FATHERS | DAD LIFE
Raising Well-Rounded Humans
WRITTEN BY: PAUL HANKEL
One of the main roles I serve in within our family is as
Chief Transportation Officer to all of my son’s various
activities. I serve in this capacity year-round and the pay
is abysmal. While the absolute last thing I want to do is
get up at 6 am on a Saturday morning for practice, I find
that the benefits far outweigh the costs.
I’m striving to raise a well-rounded mini-human so he’s
involved in pretty much every activity we can find. Soccer,
basketball, football, church activities, art classes and swim
lessons dominate the evening hours and weekend time
slots. We have yet to enter the traveling sports team phase
of youth sports participation, but I’m told its…hectic.
I constantly remind myself, as I’m running out to my car
during practice because we forgot his water bottle, that
this will all pay off when he lands a sports scholarship one
day, only to be reminded by a quick Google search that only
about two percent of high school athletes receive sports
scholarships…time to double down on music lessons?
While sports remains king, I think that it is extremely
important for kids to experience as many different
interests as they can while growing up, before settling
into their chosen passions. Music and theater play just as
important a role in the overall development of our kids
as sports. I was what some would refer to as, “hyper,”
growing up and this resulted in my parents, in lieu of overmedicating
me, putting me in every activity they could
find. Thankfully, Fargo was and continues to be a great
environment in which to explore all types of activities.
Coming as a surprise to absolutely no one, my son is
exactly like I was when I was a child and I am eternally
grateful that this area continues to invest in its youth by
offering a literal buffet of child-age activities. Below is a
list of some of the activities we hope to participate in this
FM Rugby Club
My son began asking if he could play, “football without
pads.” It took me a minute to realize what he was referring
2 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
to and then it dawned on me: rugby! Thus our rugby
journey began. FM Rugby Club is a great option, offering
rugby programs for all ages.
Red River Valley Lacrosse Association
Lacrosse programs are booming in the US and the sport
is now more accessible than ever! Fargo is home to
several local lacrosse programs, many of which provide
the gear and equipment needed to play.
It's like playing video games…with a purpose! If your child
is like is anything like mine, then electronics, tablets, and
video games are all the rage. While YouTube and Fortnite
are reign supreme, there are lots of coding programs and
activities that combine the aspect of gaming with coding
and computer science. Code Ninjas offers great childlevel
coding experiences by making coding fun! Check
out their website for a list of classes and programs,
including Parents Night Out (I highly recommend)!
Trollwood Performing Arts SchooL
As a former theater geek, I could write an entire novel on
the impact that Trollwood has had on my life, however,
I do have a word count on this article. Suffice to say,
Trollwood continues to offer the very best of theater,
dance, and art through a combination of stage plays,
theatrical classes, art classes, and an ever-growing list of
offerings. Regarding more information, your best bet is
to take your family to one of their summertime full-stage
productions. They are excellent! Then, visit their website
and get your child involved.
Elevate Rock School
Music is extremely important in our family. Thankfully,
the FM area is home to a host of musical opportunities
for busy families. Elevate Rock School, which opened in
2011, is located in Fargo and offers a full list of music
lessons from beginner to advanced. Classes are available
for almost all ages and they even offer a fully licensed
In closing, I’d like to bring up a few universal parenting
truths regarding bringing your child to various activities:
– The parking always sucks.
– Your child’s practice will always be at the earliest
session on Saturday mornings.
– Your child’s mouthpiece will always go missing, five
minutes before you leave for practice.
– Yes, you will be forced to sell pizzas door to door. Grin
While these annoyances and inconveniences are
rampant, overall, I think that its absolutely worth it in
order to help your child grow and excel.
As I mentioned, there are SO MANY great children’s
programming options. Take a minute, check them out,
and we will see you there! Cheers! •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 3
VOLUME 9 | ISSUE 1
fathers - dad life
raising well-rounded humans
grilled t-bone steaks
wouldn't it be...Nice?
Nice Barber CompanY
oven fried catfish with radish,
Asparagus & citrus salad
red river kart club
protect your ink
on the cover
fargo's meat jesus
co-owner of meats by
john & wayne dishes on
life as a butcher
having a beer with
owner & licensed
with a purpose
andrew nathan desires
to leave everything on
4 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
Urban Toad Media LLP
OWNER / GRAPHIC DESIGNER
OWNER / PHOTOGRAPHER
Emma Jean Vatnsdal
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or policies of The Good Life Men’s Magazine.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 5
Nice Barber Company is bringing small town America back
to the service industry, one shave at a time
WRITTEN BY: EMMA JEAN VATNSDAL
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020,
very few thought much of it. Sure, there were a select
group of individuals who knew the possibility of what
could happen to the country in the upcoming months, but
one thing was for certain — life as we knew it was about to
change, possibly forever.
What followed was months upon months of new
guidelines and rules, mandates and ordinances, all
designed and redesigned to keep communities safe
through something nobody quite knew how to handle.
And while the fear of the unknown continued to grow, the
hustle of everyday life seemed to come to a standstill.
Offices began setting up at home. Morning commutes
went from taking 15 minutes to drive across town (if
you’re lucky), to sliding into the office chair as the clock
strikes 8 a.m., after traveling a few feet from the kitchen to
the living room. Online shopping became king, as words
like “social distancing” and “masking” became ubiquitous
and everyone began to really recognize what six feet was.
Sounds like the perfect time to set up shop in the service
Branden Ashmore thought so too. And after Fargo-
Moorhead residents came out from behind their screens,
there was no better time than the present to help them
look their best.
Through the smell of freshly-brewed beer and cedar
planks, Ashmore has created a haven of manliness within
the southeast corner of the newly-formed, hallowed halls
of Fargo Brewing Co., and business has been Nice.
“I’ve had many different jobs,” said Ashmore, co-owner
and master barber of Nice Barber Company in Fargo, N.D.
“But my most frequent and last job, I was a bartender.”
Years of long nights and even longer weekends, with little
time to see family and friends was taxing on Ashmore.
Not only that, he was also dabbling in photography at the
time, shooting weddings, concerts and motorcycle rallies
— helping ensure his time card was never clocked out.
“I just got burnt out to the point where I just wanted time
to hang out with family and stuff like that again,” he said.
“And my uncle used to always tell me that I’d make a great
barber, but I was like ‘I will never run my fingers through
a man’s hair for a living.’”
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"My uncle used to always tell me that I’d make a great barber, but I was like
‘I will never run my fingers through a man’s hair for a living." - Branden Ashmore
As silly as the thought of running his fingers through a
man’s hair for a living sounded right away, Ashmore says
the more he thought of it, the more it made sense — a
service industry job, whether it’s bartending or barbering,
is no different from another service industry job.
Ashmore completed his training at Moler Barber College
in September 2019, and began working at Everett’s
Barbershop in downtown Fargo shortly thereafter.
Then COVID hit. Workers stayed home and haircuts
became scarcer and scarcer.
“We were laid off for three months, and we’re sitting at
home,” Ashmore said. “And the next thing you know, we’re
back to work. We’re busy for two, three weeks, then we
started plateauing. I was the newest barber over there
too, everyone else was established, so I was getting
two, three, four haircuts a day — if I was lucky — and it
kind of made me think about, well, what if? What if this
8 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
ainchild that Jade Nielsen and Ian Johnson and I
had talked about was worth trying out? I really didn’t
have any intentions of leaving Everett’s, it just kind of
happened. I just had to try to take the chance.
The shop opened along with the grand opening of
Fargo Brewing Co. on April 20, 2021. Ashmore says
business was booming the first few weeks, but has
started to settle down now that they’ve gotten into the
groove of things.
“It’s pretty consistent,” he said. “We have highs and
lows because, you know, we’re a new shop.”
But even though Nice Barber Company is a new shop,
Ashmore and his fellow barber, Scott Ehresman,
want to bring in that something that harkens back to
“the good old days.” Less like going to the dentist, and
more like visiting an old friend down at the hardware
store in small-town North Dakota.
“We’re all Midwestern, small town people,” Ashmore
said. “And Nice was kind of created because —
especially with this pandemic and how everybody
started treating each other, you’re trying to be distant
from everybody, everything started feeling really cold.
There was no feel of community or togetherness or
After a bit of brainstorming, Nielsen, Johnson
and Ashmore kept coming back to the same idea:
‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’
“The word (nice) just kept popping up in everything
we talked about,” he said. “We wanted to bring that
sense of unity and community to a business and it
just worked. At first we were kind of hesitant on it, but
the more and more we thought about it, it just made
perfect sense. I mean, we’re here, we’re a business,
but we’re here to become a staple of the community.”
Nice Barber Company is located inside Fargo Brewing
Company. Stop in for a beer and a visit — the shop is
open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 9
10 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
RECIPE AND PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: JEFF BENDA
The Red River of the North is home to over 70 species of fish, but my 5-year-old
daughter and I love to catch and eat the whiskered warriors known as channel
catfish. With spring officially here, it was time to turn in those winter soups and
heavy casseroles and bring back a perfect light salad to pair with some fresh fillets
from the one that didn’t get away.
4 (4 to 6-ounce) skinless catfish fillets
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
16 asparagus spears, cut into long, thin strips
1/3 cup orange slices
1/3 cup pink grapefruit slices
2 green onions, chopped
2 radishes, sliced thin
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon poppy seeds
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon each salt & pepper
Zest and juice from half of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 4250 F. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. In a shallow dish, stir
together the bread crumbs and Old Bay seasoning. Dip catfish fillets in egg, then
place them into bread crumb mixture and coat liberally; place on greased baking
sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the salad. In a bowl mix together
asparagus, orange, grapefruit, green onion, and radish. In separate small bowl
make your dressing by combining mayonnaise, honey, poppy seeds, dry mustard,
salt, pepper, and zest & juice from half of 1 orange. Whisk together, pour over
salad, and toss well. When fish is done, take out of the oven, place one fillet on a
plate and garnish with ¼ of the salad. Repeat with remaining
plates and serve immediately.
Jeff Benda is an avid outdoorsman and family man who spent 25 years in the restaurant
and catering business. He now focuses his time as a home cook and professional wild
game recipe creator. He hopes that by sharing and celebrating the food he creates
with fish and wild game, he can highlight the great contribution so many hunters
and anglers have made to conservation in this country, and reflect the freedom we
have to enjoy America's great outdoors. For more recipes, visit his website:
www.wildgameandfish.com or follow him on Instagram: @wildgameandfish
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 11
WRITTEN BY: KRISSY NESS
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
For more than 12 years, Red
River Kart Club has been
hosting drivers young and old.
Their youngest members begin
at age five. However, this club
accepts drivers of all ages,
some being as old as 70 years.
This club can be a feeder
program where the kids can go
onto drive modified or sprint
Located on the Red River Valley
Fairgrounds, in the northwest
corner, you will find the track,
paved in asphalt, which is onetenth
of a mile.
When this program began,
there weren't nearly as many
drivers as there are today; a
lot of it had to do with cost.
"My nephew raced karts at the
Red River Valley Fairgrounds
many years ago, and it didn't
seem like a lot of kids were
involved in it at that time. It
was getting expensive. We
were looking for different
avenues to be able to save
people money," said Nick
Skalicky - President of the
Red River Kart Club. "At that
time, there was a different
engine package that came out,
that really catapulted us, and
was very affordable to have.
So now the karters coming
in, even at age five, are buying
the nicer karts that have all
the adjustments - so they can
run that same kart throughout
their whole career."
Six years ago, Red River Kart
Club became a non-profit. It is
not about making money but
providing a club for kids to
race and have the whole family
involved. What is even better
is the community support. It
Located on the Red River
Valley Fairgrounds, in the
northwest corner, you will
find the track, paved in
asphalt, which is one-tenth
of a mile.
12 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
is a pleasure to see companies
donating funds and equipment
that go directly to keep the club
up and running.
In addition to speaking with
Skalicky, I had the pleasure of
talking to Jeremy Clark. Clark has
two boys in the Red River Kart
Club, Alex, 10, and Andrew, 8.
"We have been racing for years,"
said Clark. "Alex has over 100
feature wins, and Andrew has
more than 30 wins."
Clark used to race when he was
younger, but you can see that the
passion never left, and it has been
instilled in his boys.
When it comes to getting prepared
for a race, you better believe this
is a family affair.
"The boys have their list of things
they need to check and clean
during the week, and they work
on getting the trailer loaded the
day of the race," mentioned Clark.
"They check their own tires and
are responsible for taking them
on and off. Additionally, they each
have their own tote, and it is their
responsibility to make sure they
have all their gear in there, and if
it is not in there, they don't get to
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 13
The responsibility that this sport
incites is no joke. Aside from the
boys making sure they have fulfilled
their part, mom and dad also have
a laundry list of things to get done
before each race. Whether that is
making sure everyone is organized
and fed to working on the karts after
work to ensure they drive safely and
"It is definitely a family sport; it's not
like any other sport where you can go
drop them off at practice." Laughed
Clark. "You are probably more
invested than they are."
Clark gave the boys a leg up by building
a track on their property. Furthermore,
the precision, ability, and overall
intelligence it takes to operate these
vehicles cannot be overlooked."It has
been a lot of fun," said Clark. "And they
boys really enjoy it."
14 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
It is important to mention this is
not a male-dominated sport."There
are a lot of girls who have gone on
to be very successful," mentions
The Red River Kart Club has
produced many racers that have
gone on to drive modified or sprint
cars. Many can be found racing at
the RRV Fairgrounds, Norman
County Raceway, or Buffalo River
Speedway. "I have had kids that
have won national titles that
have come out of the kart club,"
It is incredible to see a club excited
about the youth in their community.
Family and community mean the
same thing when you are a part of
the Red River Kart Club.
"The good life to me means –
seeing the kids grow from where
they started with us and watch
what they chose to do with their
life, whether that be racing cars or
not," said Skalicky.
"We try to teach them life lessons
about competitiveness; even
though it is a singular sport, it is
still a team sport." •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 15
protect your ink
protect your skin and your ink with these sunscreens
Keep your new tattoo out of the sun and
direct sunlight. Allow your new tattoo
to completely heal before applying
The sun is a
The most best thing you can do to
protect your tattoos is to stay covered
with loose clothing and avoid direct
sunlight. New tattoos are open wounds,
and sunscreens can cause irritation if
they are not fully healed.
16 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
Things to look for when
choosing a sunscreen:
• Application Method
(spray or lotion)
• SPF - Sun Protection Factor
• UVB and UVA Protection
• Water and Sweat Resistance
1. Neutrogena ® Ultra Sheer ®
Dry-Touch Sunscreen Broad
Spectrum SPF 100+
Goes on easily and absorbs
quickly for an invisible, lightweight
feel on your skin.
Formulated with Helioplex ®
Technology, it offers superior
broad spectrum protection
from aging UVA rays and
burning UVB rays.
$15.99 | neutrogena.com
2. Banana Boat ® Ultra Sport
Clear Ultramist ® Sunscreen
Spray SPF 100
Provides powerful protection
that absorbs quickly and
won’t run into your eyes. This
lightweight, clear spray is
designed expressly for sport
enthusiasts and other active
folks who need sunscreen
staying power in the sun!
$11.99 | bananaboat.com
• Reapply sunscreen every two
hours, no matter the SPF.
• Wait at least six weeks
before applying sunscreen
to a new tattoo.
• Protect your ink with SPF 50
• Keep extra sunscreen in your
car and office for on-the-go
3. Panama Jack ® Continuous
Spray Sunscreen - SPF 100
Escape Everyday ® ... Our
Panama Jack continuous
sunscreen sprays delicately
combines antioxidants with
moisturizing oils and a tropical
fragrance in a reef-friendly,
broad spectrum UVA/UVB
formula. With SPF 100, this
Panama Jack water resistant
(80 minutes), UVA-UVB
sunscreen lotion is best for use
by very fair/extremely sensitive
skin types that tan slowly and
$13.00 | panamajack.com
4. Coppertone ® Sunscreen
Lotion Sport SPF 50
Designed to stay on strong
when you sweat, this highperformance
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a durable and water-resistant
formula (80 minutes) that
leaves a light, breathable
feeling on your skin.
$11.99 | coppertone.com
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 17
ON THE COVER | JASON AAMODT
Co-owner of Meats by John & Wayne
Dishes on Life as a Butcher
WRITTEN BY: BEN HANSON
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
People always say, You know, he's quite the
character. With no detectable filter or lack of selfconfidence,
there may be no more of a character
in town than Jason Aamodt, known by his proteinloving
groupies as "The Meat Jesus." It's a fitting
moniker for the co-owner of Meats by John and
Wayne, one of Fargo's most beloved butcher shops
that have been serving up hand-cut and homeprocessed
selections of beef, pork, poultry, fish
and wild game since the mid-2000s.
"It was a friend of mine and long-time customer
that walked in one day and threw that name at
me… Meat Jesus," Aamodt recalled. "It just stuck.
I was like, 'That's it!' That's what I'm going to
brand myself as from here on out."
Aamodt originally had dreams of getting into the
broadcasting business, and with a background
in advertising and marketing, he knew the
importance of branding. While John and Wayne
— the original founders of the company — had
little interest in that side of the business, it came
naturally to Aamodt… as did his natural hard work
The 'Third Wheel' Grabs the Mic
Aamodt was the "third wheel," as he described it
when he first got hired, and he was only supposed
to be part time. But the day he showed up, the
other employee quit, and Wayne said "Well, looks
like your full-time... starting now." As the saying
goes, he never looked back, working his way up
over about 15 years to become a third owner in
With a knack for self-promotion, Aamodt would
preach to anyone and everyone within shouting
distance about Meats by John & Wayne. To this
day, he says, they find it hard to pay for advertising
considering how steadily they grew almost purely
on word-of-mouth referrals.
"John and Wayne always wanted a place for regular
people who wanted good meat for a good price
with different selections," Aamodt said proudly.
"They created the old school butcher setup.
Made everything in house, cut in house, beef
was ground in house from full muscle meat.
Everything that goes into our processed
products, we're throwing in ourselves."
Soon enough, though, the Meat Jesus
was tapped to get the word out to new
"Wayne handed me the golden
microphone when we finally decided to
advertise," Aamodt said. "To watch it
grow from then to now... the wordof-mouth
and then moving into
being the spokesperson, it's been
Insider Tips & Tales
When you've got the butcher's
uninterrupted attention leading
into peak grilling season, you get
unvarnished access to the insider
tips. With zero hesitation, Aamodt
declared both his favorites, as well as
18 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 19
ON THE COVER | JASON AAMODT
"New York Strip.
Dude, it's got the
right amount of
marbling, just fatty
enough to stay juicy,
and you get to eat it
all without risking the
giant heart attack…"
the top customer picks he sees week in and week
out. But not before a quick story on the injuries
he's seen over the years.
"Dude I've seen people's hands get caught
in saws, cuts that down to the bone, hands
in slicers, guys run over by cows," he said.
That one needed a bit more context: "So
my first job in this business was at a plant,
and one day a guy in the slaughterhouse
got trampled by a cow. And this dude
was as big as the cow."
So maybe the best tip? Keep your blades
sharp, but your eyes even sharper. On to
the meat of the story...
"Favorite cut? New York Strip," he said.
"Dude, it's got the right amount of
marbling, just fatty enough to stay juicy,
and you get to eat it all without risking the
giant heart attack… as much!"
What about the most popular product walking
out of the shop every day?
"Ribs, without a doubt. Still to this day, we take
the most phone calls on ribs," Aamodt said. "It's
the Wednesday special — been that way since
the beginning. That was the thing that started to
bring people in. Everything else is popular, but
those are what people call for on Wednesdays.
We cook two 250 pound batches a day now!"
And speaking of ribs, here's a tip you can put
to use immediately to improve your BBQ game:
always divide your cook into two. "If I buy one
rack, I always cut them in half and do one with
sauce and one without," Aamodt explained. "With
ribs, you can smoke, grill, bake… they're so versatile.
In the end, they're always kind of the same, but always
awesome and very forgiving for less experienced cooks."
20 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 21
ON THE COVER | JASON AAMODT
Meat Jesus Prep Tips:
I'm very impatient, so I'm a season right before I go on
the grill kind of guy. The biggest piece of advice is just
to pay attention to the grill, and to your meat. You've
spent a lot of money on that meat, so don't ruin it.
Pork fat is so lusciously good. People forget about it
too much. Everyone is all about burgers and steak, but
don't forget about that lovely pork chop. They're easy.
It's clean. You don't have to cook well-done anymore.
Pork is safe. You can have some juice and not be
worried about it as much anymore.
and summer. I like to just put a big pad of butter and
some salt, pepper, garlic in foil, let it cook, and simmer
in that butter. Deep-fried shrimp? Who doesn't love it?
Salmon is a low and slow. The fat in salmon is like a
ribeye, you want it to melt down and keep that salmon
Buffalo jerky is totally phenomenal. I'd never tried it
until I had started here. That said, my favorite wild
game that I've gotten to eat is moose. It's easy to dry
out, though, so keep an extra close watch on it. •
I love the bone. The bone-in chicken — thighs and
legs — with BBQ sauce just rock. My go-to chicken
dish is legs and thighs on the grill. I grew up on
that. Chicken breast is so versatile, and I do love
homemade chicken tenders with your own breading
and hot sauce like boneless chicken wings. Also,
get yourself some Two Gringos 'Chupacabra Rub'… I
cut up any and all leftovers, throw that on and turn
it into fajitas.
I'm a local river and fish guy. I grew up on Devils'
Lake. That's what we did. Walleye and perch, winter
piece of advice
is just to pay
the grill, and
to your meat.
You've spent a
lot of money on
that meat, so
don't ruin it."
- Jason Aamodt
22 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 23
grilled t-bone steaks
WITH CHARRO-STYLE BEANS
This recipe tastes great over the campfire or on your grill at home.
Pepper-rubbed T-Bone Steaks are served with flavorful Charro-style beans.
24 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
COURTESY OF BEEFITSWHATSFORDINNER.COM
• 2 beef T-bone Steaks (1 inch thick)
• 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
• 1 teaspoon green peppercorns
• 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns
• 3 juniper berries
• 1/2 pound pancetta, chopped
• 1/2 cup diced onion
• 2 teaspoons minced garlic
• 1 can (15-1/2 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (10-1/2 ounces) no-salt added Mexican-style
• 2 fresh poblano chile peppers, fire-roasted, seeded,
peeled and chopped
• 1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
• 1 medium jalapeno pepper, diced
• 1 tablespoon chili powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon roasted ground coriander
• 1/2 ounce 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1. Combine Rub ingredients in a spice grinder. Pulse on and
off until grind has sand-like consistency. Set aside.
2. Cook's Tip: You may substitute 1/8 teaspoon ground white
pepper for 1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns.
3. Preheat large cast iron skillet on medium-high heat for 5
minutes. Add pancetta; cook 7 to 10 minutes until crisp,
stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove pancetta;
set aside. Pour excess oil from pan. Return same skillet to
heat; add onion and garlic. Reduce heat to medium; cook 3
to 5 minutes until onions are translucent, stirring often. Stir
in pancetta, beans, tomatoes, poblanos, broth, jalapeno, chili
powder, cumin and coriander. Reduce heat to low; simmer 15
to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chocolate during last
5 minutes of cooking; stir until combined.
4. Meanwhile, press Rub evenly on steaks. Place steaks on
grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 11 to 16
minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 15 to 19
minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness,
turning occasionally. Remove bones and carve steaks into
slices. Serve with Charro Beans.
5. Cook's Tip: To broil, place steaks on rack in broiler pan so
surface of beef is 3 to 4 inches from heat. Broil 15 to 20 minutes
for medium rare to medium doneness, turning once. Rest 5 to
10 minutes before slicing off of bone.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 25
HAVING A BEER WITH | JIM BOULGER
WRITTEN BY: MEGHAN FEIR • PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
Jim Boulger isn’t your typical
36-year-old guy. Hot dogs are his
favorite cuisine. In high school, he
jammed to movie soundtracks in his
car. He also works at a funeral home.
As the fourth-generation owner and
licensed funeral director of Boulger
26 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
Funeral Home in Fargo, Boulger has
continued the legacy his ancestors
started in 1897. Starting at the age of
12, Boulger mowed the lawns of his
father’s business, which eventually
led to accompanying his dad on
transfers and vacuuming the carpets
and cleaning bathrooms in the
funeral home (tasks he still does to
He wasn’t always certain he
wanted to meander the funereal
path of his predecessors, so he
attended St. Thomas and earned
a business management degree
Good Life: If you were to rename
the word “coffin,” what would
you call it? I heard one guy call it
“a to-go box for the Lord.”
Jim Boulger: Maybe an underground
GL: If any animal could be as big
as a horse, what animal would
JB: An English bulldog. I own
one and her name is Blanche.
If she were bigger, it would be
GL: Would it be intimidating to
have her extra large?
JB: No, you talk to her and she
rolls on her back. Is that possible
as a horse?
GL: I think so.
JB: Do they sleep standing up?
GL: I think they can sleep standing
up, but aren’t they usually like,
“Ehhh,” and they kind of sleep
shifted to one side of their hip like
JB: I bet they make that sound too.
As a kid horses never scared me,
but now I’m old and they freak
me out. Thinking about what I do
for a living, people die in really
strange ways, so that’s always my
fear; I don’t want to be the funeral
Meghan, attempting to
the stance of a sleeping
horse. She got it wrong.
before graduating with a degree in
mortuary science from the University
Fourteen years later, as we sat
outside of Brewhalla in the heat
of one of the hottest Fargo June
evenings in memory, no regrets were
in sight. We chatted about how being
a funeral director is a good fit for him,
how it certainly isn’t for everyone,
how much he enjoys working with
his dad, and what kind of animal he’d
love to have transform into the size of
THE GOOD LIFE / 27
director that was kicked in the head by a horse. Every time
I’m doing something where I’m like, “Is this normal because
if I die right now…”
GL: If you could make up a national holiday, what would it
be and how would you want people to celebrate?
JB: My favorite food on the face of the earth is a Chicago hot
dog. It has to be done right. So mine would be National Hot
GL: What was the most scarring movie you ever watched
as a child?
JB: Oh, I can 100 percent tell you it was “Poltergeist.” To this
day, I still sleep with a cover over my head with a little spot
for breathing. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. Everywhere I
go I do it. My wife is like, “You do it so quickly,” and I’m like,
“I’ve been doing it for 30 years.” My feet cannot be out of
the bed because somebody will grab them. I’m convinced. I
sleep with three comforters. I need to be cocooned.
To this day, I still sleep with a cover over my
head with a little spot for breathing.”
GL: I definitely did that too with just a little breathing hole
for my nose, so we have that in common. I don’t remember
when I forced myself to stop.
28 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
JB: I got a lot of crap in college from my buddies and
I think they took a picture of me once, but I’m like,
hey—I’m still here and I’m not haunted.
GL: What’s your heat tolerance for spicy foods?
JB: Absolutely nothing, but I’ll eat it and suffer. I
remember the first date I went on with my wife. We
were in St. Paul and I was trying to impress her, so I
went to this Thai place acting like I knew what it was.
I was sweating and she was like, “You look like you’re
miserable,” and I was like, “I am, but I’m enjoying it.”
I’ll never forget that. And now I’m 36 and on stomach
medication. What’s going on? Am I 70?
GL: In the event of an EMP where we lose all electrical
power, what would be one of the old-school skills
you would offer to people, besides your current
JB: You’re asking me what talents I have, and,
apparently, there aren’t a lot.
GL: What skill would you decide to learn right away?
JB: I’d have to learn how to make a fire right away. I
order a lot of food, so I’d have to learn how to cook
better. I can hunt and I’m a fairly good fisherman. I
can negotiate fairly well, so if we’re bartering at
that point I could do that. And I’m not squeamish
on things, so if we need to do something, I’m okay,
whatever that involves.
GL: What’s one of your favorite memories as a kid?
JB: My dad and I used to go to the Bitterroot
Mountains in Montana and go fly-fishing every year.
We’d spend a week or 10 days hiking and fly-fishing.
We still do it. My dad’s getting a little older, but I want
to keep going out there with him.
GL: What does living the good life mean to you?
JB: Having a family that loves and supports you,
although the definition of “family” might not mean
kids or a marriage to some people. The “good life” is
doing what you like to do and being a good person
while doing it. I like to think I make a difference. •
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 29
LOCAL HERO | ANDREW NATHAN
30 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
WITH A PURPOSE
Andrew Nathan Desires to Leave
Everything on the Line
WRITTEN BY: ALEXIS SWENSON
PHOTOS BY: URBAN TOAD MEDIA
Andrew (“Drew”) Nathan is an Employment Coordinator for the Fargo Veterans
Affairs Department carrying out his personal life mission of serving others.
After graduating college, Nathan enlisted in the Army. With three jobs to choose
from, Nathan became an Intel Signals Analyst. His first assignment was serving in
Korea for a year. Afterward, Nathan submitted his Officer Candidate School (OCS)
packet and was selected for OCS in February 2001.
During his Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course in Fort Benning, G.A., 9/11 took
place. “Our Infantry Officer Basic instructors came out to tell us there was something
happening. As infantry, we realized we were probably going to have to fight...in the
Middle East. Training picked up exponentially after that,” said Nathan.
Nathan was then required to complete further education. He passed Airborne School
following his first attempt at Ranger School. Nathan was assigned to the 82nd Airborne
Division as a Platoon Leader and was deployed to Afghanistan on January 2, 2003.
From the moment their boots hit the ground, the 82nd was in continuous motion. They
were responsible for finding weapons and capturing high value targets, putting the soldiers
in constant danger. Due to the well-established network within country, capturing high value
targets was complicated—oftentimes the platoon would arrive mere minutes after the target
“In February we were told we’d been assigned a big mission to capture a very high value target.
We didn’t know who we were getting. We linked up with a 2nd Ranger regiment and a Navy Seal
team for a joint operation. We were getting ready for a combat air mission,” said Nathan.
The platoon jumped on the night of February 25th, 2003 to provide security and secure the landing
zone for the Navy Seal team. “We came to find out that the Navy Seals had captured the high value
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 31
LOCAL HERO | ANDREW NATHAN
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: ANDREW NATHAN
target. We found out later the target
was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,
the mastermind behind the 9/11
attacks,” said Nathan.
Nathan finished deployment in
August 2003 and entered Ranger
School again. “It was career ending
to not pass Ranger School. I ended
up graduating in February 2004
which was a big accomplishment of
my time in the military,” said Nathan.
Soon after graduation, Nathan
completed a tour in Iraq and
returned to the States exhausted.
Nathan’s decision to leave the
military was a difficult, but sure
one. “I loved the military, but I
was burnt out, so I decided to get
out. One of the things that had me
decide to get out was that I got
engaged. I had two combat tours
32 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
and made my goal of becoming an
Airborne Ranger, what more do I
need to do?,” said Nathan.
He returned to North Dakota and
married his now wife, Fara. Still,
leaving a life of service completely
was out of the question for Nathan.
Within three months of leaving the
military, Nathan began drilling on a
“weekend-warrior” basis with the
North Dakota National Guard.
“I had a really hard time. I was
dealing with a lot of issues along
with being newly married and
starting a whole new job. I didn’t
know what was going on with my
own self. If you don’t get help right
away and aren’t using the resources
that are available, it can be quite
damaging. I had a really tough time,
but I got some help through the
V.A.,” said Nathan.
National Guard Service
Nathan held multiple jobs within
the ND National Guard, but
missed combat. When he had the
opportunity to deploy with the
Minnesota National Guard in 2009,
he transitioned to the MN National
Guard to complete a deployment in
Iraq from 2009-2010.
Nathan was tasked with helping
establish a bazaar in Basrah, Iraq.
“It helped create inter-connection
between soldiers and Iraqis. There
were camel rides, hookah bars, and
a date palm tree—we called it ‘The
Oasis’. We were supposed to be
turning the country over and now
the Iraqis would have established
this business center. I had a little
part in that,” said Nathan.
Following that deployment, Nathan
returned to the ND National
Guard with the Air Defense Artillery
battalion in Grand Forks. His
battalion was called to complete a
domestic deployment in Washington
D.C. Resulting from the 9/11 attacks,
there are defenses established to
defend against any further attack on
the National Capital Region. Nathan’s
battalion was the first ND National
Guard unit to take a tour in Washington
D.C. from 2013-2014.
PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: ANDREW NATHAN
“I was the Operations Officer for that. It
was a pretty cool thing how everything
came around; I was involved in
Afghanistan fighting the war on terror
and then defended domestic soil,” said
Following this deployment, Nathan
transitioned to the Army Reserve at
Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He began
instructing a Master’s level doctrine,
strategic planning, military history, and
leadership to Captains and Majors.
Rounding out his last five years in the
ND National Guard, Nathan instructed
Command Staff before retiring August
5, 2019 with the rank of Lieutenant
“In those 22 years, I sought every
aspect of the military. I was fortunate.
Not everybody gets these opportunities;
I was just in the right place at the right
time,” said Nathan.
Patriot Assistance Dogs
“I struggled really horribly with active
duty to civilian transition although I
was still a civilian. This part of me that
was so ingrained in me for 22 years
was gone. If you don’t bridge that or
fill it with something else...that’s the
wrong move. There’s a void,” said
This led Nathan to a conversation with
longtime friend Ray Pizarro who is a
board member and former client of the
Patriot Assistance Dogs organization.
Based in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota,
Patriot Assistance Dogs (PAD) provides
highly trained, certified psychiatric
service dogs to qualified U.S. Military
veterans. The cost of training each dog
is roughly $15,000-$20,000 and all
donated monies go directly toward the
dog and veteran selected.
urbantoadmedia.com / THE GOOD LIFE / 33
LOCAL HERO | ANDREW NATHAN
Learn more about Nathan’s ride across North Dakota:
Nathan and Pizarro decided to
fundraise for PAD through a bike ride
across North Dakota. Adrenaline
junkie Nathan trained for the three
day ride for a year with a goal of
raising $50,000. The inaugural
ride was August 7-9, 2020. Nathan
biked while Pizarro provided
support along the route. Nathan’s
son, Jerod, also biked intermittently
and provided coaching, water, and
While the original plan was to bike
along Old Highway 10, between the
stretches of unpaved and nonexistent
road, Nathan and Pizarro adjusted
their plan to make I-94 their primary
“The last 25 miles was a downpour
and tornado warning; it was looking
like I’d have to end the ride and
not accomplish the mission. I was
getting a lot of road rash and was
ripped up pretty bad. I ended up
getting a flat tire and had to use
my son’s tire to finish. I was in an
incredible amount of pain, soaking
wet, tired, and hungry,” said Nathan.
34 / THE GOOD LIFE / urbantoadmedia.com
It was all worth it when the final
tally came in at nearly $30,000
raised to support PAD. “I’m doing it
for the idea that dogs help Veterans
with their Traumatic Brain Injury,
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,
general adjustments, getting into
the civilian world, being a healthy
individual, and repairing their lives.
I’ve seen how much these dogs help
Veterans,” said Nathan.
This year’s ride is August 13-14,
2021—two days to bike roughly 370
miles for a goal of raising $75,000.
Anyone is welcome to bike alongside
Nathan by joining at I-94 exits, but
he’s especially hoping for more
bikers on the last 22 miles from
Casselton to Fargo. In Casselton,
there is a planned stop at the
Memorial Bridge. Those 22 miles
honor the 22 service members
who die by suicide each day (US
Department of Veteran Affairs).
“If I can get a bunch of Boy Scouts
that ride with me to the end that
would be great. Boy Scouts earn a
merit badge for biking different mile
levels. I have high expectations for
this year and am hoping to get more
people involved,” said Nathan.
Nathan’s service would be empty
without the consistent backing his
wife, Fara, and son, Jerod, offer. “My
wife is a saint. She’s been through
two deployments where I haven’t
been around and has put up with a
very crazy schedule with me being in
the military. She supports me 100%.
I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I
didn’t have my family and community
behind me,” said Nathan.
The Good Life
Nathan’s outlook is heavily informed
by his faith.
“The good life is being at peace with
God and your fellow man. What
are you doing to glorify God and
help your fellow man? Especially
in today’s world — everything’s so
polarized. I’m not perfect at it, but
I have a strong belief and purpose.
I know that Jesus is Lord. Also, I
enjoy a good single malt scotch,”
said Nathan. •
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