Repairing the lake–and the duck

The Lake, the duck and a story

Betty can see the lake way down the hill from her upstairs bedroom window.  Every morning for the last few weeks when I have shown up to work on rebuilding the lake she has called me and asked if the duck was all right, and every morning until today I have been able to tell her all was fine.  Today, however, I just said, “uh-oh”

After weeks of work, the leaks are patch and the lake is ready again for water

After weeks of work, the leaks are patch and the lake is ready again for water

It is a rather pretty duck.  It’s mostly white with some red and some black in its wings.  We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl, but the duck doesn’t bother anyone and it is nice to watch.  Two other ducks have disappeared without a trace and this one was the only duck left.  Actually, they were going to take this one to a more sheltered place but it got out of the duck cage and went out in the middle of the drained lake where no one could get to him.  He got in a little trouble today.

 But, first, let me tell you a little about the lake.  I’ve been working around it off and on for a number of years, keeping the algae growth down, patching a minor leak or two, or planting something here or there. Other than admiring the general workmanship, I never paid it a whole lot of attention until this year.

 The lake is filled by a strong spring at one end and the water runs over a spillway on the other.  This fall, the water quit running over the spillway and in trying to find the reason I not only found some major leaks, but I also found a lot of places where the 140 year old masonry was falling in.  A major overhaul was called for and since I was more familiar with it than anyone else, I was asked to do the job.  That’s when I really got into it.

We drained it and started to work.

 I guess the part I like the best is where the water comes out of the spring up through holes in the bottom of a bowl which was hand carved out of a piece of limestone.  I cannot imagine how it was done, especially as it was done without any of our modern equipment.  The plaque on the rockwork at the head of the spring tells us it was “fecit” (built) in 1867.  I asked about it.

I looked up "fecit"-- this is telling us that the project was built in 1867

I looked up "fecit"-- this is telling us that the project was built in 1867

I was told that the area was a popular picnic place before the turn of the 20th century and that the lake had been built as a wading pool.  I can picture horses and buggies, dressed up men and women enjoying a picnic while children frolic in the pool and teenagers sneak out to hold hands behind the large oak trees.  I was told that it was once “way out of town.”  Now it is inside the city limits and within a 5 minute drive of the bustling downtown area.

A big sandstone bowl with holes in the bottom sits on top of the spring.  The water bubbles up and runs into the lake

A big sandstone bowl with holes in the bottom sits on top of the spring. The water bubbles up and runs into the lake

 We have worked for weeks hand digging out behind the masonry and rock walls, isolating leaks and cave ins, and backfilling with cement.  As it is difficult to get machinery to the site, all work was done by hand.  This included hand mixing and pouring over 300 bags of cement.  It was quite a job. 

This wall was falling into the creek behind.  We dug behind it, poured in concrete and then patched the front.

This wall was falling into the creek behind. We dug behind it, poured in concrete and then patched the front.

The original spillway had to be totally redone and this time we used a bit of our waterfall building expertise to put in a few “falls” to add a little noise to the overflow.  We were careful to use only rocks left over from the repair work in order to maintain the original look and feel of the project. The cement will be acid stained to a grayish brown.

The addition of falls and a pool will add pleasant sounds of falling water to this area.

The addition of falls and a pool will add pleasant sounds of falling water to this area

 The rebuilding job has been finished and it is time to restore the grass and other plantings around the site.  Our job today was to close the drain valve and to start filling the pond.  We wanted to do it before the imminent rains came.  While we were closing the valve (which is a difficult job requiring two people and a long lever) the phone rang.  I answered.

 “Have you seen my duck?”

I replied, “I forgot to look, let me look around.”

I looked and didn’t see it and almost had a stroke.  Then I saw a flash of white on the other end of the lake.  I answered,

“It’s ok.  The duck is up on the other end.  I see it moving.”

I hung up and we finished closing the drain.

 We started cleaning up the job site and I began moving a hose that was stretched across the lake.  That’s when I saw it. 

A solid white hawk, covered with mud, looking up at me from behind the rock wall.   I almost jumped out of my skin.

 And then I thought about it and went to the other end of the lake to check the duck.  The duck was limping and was also covered with mud.  One of his eyes was shut.  He maneuvered around so that he could watch me from the good eye. It must have been a heck of a fight.  The hawk was obviously too small for that big of a duck and got covered with mud in the battle.

 So I had to call back and report.  She said,

“Well, catch it, John, we’ll have to take care of it.”

I said, “not me, call somebody that knows something about it.”

“All right, I will.” She replied.

 I got in the truck and took off to get my camera.  I was too late, though.  When I got back, the duck was on the way to the vet and the hawk was in a cage.  Jamey Vick will take care of the hawk.  He is a local doctor and bird fixer.  The duck will get well and a safer home will be found for it.

The hawk is comfortably waiting for the doctor in a warm place with a blanket over it.

The hawk is comfortably waiting for the doctor in a warm place with a blanket over it.

The spring and the rain are now working on filling up the repaired lake, the hawk and the duck will be all right.  God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.

 John Schulz

December 8, 2009

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shari Evans
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 05:09:12

    Such an interesting story, John. We see so many things associated with the wildlife in our woods and on the lake. I can’t remember how many dozens of ducks we have raised over 19 years (and some were from eggs I robbed from the nests and incubated) but we have none now. The last few years we had 4 drakes and 1 hen but we haven’t seen them lately. Usually they show up here right about this time of year and begin the mating rituals through the winter. But I don’t think we will see them this year. Maybe we will get some more ducklings in the spring and try again. There are so many predators!

    Finding something like the legend on the spring must have been awesome. That’s really cool! And I am impressed with your repair work.

    Reply

  2. Ruth Shaw
    Dec 14, 2009 @ 00:33:54

    John Paul, I enjoyed reading your “pink story.” I was down in Waverly Hall, near Columbus yesterday for the funeral a sons-in-law’s mother. My grandson was there. he is 31, and in the Landscaping business in Franklin Tennessee (near Nashville). Someone said to him…probably not much to do in this kind of weather. I was telling him a little about your impressive lake project…

    Reply

  3. Trackback: The Lake–Part Two « johntheplantman's stories, plants, and gardening
  4. Trackback: Drainage management with an Ikebana flair « johntheplantman's stories, plants, and gardening

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