I Remember When . . . .
Great Stories about growing up in the Horntown, Oklahoma area!

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The Pond

More Pond Stories

     A good farm pond is a magnificent micro-ecosystem, but the newer ones, built in the last fifty years or more do not seem to possess all the features necessary for the natural cycling of this. These ponds are usually a cone shaped hole in the ground. They seldom have an expanse of shallow water. In our old farm ponds, dug with a slip shovel and pulled by a team of horses or mules, the water would taper off into shallows as the expanse reached toward the shoreline. The water adjoining the dam was much deeper, giving access to a continuing cycle of natural life for other creations of nature. This created a wonderful ecosystem. The deeper waters provided homes for fish, both large and small, and could sustain more oxygen for their existence. The shallow waters provided the right habitat for spawning. Life cycles occurring here were among the best of the food chain.
     The food chain expanded greatly from the pond when waterfowl and other creatures including people came to enjoy the fruits of this system. Livestock, wild birds and other wildlife would drink from and bathe in these refreshing waters. There were Willows for the shelter and housing of wildlife. There were reeds and cattails for the protection of pond life and for the attachments of avian nests, where they could lay their eggs, hatch their young and grow them into full flight. And as my good friend Clayton Adair, who helped me on this mentioned, at times they were food for predators such as snakes and others.  Yes, there were predators to keep nature in balance. In the shallows, cranes, ducks, geese, herons, egrets and other wading birds could trek through and feed from the bottom, getting the food needed to sustain and propagate life. There were hawks and wild animals that preyed on these birds. If a hunter, when approaching a pond, should notice hawks diving toward the pond, they could be aware that there were ducks and determine their location by the nature of the dive. The hawks would be trying to frighten the ducks into flight, enabling them to dive on them in the air and with a closed fist, rendering them unconscious, so they could follow them to the ground and enjoy a meal. Crayfish [crawdads] abounded in the shallows. Mussels obtained their food in the muck here, by slowly filtering nutrients from the muck, while leaving their slicing tracks in the bottom.        
     The pond was also infested with heavy-bodied water snakes. These were predators and in turn were preyed upon. At times a mud dog, or developing Salamander would be found. The seeds of grasses and other foliage grew abundantly surrounding the pond for the wildlife to feed upon. The ducks, the geese, the waders all deposited droppings, thereby increasing the fertility of the pond and keeping the oxygen giving plant life healthy and proliferate. Ducks and geese benefited mankind by providing food for the table and down for warmth and comfort. Raccoons benefited from the pond, as they washed their food in the water before consuming it. One theory as to why they do this is cleanliness, another is that the increased moisture in their mouths is an assist in consumption.
     Trees would grow healthily around the pond, giving cooling shade to animals, while producing such  nutritional fruits as Persimmons nuts and seeds. All good for wildlife and people. Dewberries and Blackberries were abundant on the dams and banks for all of us. It could also be used for bathing and for baptizing. When the rims of a wagon's wooden wheels became loosened by evaporation, the wagon could be backed into the pond to absorb the healing water and expand the wooden wheels to hold the rims snugly in place. Canoes and small fishing boats could be propelled across the surface just for fun or food gathering such as fishing, changing in the winters into an ice skating rink. bullfrogs were plentiful along the banks and shallows to be taken for a scrumptious meal. And if the tendons were not removed before frying, they might jump out of the pan. Frogs of many kinds many kinds also spawned in the shallow water, as evidenced by the little tadpoles hatched from their myriads of eggs. These too provided food for the larger pond life. For some unknown reason, possibly diseases, frog life is suffering from a continuing declination in population worldwide. Also the toad has now gained it's rightful place and is now  identified as being among the frog species.
       Squirrels would plant nuts in the vicinity of the pond, thus ensuring the continuance of future shelter and food. Turtles were a part of the system as a link in the food chain. These were predators and were also preyed upon. They are also food for human beings. Water Cress and other edible plants are a part of this domain. Some of the birds will reach down into the shallows and pull up the plants and dine on their succulent roots.
     The Willow trees can be used for building and weaving into furniture. They are used in crating, slack cooperage, artificial limbs and pulpwood. Excelsior is made from them. A high grade of charcoal made from the wood has been used in the manufacture of gun powder. The Indians here were using a substance from the inner bark of the willow called acetylsalicylic acid for a pain reliever. Therefore, the Indians were using aspirin long before the white man arrived. If a cutting is taken from a plant to be placed in water for rooting, the rooting process may be aided greatly by cutting a twig of Willow and placing it in the water for several days, letting the water absorb the nutrients from the twig before placing the cutting in the water.
     Honey bees make their way to the pond to drink from the water, and while there, may pollinate plants for the further propagation of the species, Willow pollen being of much importance in their production of honey. In detecting the direction of the bees'  hives, thereby availing oneself of their delicious honey, one can take advantage of a practice called coursing. Wait and watch for the incoming honeybees and when they have taken their fill, note the direction in which they leave. They will fly a beeline in the direction of their hive. Butterflies abound there adding to the beauty, while performing some of the same tasks. Water bugs of different varieties, along with spiders that skate on water are there to help the chain by providing protein for the fish. This is only a small portion of the ecosystem.
     The old farm pond was nature at it's acme, a source of calmness for the spirit and a source of beauty for the eye to behold. A builder of pleasant dreams, creation in continuous progress. Even the spillways sometimes echoed the past, as erosion etched the soil, exposing layers laid down in former years. Of course, at the top of the food chain is the human being  We benefit vastly from this marvelous little ecosystem by taking advantage of the complete food chain in place there. It seems that with the cone shaped ponds, we no longer have the advantage of the shallows and many other features that promote the necessary habitat for as complete an ecosystem as the good old original down-home farm pond.
       One of the most important aspects of the pond and another furnished by Clayton Adair, one that I had forgotten to mention. That of swimming in it. Clayton's comments are: farm pond fishing used to be the best fishing in the world. I spent lots of Sunday afternoons swimming naked [and we sure did] in these old ponds, diving for mussel shells and jumping out of trees on the banks. I think it's sad that kids today do not know how to have fun like that. The world of the farm pond. Maybe only a few will remember.
Harry Shumard and Clayton Adair

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