2017-12-07 / Editorial Page

Memories of a Pond

Across The Savannah
By TOM POLAND tompol@earthlink.net


Memories of a pond. 
(Photo by Tom Poland). Memories of a pond. (Photo by Tom Poland). All these many years later what surprises me is how little the pond has changed. I’ve changed might­ily but the old mine hole as we call it keeps on keeping on. Nature’s a lot more resilient than we give it credit for.

When I visit that pond a lot of memories rise to the surface. First, it’s not truly a pond. It’s an old man­ganese mine, the Colley Mine, long abandoned. Some enterprising soul discovered manganese there and a mine resulted. To this day evidence of men’s efforts to wrestle ore from the earth remain. Rusting ma­chinery, tailings, and holes in the ground but the highlight is the deep pond long held together by the bea­ver dams that have come and gone through the decades. Manganese, by the way, is a black mineral used in the production of iron and steel.

Viewed from satellite the pond’s long, curved, and shaped much like the fang of a wolf, a fitting shape from nature’s wild side. How many days of youth did I burn there walking that wolf’s tooth exploring the old mine hole and surrounding woods.

An old fellow who worked the Colley Mine, one long gone to that mine in the sky, told me that tun­nels radiate out from the old mine hole and one runs beneath the Au­gusta Highway. He said they had to get out of that tunnel fast one day because they thought it was about to collapse. That tunnel is just be­yond an open pit that used to be right by the road. (My late Uncle Joe who owned the land used his bulldozer to fill in the pit.) You can feel the road dip right about where that old pit was. Are you driving old wheelbarrows, picks, and shov­els? Perhaps.

Beavers have long worked the pond, and while they have tunneled into the dam, they have also patched its holes with their chewed-off limb and tree logjams. For a while the dam leaked and Uncle Joe dumped loads of dirt onto it, shoring it up. As the old Elton John song goes, the dam’s still standing.

I walked the edges of the old mine hole Sunday, November 19. As you can see from the photo, autumn colors had yet to give up the ghosts, but ghosts of another kind invaded my mind that Sun­day. Several memories came back to me. When I was a boy I’d fish that pond with an old Zebco reel and fiberglass rod. I never caught one fish from that pond. Filled with snags and surrounded by all man­ner of bushes and trees it was not a good place to cast. I did catch the ear of my cousin, Robert Steed, with a Little Cleo, a spoon-shaped silver lure with treble hooks. Rob­ert and I jumped onto my red-and- white Silver Pigeon motor scooter and hightailed it to Dr. Penning­ton’s clinic when it adjoined City Pharmacy. Penny Doc clipped the barbs off the hooks and removed the lure. I lost a lure but Robert still had his ear.

For many years a big birch stood about 20 yards from the shore­line near where a branch feeds the pond and over the years people had carved their initials into the tree. I don’t see it anymore, victim of a windstorm I suspect. Right down from it was a favored fishing spot and you could always find litter there ... soft drink cans, worm con­tainers, and such. Look closely and you could find red-and-white corks snagged in limbs.

Another memory that surfaces is the day Stanley Scott and I walked the edges of the pond ... we called ourselves hunting but we had no luck. Much later in life, a fellow from across the Savannah, Duncan Grant, came over with me to catch a record bass in the old mine hole. We just knew we’d catch a whop­per. We were buoyed by memories of the world-record bass George Perry caught June 2, 1932 in Lake Montgomery, an oxbow lake spawned by the Ocmulgee River in South Georgia. Perry’s bass tipped the scales at an amazing 22 pounds and 4 ounces. We had no luck, yet some fellows down at Mr. Clif­ford’s store told me they caught big bass there all the time. My friend, Duncan, by the way is the publisher of Sporting Classics magazine, a magazine for affluent sportsmen. Sure would have been a feather in his cap to catch a record bass in the old mine hole.

About this same time I was working as a cinematographer/ scriptwriter and I’d bring the cam­era over to the mine hole to prac­tice panning and zooming ... wood ducks liked the place but they were hard to film without a blind. Too easily spooked and off they fly with their whistling calls. Beavers would slap the water with their tails and I’d see no more of them either. I did see snakes there and they’re still around, so be forewarned that some really stout water moccasins prowl the premises. Saw one that was as thick as my upper arm slith­ering along.

J.D. Colley and J.H. Boykin owned the mine that would yield boyhood memories. A little digging (nice pun) reveals that the mine closed in 1918 at the end of World War I. That leads me to conclude that the mine contributed to the Allies’ efforts against the Central Powers. Maybe.

Unlike a lot of bodies of water, this one remains free of develop­ment. You won’t find a house over­looking it. One of the great clichés of our time is the obligatory need to put homes around lakes and ponds. Our old mine hole remains pristine. I’m sure the great blue herons, bea­vers, wood ducks, moccasins, and bobcats and coyotes like it that way. So do I. It remains quiet and serene, a good place to sit and think.

What we loved in youth returns to us if we are lucky. For sure the old mine hold contributed to my memories of growing up in the ru­ral South. I wasn’t much of a hunt­er or fisherman but I would develop an interest in nature in general, and I like to think that the old mine hole had something to do with that, scared as I was that a snake might sink its fangs into me.

Visit my website at www.tompo­land.net

Email me at tompol@earthlink.net

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