Camaraderie keeps them coming back: Nine guys celebrate 40th 'boys weekend' on the lake
Their smiles were broad. Their laughs hardy. The memories and stories abundant.
But for some, their hair is now a little grayer, and for others, its not quite as thick as it once was.
Every July, nine guys get together for a "boys weekend" at a family cabin on Lake L'Homme Dieu. It's a tradition that started in 1978 when most were in college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
This year marked the 40th anniversary for the crew, who range in age from 59 to 61. The guys, who now all live in the Twin Cities metro area, are John Fischbach, Mike Grogan, Steve Davis, Mark Lueder, Paul Zugschwert, Bruce Todd, Tim Kane and brothers Pete and Tim Miesen.
Three of the men — Lueder, Davis and Fischbach — have known each other since kindergarten, while the rest either met in seventh grade or joined the group when they were in college.
The cabin on the south side of Lake L'Homme Dieu where they spend the third weekend in July is owned by Fischbach. It was built in 1957 by his grandpa, with whom he shares the same name.
On July 20, a perfectly beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon, six of the guys — Fischbach, Grogan, Davis, Lueder and the Miesen brothers — sat down and shared memories of the past 40 summers on the Alexandria lake. The other three members showed up that evening.
Fischbach, who did the majority of the talking, recalls it all got started when there was an open weekend at his family's cabin and he mentioned it to his friends.
"It sounded fun, so we all went," he said.
The next year, the same thing happened and the same nine guys showed up.
By the third year, it became a tradition and everyone made being there the third weekend in July a priority. It has always been "just the guys," even as wives and children entered the picture.
One of the men had a child born shortly before one of the weekend getaways, Fischbach said, but the man's wife told him to go, that he couldn't miss out on his weekend.
"Some of us don't see each other but once a year," he said. "So everyone has made this weekend a priority and our families and other friends have grown to accept it."
When sharing what it is that keeps them coming back each year, one word kept being repeated: camaraderie.
"We all have such a great time. We laugh to the point we can't talk," said Fischbach. "There's no work. No other halfs. There's just nine guys having fun, trying to make each other laugh. And everyone knows the routine. It's familiar. It's fun. And there's never any fighting. In 40 years, we've never had a fight, ever."
While there were plenty of "Remember this," "Remember that," "I don't remember that," or "Better not share that," coming out of their mouths, each of the six men recalled a favorite memory or two from their time on Lake L'Homme Dieu.
Fischbach recalled Davis drawing a map of how to get to the cabin and making copies of it. While they were out for the evening, Davis handed out the maps to people, telling them to come to "the party" that was taking place at the cabin.
"I couldn't park anywhere," Fischbach said. "There were cars parked up and down the road. At the neighbors. There were tons of people. It had to be way north of 100."
Another pointed out that the police were never called. In fact, they said the police had never been called to the cabin, even though there were times they weren't exactly quiet.
Lueder reminisced about all the times spent on and in the water, water skiing, swimming and fishing.
"We'd have three boats all at once on the water," he said. "It was lots of fun."
Then there was the time when a flock of ducks were in the water and Lueder jumped in the middle of them. However, the water was a bit shallower than he thought.
"I was down for the whole weekend," he said, laughing about the situation.
Tim Miesen chuckled nearly the whole time he shared the story of when one of the guys was hungry after returning from a golf outing. Since it had started raining and he wanted to grill, he decided to pull the grill inside the cabin.
"He was about to light the grill when someone saw what he was doing," Miesen said. "We told him to get the grill out of there."
Grogan said they used to play many games on a volleyball court, and there was a lot of basketball and tennis. As they have gotten older, he said the time spent playing sports has tapered off.
During a water skiing incident a number of years ago, Davis ended up in the emergency room because he pulled a stomach muscle, or as he called it, "a fatty muscle." That was back in his drinking days, he said, and the trip to the ER didn't happen until the next morning after he realized just how much pain he was really in.
Telling the story, Davis almost couldn't stop laughing and neither could the others. As he walked into the ER, doubled over in pain and clutching his stomach, he remembers shouting, "I'm pregnant."
The nine don't go out to eat as often, and there was a lot more nightlife back in the day. Now they spend more time golfing, with more riding in carts than walking. They also spend a lot more time playing poker; Texas Hold 'Em is what they enjoy.
The lake has been built up and there are many more houses on it 40 years later, but they don't feel the town has changed drastically, and they still enjoy the peacefulness of the lakes area.
One thing that hasn't changed is their friendship and the trust and ease of their relationships with each other. They still offer advice when needed, and if one is in trouble, the others are there to help. They all agreed that if anyone was in a pickle in a Mexican jail, the others would show up to bail the person out.
The level of friendship they share can't be broken because it is too strong, they said.
When the group started their boys' weekend at the lake the late 1970s, Fischbach said, his mom would always make cookies for him to bring. Later, his his wife stepped up to the plate and now she makes them.
"I still get asked, 'Where are the cookies?' That has not changed," he said, grinning.
Last man standing
The group plans to continue their yearly weekend rendezvous for as long as they can. In their 40 years of getting together, Fischbach noted that not one has had any major health issues, which is almost unheard of.
He also said that within the group are a wide range of professions — from a waiter at a high-end steak house to a president of a bank.
"Nobody cares, though. What we do for a living is completely meaningless," Fischbach said. "What matters is our friendship. And whoever is the last man standing will toast the rest of us who aren't able to be here."