Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pond Memories

The full moon looked huge as it hung silently over the Jones farm. In fact, it was absolutely luminous, captivating me with its clarity and priceless golden glow. Looking down into the dirty red water in front of me, I saw the image of that reflective orb and marveled at its face. Ripples rolled across the murky surface and drew my attention to the left. I could see movement in the pond, next to the cattails, just under the broken cottonwood limb hanging in the water. I unconsciously rubbed my right hand between thumb and forefinger, the place where that big, old, nasty catfish had "finned" me minutes earlier.

Navajo Silver & Coral Butterfly Buckle

I was resting on the cut-bank of the small pond behind Bob Howell's grocery store in our home town of Bluff. I had come here to enjoy the cool respite provided by the evening breeze blowing leisurely across the water, and was looking for adventure. It was my intent to catch the "monster cat" that dwelt in the pond. I had removed my short-boots and waded into the thick, putrid muck of what was now only slightly more than a glorified mud puddle. The summer heat had evaporated the water to a point where the fish was barely able to move about. When I cornered it and made a grab, the "whiskered terror of the deep" raised the spiny fin on its back and struck. Surprised at this unexpected response, I waded back out of the pond, cut a large, thick willow with my camp knife and began to fashion a jiggin' stick to dispatch the creature.

The new moon held my attention as I watched it highlight the rusty, red, mineral-stained face of the cliffs surrounding our hometown and exaggerate their shadowed cracks and crevices. With the stillness, the bullfrogs began to sing their raggedy love songs. The crickets soon joined in with the high-pitched, fiddle-like chirp distinctive of their kind, and the mourning doves added their gentle, yet haunting, coo to the mix. I could hear the raspy caw of a raven near the Twin Rocks, the crunch of gravel under rubber as a car drove slowly down Mulberry Lane, dogs exchanging greetings across the valley and the distinctive call of the neighborhood owl hooting across the pond near the Gaines home. I also heard my mother calling Craig, Steve and me to dinner. Mom's voice was followed by the more insistent chorus of our sisters Susan and Cindy.

I was not sure where my brothers might be, but I knew they could not be far. It was typical for us to splinter off in the evening and seek out personal interests. I sat there enchanted by the evening, enjoying the simple beauty surrounding me, the sounds of nature and home while carving away on my spear. I still had thoughts of delivering that catfish to my mother's kitchen, although I was equally sure she would not be happy to see it. No matter, my brothers and father would certainly be impressed.

At that moment, a sharp whistle split the night and reverberated through town. My illusions of grandeur abruptly dissipated. When dad called we made it a point to get home in short order. I quickly drew on my boots, mud and all, and headed to the house. Pausing for a moment at the street lamp near the post office, I let fly a couple hands-full of pea gravel at the bats swooping in and out of the light. They were grabbing moths and other flying insects drawn to the artificial flame. It never ceased to amaze me how those crazy bats can avoid a full load of hand-thrown buck shot. Mrs. Goforth's cat, hiding in the nearby bushes, proved much less elusive. Another sharp note; time to get home!

I never did catch that ornery old catfish. It disappeared that very same night. I expect it was the owl that fished it from unsafe waters, or maybe a fox or coyote; they were all common in town. Mom and the girls were happy to hear the fish had gone to feed some more appreciative soul; "mud cats" were not their favorite food. The pond has long since dried up, as has another favorite watering hole across town, to the north of the L. H. Redd Jr. home.

Those ponds were fantastic little ecosystems for young boys and girls to learn from and enjoy. They attracted every bug, reptile and varmint in the country, including us. We became aware of outrageous creatures such as bulbous-eyed red and blue, "souped-up", dragonflies; delicate yet strikingly attractive butterflies; and other flying creatures. We stayed away from moths, however, because our Native American friends warned us of "moth madness", an ailment that makes you crazy. We recognized snakes, frogs and plant life. Nature was our playground and we took advantage of the opportunity to revel in it.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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