Sara VanDen Berge

I woke up Wednesday morning a bit groggy. I cringed before opening my eyes, fearing what I would see. I opened one eye first, and, through a blurry haze, spotted my dresser. I opened the other eye and zoomed in on my favorite rose-pedaled lamp.

I sighed, blinked twice, wiggled my toes and stretched.

I was home and I was alive. This was good.

With the election over only hours before, I heaved a sigh of relief and stretched again for good measure.

I had survived.

There were times during the past few weeks, when I wondered if I would.

Two days after McCain announced his running mate, you may recall that I wrote a column expressing my opinion that his choice would cost him the election. What followed was a sometimes ridiculous, other times vicious attack.

On our Web site, one man called me a dumb blonde from California four times. (I knew who it was so it didnít really bother me.) One woman wrote that every time she sees my ďcutesyĒ picture in the paper, she wants to throw up. (That one kinda hurt my feelings.) Then there were the really nasty ones I canít stand to rehash.

Freedom of speech is great, so long as you say the right things.

The point is, I quickly discovered that this was going to be a rough political season. I was right.

But over the rainbow, and amid all the turmoil, there was a gift. It wasnít a pot of gold like I had hoped, but an Old Goat. His name is J. Louis Evans. Perhaps youíve heard of him. He used to be the mayor of Stephenville, back when people traveled through town in covered wagons. He was also, once upon a time, the editor of this newspaper.

Following the now infamous column, he sent an e-mail warning me that come Nov. 4, I would eat my words. He believed Sarah Palin was a brilliant selection. What ensued was a friendly and mostly hilarious political exchange throughout the following weeks that involved a bet, baked goods and a meeting with Palin herself.

Let me explain.

Days after our exchanges began, one of my co-workers delivered a bag to my office.

ďWhatís this?Ē I asked.

ďA man dropped it off up front. He said you would know who itís from,Ē she said.

Inside were lipstick-wearing, pig-shaped cookies.

J. Louis.

I laughed, then ate the entire bag.

A week later, he invited me to have coffee with the Old Goats Coffee Club. I arrived to festively decorated tables, flowers, a chocolate eclair and a Sarah Palin impersonator.

It was, and this might sound pathetic, one of the best times Iíve ever had. There is nothing more enjoyable than spending a morning with a bunch of old guys. I laughed until my side hurt.

Then J and I (He calls me ďSĒ) upped the ante, so to speak, and coughed up a little wager.

We agreed that if I was wrong and McCain won, I would write a mea culpa column in his honor. If my prediction was right, and Obama won, he would buy me a bottle of wine. The night before the election, he sent me this e-mail.

S (as in the Titanic),

You wonít believe this, but my conscience really got to bothering me last night (almost as much as kicking my dogs out of bed), and Iím so confident, that I have decided I will buy you a bottle of wine if you somehow win this wagerÖcost limit $3.95. Not that I donít think youíre worth more, but the stock market is killing me.

Iíll even drive to Kroger to get it.

Sleep well tonight,

J

Two mornings later, I zipped him back a two-word response.

ďIím thirsty.Ē

If there is any part of the election that Iíll miss, itís that. J and I have already agreed that we have to find something new to disagree about so we can keep the banter going.

Besides, I figure that if I play my cards right, Iíll have an impressive collection of cheap wine soon.

SARA VANDEN BERGE is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.