Several years back, when I first met Eric Ledy, I introduced myself as July-August-September-October-November-December. It was a fun way to remember my name: “J-A-S-O-N-D”. What I did not realize until this past week, was that when I mentioned the month July, for some reason the name ‘Julio’ immediately struck Eric’s brain. So when Eric was putting together a week long adventure in manliness for a group of ten guys in the frozen tundra of Drummond Island, he recalled our first meeting. All the guys there have nicknames – but not me, as one of the newbies. After a little massaging through the week as co-chef with my buddy ‘Wheels Baby Wheels’, my nickname became ‘Don Julio’.
Eric, or Rico Suavé as he is more commonly referred to, calls the week long event held in Northern Michigan “Mantopia” – and it lived up to and exceeded my expectations. I first heard about it from my buddy The Canadian Bacon, otherwise known as TC Bacon or Evan Manning, when we were both in California for a Togetherness Weekend that another group of young people put on from several different Church of God organizations. It was here that I first heard about eating lots of meat, exercising every day but the Sabbath, and sharing our heart as men. Ah, but there was so much more.
We are not talking about normal portions here: Oh no. As one of the head chefs, I was introduced to classics like Momelets, the mother of all omelets which consisted of a minimum of 10 large eggs, not including all the toppings of onion, garlic, venison, cheese and salsa we threw in.
I thought pancakes may be regular, but no: we made Mancakes there. We are talking at minimum 3/4″ thick and at minimum bigger than your plate. These were made using whole wheat flower, oats, organic milk, apple pieces, dark chocolate morsels, and a topping of honey rather than syrup. Oh, and add to that the thickest turkey bacon I have ever seen from Sam’s that puts beef bacon up for a good challenge.
And no discussion of food would be complete without explaining that if it did not have a manly name, it had to replaced with a word that started with an S and ended in an ‘er’. So we ate ‘Stapler’, and ‘Stuffer’, and ‘Slammers’. The chili was surnamed ‘corrosive’ because of its spice and epicness: 10 guys ate 6 lbs of ground beef with cans and cans of beans and of course tomatoes and onions from one our parent’s gardens. It was a cauldron that we finished without even trying too hard. Amazing.
Eric’s family are long time Drummond Islanders – we met his 95 year old great grandfather who I mistook for his grandfather because he looked so young. The family of “grandpa” built a hunting cabin on 40 acres in the woods near Pat’s Lake. Gracing this propane lit and woodstove heated abode’s walls were many of the bucks they shot while there over the years. No electricity or running water of course – it was about 2 miles into the forest from the single traffic light on the island.
We slept in the the bunk area that was large enough to house 16 people, a spacious living area, mud room, and kitchen/dining area. And no cabin in the woods would be complete without the ice cold out-house that was out back. It was perfect as a homebase for our activities.
Every morning, Eric would blow his shofar at 6am, and proclaim the following words in a man’s voice that he reserved for this event, “Good morning Mantopia! It is a great day to be alive!” We would then suit up – and go for a run along the dirt path leading back to the main road. It was about 1.5 miles – and I am not sure where these guys get their energy from that early. I started each run pretty strong, but with a recent weakness in the right knee and hip, several of the guys pulled me in the sled in the back a couple of the days. Thank you Pipes, Crow and J-Maul.
Besides running, two of the guys in charge of the morning exercise also came up with other manly events like Log Flipping, Truck Pushing, Rope Climbing, and strange combinations of each. They also organized proper stretching and another workout that I was unfamiliar with but will be recognized by those that do Crossfit: Burpees.
WHAT KEPT US BUSY
Everyday, Eric had planned different events or jobs that needed to get done. We restocked the wood pile by falling trees and chopping some serious wood. I learned what a maul was and my friend was so good at it, that his nickname became J-Maul, otherwise known as Brandon Kincade. We built a shelter and slept in single digit temperatures together. We kept a two hour watch/vigil one night to get to know one other person real well like my friend ‘Big Man’ and shared our heart and struggles while keeping a bonfire going. And then we went on an epic trek through the uncharted forest covered in a blanket of 1ft+ snow and I got to walk on several frozen over lakes. What a thrill!
All along the way, ‘Bruce Special Sauce Kool-Aid Peak-State Love Money G’ had prepared memory verses and backup scripture from the Word to expound on different topics to ponder through the day. A few of the topics we covered were Faith, Ethics/Morals, Wisdom/Prudence, Righteousness, and Blessings/Obedience. If you ever got to meet Garrett – it is worth your time; he is a bundle of energy.
Discussion was very honest, open and heart felt. There were games we played, jokes we told, and epic movies to be quoted. Our Sabbath was much less formal, with everyman doing a private study and then coming together to discuss lessons or thoughts they had.
One of my goals for the week, as the 2nd oldest man there, was to see where I could help mentor. My 19-year-old buddy Man-0-Man-0-Man-0-Manahan, aka Genius 2, became one of the guys that I enjoyed talking to – and he ended up becoming an honorary chef by learning how to quickly peel garlic and cook a steak like a true Grillmaster. His mom may get really weirded out when he comes back home to Kansas ready to help in the kitchen. There seemed to be fire in his belly. I was all smiles.
But when it comes to visual take-aways, on the Trek, I saw a really interesting analogy between mentoring and walking in the snow. I wore my waterproof hiking boots since I don’t own any snow shoes – and as I walked, I found it much, much easier to walk into the tracks of the man in front of me. It made the trek much easier, both physically and mentally. After I did this for I guess a couple of miles of hiking, it struck me that this was what mentoring was: leaving tracks behind for someone that goes after you. It is allowing the next person to have a slightly easier time both physically and mentally, to navigate the snowy landscape called life. It was a beautiful analogy.
So, if I find myself in a similar circumstance of life next winter, I will rejoin the men at Mantopia. In the meantime, we have 2013 to attend to.