One of the things that I've been meaning to get around to taking her to do is (as Raine and I took to calling it) feeding the 'Fat Fucking Fish' at Pymatuning (pie-muh-toon-ing) State park in Northwest PA. Let me explain: Pymatuning is a man-made lake that was formed in the 1930's that straddles the PA-Ohio border. It was actually formed from reclaimed swampland. It's a pretty good sized lake that has a smaller lake kind of attached to one side that's used as a large sanctuary for the young fish released from the hatchery further up the shore from the spillway that connects the two bodies of water. (take a breath, man!) The spillway is a concrete half-bowl about 20 yards across that the water from the smaller lake flows down into and then under the road to the main lake. It seems that, almost since the spillway was formed people have been gathering there to throw chunks of stale bread to the fat, greedy, well-fed, but very ugly, brown carp that now gather there by the thousands to gobble up the offerings. It's really kind of a disgusting, roiling, fishy carpet of carp when they get going, with hundreds of ducks, geese and gulls gobbling up whatever tidbits are left.
While Raine and I had mentioned to Alexis that we'd been there a couple of times we had never taken her there. On one recent Saturday I was feeling a bit restless and asked everyone if they wanted to go to Pymatuning sometime that day. Raine wasn't feeling well, but Alex and Dude were willing to go. (actually, I don't really know if he was willing or not, but he was going) So we loaded up in the car, bought a loaf of cheap bread and headed for the fish.
Normally I have a sense of direction that makes people (Raine) sick. I can generally find things I've never seen before in places I've never been to before. Raine calls it my 'radar'. Well, I must have forgotten to charge the batteries, or I left the remote with Raine because when we unknowingly arrived at the lake I immediately took a wrong turn. Then another. We went on a big, looping circle through Eastern Ohio and NW Pennsylvania for about an hour. And then, just to prove the first two weren't flukes, when we had almost made it back to the lake again (still couldn't see it) I quickly executed a third wrong turn and sent us back 10 miles to a town we'd passed through on our original stab at getting to the lake. Naturally bypassing the town that's right on the edge of the entrance to do so. I also wish to state for the record that this entire time I had an atlas in the trunk that I had completely forgotten about until we'd hit Greenville for the second time. Once I'd pulled it out I found that I had been within rock-throwing distance of the lake, not once, but twice. I don't really get upset on the few times this kind of thing happens to me. I've learned to just ride it out. I think Alexis may have been expecting some sort of meltdown, but Dave, not knowing how long it should take to get to Pymatuning was content to sit in the backseat until the cows came home... or the batteries ran out, which ever came first.
We walked over near Dude and I handed him a slice to distribute to the masses. He immediately cocked his arm back and was ready to fling the whole piece into the air. 'Wait a minute!' I said quickly, 'Tear that up and throw the pieces!' He looked at me like I was from another planet. (And there's no direct evidence saying I'm not) He simply tore the piece in half and cocked his arm back saying, 'Here you go ducks!' and gave it a mighty heave. It was doomed from the beginning. Not only was the gauntlet of portly pisceans about 10 feet deep at that point, but since the breeze was blowing right in his face it forced his grain-parachute to land in the water about 3 feet from the edge. He looked down with disgust at the carp rapidly
I was explaining to Alexis how not only was this the only publicly owned land that you could do this, but it was actually illegal to feed wild animals in PA State Parks. Unless you had a license and that food was attached to a hook, when David decided that he was the friend of all flying creatures. He came over to us to demand more bread because he had to 'feed the geese and the ducks and the American Eagles.' I had a brief flash of him throwing bread to customers of AE Outfitters, but quickly banished the thought. Now while there are 4 or 6 pairs of bald eagles in the park area and they do nest on an island in the sanctuary part of the lake, I hadn't seen any. The three kinds of birds in the immediate area were Mallard Ducks, Canadian Geese and some Ringbilled Gulls. As I handed him more bread I told Dave, 'Those are seagulls, Dude.' 'American Eagles.' He repeated. I shook my head, 'Sea. Gulls.' He cocked his head at me, 'Sea gulls?' He asked. I nodded, gravely. 'Seagulls.' And I heard him as he turned away, 'Sea gulls' He stated gravely, 'from America.' I shook my head and gave up. Figuring that was about as close as I was going to get.
|An American (Ringbilled) Seagull|
After Alex took a quick walk over to the spillway to see the greatest and ugliest concentrations of fish we hopped in the car and drove across the bridge that bisects the main lake. That being the only other interesting thing about Pymatuning if you don't have a boat or a fishing license. Thankfully I was much better at finding my own house than I was finding the lake, (after all, all my stuff's there) so the return trip was rather a lot smoother. Unfortunately my earlier delay meant that we couldn't stop at the Apple Castle, an orchard and farm market slightly out of our way, but probably closed. So instead of apple products and farm fresh produce (I knew they also sell donuts, but didn't tell anyone) we had to struggle through on hot dogs and french fries and apple sauce... I'm actually proud at how brave Dude was about the whole thing.