By Chris Mihailides
Special to Outdoor Enthusiast Lifestyle Magazine
The Preserve is the place to be. Hunting, rock climbing, sporting clays, swimming pools, star gazing, zip lining, golfing, hiking and my favorite thing fishing. So I set it up. Me and seven of my buddies camping and fishing at The Preserve. Oh yeah, maybe a wee bit of beer drinking too. So we all meet up at the club one night at around 6:00 p.m. Trucks packed with camping and fishing gear, smiles, hugs, the boys are back in town. You see, we’ve been friends since we were kids. All of us, the original eight, we referred to ourselves. Yep, inseparable from the start. We did it all together; fished, hunted, golfed, and played high school basketball and hockey. It’s actually pretty cool that, now at 40, we’ve been hanging together for well over 30 years or so.
There’s Scott, a dog tycoon, he owns pet centers all around the country and really made a name for himself in the industry. I’ve known him the longest, Scott and I went to kindergarten together and he has been one of my best friends my entire life. We all call him Hank, or Hanka, truth be known, although Scott is the original Hanka, we all call each other that from time to time. Robert, the meat cutter. He works 6 days a week for as long as I’ve known him. Yep, overtime is king to Robert, he loves the extra cash. Ted, he’s a restaurateur. He dreams of owning a fine dining establishment where he greets each guest as they enter his 5 star exclusive restaurant, but for now he earns his living as the owner of the local pub and grill, shoveling beers from 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. every day, basically working himself to death, I can’t even figure out for the life of me how he is actually taking a day and a half off for our little gathering. Billy, a stay at home mom married a CFO and has been raising his four kids while mommy makes a couple hundred k. He mows lawns on weekends for kicks and some extra dough that he really doesn’t need. Johnny, an electrician with the most infectious laugh. He brightens a room when he tells a joke or hears one. He actually makes the jokes funnier, you know the type. Laughs so hard and before long so is everyone else. He’s the man. Jim, the logistics manager, if you need to pack your truck with a ton of luggage, Jim is your man. He’s the original space man (I hope you get the pun). David, our leader. Toughest kid in Cranston. Hit like a Mack Truck and asked questions later. Nowadays, a guy like David would get shot, but in the old days, you could smack someone and then give them a hand getting back on their feet. Not like today. And of course, little old me, the Greek. Affectionately known as Christimo.
So we got the J Units booked, 3 condos, all connected, 8 bedrooms, one for each of us so no fighting about who has to take the pull out couch. This place is the bomb and everything is so beautiful, that includes Kay, the stunning blonde who was the first homeowner at The Preserve. Kay came out to say hello and greet my friends, do a little flirting and just really brighten the original 8’s day with her light. She had Biscuit with her. A beautiful Alaskan Husky full of energy. “Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff” said Biscuit, wagging her tail and talking to each and every one of the original 8. “Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff” she was about as excited to meet us as the boys were excited to meet Kay. Of course we invited Kay to join us for guy’s poker night tonight in J-2 basement card room, and Kay readily accepted. Man we were having so much fun and we haven’t been on property for more than 10 minutes!!! Man this place is the bomb! So drinks and lunch gents, let’s get it on!! Kay you coming? Biscuit? “Nope we are going for a walk but we will see you tonight!” Ruff ruff ruff ruff!! “Ok Biscuit, we will see you later too!” In we went. Sharing the same old fishing and hunting stories we have been retelling for decades. We ate and drank and laughed like children, it was just like it was 25 years ago.
So its nap time and then poker at eight. Well The Preserve had us all hooked up with a buffet at 8:00 a.m., and then poker shortly thereafter. The evening was perfect, pheasant endives, lobster salad rolls, homemade potato chips, Kay and cards. Lots and lots of cards. We played with two decks. The guy who was dealing had one and the guy to his left had the other in anticipation of dealing next, which you needed to be at the ready or get hollered at by David! “Let’s go” he’d bark if you slowed down the game when it was your deal. And play we did, not big money mind you, but middle of the road money. You could lose as much as a hundred or so, but not much more than that. We play nickels, dimes and quarters, which eventually will go up toward the end of the night when the gang starts getting tipsy.
Shortly after we began, in came Kay and Biscuit. “Hey Kay” we all yelled to which Biscuit replied “Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff”, a seemingly hello to each and every one of the original 8. This dog was cool, and all personality. We played all night until after 2. We had planned to fish all the various ponds at The Preserve throughout the day and into the evening tomorrow to then repeat the evening of cards from the night before and head out in the morning. So breakfast at 11 at The Lodge and off to the ponds we go. So it’s a catch and release day. We are simply fishing for the sport, snapping a photo of each of our fish for the grand prize of 160 bucks. That’s right, 20 a guy for the one with the most fish, regardless of the size. Off to our bedrooms we went to awaken to coffee made by Robert. As I mentioned he’s a workaholic and gets up every day at 5:00 a.m. regardless if he’s working or not.
As we start to show up at the main J unit kitchen area, Robert greets each of us with “Bout time you got up Hanka!” “Oh shut the F up Hanka and pour the coffee”, was the typical response. I called The Lodge and let them know 8 for breakfast and away we went. Another fabulous meal here at The Preserve, with a couple of us playing cribbage, or smoking on the deck. It was a wonderful breakfast filled with memories and laughter. What a morning. The sun was shining to boot. Around noon we got up and headed out. We paired up and loaded our gear into our Preserve lifted carts and headed out to the fishing pond area.
We have a spot with three ponds close together so I figured that’s the best place for us, as we can rotate around and still be in earshot of each other, but I got a trick up my sleeve. That’s right, I know where there is a remote pond on The Preserve that the bass jump into your tackle box on most days, but a spot that is going to win me (and my partner Robert) the grand prize. I let Robert know and told him I would take him with me as long as we split the pot, because this spot was so good we were definitely going to win the prize and the bragging rights. So we fished the three close ponds with the boys and we were all having great luck. Catching fish like crazy and snapping photos. It was going to be a good contest until Robert and I hike over to the secret pond and really start to catch some fish. So we got about 10 each after a couple of hours and I shouted to the guys that me and Robert were going to check out this small pond just through the woods, and asked if anyone wanted to join us. Of course they all said no, and wondered why we would ever leave this spot where we were having so much luck. But little did they know what we had in mind. So off Robert and I went into the brush carrying two poles and a tackle box each.
“Robert, this is going to be the bomb! This spot is the best fishing spot in all of Rhode Island. I only fished it 2 times but both times it was non-stop and I caught some monsters!” Oh yeah baby, I could hardly contain my excitement, and I had Robert right with me on the emotional high cause the only thing Robert likes more than cash is fishing. He loved fishing. One time when we were about 17, we were fishing the Scituate Reservoir, which yes is against the law, but at 17 we didn’t really care about that. We fished it all the time, but our favorite spot by far was the cemetery just off of Rt. 116. I would usually drive always wearing a jogging outfit. We’d stop at the bait shop in Providence as that was the only one opened before 5:00 a.m. Try to get there by around 4:00 a.m. as we liked to have our poles in the water by 5:00 a.m. and then we would only fish until 6:45 am. Weather it was true or not, we always thought the game wardens came to work at 7:00 a.m. so we wanted to be gone before they came to work. It could have been true because we always did it this way and never got caught. And in an hour and forty five minutes you would be surprised what we would catch: 10, 20 or even more. With fish ranging from 4 to 12 pounds, huge large mouth bass, huge small mouth bass, pike, pickerel, you name it. This was one of the best places to fish anywhere, as good as a spot or even better then my “Preserve Secret Spot” only because it had larger monsters than my secret place. We would pull into the cemetery and drive to the back always just around 5:00 a.m. and I would drop off all the guys and gear, including my own. I would then drive out the back way and around to the local playground where I would park my car, get out and stretch and go for my alleged jog! Of course I would jog right into that cemetery to join my comrades in an hour and forty five minute fishing frenzy.
Well on this day, I barely got back to the spot as I heard Robert scream, “I got one!” And man did he ever catch one. This thing was 11 pounds! Robert told us we needed to leave immediately to ensure we were able to take this baby home and have it stuffed. We were in no way going to let some game warden take this guy away. So I immediately said,”Ok, I’ll jog back and get the car and we can get out of here ASAP.” The quickest and most rewarding fishing trip of our lives and I never even put a line in the water! And to this day that monster still sits proudly above my buddy’s mantle.
So back to The Preserve and our trek. The woods were thick and we were laughing and joking and telling stories when Robert says “Where the heck is this place Greek?” I said, “Yeah, weird I think we should have been there by now, “Just a bit further”, I stated with confidence. But confident I was not, I was starting to get the feeling that I may have gotten turned around. These woods seemed thicker than what I was used to. I’m starting to sweat. Robert is chirping, “Let’s go Greek!! What the heck! Are we freggin lost? I’m like, “Dude, shut the hell up, we aren’t lost. And we’re at The Preserve anyway, it’s not like we are in Maine!” Robert said, “Chris, its 3500 acres, we could be out here for a while!”
He was right, we could be out here for a while, and by now we both know that we are completely lost. This sucks. We kept walking and our two poles and tackle boxes now felt like 50 pounds and Robert is chirping. He is downright angry now and directing some pretty nasty language my way. We were out for hours and hours and hours. It was starting to get dark and we are both now starting to get really nervous. I mean, yes we are in Rhode Island so it’s not like we are going to die out here, but man this was scary. I said, “Maybe we should ditch the equipment. This crap is getting pretty heavy!” Robert is his raspy, I hate you voice says, “I paid 200 for this reel, I am not ditching anything. In fact, you should be carrying my stuff, or better still, you should be carrying me, let me get on your shoulders you stupid ass!!”
OK, I see how this is going to go. I started screaming, “Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello!” Nothing, not a peep beyond the birds chirping (like Robert) and the bugs buzzing. “Hello! Hello! Hello!” I yelled, and man can I yell. We continued for an hour like this, both of us yelling hello every few seconds. Then like a voice from up above, and ever so faint, “Ruff”. “Robert, shut the heck up!!!” I screamed again, “Hello, Hello!!!!” “Ruff, ruff.” Robert did you hear that? “Its that stupid dog Biscuit”, he said. I said, “Stupid my foot, that son of a gun is calling us!” We could barely hear the bark but I could certainly tell in which direction is was coming. We started for it immediately. Walking and every so often we’d yell hello! The more we trucked toward that beautiful mutt the louder his ruff became. We were getting close. “Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff!!” He was just ahead, and sure enough sitting atop of the Hilltop wall there was Biscuit. And man was he ever happy to see us and were we ever happy to see him!! I pet and pet and pet the big guy, and he reciprocated with a lick or three. Robert was still grouchy although I’m certain somewhat relieved.
So I say to Robert, “Are we going to tell anyone?” His response:“Not a freggin word.” We joined the rest of the boys some five hours later only to realize that we weren’t even missed. Needless to say we did not win the 160.