Willie, the newly retired drinker, was designated chauffeur for the 8-hour trip to the Badlands. The other three members of the foursome spent the day in a time warp back to their youth sipping malt beverage and toking on hemp.
As the miles rolled past on the runway straight freeway the scenery changed little but the topic of conversation changed every few mile posts. Politics, family, the Twins, the Vikings, Phil’s win, COVID and the Olympics provided plenty of verbal intercourse. But the direction of each conversation seemed somehow to return to golf. Golf was how they had met. Golf is the glue that reinforced their friendship. Golf makes the annual trip a must in each of their diverse lives. The four golf buddies met at a junior golf camp at ages eight and nine and have been playing golf together ever since.
The Sunday, Monday, Tuesday trip was a three-day golf orgy with only one other thing on the menu – driving. Drive on Sunday. 36 holes at Bully Pulpit on Monday. 18 holes early Tuesday; 8 hours home. A marathon, but they loved the punishment.
Breakfast Monday was routine and the 8:36 and 1:52 tee times were a perfect fit. As their first round unfolded the group lost focus on playing golf. They were sucked into the beautiful golf course. The contrast of raw wind and water sculpted, topography interrupted with blankets and throw rug patches of perfectly striped, green grass.
As they made the turn, Ace, who earned his nickname at age nine when he made a hole-in-one, remarked, “Playing this golf course for the first time is like paging through the old Playboy Magazine’s Playmate of the year issue. The girl on every page was beautiful and unique. Page after page.”
Zits piped up, “What about the wildlife? We have already seen eagles, gophers, jack rabbits and coyotes and snakes. I feel like we are at the zoo.”
Lunch consisted of burgers and brews. “It is really dry these days,” Curley suggested that they all add a Gatoraid to their lunch to stay hydrated. Curley’s dad was a hippie. He kept Curley’s blond and very kinky hair shoulder length during his youth.
“Does that Gatoraid keep your hair curly?” Willie added.
On the third hole of the second round the group was treated to a mother coyote keeping an eye on her new puppies. “Those little things must have just opened their eyes. They remind me of kittens the way they play and wrestle,” Ace observed.
Once they got past the coyote sideshow the players started to show their skills. With a better understanding of the layout, there were many more pars than bogeys with an occasional birdie.
Big steaks and a few bottles of a red prompted an early bedtime. As the other two called home to check in, Willie laughed as he gave Ace a verbal jab: “Hey Ace, wake up and go to bed we are tired of hearing you snore while we are watching sports center.”
The 5:30 alarm sounded. They quickly passed through the shower, dressed and packed up. “Let’s go guys,” Zits said. “I called the grill and ordered 4 breakfast sandwiches that we can take on to the course. Who made that 6:38 tee time?”
Three or four warm-up balls and a stroke or two on the putting green as they proceeded to the first tee. The first two holes were uneventful except for a shank by Ace and an eagle putt lip-out by Curley.
On the third hole Curley was on the tee with the honor with his two putt birdie. After a big practice swing, Curley stood behind his ball holding his driver with one eye closed selecting the perfect line. He backed away and said, “There are those coyote puppies again. Wonder where mom is?”
“Probably at MacDonalds getting breakfast,” laughed Zits.
Then is happened! It seemed like a slow-motion video from National Geographic. As the puppies played, an alert Bald Eagle left her perch in the top of a nearby cottonwood tree and glided silently down on a direct line for the unsuspecting coyote pups. A quick change of her wing set combined with the extension of her talons and the pup on the right was airborne. Clutched in the powerful talons the group heard the pup squeal. But it was too late. Mother coyote appeared from the brush along the fairway and stared helplessly as the eagle gained altitude.
The teen aged golf group stood in silence, as the eagle chose another perch a few hundred yards away.
“I almost got an eagle on number two,” Zits said. I wish it had been that one. That little coyote never had a chance.
Once again golf took a backseat, as each member of the golf group was lost in private thoughts.
The trip home was filled with lots of chatter. But this time each conversation seemed to circle back to the cruel reality of Mother Nature.