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We'd never seen Doc quite as much in his element as he was Saturday. Those of us who love this aging healer were as proud of his accomplishment as he was.

It's strange how someone so instrumental in our lives can take pride in something that is of seemingly little importance, and that's how it was with Doc. He's been a doctor here for so many years, that legend status caught up with him and passed him ages ago.

But a few years ago, Doc got the idea of becoming a viticulturalist-a wine maker. He sent off for some high-class grapevines and got them growing out behind the corral at his place. In a few years, they were making grapes.

Then Doc, having read everything on grapes, including Bacchus's own diary, made some wine, bottled it, and set it aside to age. To age, that is, until Saturday's unveiling.

He had his wife, Mrs. Doc, print up some labels on the computer, and the result was three bottles of wine. And so, to the accompaniment of cheese and crackers, he threw a wine tasting.

Naturally, since we were his fellow co-conspirators at the Mule Barn truck stop's world-dilemma think tank, we were invited. It was great. Mrs. Doc had candles lighted and some soft music going on the stereo, and everyone got a sip and some munchies.

Doc was congratulated, and he was living it up.

Steve, the resident cowboy of our little group, took Doc to one side with a question. "How soon can you be in production, Doc?"

Doc lit up. "You think I should?"

"Sure. In fact, do you have any more of this wine here, you know, that I could buy from you?"

"Sorry, Steve," Doc said, "but this is all of it. You really like it, huh?"

"Well, no," Steve said, "but I've got this utility sink with a blocked drain pipe..."

Brought to you by Raven's Prey, a thriller of the far North. Available at www.slimrandles.com.

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