
lasted 37 ½ years. I told her I wanted her for another
150," said Stabler.
Upon retiring from the military in October 1987,
Stabler earned a degree in teaching through which
he taught middle school in western ND for two years.
At the prompting of others around him to further his
education and demonstrate progress in his career,
Stabler went back to school for his Master's degree
in Modern European History with a minor in Asian
Stabler is also an ordained minister. After earning his
two degrees, Stabler "needed something else to study"
and was naturally drawn to the field.
"I relearned my faith and my faith in God."
"Over in Vietnam, you get to thinking because you're doing things that you're taught by the
Bible are wrong. But you're taught in the military to do them. And you do them without
"I relearned my faith and my faith in God. Over in
Vietnam, you get to thinking because you're doing
things that you're taught by the Bible are wrong. But
you're taught in the military to do them. And you do
them without thinking. You ask yourself why God has
abandoned you. He's supposed to help me with these
things and the help is not there. But, I have learned
that He's always been there. I just wasn't asking the
right questions," said Stabler.
LEARNING TO BE A HUMAN BEING AGAIN
Returning to the United States after serving in Vietnam
was challenging for Stabler. He sought to numb the
negative memories and emotions that consumed him
"I came back from Southeast Asia a very disillusioned
individual. I had no faith in humanity whatsoever. I
wanted nothing to do with people; the less I had to
interact the better off I was. Sure, while I was drinking
I'd forget. But, then I'd wake up the next morning and
the problem was still there," said Stabler.
Through classes offered at the VA including anger
management and behavior management, Stabler
realized what happened is never going to go away.
However, he made the choice to learn how to deal with
"Thank God I have my fellow veterans because I got
folks I can talk to. We've seen things we didn't want
to see and done things we didn't want to do, but we
are learning to live with it. We're learning to be human
beings again. This means not being a vengeful, angry
32 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
" Thank God I have my fellow veterans
because I got folks I can talk to."
"We've seen things we didn't want to see and done things we didn't want to do,
but we are learning to live with it. We're learning to be human beings again."
person at everybody and everything. We've learned not
to dislike somebody because of the way they think,"
It's an ongoing process, one that Stabler works
through daily. "I've got a dark side that I keep pushed
to the back and I never want to let that individual out
again. My joking around is hiding a multitude of sins.
It's keeping that guy in the back of my head in check,"
TAKING CARE OF ONE ANOTHER
For Stabler, the biggest takeaway from serving in the
military is his sense of responsibility and commitment.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 33
LOCAL HERO | RUSS STABLER
"It doesn't matter what kind of day it is; it's a
wonderful day because you're still alive."
34 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
"If you're going to commit to doing something, you
need to do it 100%. Be there when you're supposed to
be there. Do what you're supposed to do," said Stabler.
Today, Stabler remains committed to taking care of
his brother and sister veterans and their families.
He currently volunteers at the Fargo Veteran Affairs
Information desk on Mondays and Thursdays. On
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Stabler is at
the Fargo National Cemetery fulfilling his duties as
Chaplain and Squad Leader for the Memorial Honor
Furthermore, he serves as Region 5 Director for the
Air Force Security Forces Association, secretary for
the Vietnam Veterans State Council, a member of the
North Dakota Veterans Legislative Council, a member
of the Compassionate Contact Corps, and a member of
the North Dakota Veterans Home Foundation Board,
Stabler represents the Vietnam Veterans of America
on the ND Veterans Home Foundation Board. The ND
Veterans Home Foundation was created in 1987 to
build a permanent endowment for the North Dakota
Veterans Home to enhance the quality of life of
The Home is located in Lisbon, ND. The Board supports
special programs and purchases equipment including
aromatherapy, medical equipment, touch screen TVs,
and a baby grand piano. Ideas in the pipeline include
a memorial garden and a separate building for hosting
BBQs and entertainment.
THE GOOD LIFE
Stabler places great importance on listening to and
seeking to understand one another, even if points of
view differ greatly. He also maintains that keeping a
positive perspective is crucial.
"Every day that we get up, that day is our gift from God.
What we do with that day is our gift to God. You go to
bed at night and you thank God for helping you through
the day. You get up in the morning and you thank Him
for letting you get up and for letting you live your life.
It doesn't matter what kind of day it is; it's a wonderful
day because you're still alive," said Stabler.
For him, this is all part of how he embodies the good
life. "The good life to me is showing how people should
be and the good that people do in this world and in this
community...to take care of one another," said Stabler.
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