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November 18th, 2003

Gurdon Pond

Where I grew up, sawmills were a big thing. Most folks worked at a fancy place called the "pineply", where they turned pine wood into plywood. Those folks who didn't work (I had to restrain myself from writing "them as didn't work") at the pineply often worked logging and driving logging trucks. Some folks worked driving "pulpwood trucks", which harvested little hardwood and scrub trees for uses in "pulpwood". As I sit here today, I cannot recall what pulpwood might be, but it sounds like something they use for publishing Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.

I believe that Gurdon Pond was originally a mill pond. In past times, mill ponds had all sorts of creative uses, like places for logs which were floated down rivers to repose, or arcane machinery-related uses I do not know, and therefore cannot really describe.

They have a saying in Arkansas that it rains fish. This means that in any pond or water ditch, no matter how small, fish appear if one does not "stock" them. This phenemenon arises due to many creeks and frequent rain, which make little alliances among ponds sufficient to permit fish transmission. Blue gills, bream and various other sunfish, bullhead catfish (called "chucklehead" by the locals), and
even the stray bass will eventually come to live in every pond. The local livebearer, the mosquito fish, will swim throughout the shallows.

Gurdon Pond is just a couple of miles outside town. It was next to the city park where the little Boy Scout hut was found, a place with picnic tables where nobody much picnicked. The pond had an assortment of fish in it, which few people fished. Other lakes were better "stocked".

Game and fish commissions are curious things. They spend a lot of time working to ensure that fishermen have bass for which to fish. Sometimes this comes at the expense of less glamorous species. So it was with Gurdon pond, where they
undertook a campaign to rid the lake of all fish, and then put in the striped bass.

My childhood memory of fishing at Gurdon Pond is working between willow trees and other overgrowth to get my worm out into the shallows, where bream would make the bobber bob. The brush was always in the way, but that was somehow part of the charm. Now they're cleared out the trees and shrubbery, rendering it a clear, somewhat sterile horizon.

I know that bass fishing is probably at least as much fun as throwing a line and being happy with whatever non-game-fish takes the line. But that's not the way I view the world.
I want to throw my hook in the water, and catch--and release--whatever is on offer. I don't need my fishing experience "managed". I am not out to break records, or hook the "big one", or hurl a fly at a trout. I just want to bait an earthworm on a hook, and ease my cane pole among the tree branches.

I hope to go home to Arkansas this weekend, where my parents
live in Camden these days. I won't go out to White Oak Lake, as it is deer season and I am worried I look like a particularly hefty spike buck. But perhaps I can find a way to get to the Ouachita River landing downtown. I'll pitch
my worm in on the bottom, and see if a drum fish or some other "rough" fish will cooperate. If I catch one, I'll return it to the water. I hope they never "improve" that river for fishermen. I wish I had fished Gurdon Pond more often when I was a kid. I think of all the fun I had when I was a kid, and then, as if it were cotton candy, I wish for even more.