Sitting in the back of Ski’s van in the parking lot of a casino on a native American reservation, I was in impartial observer mode.
I was with Ski and his wife, and it occurred to me that Bev Sadowski might be the best thing about Dave Sadowski. Bev was then Ski’s wife and mother to his two sons.
1994 was a good year for Ski; he was racing a Ducati and when the bike would finish he was right there. When the referees were finished at Road America, Ski was the winner of the Superbike race. However that Ducati ate cases and other parts, and while Ski had a good relationship with Eraldo Ferracci for support, Ski was either near broke or flush that year, depending on the race. He and the family drove up to Minnesota for the Brainerd round and somehow I was in the van on a Wednesday or Thursday when Ski confessed he was down to about $80 in cash and needed to make some money before the Superbike race at Brainerd. EIGHTY DOLLARS. Geez.
I had no idea how to make cubic money in one day before practice started but Ski exhibited no stress or worry about the lack of funds. He decided to go gambling. Yes, gambling.
I’d never gambled. My Midwestern limitations told me that gambling when broke was a great way to make a small problem into something resembling the giant sand-turned-to-glass pit left after a nuclear bomb detonated. Ski had heard of a local casino and we drove there. Bev smiled and wished Ski luck as he walked into the casino, doing that “Ski walk” as we sat in the van, the boys napping in the back. Ski walk: chest out, chin up, eyes forward -got something to do. A homeless fellow or bad juicer approached Ski was he was walking in, asking for money. Dave stopped, listened to the guy’s story/plea, prayed with him right there and gave him $10. Great Dave! Now we’re down to $70!
Bev adored Ski. Her face radiated love when he spoke to her; I don’t know that any woman has ever loved me as much as Bev Sadowski obviously loved Dave. I sat in the back of the van as we drove to the casino and watched them as they small-talked to one another, jealous of their tenderness and obvious love. They truly were soulmates, or Bev was to Ski, anyway. Their sons, Dave Jr (Davey) and Matt (Matty) were perhaps 5 and 7 years old.
Sitting in the van, radio on soft as the boys were napping, Bev was completely confident that Ski was coming back with enough money to make the weekend. I wanted to say that this was easily the craziest Ski stunt ever and I hoped I didn’t have to call my mom and ask her for money to get Dave out of a casino in nowhere Minnesota. Bev never even hinted that she didn’t have complete faith in Dave. She said he was very good at blackjack. I didn’t even know what blackjack was; could have been a slot machine, could have been a carnie game where you threw black paint at a guy named Jack.
Not even an hour later Ski came back to the van, said the tables were hot but he needed to put some money in Bev’s purse. I’m up three, he said. Cool. $300; almost enough money to get them back to Atlanta. Imagine my rural Minnesota face when Ski ripped three grand out of his pocket and handed it to Bev.
Bev’s face, however, never changed in demeanor; she knew that when her husband walked in there that he was coming back with money. He kept a grand and went back inside to “make more”.
About the time the boys were waking up from their naps, an hour or so later, Ski reappeared. He jumped in the van with a big smile. Bev, wife’s intuition, knew something special had went down inside the casino. Dave pulled out an additional $5000 he’d won playing blackjack. Five grand! On top of three grand! I was stunned silent. I actually looked for a gun on Ski thinking he’d actually robbed the casino.