I had seen this happen once before and found it no less fascinating the second time around.
The pond’s surface was stilled, a hush so pervasive that nary a ripple dimpled the water. And that water appeared more tarry thick than liquid thin.
No wonder then ice began to form, appearing with such suddenness that it caught me off guard.
I could actually watch the water freeze, a clump of ice here where moments before it did not exist.
With an air temperature in the low 20s and a calendar read in the middle of December, just having any open water on the farm pond was unusual.
My intent was to take advantage of the situation. In a few days (maybe a week, tops) the ice will have the better of the sun, claiming victory for the remainder of winter.
Thus rejected was an invitation to chase rabbits ahead of a pack of beagles.
After all, I have two Labrador retrievers, a goose blind that I built and a couple lanyards filled with calls that demanded my immediate attention.
So I shivered some this morning, noting with unpleasant memory how the day was starting out much colder than the previous night’s six-o’clock weather forecast predicted.
Really, though, there was no other place Id rather be than anchored to the shores of a defiant farm pond that so stubbornly refuses to call it a day.
Berry and Millie sat on the wooden deck splayed out in front of the blind. Their attention was riveted to both the water ahead and the sky above. They knew what we were after and why are here.
Geese, or the hope that some geese would pilot themselves close enough for me to shoot and not so far that they would have a long, cold swim to fetch.
When a small flock broke free of the pond’s far eastern cove the dogs took careful note.
“A little too far,” I thought out loud.
Didn’t want to risk wounding a bird that the dogs would have to chase down through water on the cusp or freezing over.
A little later a larger flock shuttled overhead, again, on that questionable fringe of shoot-don’t shoot range. I didn’t, though maybe I should have.
When the smallest flock of geese appeared they landed at the head of the pond, a good distance from the blind but not so far where the birds were unable to be aware of our position.
More than an hour passed and my prearranged mental schedule chimed. It was time to leave.
By law and by design I emptied the shotgun, stuck it in the gun case before saddling up on the ATV for my round-the-pond return to the SUV.
Besides, I knew the geese would never left me get close, even if I were to have slung the shotgun over my shoulder and raced to the birds. Which I didn’t, so no need to call the wildlife constabulary.
The birds flew off, creating a stir in the water, that same water where three hours earlier was threatening to freeze over.
And it will, of course. But not this day. For that, I was grateful, even without claiming a goose to take home.
There will be enough days ahead when the pond really does yield to the clenched fist of winter. Those will become the days when I can pluck from memory the awe of watching something so simplistically amazing as ice instantly forming on a pond’s quiet water.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn