By O’Ceallaigh –
There was a large, flat, shale rock in our creek that jutted our over one of the many little pools where the gravel would wash away and form a deeper spot in the creek. To get there one would leave our barn yard and walk down the lane past the old elm tree to the corners of the ten and fourteen acre fields. The ten acre field was on the right side of the lane and the fourteen acre plot was on the left. The lane was quite wide but the cows had made a habit of walking on only the right side where they had made a well travelled cow-path.
The Flat Rock Pool was probably my favorite spot on the entire farm because I could go there anytime I wished and get in the water to my heart’s content. It was only about a ten minute walk from the house and if Mom wanted me for anything she could simply call me and I would hear. Unlike many kids of today, I would drop what I was doing and go back to the house to see what she wanted. I must have been a good little kid!
It is interesting to note that when we would go fishing for Muskellunge in the lake, we would use Red-Fin chubs for live bait. Muskies seemed to like them and we generally had good luck when fishing with them.
But, down at the Flat Rock Pool that summer, the chub that I made friends with was not used for bait. He was a pet! I wouldn’t abuse a pet by putting a hook through his lips and feeding him to a Muskie! Good Grief!!
I discovered him one day when I was lifting small stones looking for crabs, or, more technically known as crayfish. These little critters would hide under the flat stones and then, when discovered, flip their tail fin and scoot backwards away from their predator – ME! Their pincers were large in some cases and it was a test of my boyhood to see if I could withstand the pain caused when they would clamp onto my finger.
It was probably about late May when I first met the fish. I was feeling under the ledge of the big flat rock when I felt him.
I had seen him swimming about in the pool when I first got there that day. When he saw me, he darted under the rock. To investigate, I laid down on the rock and reached my hand back under the ledge. He must be too far back!
Farther back I reach! My shirt sleeve was wet now but that didn’t matter, I was about to catch a fish with my bare hands! A little farther! Now my shoulder was wet! I felt it! Something went over my hand! I closed my fingers to my palm!
There he was out in the pool laughing at me!
“You just wait, you rascal,” I thought. “I’ll get you yet!”
Up off my stomach I scrambled and walked to the other side of the pool. I could still see him! I waded in behind him!
Zoom!! There he went under the rock again.
Thinking back, it’s hard to remember how many times this scene was repeated! I know that I made several trips down the lane, past the old elm tree and down the bank to the flat rock to go through the same dance with the Red-Fin chub.
After perhaps a week of trips, I finally was able to touch him and gently close my fingers around him before he darted away. After maybe two weeks, maybe more, maybe less, we came to an understanding, you might say. I could take him in my hand, carefully bring him out from under the Big Flat Rock and hold him in the pool while we just looked at each other.
He would then casually swim away and then venture back, close enough for me to put my hand under his belly and suspend him in the water! I was gaining on it over the next few days!! Then….
I let the Red Fin Chub go and watched him swim away.
It wasn’t long after that when we had one of those thunderstorms that created a “Gully-Washer.” These storms filled the creek with rushing water, brown and muddy.
With Mom and her worrying, I was obviously not allowed to go to the creek on a day like that!! So, it was a few days before I walked down the lane, past the old elm tree, down the bank to where the Big Flat Rock still lay, anchored and secure with the years of time.
I laid down on the rock and searched. I got my sleeve all wet but that wasn’t enough.
I went farther under the rock. My shoulder was now wet! I felt around in the darkest and narrowest crannies under the ledge of the rock.
The Red Fin chub was gone.
I still went to the pool by the Big Flat Rock, but somehow things had changed.
In later years Leonard Lipton wrote a poem that was set to music by Peter Yarrow called, “Puff, The Magic Dragon.”
That song has a verse that said, “A dragon lives forever, but not so little boy. Painted wings and giant rings
make way for other toys!”
So it was with me. But it just was never the same as those summer days, laying on the big flat rock over the Flat- Rock Pool, playing with my friend, the Red-Fin chub.
I wonder if the Big Flat Rock is still there?