Vagneur: Be careful where you swim |

Vagneur: Be careful where you swim


Tony Vagneur

“Where do you throw the scraps?” I asked as we cleaned up the kitchen after dinner.

“Just throw ’em in the pond,” she said. “There’s fish and stuff in there that’ll eat anything.”

Maybe that’s the reason every new “country estate” that’s gone up the past few years isn’t considered complete unless it has an accompanying man-made pond — somewhere to throw the leavings — kind of like we used to do with pigs in the old days. Natural ponds are generally considered attractive nuances of our wild world, but man-made imitations are about as necessary as chestnuts on horses or wings on ostriches, unless of course you happen to be a fish, in which instance a rationale could be made for a pond. Even at that, the man-made variety of pond tends to eventually be catastrophic to fish because of overcrowding, irregular temperatures and overfeeding.

Just like plastic-enhanced breasts on women, their owners think they’re a thing of beauty, but it doesn’t matter how you display them — they still look fake. There’s a trend away from calling man-made ponds what they are, plastic-lined artificial bodies of water, and instead “water feature” has become the politically correct nomenclature of the day. Many of these water features (and I love that term) are further augmented by the addition of a water fountain, cascading back on itself or coming out of an orifice on some fish or mammal in a generally less-than-flattering fashion.

I know, I know, sometimes the Division of Water Resources instructs a landowner to build a pond in order to save water rights when a change in use takes place, and that’s a different story. That is a method whereby water is stored in a man-made pond, subjecting it to rapid evaporation, with the idea that pond-fed sprinkler irrigation is somehow less wasteful than flood irrigation. That’s sort of like believing daylight savings time actually makes the day longer.

Creative genius being what it is, there seems to be an urgency to make every piece of property, public or private, host to an unnatural body of water, sort of like supposedly individualistic snowboarders all rushing to look alike. On one of Bill Braun’s famous cattle drives several years ago, while washing down the dust with cold beer at cow camp, none other than the star of “Miami Vice” strolled into camp, just to check things out. Upon our introduction, he informed me that the little valley our cabin sits in would be much more alluring if it was dammed and filled with water, making a mountain lake. Before I could tell him what an unappealing idea I thought that was, his long and lithesome wife of the day, the talented Melanie Griffith, spun me around and planted a wet, soul-searching lip-lock on me that totally changed the subject.

The normally quiet neighborhood of Woody Creek had what may have been the first area pond disaster when a 15-year-old student at the Woody Creek schoolhouse by the name of Konard Walthers dove into the pond out front and drowned on May 18, 1934. Apparently, swimming in the pond was a common occurrence, although the students had been warned by the teacher not to swim immediately after lunch. Every time we drove by the one-room school and the pond was full, my mother always took the opportunity to remind us we should never swim directly after eating lunch — it would cause muscle cramps, disabling us in the water. Usually, we were on the way to the Glenwood Hot Springs pool for a little summer R&R; her admonitions always put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm. Konard is buried in the Red Butte Cemetery.

People used to try to fit in with the landscape. Now today, some try to change the landscape to fit in with their view of reality. We didn’t have a pond, and most people would have thought building one to be an egregious desecration of the natural landscape and abuse of scarce water availability

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at