“Maybe it has been that long, Cyrus, but I let the little ones walk while these other guys shoot em.”
“You let them walk Chet because you sleep in the blind all day,” Elk piped in. With that, the whole camp broke out in laughter, but Jeff noticed that Chet wasn’t smiling.
Cyrus chatted and joked with the guys in camp, except for Grant, who remained in the back gathering his clothes for the upcoming hunt. When Cyrus approached Turk, he extended his hand and said, “Cyrus Campbell, I don’t think we’ve met.”
“Call me Turk.” I’m a friend of Eddie’s, and I think he invited me because he needed someone to show him how to shoot a big buck,” he said with a grin.
“Well, I think Eddie does need some pointers, so hopefully, you can teach him the ropes.”
Eddie chimed in, “As the best hunter in this camp, I plan to hold an instructional deer seminar for these guys as soon as I win the buck pool this year. I feel it’s selfish for me to have so much knowledge about deer and deer hunting and not share it with other less-skilled hunters.” Smiles and laughter filled the camp on the best day of the year.
Cyrus settled on the couch near the front door, drinking his one-beer limit. Abruptly, Eddie stood up and said, “Cyrus, What’s this I hear about you going on a cruise? I’ve known you most of my life, and you seldom leave the county. Tell us what this Caribbean cruise is all about.”
Cyrus said, “Yup, I am going on a cruise. We’re leaving tomorrow for Ft Lauderdale before joining a 4-day Caribbean cruise. You’re right. It may be out of character, but it just proves you can teach an old dog new tricks.” With those words, Eddie retreated to the bar, pulled out a small gift-wrapped box, and handed it to Cyrus. “Cy, this is from the guys at Roads End. We heard about the cruise and wanted to give you something I’m sure you’ll need.”
“Oh my,” said Cyrus, “I can only imagine what this might be.”
“Unwrap it, Cy,” yelled Frenchie.
Cyrus tore the green wrapping paper and pulled out a smaller box from inside. Inside that box sat an even smaller box wrapped in the same green paper. Cy’s eyes lit up, and a big smile filled his face when he opened the second box and extracted a skimpy, XXL-sized, lime-green Speedo bathing suit. He held it up, and the entire camp broke out in uncontrollable laughter. “We wanted to ensure you fit right in on that cruise Cyrus. We felt you needed a sexy bathing suit to show off for all the ladies. Wear it with pride, and send us pictures to post here at the camp.”
Cyrus laughed so hard it took several minutes before he sarcastically replied. “Thanks so much. You have no idea how much this means to me. I’ll definitely wear it on the cruise. I just hope I can keep all the ladies off me so my wife Martha doesn’t throw me over the side.” Cyrus then folded up the speedo and put it in his right shirt pocket with the lime green color exposed like an accent handkerchief in a suit coat pocket.
“Now, seriously, Cyrus, what prompted you to take a cruise vacation after all these years?” Jeff inquired.
Cyrus’s face turned serious, and he cleared his throat before answering. “I’ve farmed my land for over 50 years. There were boom times and lean times. I watched my kids grow up, turn up their noses at farming, and move away from here. Through it all, Martha has been at my side, holding my hand, laughing with me, crying with me, and never saying quit. This cruise is her dream, and dammit, I owe her at least that much.”
The room remained quiet for a moment until Mooch blew out a breath and broke the silence. “Damn, Cyrus, that’s more words than I’ve heard you string together in all the years I’ve known you.” Then he turned to Chet and whispered, “Is Cy tearing up?”
Cyrus rose shakily and said, “Alright, guys, I gotta take a leak and then head home to pack.” With those words, he trudged past the bunks toward the bathroom in the back of the cabin. When he returned, he wished everyone luck during the upcoming deer season. Fortunately, Jeff’s camera had captured this entire emotional sequence. He felt fortunate to have memorialized such a funny and moving moment with his friend Cyrus.
After Cyrus left, Turk asked Chet how they knew that poor old farmer. Chet replied, “Turk, Cyrus may be old, but he definitely ain’t poor. He has two of the top-producing oil wells in the entire county on his property. He’s been pumping black gold out of that farm for nearly ten years now.”
“You mean that old guy is rich?”
“You bet, “said Chet. “I know he dresses like a peasant, but he’s extremely well off.”
“Yeah,” Mooch interjected, “Cyrus is our version of Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies. You would never know it because he still lives like a guy without a pot to piss in.”
“Where’s his farm?” Turk asked.
“Right on our eastern boundary,” said Chet.
Turk turned to Jeff and Grant and said, “It seems like your property just missed out on the oil bonanza then.”
Grant replied, “Yeah, they did drill a well once on our property, but nothing came of it. We just aren’t lucky, I guess.”
Turk still had a few more questions he wanted to ask about this oil thing but got interrupted when another group came to visit. They were from the “Whiskey in the Well” camp, and five of their members burst into the cabin. “Greetings, Roads End guys. It’s time for you to pay tribute to the best hunting camp in Northern Michigan.”
“Here, let me pay tribute to you guys,” Elk volunteered, and she raised both her middle fingers in a tribute salute.
Everyone laughed, and this prompted still another round of drinks. The Whiskey in the Well camp housed a great group of guys, one of Grant’s favorite camps in the entire area. The unique camp name came from an incident when the founder bought the property in 1963. Old Man Hopkins and some friends watched their contractor as he dug their water well. The hydraulic well point pounded deep into the ground while the men passed a bottle of Kessler whiskey to celebrate the historic event. As one friend passed the bottle to the other, it slipped out of his hand and landed at the bottom of the hole, some 75 feet below. They laughed about the incident at the time. The next day Ole Man Hopkins decided fate had come up with a name for the camp. He named it the “Whiskey in the Well Hunt Club,” commemorating the mishap. The camp had the most unique and memorable name in the entire county.
By now, it had gotten late, and hunters were starting to get ready for bed. The night before the season is the only evening that almost everyone goes to bed at a reasonable time. The “Whiskey'' crew said their goodbyes and left, honking their horns as they exited. Within a few minutes, most of the Road’s End crew also hit the sack to get up by 5:30 the next morning.
Grant and Jeff were the last two guys awake as the fire burned down. They sat side by side, watching the final embers dissipate. They had one last beer and talked about how lucky they were to enjoy this fun evening. Grant turned to his brother and said, “Jeff, there are a few things we need to discuss regarding the camp. We also have some things to discuss about our brother Eddie. We should do it soon, but now is not the time or place for the conversation.”
“For sure,” Jeff replied. “I have some things to share with you too. One topic is Chet,” he whispered.