Sittin’ on the dock of dismay |

Sittin’ on the dock of dismay

In summer, the pond at Clear Creek Ranch is full of cattails, bullfrogs, and dragonflies. Floating aimlessly amid such natural splendor would be a perfect way to pass a lazy summer afternoon. I once built a flat-bottomed boat for this purpose, but it sank to the bottom within minutes of launch.

An oversized inner tube is a more pond-worthy flotation device. No buoyancy questions. And while it was delightful, the scenery never changed. I felt like Moses abandoned in the bulrushes.

I wanted something to read, and something to sip while I did so. I’d need more than a flexible straw to quench my thirst. The pond is irrigation ditch water – and who knows where THAT’s been! I rigged the inner tube with a series of waterproof compartments to hold great literature, spare reading glasses, a beverage or two and the requisite sunscreen and bug repellents.

Often when I got the urge to float, my inner tube had started without me. There it was, mid-pond in 20 feet of water. I became adept at heaving a line out to snag it. It eventually dawned on me to use the line to secure the tube permanently to shore.

The only good anchorage was in a shady area. OK by me, since I was sunburned extra-crispy despite the industrial strength sunscreen. Unfortunately, shade is where the mosquitoes lurk. Perhaps they have sunscreen issues, too. And no insect repellant was repellant enough.

I am handicapped, although not enough to qualify for the blue parking spaces. I hear OK in one ear and not at all in the other. As a result, I wave off only half the buzzing foreplay that signals the start of my insectual relationships. By day’s end, my deaf side is a mess. Like a split-screen before-and-after picture – lumpy on one side, relatively smooth on the other.

My army surplus mosquito hood keeps the bugs out, and most of the sunlight. Reading is difficult. So I strung a thousand feet of extension cords down to the pond and rigged a spotlight on the shore. Attaching the light directly to the inner tube seemed like playing with a toaster in the bathtub.

Reading while rocking from side to side nauseated me. I attached a sheet of plywood to the top of the inner tube and a lawn chair on top of that. I discovered the principle of “high center of gravity” before I plugged in the light, although not soon enough to stay dry.

Securing two corners of the plywood to the shore stabilized it, but as the pond level subsided things began to slide into the water. Running our pump 24/7 would keep up with the pond’s evaporation rate, but I opted to sink two posts to anchor the other corners of the plywood over the water.

Now I can run a reading light and a couple of bug zappers in relative safety. When the constant zapping noise destroyed the idyllic rustic mood, I began playing a “burbling brook” tape on my old Walkman. The running water sounds soon gave me an uncontrollable urge to “fill a specimen bottle.”

Eventually, I tacked together a wooden frame and covered it with mosquito netting, and made an attempt at some shelves for my books and sunscreen. My wife likes the new structure too, but not the muddy walk around the pond to get there. So I built a simple plank-and-post bridge across the pond. And a little ladder near the center for getting into the water.

It will make a great place to launch an inner tube. Should I ever again feel the urge to float aimlessly amid the natural splendor.


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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