Every year for the last 30 years, some of my closest friends and I have made our annual turkey hunting trip to Tuttle Creek. We stay in our cabin for 6 or 7 days. Almost 30 years ago, it was just three of us; but over the years, it’s grown to as many as seven.

There’s no way I can try to tell others how much this vacation means to me. Only my very close friends and my wife know how addicted I am. It’s an addiction – I’ll admit it. Let me try to explain.

This year on April 17, the day before we were to leave, I had already loaded my truck. We always meet at my house at 8 a.m. and leave together.

At 5:15 on the 17th, I had the bright idea of getting a weed wacker and chopping down the taller grass in my yard. I hadn’t fired up my push mower this year yet, so I thought this was a good idea. My neighbor Jacob saw me and volunteered his weed eater. I turned him down, and I’m sure he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

I was about done; I only had to do part of the front along the house and the north side, and I would be done. In the front, I was weed wacking when I hit our outside faucet (which was only a few inches above the ground, for whatever reason). When I hit it, I heard a sizzling sound, but didn’t see any outside dripping or leaking, so I went ahead and finished the yard, about a 10-minute job. When I came in the house, I heard a strange sound coming from my basement.

When I went downstairs, I discovered I had broken a water line and all five rooms were covered with one to two inches of water. I turned off the main water line to the house, showed my wife, and started the hard task of cleaning up. We were very lucky that our plumber was able to come over and plug the line right away. I started at 6pm and had all the water cleaned up and rugs outside by 10 p.m. My main point of this story is that any reasonable man without this addiction would have at least considered delaying his trip. Not me; come hell or high water I was going on my trip as scheduled, and did.

One of our group (Mel) has never missed this trip. I got a call from him, with the trip only a week away. Mel was in WaKeeney, but told me that he and his wife had decided to go back to his other home in Wyoming. How dare anyone put a damper on my trip. I was very angry and let him know so. They were going back because of our current pandemic. I did call him back a few days later to try to apologize. Again, the fact that I was so upset shows how selfish and addicted I am.

Several years ago, I became friends with Tim. Tim and I enjoy fishing together and have gone on several turkey hunts. I told him that if someone came to me with one million dollars, but said I could no longer turkey hunt or go to my cabin, the decision was easy – no way. At first, he didn’t believe me. But I think now that he knows me better, he knows I’m serious. Again, only a few people know me well enough to know this is true. Tim gave me one of those fake one-million-dollar bills, and it’s displayed at the cabin.

Years ago, I was with my brother Terry on our trip, when he ruined two new tires because of the flint rock of the flint hills. It was going to cost him dearly. He was actually considering cutting his trip short. I didn’t understand. It’s turkey season. Who cares if you have to go buy a new truck? He got mad at me and told me that the world doesn’t stop just because it’s turkey season. He’s right – this was another example of my addiction.

In 2008, they finally decided to put high school baseball in our school system. I really wanted the job, so I applied and was brought in and told by the athletic director, principle, and superintendent that they wanted to hire me. I told them I would take the job, but also told them about my annual trip and that I’m going. If this was going to be a problem, then don’t hire me. They told me it would be OK; I have an assistant coach. When they hired me, they probably thought I would be flexible. I’m sure there was no way they could see my addiction coming.

Everyone who knows my wife understands that for her to put up with me and my addiction is amazing. Before we got married, I tried to explain what was coming. If she can’t put up with this, we’d better not get married, because I’m not changing. In all fairness to my wife, there is no way she could have seen what was coming! I could never explain the craziness and my addiction. Again, I’m sure at the time, I seemed reasonable and she thought I would be flexible.

The other night, I was trying to explain my addiction to my sister and my brother-in-law, Paul. My wife and Paul said, “Well, like an addict or alcoholic, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” I made it clear to all, although I admit it’s an addiction, there is no way I’m changing.

I will pray for my wife to have the strength and patience to survive my annual addiction. And I guess if you are a person of faith, maybe you could say a prayer for my wife, too. May God bless you all!

Rick Cunningham is an avid outdoorsman from Ellis, KS