Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Disc

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Disc

Dan Erickson #29366

My favorite disk hates me. I think. Whether it is actual hate, a rebellious nature, or simply a figment of my imagination, one thing is very clear: my red Champion Leopard, which I simply call Red, is doing everything in its power to escape from me.

Born into my bag in the fall of 2004, there was an immediate connection between Red and me, and I knew right away that he was going to be my “go-to” disc on the tight fairways and water holes of Veteran’s Park. Red felt like an extension of my hand. Hyzer, anhyzer, straight, roller: Red seemed to always find the right path to the basket.

Like all amateur players, I am prone to the occasional horrible throw (although one could easily say those horrible throws are more than “occasional”). One such throw happened in September of 2005. Hole #3 at Veteran’s is 250’ down hill with many trees, and a creek marking OB on the left. For a sidearm thrower like me, there was a natural hyzer along the left that, if thrown properly, would land you at the foot of the basket. With Red, I normally counted this hole as an automatic birdie. On that fateful day, however, I did not score a birdie. In fact, Red came out of my hand in a strange way and he immediately headed toward the OB over the creek. Although there were no trees or woods in the OB area, it was full of thick and stubborn underbrush, which Red of course found. When I arrived at the landing area my bright red disc was nowhere to be seen. I was playing by myself with no one waiting behind me, so I spent upwards of half an hour looking for him. There was no way I was leaving without my best disc friend! It was a sad and difficult decision to leave, but unfortunately, one cannot stay on the disc golf course forever.

For the rest of that season, every time I played hole #3 I would spend a few minutes looking for Red. I had playing partners look for him and I even made a special trip out during the winter knowing the brush would be dead and easier to dig around in. Eventually, I began to give up hope. By the end of the year, I made peace with the idea that I would never see Red again. After a lengthy mourning, I replaced him with a bright orange Champion Leopard. Although Orange is a fine disc, it became quickly obvious that we did not have the same connection that I had with Red.

In March of 2006 I again found myself playing Hole #3 at Veteran’s Park. I was playing alone and there was a large group of teenagers playing ahead of me. They were over by the creek, clearly looking for an errant disc. One of them, upon seeing me approach the tee box, had the courtesy to ask me to play through. I threw Orange and it landed down near the water, about 15 feet from the basket. As I neared Orange to throw my second shot, I overheard two of the players talking about their missing disc. They were ready to walk away from their disc, but found some consolation because, as one of the players asked, “Why don’t you just take the red disc that says Dan Erickson on it”? My ears perked up. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I immediately interjected. I sprinted over to them and immediately saw Red, resting comfortably at the edge of the water. Much to my amazement, Red looked like he just came off the Innova factory line, without a speck of dirt or mud on him. I’m sure that those players thought I stole a disc from them (one they were about to steal themselves), but I was too excited to appropriately explain to them Red’s journey.

While I was ecstatic to once again have Red in my bag, there was a new dynamic between us. I sensed that perhaps he was not pleased about the addition of Orange. As retribution for what I’m sure Red sees as a betrayal, he was now actively seeking escape back into the wild.

On the day before the April Lexington Open, I was out with my brother and best friend, both named Mike, playing a practice round to prepare for the tournament. It was a miserable day, rainy and windy, but warm enough to keep us out on the course. On hole #8, which has a large river on the left, Red once again made a move towards his freedom and went straight towards the water. We could barely make out an outline of Red in the river, and were unable to get to him, but not for lack of trying. While we were trying our rescue attempt, another player, Seth White whom I had met only a few days earlier, appeared and began to help us get to Red. On the day I met Seth, we were both playing a round and got stuck behind an extremely slow foursome. I joined his group, and we played out the remaining holes together. While we were waiting for the group ahead of us to finish a long hole, I explained to them the miraculous story of losing Red for an entire winter and the strange circumstances that brought him back into my bag. Now by my side at the edge of the river, Seth clearly remembered Red’s journey, and was anxious to help me again get him back. After many unsuccessful attempts, our group decided to move on, leaving Red stranded once again. Seth stayed behind to fish out a few other discs from the river.

Five holes later, as our group was preparing to tee off, Seth came running up at our tee box, soaked head to toe, with Red in hand! He had finally dived into the murky and stagnant river to rescue Red. Furthermore, he made a point to run it up to us, despite the fact that he was no longer even playing his round. I was quite impressed that he had gone out of his way to both retrieve Red and hunt me down to deliver him. After offering my profuse gratitude, I tried to convince Seth to play in the tournament with us the next day, but he did not think that he would be able to. Thanking him again, he went on his way.

Still the same day, we found our way to the second tournament course to get in another practice round. Of course, I found a way to lose Red again. As I do not frequently lose discs, this was quickly becoming absurd. This time we managed to find Red, hiding way up in a tree. He had apparently come to the conclusion that hiding on the ground didn’t work, hiding in the river did’t work, and his only option was to hide in a tree. I was beginning to develop the theory that Red was no longer happy with me as his partner and was trying to abandon me. Sufficed to say, I did not throw him the rest of the round.

At the tournament the next morning, the first person we ran into was Seth. Apparently he had found time in his schedule to play the tournament (as he finished in the top 10, it was clearly a good decision). After exchanging pleasantries, we went to our respective holes and did not see each other again, although he did play a round with my brother.

In the weeks following the tournament, it appeared as though my relationship with Red was beginning to improve. He hadn’t tried to escape and was again finding proper paths around trees on his way to the basket. I thought that perhaps he had made peace with Orange and forgiven me. After a horrible tournament (Red was not the only disc to misbehave that weekend), it was nice to again throw with confidence.

That confidence was short-lived, however, as Red once again tried to run away, this time on Hole #1 (The first hole! What impatience!). Red left my hand and hit a tree a short 30 feet away and appeared to fall straight down. As Red traveled so little actual distance, I did not anticipate any trouble finding him. I should have, as I could not find him anywhere. Evidently, he had been recruiting help from various trees and underbrush in his plot to evade me. No longer willing to play his game, however, I gave up my search after a short 10 minutes. I had a strange feeling that someone was going to find Red and get him back to me, perhaps while I was still on the course. Although Red was good at hiding, I had learned that he was not good at staying hidden.

Although no one found my disc while I was still on the course, I received a phone call the next afternoon. “Hey Dan, this is Seth from disc golf.” Yes, that Seth. “I’ve found your Leopard… again.” Clearly, Seth had become Red’s unofficial caretaker. I’m not sure if this makes Seth Red’s Godfather, Patron Saint, or Guardian Angel, but he plays some sort of role in Red’s life. Perhaps I should add Seth’s name and cell phone on Red’s back, as he clearly prefers Seth to me.

As I once again thanked Seth for finding Red and hunting me down to return him, Seth encouraged me: “Don’t worry Dan. Every time I find your disc, I’ll get it right back to you.”

I have no doubt.

Dan with Orange (Shhh... Don't tell Red!)

1 comment:

Ethan said...

I too have been in a similar situation. I had a blue starfire that I could just rip. Unfortunately, one time I ripped it right into a lake at a course in Norman. When I went looking for it, I found a disc, but it just happened to be the exact disc that my friend lost the previous day on the same hole. And, again unfortunately, that same friend was playing with me on this day. So I was out two discs, and my blue starfire was gone.

In other news, I recently played in the amateur division of the Oklahoma State Championships and came in 3rd. Not too prestigious, but I was happy.

Hope life outside of disc golf is going well too.