little duck pond was marked off by the town as a place where only children
could fish. They needed no license to drop a hook and line into the
shallow water. It was a quiet place all surrounded by drooping branches of
willow trees. There were silly old ducks who were veterans of the place as
well as descendants of those who had come here years before. Mixing of
different kinds of wild geese, Mallards, Canadian Honkers and white tame
birds made them of a new variety with spots, speckles and mottled colors.
If the tame geese had taught the wild ones how to greet the visitor this
was anyone's guess but made for a pleasant time for kids living in a wild
world themselves and who were possibly in need of this sort of respect to
be given to them.
Whoever was holding the
sack of bread crumbs was converged upon by flanks of swimming and waddling
birds and it didn't matter if the person was an adult or child. Because
the holder of the feed sack was sometimes small and a bit intimidated this
could cause that little one to have to summons up a bit more courage in
order to hold their ground while the pushy birds, boldly approached them.
Rarely did the child drop the plastic bag to turn to Mama for protection.
Something in the child's protective spirit made them the benefactor and
protector of these hungry ducks whose beaks and bills looked to be
Minnows, tiny fish, who
in the same way the ducks had learned about handouts, knew the crumbs
forthcoming from the bits of pieces of bread were landing here and there
in scattered abandon in the water as the birds shook the bread slices into
smaller, more easily managed portions. Of course, these fish that were
able to avoid being eaten themselves, became larger. Mothers who were
alert to their children's need for adventure brought along with them a
fishing pole, line and hook. Worms for bait were available from a box in a
refrigerated machine at one of the bait shops. Or some of the less
squeamish Moms might have disturbed a rich flower bed to search for a few
of the wigglers.
The look of pure
surprise and pleasure for when the child's first fish was caught became
recorded on Mother's mind, forever, and even without a camera. The
instructions to follow were necessary because the child after bringing the
prize fish of a few inches long on shore became, seemingly paralyzed. They
were undecided about what to do next. The fish was flopping about and its
scales made lovely rainbow colors as they caught the sun.
“Be careful how you
pick him up!” Mother advised. “Don't let him fin you! Those fins can
poke through your skin just like needles and does that ever smart. Hurry!
He will flop all the way back into the water again and be gone, line and
all, if you don't hurry.”
A pair of pliers came
from Mom's coat pocket as she helped her child learn to remove the hook
from the fish's mouth.
“Does that hurt? Are we
going to throw him back? Is he big enough to keep?” The child's questions
came in rapid succession? “Dad says you have to throw small fish back.”
“Dad has a different
reason for fishing.” The Mom answered her son. “I want you to take this
fish, learn to scale and clean it. My folks always taught us catching game
was not for sport but for food. This is what you must learn to do.
The son had a lesson
that day and even though he was very young the teaching stuck. He learned
how to clean, scale and cook the fish all on his own with only his mother
pointing out and giving directions while he worked. Even the breading and
cooking of his meal gave a studied, mature look to the boy while he stood
patiently waiting for the fish to brown crispy in the skillet. The tasty
tid-bit of a morsel he slipped onto a plate his mother had prepared for
The question for that
one who devised and designed the tiny duck pond on the edge of a greater
lake at the side of town might be, “Were you able to see into our future
to a time when, even in these country places, nature would have to be
available in such a way? Into our own mind is a realization and respect
for those who have gone before us. How they could teach so quietly and to
generations they themselves did not know is as beautiful as the rainbow
colors on the scales of fish.