In late April, the spring at the south end of the cow pond turns green with new life. The skunk cabbage, adder’s tongues, and violets unfurl in their usual spots and last for a heartbreakingly short few weeks. When I walk down the lane past the pond, I hope to hear the call of the red-winged blackbird – a sound I so associate with this place that to hear it anywhere else feels wrong.
These days there are no cows stopping for a drink of water on their way to pasture. My brother keeps the pond’s banks clear of grass and cattails and the land free of the milkweed with its boat-shaped pods.
This one small spring on the Whirlwind Hill farm feeds a pond that served as a watering hole for the cows and a place of year-round entertainment for children. The August dragonflies hovered over the water as we sat watching and waiting for our red and white bobbers to get tugged below the surface by a fish. We were told we could catch frogs with red flannel attached to a piece of string, and we spent hours bent over the bank of the pond with our lures. I can’t remember catching either fish or frogs, but I still feel the warmth of the sun on my arms and the luxurious sense of time standing still on a long afternoon.
When the leaves turned color in the fall we walked with our great-grandfather Joseph Biggs down the lane past the cow pond looking for hickory nuts. We gathered them in our baskets and brought them into the farmhouse kitchen where they rested for several months behind the stove until dry enough to be cracked open and eaten.
And in winter we skated. As soon as the ice formed a thick enough layer, we put on our wool sweaters, thick socks, bulky snow pants, bulkier jackets, itchy hats, and never-warm-enough mittens and walked to the pond carrying our skates. We learned to skate when we were three or four years old on double-runner blades. Later the boys played hockey and knocked their teeth out. The girls made figure eights and skated backwards. We all played “crack the whip.” I skated until I had frozen toes. I skated until I had frozen fingers. And one day I skated until I had waited too long to take off my skates and walk back up the lane to the farmhouse bathroom. I didn’t care. Skating was joy.
On Monday: Dolls and Poodle Skirts