July 28, 2006
There used to be a small but beautiful wooded area near where I live. It was thick with trees and had a long rock wall that ran parallel to the road. It’s been cleared now, apparently because some dimwit decided a small patch of forest wasn’t nearly as productive as a broad swath of dirt with a view of the interstate. Eventually it’ll be a shopping center because the closest shopping center is half a mile away, and that was too far for some people even when gas was cheap. It was productive when it was a piece of mostly untouched wilderness. It was productive in the way the McCombs’ farm was productive. The McCombs are friends of my parents, and we called the place where they used to live a farm because it had a barn and a couple of cows and a lot of unused land. There was also a house which was actually seven different interconnected buildings perpetually under construction, but that’s another story.
The main thing I remember is the pond. It’s been said that if you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish he’ll spend his weekends sitting in a boat drinking beer. I left the beer drinking to my father. My father doesn’t drink a lot, but when he was at the McCombs’ house the only time he didn’t have a bottle of beer in his hand was when he was holding a glass of wine. But I digress. The McCombs’ pond was really more of an overgrown puddle. If you tried to put a standard fishing boat in it pond the bow and stern would be on dry land, but there were fish in that puddle. I know this because the McCombs had four daughters who were always getting me into trouble. One Sunday afternoon when I was four they convinced me to go wading in the pond while I still had my church clothes on. While I was in there I saw a big fat fish looking up at me from the mud. I told everyone about that fish, and everyone told me I was crazy. So one summer about ten years later I took a fishing pole and some worms down to the pond. I’m not really a fisherman. Fishermen consider water color, temperature, the weather, and about three-thousand other factors when deciding whether to use a screaming skeeter or a wriggling whirligig spinner. All I know how to do it stick a worm on a hook and drop it in the water and when something pulled I pulled back. And I pulled out a three-pound bass. People still called me crazy after that, but at least they believed me about the fish. I don’t know what’s become of the pond or the farm. The McCombs moved. Maybe it’s been taken over by some dimwit and turned into strip malls and chain restaurants that churn out deep-fried chum. Or maybe it’s just far enough from a shopping conglomerate that it’s been left untouched, aside from the birds, insects, snakes, a few big fat fish, maybe some deer, and the slow steps and soft breath of a couple of cows. How could you call a place like that anything but productive?