If you’ve spent any time on a ranch, hopefully you experienced the owner bumpin’ into his neighbor.  It’s usually while opening a gate along intersecting fences of their property lines.  These are “special spots and special moments”.  They can visit without a fast car zooming by and rocking their trucks or someone asking them to move so another person can have their parking space.  It’s a special spot where they might see a deer or coyote trot by before the conversation ends. Sound like a place you could have a “serious” conversation?

I anxiously anticipate opportunities to visit the next ranch.  Real cowboys still say yes ma’am and tip their hats to ladies.  They use a firm handshake, not a lawyer or 10-page legal document, when they want to buy, sell, or settle something.  It’s just straight talk.  Need any help?  How’s your family?  See ya’ at church.  And you never know what topic may arise.

I recently had a memorable time trying to explain how fish showed up in a pond that had gone dry three times and never been stocked.  Consider these folks grow up among generations of families who make their living off the land. They respect what’s in big books, but they’ve been educated by what works and doesn’t work in real time.  Remember a few things your grandparents taught you that you haven’t seen in a book?

I wish you could have sat on the tailgate of the truck with me and heard the following conversation.  I talk as slow as these ol’ boys and was raised around their vocabulary, so I hoped that gave me some credibility.

I asked, “If a hen laid an egg in the barnyard, what are the odds of it hatchin’ without her sittin’ on it?  Without nurturin’, how long could it survive predation by a coon, possum, or chicken snake?”

“Hmmm”, was one of the first replies.

I explained fish eggs were even more fragile.  Folks hear myths of eggs bein’ transplanted on the legs or beaks of birds.  If so:

1)    What prevented ‘um from dryin’ up in flight?

2)    How could water temps in the recipient pond be perfect to complete the cycle?

3)    How’d they land in a spawnin’ bed?  It must have certain conditions.

4)    Who’d protect the eggs from predators until they hatched?

5)    It’s generally accepted that most fish experience acute stress if out of water longer than we can hold our breath.

Fact is, accepted methods for fish reachin’ ponds are:

1)    Planned stockin’.

2)    Supplemental stockin’ from a neighbor or other lake.

3)    Fish migratin’ into the pond during local floodin’.

I shared an experience stockin’ a pond near Rockwall, TX.  I arrived after a heavy rain so I couldn’t drive to the location.  Walkin’ across the pasture, I noticed a small pond 250 yards above my destination was runnin’ around.  I reached the drainage and followed it to the delivery site.  The slow, meanderin’ flow was no more than one foot wide and a few inches deep.  Midway to my pond— in the middle of a normally dry pasture—I looked down to see several two-inch bass.  A short distance later, some bluegill fry.  Within a few hours, that overflowin’ pond would return to normal pool, but its legacy would affect the lower pond’s fishery for years.  It was like a tree fallin’ in the forest with no one around.  Did it make a noise?  When the little pond overflowed, did it make an impact? Absolutely!  If I hadn’t witnessed it, the owner still would be wonderin’ how those bass got in that pond.

My closing comment, “Has your bull ever mysteriously showed up in a neighbor’s pasture?  Was there a hole in the fence or clear answer how it got there?”

I heard another, “Hmmm”.

By the end of the conversation, we reached some common ground.  We could have built a campfire and continued, but there were chores to be done.

I didn’t have time to relate this story, but if you’ll indulge me one more, I think you’ll find it interesting.  In 1990, Bob and I were rotenoning three holes of water to be inundated by a 25-acre lake 90-miles northwest of Fort Worth.  The creek bed flowed “ONLY” with rainfall over three inches.  After runoff subsided, the creek dried up.  You could skip a rock across one small hole almost three-fourths of a mile up the dry lakebed from the dam.  After treating that spot, we found “14 different species of fish”.  Common fish could travel downstream to this area, but carp and gar had to travel over six miles “upstream” from the nearest impoundment to this site.  Imagine!  Here’s the best part.  Local historians say “that same tiny pond” was a watering stop for Texas cattlemen driving herds to Kansas railheads from the late 1860’s to the late 1880’s.  How long had fish inhabited that oasis?  Nature reveals some secrets, but keeps others to challenge us.

Next time you see your neighbor wave them over for a visit about their pond?  Invite them to see your latest improvement or project.  Hold a harvest party and host a fish fry.  Form a coop among adjacent landowners.  Ask us about consulting rates for such groups.  We’ll develop monthly maintenance programs.  Gather neighbors for an on-site seminar with Bob or Chad to develop goal-oriented, successful management plans.

Many of us live in the city and count the days until we return to our “special spot”.  I’ll wager a sack of fish food; it’s where you’ve resolved some important issues.  Whether it was on the dock, in a fishing boat, or on the cabin porch visualizing a dream pond in the front yard, there’s nowhere like it.  Let’s meet “there” and visit about fascinating methods to develop your property’s potential. Your supper may be cold by the time we finish, but it will be fun.  I’ve exceeded my word count for this story.   But when you begin exploring opportunities, it’s hard to stop.

Happy Thanksgiving!  We’re thankful for your business,

Bob Lusk – Chad Fikes – Walter Bassano