Paul Wade and his buddies have seen all kinds of things on their 41 fishing trips together.
Once, they happened upon a bear cub crying for its mother — and promptly headed the other direction. They filmed a caribou swimming across a lake on another trip.
But the most unlikely thing they’ve come across popped up along the Churchill River in Saskatchewan. It was a barrel with a huge Nebraska logo on it. The 45-gallon drum is used as a landmark along the 28-mile stretch of river.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Wade said.
Darcy Callaghan, one of four members of the family who owns and operates Slim’s Cabins in Saskatchewan, said there are actually two drums with the NU logo along the river more than 1,200 miles from Lincoln.
They were left as a “present” for Callaghan last summer.
Callaghan is a big football fan and loves to tease the Husker fans who visit the fishing camp. There are a lot of them. Slim’s Cabins usually gets between 200 to 300 visitors from Nebraska each summer.
And Callaghan enjoys having some fun at their expense — good-naturedly, of course. He finds that talking up Oklahoma or Texas never fails to start, um ... a conversation.
“If the Cornhuskers had a tough game or year, I would always remind them,” Callaghan said.
That prompted at least one group of Huskers to leave behind some decorations.
Last summer, after the Early Smith group left, Callaghan found the NU logos in their cabin, on their rental boats, on the camp ATV — and eventually on the barrels.
He asked them about it this summer.
“All they did was grin and smile and laugh,” Callaghan said. “They never admitted to anything. I thought it was a good effort on their part. The barrels, that was above and beyond. You had to tip your cap to them. That was a good one.”
For Wade, it was just one more fun story to tell. There have been lots since the group made its first trip to Minnesota in 1972. Group members share family ties and connections to Creighton and the Holy Name neighborhood, and still get together monthly.
They got the OK for their first trip by promising their wives they’d still go on a family vacation. The wives used to go on their own shopping trip in the fall.
“We went to Minnesota for about three years, and then we switched and went to Canada,” said Wade, who lives in the Westgate area. “We all like to fish.”
Wade, Marv Dvorak and Bob Gehrman have been making the trips for 41 years. Steve Thompson is the newest member at 12 years.
Timothy Tvrdik and Russell Freedman have died, and several others have moved away from Omaha.
Rudy Tesar, the former clerk of Douglas County District Court, is in charge of arranging the trips, with numbers ranging from a high of nine in 1982 to five or six in 1997. Tesar missed that one and only year because of a fire at the courthouse.
Retired District Court Judge Michael McGill made the trip for close to 30 years, but has stopped traveling because of some health issues.
Tesar’s barber, Larry Swanson, visited the same area in 1996. He left three of Tesar’s old political signs on a road he knew the group would use.
“Of course my mouth fell open,” Tesar said. “I never expected to see my signs out of Omaha, let alone another country.”
Things have changed along the way as the group has aged, said the 73-year-old Wade. They sleep a little later in the morning.
Three of them use machines for sleep apnea.
“One year, Marv Dvorak was a late arrival,” Wade said. “The pilot that flew him into camp asked him if he was with those guys that are on life support.”
The cabins at Slim’s have ceiling fans and microwaves and screened-in porches, far different from some of the cabins they’ve rented.
Which brings up Wade’s favorite story.
They were sitting outside one of those more rustic cabins years ago, when someone spotted a huge black bear and her cubs about 50 yards away. She saw Wade’s group and stood up on her hind legs.
“Nine of us tried to get through the doorway to the cabin at once,” Wade said, chuckling as he remembered how the group did everything it could to barricade the entry. “She came to the outside of the door and hit a plastic garbage can with her paw, slicing through the can like a loaf of bread. She then left. We did not sleep that night.”