My earliest memories of Chartley Pond are of my dad and me, fishing by the railroad crossing, and catching hornpout, which is a species of bullhead catfish. My dad warned me that their whiskers, of which they have eight, will sting if they touch you. Actually, it’s not the whiskers, but three fins — two pectoral and one dorsal – that have a poisonous sting. Hornpout also have a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth and slimy skin rather than scales like other fish. They are odd. Many folks eat catfish, but my dad would throw them back. We sometimes caught small carp and sunfish at Chartley pond, but it wasn’t the greatest spot for fishing.
Through most of my youth there was a Bristol Farms ice cream stand on the hill overlooking Chartley Pond. They had a to-go window, where they sold ice cream in waffle cones, and frappes. Also, around the corner from Chartley Pond was the Wetherell Paint Store, where my dad would stop to buy paint and socialize. Next door was the fire station, where I was sometimes able to climb up on the fire engines. The Wetherell Paint Store was actually opened by former fire chief Hank Wetherell. Across the street was the Chartley Country Store, where one could buy specialty meats, American cheese and to-die-for marinated mushrooms.
A stone’s throw from the deli sat the Chartley Methodist Church, with whom we, at the North Rehoboth Methodist church, had always shared our pastor. Two churches, one minister. There were always these underlying jealousies, especially since the parsonage was on the property adjoining the Chartley church, and our church was way the hell up in North Rehoboth. I barely remember ever stepping foot in the Chartley Church. It always just felt like there was some bad juju there. (That’s Methodist humor right there, which is a contradiction in terms.)
Back in the 1980’s, my first wife and I would sometimes go canoeing at Chartley Pond. We’d haul our heavy green Coleman canoe to the water’s edge, and set out onto the placid water with lunch, and a few wine coolers. Since most sections of the pond were fairly secluded, my wife would sometimes remove her shirt to soak up the sun. In fact, we had precarious canoe sex out there on Chartley Pond. Caution was a must, because not only are there slimy hornpout with stinging dorsal fins in those murky depths, but it’s also populated with snapping turtles! Good reasons to keep any dangling appendages in the boat.
I haven’t found a secluded pond to dip my paddle in out here in Seattle, but I do have my moments of connecting with nature, whether it’s communing with the hummingbird hovering over my head, while taking my lunch break behind a nearby church; or sitting in my front yard, between two steadfast evergreen trees, catching glimpses of the orbiting moon through the foliage. Those moments are like life preservers in these tumultuous times, and I cherish each one.