My grandson, Maximus James, made a visit to the Engleville Tick Ranch last weekend. He can last only so long without a pilgrimage to the grandparents’ old homestead, the place where he spent his days as a preschooler. Where the school bus picked him up and dropped him off during kindergarten and first grade. Mam & Pop’s place served as daycare for him, and sister Elizabeth for a couple of years. Mam their governess, the Ark their second home.
Nowadays they live far away to the north. Well, okay, they live in the next town over, about fifteen minutes away, but still, a trip to Mam & Pop’s is like a mini-vacation.
So, after Saturday chores; going to the dump, bike-joring with the Chusky dog, mowing the lawns, we headed for Engleville Pond to do some Bullhead fishing. Max has caught a wide variety of fish, but not a bullhead, and that was his intended quarry today. He made up a mess he called dough-balls or stink-balls, wads of bread or dough with smelly attractants. Usually these are made with raw dough and the stuff chum is made of. In this case, Max grabbed a slice of deli turkey and some mayonnaise and made something of a club sandwich ball with English muffins for the bread.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the honking of geese as they drifted slowly away from us toward the far bank. The air was still, and the water like glass. The colors of fall leaped at us from all sides including below as the oranges and yellows reflected off the mirror surface.
Max had a tough time getting the soggy English muffin to stay on a hook. We grabbed a big hunk of muffin and dipped it into his turkey-club-jumble, and that stayed on long enough for a few casts. I fished for about five minutes before I was overcome with the need to grab the camera and get some snapshots of the beautiful Saturday afternoon. As luck would have it, while I was shooting across the pond a flock of geese flew in from the east. They cackled raucously as the 150-bird formation slowed, with fixed wings, descending towards the smooth surface of the pond. I took advantage of the opportunity to shoot some geese on the wing, so to speak.
We plied the waters of Engleville Pond a while with no luck, and decided to relocate to Bowmaker’s Pond. Back in the when, we called it Bowmaker Swamp. Because it was a swamp. The Department of Environmental Conservation dug out much of the swamp to open the water up a little, I guess, and maybe help with flood control or drainage. Now there’s quite a patch of open water, and the cattails have begun their slow march, spreading year by year. The milfoil and other aquafauna are also vigorously trying to reclaim the territory. Here, too, we found Canada Geese gathered. Resting and feeding as they pass through on their long migration to the Gulf of Mexico.
We had some fair fish action at Bowmaker’s, curiously catching five fish of five different species. First Max caught a Crappie, then a Bass. After a few more casts he caught the ubiquitous Sunfish (Bluegill). Finally I landed one, a nice pickerel about nineteen inches long. The only fish I didn’t get a snapshot of. Lastly, Max caught a little yellow perch.
It was a bit of a last hurrah for shirt-sleeve weather. By the time it neared sundown, a chill was in the air. The geese at Bowmaker’s lined up on the pond for some nice photos. At one point, you could hear their conversation starting. At first just a few honks, then bit-by-bit the rest of the flock joining in until there was a unanimous chatter. This meant they were readying for takeoff, and I got a few pictures of them running across the water, big wings flapping, honking the whole way. Finally they would take to the air, and with another minute of avid honking the birds ascended, circled, and faded off over the eastern horizon along with their noise.
Wherever we went today, the bright sun and golden colors of fall surrounded us. The sky held but a few ribbons of clouds, and the air was mild. Back at the Ranch we’d have a nice dinner, walk the dog around, and settle in for Saturday Night at Pop Pop’s. This means watching Ghost Hunters or Finding Bigfoot, or perhaps a Godzilla movie as we await ten o’clock and the ritual viewing of Svengoolie, and his own mix of monster movies.
There would be recliners and blankets, pretzels and green tea. Falling asleep in the chairs and moving to the bed (or couch) at 2 a.m. Sunday would leave us little time, though we managed another run with the mushing dog and at some point we made a walk around hunting squirrels. Max bagged one Pine Squirrel, which interested Sassy June the Chusky Dog greatly. Max kept the trophy tail, and we gave the carcass to Sassy, who quickly lost interest when she saw the thing wouldn’t run.
Mushing, Fishing, Hunting, Movie-watching, two ponds, trail hikes and chores, it was an action-packed weekend. I savored every moment with my grandson, my little dog, the honking geese and the colorful trees.
Sometimes I ask myself out loud:
“Am I dead? Is this Heaven?”
Take care and keep in touch.