Some famous people own LakeMat Pros, MuckMat Pros and Boatlift Mats. We can’t say who, but we’re in Michigan, so if you follow Detroit’s music or sports, you might have a hunch.
Our most unique customer isn’t famous — but his ancestor is world famous, or infamous — and you know who he is.
I got a call from a guy who has a cottage in northern Michigan. His neighbor has MuckMat Pros and he thought they were awesome. He wanted to stop at our shop and get some MuckMat on his way up to his cottage.
I asked his last name over the phone.
“Tepes,” he answered, “T-e-p-e-s.”
“Tepes?” I asked.
“Yes, Tepes,” he answered.
I’d written about a man named Tepes.
I couldn’t resist. “So… How’s your great-great-whatever-great-granddad doing?”
“He’s still dead — I hope!” We both laughed.
“You get asked that a lot, I bet,” I said.
“Actually, nobody’s mentioned it in probably 25 years,” he said.
I was excited to meet him.
Years earlier I wrote for the Grand Rapids Press. One Halloween, I was asked to a piece on Vlad Tepes.
Little Vlad Tepes father was Vlad Dracul. Dracul meant dragon (or the devil). Vlad’s dad was a member of the “Order of the Dragon,” a band of Christian knights who fought against the Ottoman Turk invasion of Europe in the 1400s.
Little Vlad was know as Vlad Dracula — meaning “Vlad, Son of the Dragon,” the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire novel, Dracula. Pronounced “Dra-cool-la,” with the emphasis on “cool,” it’s fun to say out loud.
Vlad ruled Walachia, which along with Transylvania and Moldavia, make up modern Romania where he’s seen as a George Washington-type figure, having saved his country and Europe by keeping the Ottomans at bay.
Of course, some see him as a monster…
His tactics were extreme; impaling prisoners and leaving them along roads the Ottomans traveled.
A historian traveling with the Ottoman army recalled arriving at a valley with a vast orchard. Getting closer, they saw the orchard was actually 20,000 captured Ottoman soldiers impaled on wooden spikes. The Ottoman army retreated in horror.
Vlad’s brutality made him infamous. It’s estimated he impaled over 100,000 people — Ottomans, Hungarians and anyone else who annoyed him. The name Tepes meant “impaler.” It became the surname of all Vlad’s heirs, including his many illegitimate children.
And so it was, I met a Vlad Tepes descendant and his wife at our shop in Caledonia, Michigan.
“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Tepes, I didn’t expect to see you until after dark,” I said.
“We have really dark tinted windows in the SUV,” he replied, “keeps the sun out.”
I showed him the MuckMat boxes. He noted they were similar to the crypts they slept in at home. We talked for an hour and made lots of very corny vampire references. He didn’t mind our plastic stakes. “As long as they’re not wooden stakes they’re okay with me,” he said.
We loaded up his MuckMat Pro and they drove off. It was nearly dark — and they were hungry…
They were very nice people, with a great sense of humor — and a very mucky, weedy beach. Their MuckMat Pros eliminated lakes weeds like Vlad Dracula eliminated the invading Ottomans, only without the impaling part.
Back at home, I sat with my wife on our porch. Coyotes began howling across the lake. “Listen,” my wife said, “do you hear them?”
“Yes,” I answered. “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make. Ha, Ha, Haaaaaa…”
“You’re weird,” she said.
“The luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds… true love.”
—Bram Stoker’s Dracula