Fraser’s Pond by Larry Clark
Hearing of “Stompin Tom” and his affection for Skinners Pond reminded me that I was especially enamoured with such a swampy location in our neighbourhood; known to us (or named by us) as Fraser’s Pond. It could easily have been properly called Buffam’s or Bamford’s as we had no knowledge as to whom owned the land. We never really cared who owned a particular property as we would “possess” it for our adventures until such time as we were chased away (but that’s another story).
Mother was not particularly in favour of our pastimes and would remonstrate us with the words as we left, “stay away from the pond!”. Those words would ring in our ears as we set out (previously with no idea of what we would do that day) for the swamp. Mother would be distracted by the activities of my four younger (boisterous) sisters who vied with each other in determining whose turn it was to do the dishes. (This was an activity beneath me and seldom was I called upon, since on one occasion that I was forced to perform this despicable chore, my performance was so sub par that I was never asked again (seems that monitoring my activities for more than 3 hours was too much to ask for my mother’s patience).
After donning our thick wool socks, rubber boots, hammers and nails (the raft/s always required some repair) we left for Frasers’, a distance of approx. 1/2 mile.It was located between the tracks and Napoleon St. at the base of a small hill which was covered with cedar bush, aka Hobo Haven. This was always a Springtime activity because the pond did not always have sufficient depth of water during summer months (Dibblee’s not far away). The pond was laced with cedars and small bushes (can’t remember the type) which created a series of channels and backwaters that were ripe for exploration and if we had 2 or more serviceable rafts were great for “hide and seek” (and/or ramming). The rafts were generally just a combination of two old water soaked logs with a myriad of short, equally wet planking connecting them. Just a minor shifting of weight could cause the water level to rise sufficiently to start coming into your boots. Of course that could be a bit of a challenge to see how high you could get the water to go without it breaching the top of your boot-particularly if you were two on a raft, each trying soak the other.
The strategy may have been to see how wet we could get before the soaking became intolerable and we had to retreat to our homes where, invariably we be praised (ha) for, after having found ourselves surrounded by swamp, we had managed to extricate ourselves, ourselves.
Tired of the chase, we would take to the cedars; climb to the tops; start to swing back and forth until we judged that the distance between trees was such that we could jump/leap to the next (a la Tarzan), voicing Tarzan -like whooping as we flew! Needless to say these stunts did not always go smoothly, as follows: a. couldn’t swing close enough to the next tree: b. loss of grip and falling to the base of the tree: or worst of all, the top breaking off and me, tumbling to the pond below. Our parents could put up with the soaking of our clothing but the ripping and tearing of our clothing was a bit problematic.
For more of a problem, fast forward 4 or 5 years-the location a large barn on the 8th line (near Ashton) which contained a meagre amount of straw left over from the over-wintering of a pair of horses (Pat and Dolly). For some reason, there was a couple of ropes (one would be for the hay rake) hanging from the loft of this cavernous area and on sighting them, almost simultaneously we said, “Tarzan!” In order to make this coming scene more authentic we divested of our clothes, climbed and swung about, living our dreams of the forests of Africa. With a yell, becoming a bit of a scream as I lost my grip and slipped down the rope (problematically), as the rope was between my legs. It was a moment I am not likely to forget. Seeking sustenance (pity) from the farmer (there was some swelling, pain, heat, etc). Upon further examination, we didn’t think it worthy of medical involvement but being cautious of such an injury, we decided to consult with a neighbour and son. A man of few words, upon examining the affliction, he looked rather grave and said one word; “SILVERBALLS”.
The editor will leave the word Silverballs with you to use your imagination. Linda
Photo- Mike Jeays
So I was talking about the location of some of these places with Ted Hurdis and this is what he said.
Where was Fraser’s pond??
Ted- Unless they mean the quarry out past where John Francis Fraser lived. I didn’t trust the ice at the quarry-it was pretty deep and unpredictable. It was supposed to be spring fed so you never new how the ice was. The water in the summer was ice cold. We had a pond right across the road where Stuart Neilson kept his horse.
Where was Hobo’s Haven?
Ted-Hobo Haven would have been the cattle loading yard right behind us at the tracks. They could get under where it was secluded and dry . That structure was built to load cows right on to the train. Many a hobo would be at our back door for water and sandwiches. They were never turned away.