Dearing Branch was one of the great joys of my youth. From the fence on the north side of our farm where it entered to the pipe under Iron Hill Road where it left our property, it ran about three quarters of mile.
I explored, played, hunted and fished the branch on our neighbor’s property on either side, too, but the section on our farm was my special heaven. I knew every foot of it, from the shallow sandy area where we built a swimming hole to the deep cut bank with an overhanging stump where I caught bream.
Near the north fence line, the ground was sandy and the branch wide and shallow. It narrowed to go between two trees, a perfect place for a dam. And we dammed it every summer, filling croker sacks with sand dug from the bottom and placed between the two trees and on either side of them.
By digging out a lot of sand and making a good dam, we created a swimming hole about chest deep on a ten-year-old. We skinny dipped there on hot summer days, then stood around on the bank in the sun until we dried enough to put on our clothes. Shoes were not problem; we never wore them in the summer.
The swimming hole lasted until the first good thunderstorm, when rushing water washed away our best efforts. One summer we got the bright idea that an old crosstie placed in front of the trees, then filled in with sandbags, would stop it from washing away.
Three boys never labored as hard to do anything as we did dragging that crosstie a few hundred yards. Those things are heavy. And it worked great, for a short time. Even though they are very heavy, we found out rushing water can turn a crosstie sideways and wash away the sandbags.
I fished for many hours on the branch. I read outdoor magazines, and thought I could tie flies to catch branch fish like the folks I read about tied them to catch stream trout.
My flies were tied on small bream hooks with mama’s sewing thread. I used chicken feathers, we had plenty. But my creations looked nothing like what was in the magazine. They were way too big, bulky and a wadded mess.
But when tied to a short length of fishing line on a stick from the branch bank, and dabbled on top of the water just right, a bream or what I called horny heads would hit them. The horny heads were long and skinny, and had knots on their heads.
When I say long, I mean three inches long. And bream were about the same size. We knew there were small mud cats in the branch, we caught them by hand during dry summers when the branch dried up except for a few deep holes. Every fish in the area went to those holes, where they quickly used up so much oxygen the fish would swim on top and we could scoop them up.
I hunted squirrels and rabbits up and down the branch, and one time jumped a duck. I spent many hours the next few years trying to find another one without any success. I also hunted snipe and killed a couple. Yes, there really are such a bird and they are related to their northern cousins the woodcock.
One winter the pool right at the Iron Hill Road pipe froze over, and I “ice skated” on its ten foot by ten-foot surface until I broke though. Luckily, the water was only two feet deep, but my feet in my boots were freezing by the time I ran back to the house!
Branches create great memories.