My wife grew up on her family's farm northeast of Russia that has two small ponds behind the barn. The family photo above taken in 1957 shows the smaller pond in the background. Her grandfather DJ had an old house trailer shown in the aerial photo below that was situated next to the pond where the family would congregate on weekends to hold fishing contests, fish fries, barbecues and play games.
Grandpa DJ especially enjoyed spending time there. In fact, he was at the pond when he died in 1976, likely his favorite place in the world. That’s definitely the way to go! He loved fishing; to the point this blogpost was written about his fishing tackle box that I picked up when the family divided up his personal belongings after his death. One of my wife’s high school classmates posted the following comment about the blog sharing his experiences at the pond:
"Really enjoyed this. I remember DJ's annual parties at the pond on the farm, I believe on first day of hunting season. All of the politicians (DJ & Gov. Gilligan shown below), priests, and celebrities of all stripes were there. Also, all of the local good ol' boys such as George Coffield, Shep (Simon), Charlie Grogean, Syl Daniel, etc. Free food, beer, liquor, cigars, cigarettes, etc. DJ was in his element going around patting everybody on the back. I guess I was invited because I was the local banker at the time. He gave me an ashtray that said "who is DJ" on it. Just a way of promoting his "brand". There were a lot of "characters" in those days but DJ was truly one of a kind. I guess God decided there was no sense in trying to duplicate him". :-)
My wife recalls riding in a rowboat with her father on the pond when it capsized, spilling both overboard. Her father lost his glasses and the first thing she feared was that her father couldn’t see to rescue her. But needless to say, he did. Then there was the time my wife’s two sisters ran away from home and they were feared to have drowned in the pond only to eventually be found in the nearby woods. My wife said she ran all over the farm crying the whole time while looking for them. And her brother recalls sneaking into grandpa DJ’s trailer with his friends as teenagers to sample the "stash of booze, cigs, guns and fireworks; all those things kids shouldn't be doing”.
Her sisters remember grandpa’s “creepy” bedroom in the trailer and several small mini-bikes the kids would ride all around the property. Apparently, once their mother almost ran one into the pond, which would have been a sight to see!
The family recalls ice skating on the pond in the winter, building a fire next to the ice to keep warm. The trailer was no longer useable so was eventually torn down and replaced by a much nicer and larger building with a restroom, small kitchenette, TV and wood burning stove for heat. With the new building in place, the family would host an annual party on the Saturday night before Father’s Day at the pond that included a band which would play from a makeshift stage made out of a hay wagon. It was quite an affair held before most of us had children. Once the kids started arriving, the tradition became history! Here’s a photo from one of the parties with an Hawaiian theme.
Our son would stay a week each summer with his cousins who lived near the farm. They’d of course spend most of their time goofing off around the pond. He recalls one year getting a fish hook caught in his finger requiring stitches and a tetanus shot. Ouch!
Fun at the pond still occurs to this day as shown on the following photographs. Only now the family has grown to 75 including in-laws, grandkids and great grandkids. We’re planning a family picture this Labor Day weekend, which should be an interesting experience. Maybe the setting will be out at the pond?
On one family get-together, I recall placing my bother-in-law's shoes on two posts in the middle of the pond. This photo shows him and my wife's youngest brother paddling out to recapture the shoes.
Every so often, someone would snag a gar fish that DJ had stocked in the pond many years ago. That was an automatic fishing derby winner!
The pond served an even more important role to the family a number of years ago when the family business located on the site of the original family farm buildings caught on fire. The pond provided the needed source of water for the fire department to isolate the fire and keep it from spreading to adjacent buildings. As a result, the company was able to restart production shortly after the fire, never missing a delivery to their customers.
Here’s an aerial photo of the pond as it looks today. After the fire, the larger pond was deepened and expanded to provide a source of water for the new sprinkler system installed in the family business shown in the lower right.
The pond provided so many fun times and great memories over the years; with for sure many more to come.