Outdoors bring Isdells to area

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By Katie Zerr

James Isdell with a client.

James Isdell with a client.

From the state of Washington to McLaughlin may seem to be a long trek, but for James and Christina Isdell it is a short path in their road of life.
James is a man who has made a career of the outdoors and always wanted a job that allowed him to work in the elements. He was born in Washington and was recruited before he finished his first year of college to work for the State of Washington.
His career has taken him from land management in the Washington Department of Natural Resources to guiding salmon fishing tours in Alaska, to fighting wildfires in the western part of the United States. He met Christine while he was working in Alaska.
As a competitive person and an avid cribbage player, James was looking for a partner and could not find one with which he was satisfied. He went online, got into a chat room with Christine and they began to play cribbage online. She said she beat him, he said only once, but they became partners in both the game and in life.
James was employed with the Washington Department of Natural Resources as a district manager and during that time spent 16 years as a fishing guide in Alaska. In the spring he would go north where he specialized in guided steelhead trout and salmon fishing trips. During the summer, he was part of the regions wildfire fighting crew. In the fall, he would head back up to Alaska for the king salmon season.
But fate stepped in and it became too expensive to continue his guiding service.
“When fuel prices got so high in 2005 ($6.65 per gallon in Bush, Alaska), I did the math and was paying to take customers fishing,” he said. “So then I took up the camera and took groups of people on guided photography trips.”
James said the beauty of Alaska makes for a perfect backdrop for photographs.
“You can capture the essence of Alaska through a camera,” he said.
He guided photography trips for about two years. It was at that time that Christina got a promotion that took them to the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana, near Glacier National Park.
After James retired from the Department of Natural Resources, the couple began to look for another part of the county to put down roots. He said they looked at South Dakota because the weather was similar to that in Bristol Bay, Alaska, where they had lived.
“And you have this great lake in your backyard,” he said.
Christina got a job as a radiology technologist with the Indian Health Service in McLaughlin.  Though the main office is in Fort Yates, Christina does X-rays, EKGs and schedules mammograms at the McLaughlin site.
The couple has settled into the small town and are loving their neighborhood and their new community.
“People here are wonderful. I have met so many great people here,” said James. “It is like being back in the arms of friends in Alaska. People have welcomed us like family since we moved here.”
He and Christina have been on Lake Oahe and are enjoying the experience. He said he probably wouldn’t be joining anglers on the ice during the colder months.
“I tried ice fishing in Washington, but the creaking and moaning of the ice bothered me a lot,” he said. “I nearly drowned once and if it weren’t for my cousin, I wouldn’t be here today. I have a very deep respect for the water.”
James said he likes to integrate himself into the community and as he enjoys writing, is contributing to the McLaughlin Messenger as a local features writer. He will also contribute columns and fishing reports to the Mobridge Tribune.
Now that he is retired, James will keep himself busy as a part of local organizations and with his writing. And, of course, fishing.

JAMES ISDELL’S RECIPES
Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 Tbsp.)
4 cloves garlic
3 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves chopped
2 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with about half of their juices (discarding the rest), the herb sprigs and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 25 to 30 minutes or until thickened.
Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste. Serve or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Meatballs
2 slices stale white sandwich bread
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 medium onion grated (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 large egg, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil divided
Grate the bread or pulse into crumbs with food processor. In a small bowl toss the bread crumbs with 1/3 cup cold milk to re-hydrate.
In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, meat, Parmesan, parsley, salt, onion, garlic and egg. Mix until combined and season with pepper to taste.
Using your hands, gently form meat mixture into 18 slightly larger than golf ball size balls (packing the meat too tightly will result in tough meatballs.) Refrigerate at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add half the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides (about 6 minutes.) Transfer meatballs to a plate, drain the oil and wipe out skillet. Return to heat with remaining oil and repeat cooking remainder of meatballs.
Drain and wipe out skillet again. Return all meatballs to the skillet and pour in marinara sauce (recipe above.) Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, swirling the pan occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through (about 15 minutes.) Cheese will begin to melt when the meatballs are ready.
Serve immediately with spaghetti or on sandwiches. If serving with spaghetti, toss with 1/3 of sauce.
These meatballs can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for three days or frozen for up to six weeks.

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