Five friends defy odds, take same picture every 5 years

Forty years ago, a group of five young graduates from Santa Barbara High School embarked on a memorable boys’ weekend at a relative’s cabin on Copco Lake in California. Amidst their adventures, including hiking, pranks, and boating, John Dickson, Dallas Burney, Mark Rumer-Cleary, Jon Molony, and John “Wedge” Wardlaw paused for a moment to capture a photograph on the cabin’s back deck.

The image featured three shirtless men, a hat resting on someone’s knee, and another man proudly displaying a jar. Little did they know that these seemingly insignificant details would hold great significance in the years to come.

Five years later, in 1987, the group decided to reunite at the same cabin and check in with one another. They eagerly recreated the original photograph, ensuring that every detail was faithfully reproduced. They indulged in their traditional “wedge” taco dinner, which involved crafting a regular taco and then frying it on a scorching hot frying pan. The men swam, reminisced, and, once again, immortalized their bond through another photograph. Thus, a new tradition was born.

Over the course of the next 35 years, these friends faithfully maintained their ritual, gathering at the cabin every five years. In 2017, when CNN shared their story and photos online, the group unexpectedly found themselves catapulted into viral fame.

Suddenly, they were recognized by strangers while out in public. Mark recalls being stopped on the street, a surreal experience given how different he looked as an adult.

“It’s happened to me for a couple of reasons,” he explained. “I’m 6-foot-6 and I have facial hair. At first, people can’t pinpoint why I look familiar.”

Their next reunion was slated for 2022, but an unforeseen hurdle arose. In 2019, Dallas, the man seated in the middle of the original photo, received a devastating diagnosis of liposarcoma. Fearing that they had taken their final group photograph together, the friends grappled with a sense of loss.

“I was crushed,” expressed John. “We worried that there would be an empty spot on the bench where we take the picture.”

Dallas underwent surgery to remove a large cancerous tumor from his leg. Though he experienced some mobility challenges, he retained the ability to walk and was grateful for his survival. Due to Dallas’s battle with cancer and the subsequent pandemic, the friends had not gathered since 2017.

Consequently, their reunion in 2022 was an occasion of immense joy. And, as expected, they joyfully posed for “the photo,” ensuring the continuation of their cherished tradition.

The enduring friendship exhibited by these men and their commitment to documenting it through photographs is truly beautiful. We are delighted that Dallas has regained his health, and we commend these gentlemen for their foresight in initiating such a remarkable tradition all those years ago.

With anticipation, we eagerly await their next gathering in 2027, eager to witness the testament of friendship captured through their photographs once more.

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