photos by Brad Scurfield
"Josh...Josh... Hey, where is Hughes?"
Nice wake up call.
"Wah? Ugggh...what do you mean where is Hughes?" I managed back through a raw and dusty croak, reflecting my displeasure in the early morning hour and absence of my good friend.
"I can't find him anywhere," Dad said in a voice ripe with uncertainty.
I quickly fought through my grog and grasped the importance of the situation. A long night of drinking, a large tract of woods and water in any direction, and a missing comrade is not a good combination. I dressed and joined my father on the hunt. Like blue-tick hounds we scoured the perimeter of our U.P. retreat and came up empty. A bit of nervous sweat had accumulated on our brows, but I knew Matt Hughes well and had partaken in this drill before. He would turn up...I hoped.
We reentered the cabin to find the rest of the troops stirring. Eight in total had made the journey. This was the famed T.O.A.D.S. weekend, or Trout Opener And Drunken Stooper. Historically an esteemed holiday for my dad and his friends over the epochs. Three years ago I had invited a few of the boys up north to have a go at opening trout fishing. After another two years and some generational gap bridging, T.O.A.D.S. was now a resurrected and growing tradition in our humble lodge. This year held record attendance. As for roll call there were the elders: Johnny "Buck" Jaakola, Carl "Dubs" Johnson, and my father, Dave "Smitty" DeSmit. They were good old boys born of Michigan's upper lands. They were a seasoned team and their age and treachery had trumped over youth and inexperience during the previous night's cocktail hours. The youth, as it were, consisted of my college hockey buddies including the awol Matt Hughes and his younger brother Steve the rat, Corey Garrett, Brad Scurfield, and myself. Hangovers aside, there was an excitement in the air on this last Saturday in April. All we had to do was deal with a missing person, and the fishing would commence.
The general consensus was that we leave Hughes for dead and move on with it all, but when we realized that Scurf was also unaccounted for shit got real. We doubled our thought process, which magnified the brain power level to a slow moving hamster wheel. Where could they be?
"Scurf is in the playhouse," Smitty assured us, "I just checked there, but didn't see Hughes."
"Maybe check again?" I said thinking of the infamous, heavy-eyed drunken Matt Hughes. He was surely sleeping between a chair and the wall or in a back seat of one of the trucks.
Dad came back to the cabin once more, only this time he was laughing hysterically and gesturing for the crew to come have a look. We all knew this was going to be good. Smitty led us to the playhouse, a small one room bunk shack where Scurf had made a home. We all gathered around the door and peered in.
"What are we looking at here?" Corey questioned as it appeared Scurf was just peacefully snoozing on the bottom bunk.
"Look a bit closer."
Upon further inspection Scurf had three or four legs, one with a unique boot attached to it. The limb seemed to be jutting out at an unnatural angle. When we headed for bed the prior evening he was certainly a bipedal creature. We all began to laugh as the third foot rustled a tad. The search party had completed the mission when a wild haired, fully clothed, and quite disheveled Hughes rose from a mountain of blankets and position of big spoon.
Stay tuned for part 2...it actually contains fishing!