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April 4, 1993

DRILLING DOWN

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We had been waiting for this scene and this moment for more than a half a year. Back in December of the previous year we had met at Chili’s like we have every year for more than a decade and planned the next trip.

This next year’s trip was going to be a little different and a lot more special. We were going to fly into an outpost lake in Canada. The group was made up of the same last names, only this year’s trip would include sons. Four of the dads wanted to bring their older boys and let them experience the North Woods and the incredible top-water action that small-mouth bass fishing provides.

We flew through Minneapolis and headed north. After landing in Winnipeg we shuttled by mini van to the base camp where we then caught our float plane and took the 30-minute ride to the outpost lake. We were going to be the only fisherman on the entire lake. That was the plan and one of the big selling points of this outfitter.

You just have to like doing this kind of thing to even get close to the excitement. It was incredible. As the big otter rumbled through the Canadian skies we finally saw it … our cabin. After eight months of planning and waiting, the moment had arrived.

The float plane pilot had said that we would be unloading first, and then the group coming out would load up and take off. We throttled to the pier after landing on the lake and then began to unload. All of our stuff was put on the dock and the departing party’s stuff was quickly loaded and the otter took wings.

Alone. Just the eight of us: four dads and four sons.

The first thing to do was to get all the stuff safely into the cabin and then take off on the lake. Every guy who walked through the front door of the cabin caught the same snapshot. It was a garbage dump inside.

The guys who had just flown off left food on plates that were put back into the cabinets. They had left rotten food lying around. There was trash stacked on trash, and trash just circulating looking for a place to land. The place was sickening. When a group of outdoorsy teenage boys get sick because of the filth, you know it’s bad.

We cleaned it up, missed the first few hours of fishing, and then went on to have a spectacular week. At the end of a spectacular week of fishing, Uncle Alan led the clean-up crew. As we started, the obvious took place. One of the fellows asked, “Well, why are we going to clean this place up so well? The guys who left it for us did nothing.”

Every dad lives for such a teaching moment. Uncle Alan grabbed it and poked it right out of the park. His answer: Because it is the right thing to do. If all we do is what the last guys did we are no better than them. Somebody has to break the badness cycle and it might as well be us. So, Alan announced, we are going to leave this cabin cleaner than it has ever been left.

The trip was a success in every way imaginable.

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.—Confucius

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