Poprock Hill Pond Mist

Poprock Hill Pond Mist, March 14, 2010 (click to enlarge)

This is Poprock Hill Pond, also known as a stock pond, stock tank, cow tank, watering hole, runoff reservoir or catch pond.  In this region of Texas — central, west — they are called, cow tanks or stock tanks.  “Cow tank,” of course, has familial, idiosyncratic, usage:  Uncle Floyd’s ranch, Tom Parks place and many others.  Cow or stock tank does not have the Walden cachet that reflexively appeals to non-Westerners, non-Texans.  To many of us, however, the cow tank was the first place where we learned to swim, fish and observe water in a region of semi-arid climate.  It was a separate, exciting area, cupped in the earth.

The rivers of Texas, such as Brazos, Colorado, Llano, Pecan Bayou (yes, a river), San Saba, Concho, Pecos and Rio Grande (always drop the word, “river,” before you say or write Rio Grande) may be public in water rights, but only a few families own the land around the river banks.  The Walton family of Walmart has a large ranch along the Brazos River near Millsap, Texas.  The few families that control river banks have no duty to the public to give them access.  To canoe or float down these rivers in Texas, you enter the river at a public road crossing, such as Interstate 20.

For most of us owning land in Texas, our first exposure to large bodies of water — other than bathtubs — were cow tanks, such as Poprock Hill Pond or stock tank, photographed above.  Swimming in cow tanks with cousins was often the first time people saw another body without clothes or scant apparel.  Perch and bass fish were stocked in the tanks and in the winter, ducks arrived to feed, carouse.  The cow tank was a retreat from family conflict, a quiet place to throw stones in the water and watch the ripples circle out to the edges.  It was another visual reference for for drought or abundance:  cow tank down, way down, dry.  Or, the other way:  stock tank up, way up, overflowing.   During the summer, we camped on the northern side of the stock tank, so as to catch the water evaporation from the southwest wind at night as we would sleep in a tent or on cots beneath live oaks, pecan trees.  By the morning, we wrapped ourselves in old quilts or sleeping bags to ward off  the cold breeze from the tank.

Stock tanks, however, are primarily for livestock.  Angus cattle walk the dam and water daily.  Our horses, Star, Lilly, Hija, Fanny and Shiney, wallow in the shallows to the right in the above photograph, bathing and cooling themselves in hot weather.  Hija is a water nymph.  She wallows more than others, she plays in it:  nuzzling the surface, plunging her head down into the water almost up to her eyes, stomping the edge of the bank to splash water on herself.  She’s a fine horse, she is.  If she could, she would bring her stallion to the water’s edge.

This morning, the temperature was 41 deg. F. and I saw the mist arise from Poprock Hill Pond.  Before I threw hay to Hija — she’s a fine horse, she is — I went down to the pond and took the photograph.  I don’t know the temperature of the water, but I’ll get a thermometer one of these days and plunge it into the pond water, if it is pertinent to my tasks that day.  Then, again, I may not.  I may stand on the edge of the cow tank and think of my cousins and Sweet Hija, bucolically at play and passing time.  The registering of the surface temperature may have to wait as I look at the wind moving the surface of the water, the light film of natural oils, the young willows emerging along the banks and the sunlight reflecting.  And, soon — it always happens — I’ll forget myself, looking at a misty cow tank in Texas.

Closeup Mist on Poprock Hill Pond, March 14, 2010 (click to enlarge)

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8 Comments

Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Recollections 1990-

8 responses to “Poprock Hill Pond Mist

  1. I Love your closing statement, Jack. It’s such a good feeling, forgetting ourselves while immersed in the presence of some object or the place in which the object rests. Your phrase, “…we would sleep in a tent or on cots under live oaks, pecan trees.” is a wonderful image, as are the photos of Poprock Hill Pond.

  2. What great photos. That second one could be a painting. What a wonderful place to grow up, you are so fortunate.

    • Thanks, Martie. Sometimes I think I don’t have a lot to work with–writing and photography. But, then I look again and there’s something to write about. Your last photographs are striking. What things you have in Arroyo Seco, Taos.

  3. “Hija is a water nymph. She wallows more than others, she plays in it: nuzzling the surface, plunging her head down into the water almost up to her eyes, stomping the edge of the bank to splash water on herself.” Thank you for this finely painted image of Hija, Poprock Hill Pond and Texas. Based on the photos, I’m thinking the thermometer may not be necessary. In my expert opinion, it appears Darn Cold. Chris

  4. Kittie Howard

    During the summer, we camped on the northern side of the stock tank, so as to catch the water evaporation from the southwest wind at night as we would sleep in a tent or on cots beneath live oaks, pecan trees.

    Jack, I read this post the other day and, as always, enjoyed warm memories of a Louisiana childhood that lives. Pa had a dynamite hole on the property. The land perked, so he blew a hole, actually two, one for the cattle, the other for us to swim in and fish (where I learned how to cut and use a bamboo pole and so on). Anyway, just as I was ready to comment how the sentence above from your post triggered another fun memory, the doorbell rang (also very southern for friends to drop by)….And, so, I return, after reading your blog again. Lordy, lordy but you know how to weave word that paint a picture, tug at a memory, and bring a smile. We talked Pa into camping out once at the dynamite hole…beneath a pecan tree…and by morning we kids were wishin’ we’d brought more blankets. What a fun time! Thanks for some mighty fine writing!

    • Kittie, I am glad it spurred (Western slang) you to think about the past in a good way. Dynamite hole. That’s good. Yes, fun times! Thank you for your extended comments. Yes, friends do drop by. Gotta be ready in the parlor for drop-ins.

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