Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Late in the fall of 2011,
I was working at the Monroe County Community College Copy Center in Monroe Michigan. I remember hovering over the digital copier, trying to coax a finished print job out of the machine.
To my left,
A door burst open and in slid my friend, Bill Myers. He was in full "Kramer Mode", so I suspected that something was up. Bill was the Head of Campus Security. A career police officer who found a home at MCCC late in his career.
Bill skidded to a stop smack in front of the roaring copy machine, and without as much as a "how ya doin'", stared me down with his piercing blue eyes and said, "What do you think those metal posts out back look like?" I already knew that I had no chance of cracking the Bill Myers code, so I proffered the only answer I could think of. I said, "Well, it looks like a bunch of drive-in theater posts, without the speakers."
Bill looked at me with his dagger blue eyes seemingly annoyed with my answer, and barked, "Wrong, oh maestro of the copy machine!
"It looks like a vineyard!" he declared.
It took me a few moments to process his answer. I finally started to get it.
The dozens of uniformly planted metal posts formed the framework of a solar farm being installed by DTE, our regional electric company. At the time of installation, it was one of the larger solar farms around, I'm guessing, covering maybe an area equivalent to three football fields. As I recall, DTE entered into a 20-year lease agreement with MCCC. It is a high-profile project, butting up against the drive on the Eastern edge of campus.
Bill knew that he had me with the vineyard concept, as we were both fond of wine. Then, our wine discussion, not unlike the stall in a cowbarn, got higher and deeper! by the end of that interaction in the Copy Center, we had a plan;
To start the Bacchus Society at MCCC.
To plant a vineyard, on campus.
To make wine for the 50th anniversary of the College.
To institute a Viticulture and Enology program at MCCC.
Not all of these lofty goals were achieved, but we gave it the old college try.
Later on, during day one of the Bacchus Society, we identified other like-minded individuals to form the founding group. Chef Kevin Thomas, Glori Applin and Steve Mapes rounded out the original lineup. All of us worked in the Administration building, so communication was pretty easy.
We had a tremendous burst of enthusiasm for the Bacchus Society early on. Bill Myers always referred to it as the "Secret Society", (which it was NOT),
that people wanted to be a part of. We had our 1st fundraising event in the Band room of the La-Z-Boy Building in December, 2011, and raised around $3700.
The vineyard, "V 1300" was planted the next year on the Eastern edge of campus. I remember wading out to the new site in my wellies to stake out our vineyard. There were up to 8 inches of water over most of the plot. You
could say that drainage was a problem! We planted the vineyard in an area that had beautiful loamy soil on top, but was a clay pan 14' beneath the surface. I am thinking of writing a blog, "How to guarantee the failure of your vineyard".
Bacchus was able to hold an annual fundraiser we called "Reds Whites and Blues", always a hot ticket on campus. With the proceeds, we were able to start the Vineyard, purchase a crusher-de-stemmer and winepress, have many splendid wine events, make wine for the 50th anniversary of MCCC and learn a whole lot about the art and mystery of wine. Not bad, for a serendipitous encounter in the Copy Center.
Bill Myers, whom I called the Godfather of Bacchus, passed away in February of this year of complications from Parkinson’s and cancer. He was the best storyteller I ever knew and talked me down off the ledge at work more times than I can count. We usually had lunch together in the cafeteria. Several times, I would reach the cashier, only to find out my lunch was paid for. He wouldn't admit to paying for it. That was Bill. I miss him.
When I meet up with Bill again,
Bill will do his best Kramer slide in front of me,
Pin me down with those piercing blue eyes,
"Mark, What do those posts in the ground look like???"
Please listen to our podcast reliving the story. For Bill.
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