Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have place in your life so charged with meaning, spirit, and personality that it’s a member of your family, a dear friend, or a wise confidant. In other words, a main character in your life. This is an installment in a series of mostly true stories about Fairpop Farm, a place that became the hub and a main character in our family.

This is the story about my dad surviving his favorite place: a fishing hole.

Papa Nick the First (my dad is Papa Nick the Third) came down to visit his son’s family in Plainview, Louisiana. He decided to take a walk around the farm with dad, his youngest grandson.

Dad was a highly qualified farm guide. Because he was ten years younger than his youngest sibling, he had the run of the land most of his youth. Those years inspired his attachment to the farm, as well as his commitment as an adult to buy out his older siblings and keep the property intact for generations to come.

My dad was still five decades away from collecting the bits of the farm as he took his Papa Nick for a tour through the fields and woods.

Near the end of the tour, he led his grandfather down the hill to a small pond by the water hollow. Time and rain have changed the land patterns, and today that pond drains into the water hollow and only holds water for seven to eight months of the year. But in the 40s, this spot was a proper pond.

“This is my favorite place,” my dad explained. “Right there,” he elaborated, pointing at the stump of a fallen tree that jutted out over the small pond.

Dangers of Childhood

Social media is ripe with memes about older generations surviving the dangers of their childhood. Dad’s meme wouldn’t be about garden hoses. His would be about fishing in a moccasin-ridden bog.

“I can’t believe Mama would let me go down there,” he told me recently. Everyone knew about the water moccasins in the water hollow. In fact, dad’s little dog often found himself a snake to shake in his jaw. After one moccasin bite to that jaw, the pup’s head swelled to the size of a watermelon, and he crawled under the house to recover.

“Mama didn’t think the dog would survive,” dad told me. But the dog recovered and returned to the pond with dad. “He kept shaking those snakes to death,” dad recalls, “probably out of revenge.”

Dad and his grandfather didn’t carry fishing poles for that farm tour in the 40s. But dad was eager to show his grandfather his fishing hole. He walked out on the stump to show him, “Here, this is the best place to fish.”

My young dad was standing proudly on his trusty stump when it collapsed and dumped him into the water. This was, perhaps, his first lesson in water and wood rot. To his dismay, the incident became one of his grandfather’s favorite stories to tell at the dinner table.

“And his eyes were as big as saucers as he flailed in the water, squealing to get out of the snake bed…”

His pride was damaged, but, like his dog after the moccasin bite, dad recovered. Although he avoided the remains of his stump, he returned to his favorite place on the farm with a fishing pole.

Sometimes our favorite places become the places we survive.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2024