I arrived earlier than I had all year, and was shooting a short video when I noticed something. A tractor on one side of the pond. A tractor on the other side. A boat. Huh? They were seining my pond. What?!?
That left me in a tizzy. I didn't want to get in on the fish side of that, and the other side didn't leave much room to swim. What to do? I pondered while I finished my coffee and decided to get in one of the E ponds (they all have names), but as I was stepping in I noticed a shad. The farm puts shad in some of the ponds to feed the larger fish during the cooler months when they won't eat the commercial fish food. Then I noticed the aerators going. The shad meant big fish; the aerators meant a lot of big fish. That's a hazardous combination for a swimmer.
So I packed up my stuff, drove to the pond on the north side of Lee Watts 30 (# 30 is my current favorite swimming hole), and set up everything one more time. There is a row of three ponds that are all large and were rebuilt and pumped up last spring. The one next door to # 30 was low, but I remembered they had dug these pond out pretty deep so I got in and started swimming. Immediately I was stuck hard in the buttocks by a fish. How does one get struck in the buttocks by a fish while swimming the front crawl? Athleticism. On the fish's part. Not long after, I got whacked in the side of the head. That made me nervous. I swam to the far end of the pond, rounded the western side, and headed back east. About halfway back up the pond, it happened.
Imagine, if you can, a giant oven big enough for King Kong to cook on with a huge pot on the eye filled with popcorn kernels the size of basketballs. Imagine lying across the kernels when they begin to pop. That's what it felt like when suddenly the water beneath me erupted with fish bursting everywhere under and into me. I was bombarded on the legs, stomach, groin, chest, arms. I feared being struck in the face and maybe losing a tooth, but somehow I avoided that. To make a short story long, I swam as fast as possible back to the truck and climbed out. No more in there, I thought, and repacked my truck.
I drove back to Lee Watts 30 and saw that the seining crew had made it about halfway up the pond. I had no idea how long it would take. Then, while I drove along slowly, watching, thinking, I saw a farm truck headed my way. It was David and he stopped and chatted with me. I recounted to him what had just happened next door. He told me he had seined the outside pond, the one on the other side of the once I had just swum, yesterday. Bingo I drove over there and set up again. I swam one lap in what is either Lee Watts 33 or Lee Watts 28. It was OK, no fish, no mishaps. But then I learned that Dorothy was right all along: "There's no place like home." Lee Watts 30 is home. I feel as comfortable in that pond as I do my own bathtub.
I packed up again and drove over to-- you guessed it-- Lee Watts 30. The crew had the fish hemmed up on one end of the pond, the end where I always parked and waded in. So I drove to the other end, the west side, and parked there. This was a better set up anyway, I realized. I am out of the workers' way, and parked on grass with no need to walk barefoot across a gravel road to get to the water. I unpacked once more: unrolled my strip of outdoor carpet, set up my chair, and covered the tailgate with cooler, towels, swimming goggles and gear. With running shoes and socks waiting, it was now time to start in earnest. I began the process of swimming and running and swimming and running. To make a short story long, I swam 8.25 miles and ran six. My swim time was four hours and fifty minutes, a bit slow, and I shuffled for an hour and six minutes. That too was slow. But that was a six hour workout. Not bad for a man who will turn sixty in a couple of weeks.
Now back to where this post started. Where is my confidence? I suppose I never have been fully confident going into one of these swims. Certainly, however, I am more confident than I was. Last week, my long pond swim was 7.43 miles. I tapped out that day due to some niggles in one shoulder and soreness in a pectoral muscle. After 8.25 Tuesday, my body felt sound. That's a good sign. Ideally, the last big swim is exactly two weeks before the event. I am preaching a funeral this Saturday so that is out. I am preaching anther funeral in Memphis next Wednesday, ten days before D Day, the day I like a shorter but still long swim. Consequently the calendar is thrown off because of life. That's OK. With all of that in mind, maybe I can ride back out to the pond Thursday and just see what happens. I will listen to my body and if it lets me go long, I will go long. I'd be delighted with a nine or ten mile swim.