Dead Fish Last Year at the Big Pond

The Big Pond Last Fall

By this time a year ago,
the drought had progressed
and the 10-acre farm pond
our dad built with his bulldozer in the 1940’s
had come to the end of its lifespan.
It had been dry for a month.
The fish had been gone
for two months.
During the winter,
the dam was rebuilt,
the water catchment system improved,
parts of the pond reconfigured
and with a couple of three-inch rains
last spring,
it became the Big Pond
again.
With the continuing deep drought
this summer,
the pond depth is down again,
but there is still water,
and we hope there will be
for a long time to come.
Turtles and snakes and frogs
have returned.
Egrets have visited.
The Great Blue Heron
flies over once in awhile,
keeping an eye out,
we think,
for fish.
We’ve been waiting
for the end of summer
to fetch the baby fish
from the state fish nursery.
And yesterday,
Ann drove to Cherokee,
loaded up the fish
and brought them home,
where we released them
into the Big Pond—
5,000 tiny Blue Gill.
1,000 tiny Channel Catfish.
More will be brought
next spring.

Oklahoma State Fish Nursery at Cherokee, OK

Releasing Fish in the Big Pond

We set the bags of fish into the water
where they floated for a few moments,
giving the fish time to adjust to the temperature.
Then, without fanfare,
we opened the bags
and let the fish out
to swim
in their new home.
It was a quiet, poignant
moment for us…
because we almost lost this cherished pond—
indeed, there was loss
and it was painful to experience;
because Ann and her family did a great deal
to bring it back.
If they had done nothing,
it would have returned
to prairie.
So, honestly,
the restoration of the Big Pond
has been much about sustaining human
body and spirit,
around a habitat
we appreciate
deeply.
The process
has not only restored
the family tradition
of living next to
and enjoying
the Big Pond,
it will help us live on the prairie
as the effects of global warming
continue.
The restored pond
provides water catchment
for watering garden and orchard,
as well as the food supply of fish.
We hope too
it serves well
the species
who live their lives here,
whose presence
we have missed.