Off the deep end, into the pond |

Off the deep end, into the pond

The seasonal rains have turned Clear Creek into a raging rivulet during the past few months. The pond filled and the bullfrogs emerged. Since they appear so rarely, I suspect they drop from the sky along with the rain.

After a week, the muddy waters cleared. Migrating geese and ducks paddled on its placid surface, plunging their heads beneath to snack at the underwater salad bar, their feathered bottoms bobbing skyward.

Suddenly, a seasonal longing overpowered me. No, my longing involved no urge to grab a shotgun and “blast those quacking suckers.” I envied them, floating peacefully on the pond I created. Well, the Pond Guy created it with a bulldozer and a lot of my cash, but I like to forget that part of it. If only the bank would let me.

About this time each year, I announce, “I’m going to build a boat.”

And my wife replies, “Ahoy, matey, isn’t that reality I see sinking off the starboard poop deck?”

Here in our rural mountain home, there is little separation between scenic beauty and a cynic beauty, especially when she knows me so well.

But I possess the pioneer spirit. I didn’t move “back to the land” because I am a quitter. I was determined to build a seaworthy vessel at any cost, as long as it involved no cash.

In my quest, I retraced the evolution of boat building itself. Having many books on self-sufficiency on the rickety shelves of the Clear Creek Ranch reference library, I soon found my inspiration.

“Grab your adz and go chopping for a log,” one pamphlet urged. A hollowed log – a dugout canoe – seemed like the perfect primitive water transport for a rustic mountain person such as myself.

The problem was chopping myself a new adz hole that was big enough to sit in without cutting through the other side of the log. After several tries and such words of spousal encouragement as, “Nice bunch of firewood you’ve got there,” I was ready for a change. But I wasn’t discouraged. If anything, my zeal was rekindled.

Animal skin-covered frames were another early boat form. But, as you may recall, all the available animal skins at the very vegetarian Clear Creek Ranch are holding their original animals together, indefinitely.

Being a paragon of political correctness, I moved forward to 20th century boatbuilding techniques. I tried to utilize some large, warped plywood scraps that had been “aging” in a forgotten corner of the garage for the better part of a decade.

I selected a simple, flat-bottomed skiff design and was hard at work when my wife came out to discuss the dining plans for my bon voyage party.

“The sun is past the yardarm. Do you want launch?” she asked.

“Not yacht,” I replied.

I stood back, waiting for sighs of admiration for the shallow boxy rectangle I’d constructed.

“What do you think?” I asked.

“Add a few horizontal pieces and it would make a nice bookcase for all those ‘how-to’ books you have heaped everywhere,” she said.

Well, her comments held no water with a seafaring man such as myself. I donned my eye patch and tricornered hat, pinned a plush toy parrot to my shoulder, and hauled my skiff down to the pond to test its pond-worthiness. As the ducks looked on, no doubt wondering if I was the pirate, Johnny Depp, I gently coaxed its nose into the water and gave it a little shove. Then I stood back and watched it settle quickly to the bottom.

This summer, after the pond evaporates and the skiff dries out, I’ll be fitting it with shelves.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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