Memories of Dodson Pond.
Growing up in the countryside northwest of Buchanan with a pond below the hill, a stream in the woods and other kids who loved the outdoors as much as I did was everything this country boy ever needed.
My folks were raising five kids and finances were tight, but with the wood we cut with the old cross cut and our axes, we could keep the housewarm and there always seemed to be a damn good dinner on the table. Of course my Mom could take anything and turn it into a tasty meal!
I remember one late fall week when we had exhausted all the coins we could dig out of the couch seats and we turned to the old pond for our protein.
Ducks we had raised in the Spring had made the pond their home. It was now time for the fall harvest.
Ma Nature had turned a portion of the pond into hard glass, while other portions were still open.
My Dad, younger brother Dave, and I pushed the canoe into the water and the chase was on. Because these ducks were domestic, they couldn’t fly but they were still fast as hell.
We were finally able to run one from the water and with Dave’s speed along the shore it was tackled and secured. Now one more to get!
As we closed in, it began to feel cornered and dove and went under the ice sheet. A frantic race began to bust the canoe through the ice with paddles to reach the rest of our dinner. Finally, soaked, we headed up the hill to pluck the feathers from the creatures that our pond had fed throughout the previous warmer months.
The old Franklin stove was stoked full of cherry wood to help take the chill from our toes while Mom put together a meal of duck, gravy, acorn squash, and warm biscuits. Life was good and the old pond had helped sustain us once more.
Our Pond taught us lessons in canoe handling, helped cool us in the summer, and gave us education in marine life. I remember many times taking the canoe into the middle of the pond and then laying back and looking up into the clouds and floating until the bump of the canoe on the shore pulled me from whatever I was dreaming about.
The Pond was our friend through all seasons but dark winter was when it truly came alive. The entire neighborhood along with friends and family waited anxiously with sharpened skates and shovels for first ice. Many times we couldn’t wait any longer and ended up crashing through, but when the cold nights finally locked in enough inches of clear ice to hold the weight of a neighborhood, the pond became a Currier and Ives post card.
Little ones would cruise the edges as the “Boys of Winter” would go to battle with hockey sticks and a puck. Lifelong friends became mortal enemies at times as each side would use everything in their power to push the puck into the others net. There weren’t a lot of rules on the pond and as such, and because we didn’t wear protective gear in those days, injures were numerous. Those suffering broken bones became goalies as soon as they were healed enough to make it back on the ice.
As has always been the case for true hockey players, when the game was over, we would shake hands, hug, and start the trash talking for the next time we could lace up and hit the ice.
This collective group of young men that the Pond brought together became lifelong friends with a certain bond that can’t be explained but is felt each time we come together.
As we got older, a group of us took our skills from the pond and were picked up by a traveling Men’s team that won a number of Championships throughout Western Michigan but none of that trumped the feeling of a cold January morning on Dodson Pond.
I think often now of how lucky I was to have grown up in the West Michigan countryside and how fortunate I have been to share so many adventures in the hardwoods and on the water of our beautiful land.
My kids all learned to skate and became champion hockey players in the various ice hockey and floor hockey programs our community offers. Holding a stick is a natural part of my grandkids upbringing and we can all thank a Pond northwest of Buchanan for providing a place for the love of hockey to begin.