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On The Trail

Spring things

The greening of spring can envelop a man with inspiration — a young manured rye field underfoot stretching out in rich, vibrant green to a faraway budding border of faint pastels, high and low, some reds and browns daubed in, the streams at a swollen mumble, soothing from afar, as birds flitter about the beaver swamp, greener still, nest-building to rapturous mating songs. Thought stirs, nothing serious, just random introspection bouncing about like mayfly ovipositors on placid water, as you enjoy a brisk ramble fueled by cool, liberating morning air to expand your lungs, sharpen the senses.

Turkey season opens Monday, and although it’s again unlikely I’ll partake, I wish the fellas the best. Judging from what I’ve seen in my travels, it should be a good year, flocks of turkeys everywhere all winter and fall, big ones, even one I saw with 12 big toms, rare indeed, five to eight more typical. Let’s just hope this lymphoproliferative disease virus, or LPDV, doesn’t find its way here from the Southeast. If it does, our flocks could take a serious hit. No time for that discussion now, though. The tip just arrived today from a faraway learned friend, and I just don’t have time to chase it with grandson Jordie in town. Google it if your interest’s piqued. When I get a chance, I’ll do some digging and return to the subject if warranted. Promise.

Oh yeah, before I move onto other stuff, including Bullhead Pond, the location of which in the Greenfield Meadows is still bugging me, I ate my first fiddleheads Tuesday and they were delicious. Some things just taste healthy, fiddleheads among them. I stir-fried the tasty morsels hot in a little grapeseed oil with fresh-ground pepper and pink Himalayan salt, topped with a thin layer of Parmesan. Yeeeummy! So get out there, fellas. The pickin’s prime. I was surprised to find some already gone by, yet many clumps to come, a week and more away. Nice!

But back to the mystery location of Bullhead Pond, said by late, revered Greenfield historian Mary P. Wells Smith (1840-1930) — she of “Boy Captive” fame — to be the home of Greenfield’s last Indian, presumably around the turn of the 19th century. Smith’s oral tradition, passed from famed Deerfield Indian fighter Asa Childs to her father, placed the pond by an active spring in the western part of the Meadows. Judging from that description, I thought I had the site nailed after a meandering tour with an abutting landowner I work with. But — whoa! — not so fast. My trusted colleague came up with a little wrinkle over the Easter Weekend, when his oldest uncle stopped by and placed Bullhead Pond near where Davenport Trucking now stands. Then, when his 86-year-old grandmother, a Greenfield native who grew up on Conway Street, jumped into the discussion, she concurred the Bullhead Pond she knew was the same one her oldest son had identified off Colrain Street before it vanished with Interstate 91 construction. But it gets better. A day or two after the column hit the street, an email addressing the subject arrived from a man who did not identify himself but had “wrwando” for an email handle. His observation was that the only Bullhead Pond he knew sat at the site of today’s Davenport’s location. Something else: He spelled it the same way Smith had, Bull Head, which begs the question of whether its name was a reflection of its shape or the hornpout caught there? Hmmmmm? Another mystery to chase.

But back to Mr. Wrwando, which I’m guessing is a nickname for someone with the common Franklin County surname Wandeloski. Anyway, the email read: “I spent the greater part of my life growing up in the Colrain Street area of Greenfield. The area around the Green River and the Bull Head was our stomping ground when we were growing up. Bull Head Pond was located on the southeast corner of the intersection of Woodard and Colrain roads. There was another pond on the southwest corner which is still there. I can remember as children my Dad taking us to the Bull Head to fish in the summer and to skate in the winter. Unfortunately, there were no restrictions on wetlands that we have today. Davenport began to fill in that pond to expand the area for equipment. The result is what you see there today: no pond and lots of heavy equipment.”

OK. I accept that old pond by Davenport’s being known during the 20th century as Bullhead Pond. However, I still think the site I visited along the western edge of the Lower Meadows is the more likely spot for the last Indian wigwam, because it would have been out of sight, out of mind, not just off the road on the outskirts of downtown. A contributing factor to my conclusion is that the father of the colleague who toured the property with me identified Bullhead Pond at the back of his property, and even spontaneously told of a stone pile there that he and his childhood friends called the Indian grave. That’s important. Yes, this dried-up pond that’s known to few today still carries Indian legend as it did in Mary P. Wells Smith day, a century ago.

I am well aware that a man like me ought to be careful what gets printed about a subject like this, and I am being careful because I don’t want to be responsible for creating inaccurate history, always difficult to erase. That said, I’m still leaning toward the old pond along The Meadow’s western perimeter, now a spring-hole marsh at the base of Greenfield Mountain near GCC’s garage, as the home of Greenfield’s last Indian. I could be otherwise persuaded, but need more evidence to pull me over by Davenport’s, which could in no way be described as sitting in the western part of the meadows no matter how you twisted it. Plus, I have a suspicion Ms. Smith, much older than any of our current sources, knew the pond she spoke of well. Maybe I’m giving her too much respect, but I don’t think she would have pinpointed that pond for publication in her friend Lucy Cutler Kellogg’s History of Greenfield, 1900-1929 unless she was certain of where that last Indian lived. If the pond she was talking about sat at Davenport’s, wouldn’t she have described it as next to Green River instead of at the western edge of the Meadows?

Then again, maybe she was getting old, or perhaps Ms. Kellogg (1866-1956) was going deaf and heard western when Smith said eastern. Then again, maybe Kellogg knew it was eastern and wrote western by mistake. The possibilities are endless, I suppose.

Trust me, I’ll figure it out.

q

No sooner did I mention last week that it should be about time for the shad to start running and — Bingo! — the annual spawning run began. Yes, the Barrett Fish Lift at the Holyoke Dam lifted its first fish the day last week’s column hit the street, passed nine additional shad before closing down Saturday due to high water. Although that lift was still closed Wednesday, the West Springfield Project on the Westfield River and the Rainbow Fishway on the Farmington River in Connecticut are still up and running. The migration will start picking up as the river warms. The water temperature in Holyoke this week is 45.5 Fahrenheit, too cold. The run annually peaks in the 60s and ends at just under 70, when upstream migration stops and spawning rituals start. Ah, spring.

Which reminds me of an email I received this week from a West Springfield shad fisherman named Jim Johnson, who targeted the Enfield (Conn.) Dam as a problem site in the Connecticut Valley fish-passage network.

“The shad will not be able make it up the Connecticut River to Holyoke if something is not done about removing or lowering the height of the old Enfield (Conn.) Dam just south of Route 190,” he wrote. “The only time I have ever observed a satisfactory number of upstream migrants is when the river is near flood stage. Years when the ice-out and spring rains come before the spawn migration, the number of fish caught in the Agawam section of the river is miniscule. Similar problems are experienced with alewives in Rhode Island. If the gates of the old Windsor Locks Canal were to be opened even partially, it would allow some shad to circumvent the dam. This would be an alternative to demolishing this nonfunctional entity that opponents argue would lower the river and destroy recreational use in the 15-mile stretch from Enfield to Holyoke. Another catch 22? Maybe so, but it would help the problem. I know I sound like just another voice crying, ‘Damn the damn dams’,”

No, not really, Jim. I’m no ally of the power companies. But we’ll have to wait and see what transpires after a much-better-than-expected run last year, when for the first time in many decades, a half-million shad passed Holyoke.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that continued?

Yeah, then we could focus on getting them through Turners Falls to their traditional stopping point of Bellows Falls, Vt.

q

Speaking of fishing, the Western District trucks are still rocking and rolling on highways and byways near you, with scheduled stops this week at the upper Deerfield River and Ashfield Lake, also at Clesson Brook in Ashfield/Buckland, South River in Ashfield/Conway, and Pelham Brook in Charlemont. T’other side of Franklin County, Connecticut Valley District trucks are scheduled for visits at the Millers and Sawmill rivers, Mill River in Deerfield/Whately, Pauchaug, Roaring and Mill brooks in Northfield, Cranberry Pond in Sunderland, Forestry Camp Pond in Warwick, and Puffers Pond in North Amherst.

Before I go, a quick note on the Ashfield Lake stocking: Old friend and half-assed relative Russell Williams called to alert anglers that his Ashfield Rod & Gun Club stocked 10 Tags-N-Trout rainbow trout as part of this week’s supplement. Each tag is redeemable for $20 gift certificates to either Ashfield Neighbors Convenience Store, Ashfield Lake House or Ashfield Hardware Store. The tags can be turned in at the convenience-store hang-out.

Recorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a longtime member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Blog: www.tavernfare.com. Email: gary@oldtavernfarm.com.

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