What’s in a name? Back when Devon and I were courting and found ourselves (long story) in the Kenya’s Samburu Valley, she described a minor revelation that the place had for her. Years earlier, when she was reading Deliah Owens’ Cry of the Kalahari – yes, same Deliah Owens – she’d been annoyed at the author and her husband’s presumption setting up camp somewhere and just, well, naming everything they saw. That thing was Green Mountain, the place over there was One Tree Hill.
But then there we were in our own alien (to us) landscape, trying to describe the places we saw to each other. Of course there were Maasai names for the places, and of course there were colonial European names, but we were there, trying to communicate a place we’d never needed a name for to each other, so “the ravine where we saw all the springbok” became “the springbok ravine” and eventually just “springbok ravine.” And so on. Almost against any intention, descriptions become names that may, in many cases, long outlast any vestige of the thing they were describing about a place.
Which brings me to the fish pond.
We have, by current count, five ponds on the farm. The one by the house quite naturally became “the house pond.” The intermittent one in the brush pasture likewise “the brush pond.” “Barn pond” is obvious, and that first spring, when all the ducks gathered in the wetland tucked in on the southeast corner of the property, we just started calling it “the duck pond.”
All of these ponds are seasonal, drying out in turn as July turns to August. The only one that’s really year round is a man-made excavation off on the southwest border of the farm that we took to calling “the fish pond.” Why fish pond? Because one of our neighbors used to snip the fence wires and fish there. He was an odd and physically-imposing gentleman, clearly formerly of great strength, but now hobbled by Parkinson’s. I introduced myself one afternoon, as non-confrontationally as I could, and engaged him in conversation. He said he’d been fishing in this pond forever, that he’d had an arrangement with the old patriarch of the farm to stock it in return for fishing rights.
There’d apparently been a falling out once the patriarch had passed on, but he clearly still felt it was his moral right to keep the deal alive. I considered this a bit and, after some legal consultation, approached him with an agreement he signed that let him continue to pursue this pastime. After all, the pond was maybe 100 feet from his back door, and we were all living on the other side of the farm, going weeks without ever even seeing that pond. Seemed a shame to deprive that from a man with so few pleasures left to him.
I saw him down by the pond from time to time when I walked that part of the farm, and sometimes I moseyed down and chatted with him. I never saw anything on his line, and he’d always change the topic when I asked if he’d caught anything. But the sun was usually out then, and it was pleasant to sit and talk, even if he was a bit…odd.
He passed away less than a year later. I still had no evidence other than his word that there had ever been fish in that pond, but of course by then “the fish pond” was what we all called it.
Some time last year, I began wondering what it would take to actually have the fish pond live up to its name. After all, it’s a little to small to be interesting to paddle around and a little too cold to swim in for very long. But it’s always been a sweet little spot to hang out and watch the sun go down. Why not fish, too, while we’re at it?
Step One was a permit. Some Googling revealed that, while many seem to skip this step, the Dept of Fish and Wildlife would really like you to not add fish to any body of water without giving them the chance to review your plan and be convinced that you’re not about devastate some ecosystem by releasing a dangerous invasive species into it. There seemed little chance we were doing anything dangerous, but I found the conversation with the DFW folks both painless and educational. So based on their recommendation, we filled out and shortly after received paperwork to launch approximately 200 rainbow trout into the fish pond’s apparently-fish-free waters.
All that happened mid-summer last year. Apparently trout like their water cold, so both the DFW folks and the family that runs Nisqually Trout Farm recommended that we wait until fall, or better, spring for the operation.
Time passed. Things happened. There was an election. An insurrection. Vaccines. Other stuff, none of which had anything to do with the ostensible fish pond. But when I called John at Nisqually a few weeks ago, he agreed that the time was right and made plans to come on up with a truck full of trout.
Now the good folks at Nisqually Trout Farm have all sorts of sophisticated ways of getting fish from truck to pond. Their website shows devices for sending fish through a tube across a lawn, or off a bridge. But for our good old fish pond, John just drove the truck up to about good strolling distance, loaded a bucket full of water, scooped the fish in, and walked them to the pond himself. Several tried to leap free the bucket prematurely and try their luck on dry land, but I think we got them all.
I’m sure the heron will get his share, but after surveying the site and his handiwork, John opined that our slippery new friends are going to be happy here. Even if we never end up catching any of them, I already know I’ll be happy no longer having to explain to everyone why it’s called the fish pond.