Pancho’s Pond Becoming a Reality

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Construction of what will be known as Pancho’s Pond is at last underway in the pasture where our donkey spends his days. The only good thing about this dratted drought is that it dried up the land to where Gaylond, our seasoned equipment operator, can actually move the dirt around.

Gaylond started in late March, first by running drainage ditches across two pastures to dry out the land, which clearly has at least a couple of underground springs. That worked well, but he suggested we wait until later in the summer. Pushing mud around can get expensive. We’re more interested in it being done right than quickly, so nothing happened for a couple months. I was finally able to bushhog the two pastures that had been mulched last fall for the first time.

Last week, Gaylond showed up, along with a bulldozer. He had left the excavator (also known as a trackhoe) here the entire time, not needing it elsewhere. At 70, he has been doing this type of work about a half-century — building interstates, oilfield roads, ponds, you-name-it. He is thin and rangy, average height, always wearing blue jeans held up by a rodeo buckle belt. Gaylond raises cutting horses and still enters team roping rodeo events. He was grousing the other day that he had done poorly in a recent event in San Angelo. When I’m 70, I’ll be grateful if I can even get on a horse.

I enjoy visiting with Gaylond. He can apparently recall every single excavation job he has ever done and enjoys regaling me with stories of daunting dirt projects he was called upon to solve. The tale is inevitably interspersed with salty language, though my Beautiful Mystery Companion notes he is a perfect gentleman when talking to her. These days, he works for a local builder. He takes jobs, such as building ponds, when the builder doesn’t need him to put down a pad for a building.

I have an air-conditioned front-seat view of his work from behind the desk in my study up the hill, which is lined with picture windows facing the back pasture. Every 10 minutes or so, I’ll look up from the computer screen and watch Gaylond maneuver that trackhoe like it’s a Tonka toy as he begins to dig a rectangular hole, which has started to fill with water. This is a good sign. The goal is to end up with a 50-feet-by-100 feet pond that is 8 feet deep. We plan to stock it with fish, starting with minnows and working our way up methodically to bass and catfish. This doubtless will require professional help. It is too late for this year, but we’ll get rolling in early spring.

Gaylond is a maestro of machinery. As with any craftsman worthy of the name, he is a perfectionist. When he gets through smoothing out the area around the pond, it will be ready for me to drop some ryegrass seed — but not until it cools off. About October, I figure.

Pancho the Donkey is fascinated by Gaylond and follows him around as he runs the bulldozer. This led to a near-tragedy. Gaylond had called me, concerned about some mud he had run into a few feet deep into building what will become the dam.

“That gray mud is bad. Animals can get stuck in it,” he said.

I rushed home and went down to talk to him. As we stood near the site of concern, Pancho — always curious and friendly — came walking over. He promptly sunk to his knees in the very mud we were talking about. We went into 911 mode, praying he hadn’t broken a leg. I ran and got a rope which Gaylond quickly fashioned into a halter. As I pulled from above, Gaylond got his arms under the belly and pulled. Soon, Pancho arose from the muck and took off, quickly shaking the rope halter off his head.

Gaylond and I were both quite shaken by the incident. He has solved the problem by packing dry dirt over the area, and luckily hasn’t run into any other veins of muck. Pancho is pretty smart and now steers a wide berth around that area. But he still follows Gaylond around, stopping on occasion to bray.

My BMC and I are looking forward to this addition to No-Name Farm, aka BackAcres Farm — so called because the work gives us both backaches. Soon I’ll start building duck nesting boxes to put out in the fall. We imagine ducks, geese and blue herons enjoying its waters. I’m not sure Pancho is ever going to trust the pond, however. He’ll probably keep drinking out of the small tank we put out there for him, enjoying that Tryon Water District water from the spigot, waiting for me to bring him a couple of granola bars.

He’s not spoiled or anything.

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