The pond in the night

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WAKING FOR A spell in the middle of the night presents one with three options:

First, go right back to sleep. This is preferred. Second is chewing on a minor problem that, due to its appearing in the middle of the night, magnifies spectacularly in significance. This is your least desirable path. For me, there is a third.

Go to Wavering Pond.

I lived on my maternal grandparents’ 500-acre farm in southwest Georgia from the age of six months until I was on the brink of 7, which is when we moved to Florida.

I regularly traveled the 200 miles to the farm for visits, first to my grandparents and later to my parents who returned there to live after my grandmother died during a visit to New Orleans, and they inherited the place. My mother was an only child.

They sold the farm and moved to Atlanta in the mid-1980s.

That farm was wonderful. There were huge fields of cotton, corn and peanuts. There were Hereford cows and a grove of pecan trees. Then, due to a government program, that all vanished (not the pecan trees) and was replaced by pines.

The best part of the farm was Wavering Pond which was about a quarter-mile behind the old house, a short and easy walk. That’s not it in the photo, but that’s precisely how it looked. The pond was full of cypress trees that grew right in the water.

My grandparents always kept a rowboat there and a paddle. It was a rustic affair, a little leaky, but it worked well for sliding over the surface or for fishing. I never fished. I explored. I spent hours over the decades paddling alone and slowly across that pond, and it was a very large pond, two or three acres or so.

It was always quiet and, except right out in the middle, a bit dark and creepy. There were owls and crows. Long ago, perhaps in my 20s — I don’t recall exactly — I dreamed of building a home there just like Thoreau, a place to live alone and not be bothered by people.

Additionally, it was going to be an underground home, dug into the hillside that rose up from the pond’s dark, clear waters, dark due to the many cypress trees. It’s an idea that still appeals to one’s hermit nature.

So now, in the middle of the night when I awaken, I visit the pond. I’m in the rowboat alone always, looking over the side, seeing bass and brim, the occasional snake and turtle. And I go back to sleep drifting among cypress knees.

Old times there are not forgotten

 

pond2

I WOULD PADDLE the unpainted rowboat alone over bream, minnows, snakes, tadpoles and trout through this water named Wavering Pond, even though it was much nearer a lake, filled with Spanish moss and tall cypress trees holding black crows that, being smart, would fly away before I could shotgun them.

It was the 1950s.

Further back, during Hoover’s Depression, my mother would swim there, leaping off a rope tied to a cypress limb. But I never entered that water because I thought it dubious, and I saw more snakes than I would have liked.

So I stuck to my boat and the paddle, just one paddle so you couldn’t really row. You poled and paddled, but since you weren’t going anywhere in a rush, that worked just fine.

Our pond rested down a rutted dirt road about a quarter mile of corn field and Hereford cows behind this house that had been in our family since the 1890s — just 30 years after the bloody war.

home

At first, as was common, the front and one side of the house was one long screened porch for sitting, free of flies, on rocking chairs with cold lemonade on summer days after dinner. And watching fireflies at night after supper. But times and styles and desires changed, and the porch was cut off, saving just this short piece.

There was an interim style, still short but with a wood banister, where my dirt-farmer grandfather would sit and prop up his long, skinny legs in Dickies pants, looking across the red-clay road that ran directly in front of the house about 18 feet away. He usually wore a stained felt fedora and a cigarette, which eventually killed him.

The cigarette, not the fedora.

garage

Shifting your gaze leftward, past a stretch of yard and a pecan tree, you would have seen this garage. They parked Fords there. It was always Fords. Even the tractors were Fords. These were my mother’s people. If you wanted Chevrolets, my father’s family was the place to visit, up north of Atlanta, almost 200 miles away.

But you never heard any fussing about it. Chevrolets versus Fords. It’s not like anybody was a Yankee.

We were all on the same squad that mattered.

These pictures were taken in the 1980s after many of us had died, including the corn, the cows and my dog named Pepper. It had changed an awful lot. Even the red-clay road out front had turned into asphalt.