Back in the 1950 and 60s we got out of school on Memorial Day and started back after Labor Day. The first of August always panicked us kids, knowing summer vacation was running out and there was much left to do.
There were trees not yet climbed, creeks to dam, camping trips that had not yet taken place and fishing holes not hit. Trees identified for future treehouse construction remained bare and rock piles needed to be converted to forts. We knew time was running out and tried our best to do everything we wanted to do.
There were about six ponds within range of me on my bicycle that I had permission to fish. I have good memories from all of them.
The closest was about 100 yards from our back fence on Rogers Dairy. It was small, really just a watering hole for the cows, and we often fished one area while cows waded others. We caught nothing but small bream there but it was fun playing with them.
Two more very close ones were side by side on some land owned by Dr. McGahee, our family doctor. His office was in Augusta but had a house and land near us and made home visits when we were sick. I remember him with his traditional black bag, checking me out when I felt bad.
His two ponds were well stocked and there was a shelter with picnic tables near it. Our church groups often had picnics there and at one, while I was fishing, a head slowly appeared near my cork from the murky water.
We jumped back, sure it was a snake, but after we went back to fishing, I hooked a big snapping turtle. That was the first turtle, but not the last, I caught. I remember how it clawed at the hook in its mouth when I managed to drag it out on the bank, finally breaking my line and returning to the water.
Those ponds were the favorite of my mother and grandmother. We often walked to them, me carrying my short cane pole while mama or grandmama carried a longer one and the five-gallon lard can with all our supplies, from corks and hooks to containers of earthworms and meal worms. We ate a lot of bream and cats from those ponds.
My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Black, lived on a farm about three miles from my house. The two ponds on it were my favorites. The lower one was smaller, and cows watered in it. There was on stump in the upper end and some bushes that hung over the water on one side where I often caught bass.
To fish the brushy bank we waded around the edges in jeans and tennis shoes, often up to our necks in water. There was some kind of water weed in the pond and we pushed through mats of it. In the middle a small channel dropped about two feet deeper.
Although I didn’t understand about thermoclines, my feet taught me water a few feet deep was often cooler than that above it. And the water in the ditch was always cool from the spring feeding it. Again, I did not understand why, but in the hot summer it seemed I caught more bass along the edge of the ditch than anywhere else in the pond.
The upper pond was harder to fish since it was lined with bushes and the bottom dropped off fast. There were gaps where we could get to the water and cast, but that limited our fishing.
The upper end of the pond was filled with stumps and brush so it was hard to wade, too. But it was full of fish, making it worth the effort. My favorite memory of that pond is the day Hal and I had taken a container of crickets left over from a trip with one of my uncles and rode our bikes out there.
The bream were bedding around the stumps in the upper end and we stood in one place and hooked a fat bluegill on every cast. They were bigger than what we usually caught and we took about 50 home. Cleaning them is not a favorite memory, but that was part of every successful trip.
Harrison’s Pond was about five miles away, about the limit of my bicycle travels. But I loved it. Very secluded back in the woods, there was a small cabin there, and as was usual back then, it was never locked. We would take a coke with us and put it in for a cold drink on hot days, and there was ice in the freezer compartment.
We caught a lot of bass there. One stands out in my memory, not because of size, it was only about two pounds, but because of the way it hit. A stump a long cast from the bank had a small bush on it. One cast hung my Hula Popper on a limb.
As I pulled to try to free it, it bent down to the water and the bass hit it. When I pulled the bass would come out of the water then go back down as I let my line go slack. It finally came loose from the bush and I landed it.
Usury’ Pond was too far for my bicycle, but mom and I went there when she had time to drive us there and fish, and I caught my first bass there. And my uncles took me sometimes. It was full of stumps and logs, and big bass.
I hooked and lost several big fish that wrapped me up on the wood cover and broke my line. But one did not get away. I could see it flash as it fought against my line around the log in about six feet of water, so I did the sensible thing. I took off my shoes and shirt and swam down to it and grabbed it. It was only about three pounds, but I was proud I was able to land it.
Ponds make great memories. I hope kids have some to fish.