Aquarium month! Oh, that sounds so simple, conjuring visions of little fish tanks with happy fish swimming around inside.
I got into the aquarium habit when I foolishly purchased some goldfish for a small pond we had in Minnesota. The pond wasn't deep enough for the fish to overwinter, so I had to buy an aquarium in which to house them in the winter.
P.I.T.A. Seriously. It morphed into a BIG fish tank (where my spouse grew plants), the fish produced more fish, the pond became too small and .... eventually it was all sold and voila: no more aquariums!
Here's a story I wrote when we had the pond (I wrote many such stories about Nature Girl in the wild). We nicknamed our house "Chateau Boles-Wilso" because apparently we were on mailing lists that appended our two last names (but did not have room for all the letters).
Anyway: Here you go: Nature Girl (my nickname) defends the Goldfish...
Many of our readers are aware of the fact that I, Nature Girl, once again expanded the family to include several Finned Friends of the Gold Fish variety. Said FF are swimming contentedly in the new pond in the gardens of the Chateau Boles-Wilso.
Last week, a Pond Crisis was narrowly averted -- the chemical balance of the pond had gone askew (due to dumbness on the part of moi). A quick trip to the Wet Pet Fish Store resulted in the Magic Chemical Enzyme, which righted the chemical imbalance. <whew>. Crisis averted.
I was relaxing next to the pond after performing the weekly water tests (which confirmed that the crisis was averted) when I noticed an odd stick in the water. No, an odd stick that was bouncing around in the pond. No, IT WAS A SNAKE!!!!!
I leapt into attack mode; no way was a lousy snake going to eat the FF (all of whom proved that they have brains of one molecule or less because they merrily swam around, oblivious to the Evil Intruder in their midst). Grabbing my trusty dowels (used to pull out Icky Things from the pond), I whapped at the snake, who promptly slithered ACROSS THE SURFACE (I thought only certain Christians could do that) of the pond and burrowed under some rocks at the side of the pond.
I proceeded to whap on the rocks, trying to drive it out so I could snag it with my sticks. The FF, in the meantime, took the whapping to mean that it was food time, because taps on the rocks have meant that in the past. They queued up in their Food Spot, dangerously exposed to the Vermin in the Pond. I hastily tossed some food in to them, luring them over to the other side of the pond. Then, without thought of injury or Care for Self, I promptly moved the rocks to expose THE EVIL ONE. The BIG Evil One.
It slithered to the bottom of the pond; oh, shit, panic. How to get it out. I started grabbing plants (all of whom are floaters and thus, not attached, so to speak) and tossed them out onto the beach. The FF were merrily chomping away on fish flakes, oblivious to the lurking Beast of 10,000 fathoms (okay, .5 fathom, maybe). I saw it, coiled around the bottom, near the pump. Taking a deep breath, I plunged a hand in to the pond (yes, dumb, because I had no idea what kind of snake it was. But the FF were in danger, so into danger I went).
I suspect the sight of a disembodied hand coming toward it awakened primal fears of octupi, because the snake slithered upwards and flopped up onto the bank, facing me. It proceeded to coil up and HISS at me (how dare it!), and I got my first good look at it. At least two feet long, maybe longer; black, with long yellow stripes; about an inch wide, maybe fatter. Nasty thing. I plunged at it with my dowels, undoubtedly looking like an aging Zorro with wooden sticks. It slithered into the water again, and I once again started pulling out plants and diverting the FF, who had polished off their krill and were bobbing around, looking for more (I flung some pellets at them; they probably talked about this all night -- "wow, good chow today, I wonder why" "maybe that big floating stick had something to do with it").
I probed and poked for about 10 minutes, but I couldn't find it. I even (shudder) rolled up my pants and cautiously got into the pond to feel around the pump (I put on a pair of garden gloves, in case the damn thing could bite me). Somehow, it slithered away while my back was turned. I lifted all the rocks (surprising a few toads, who jumped in the pond and I then had to capture and release them -- my, they are slippery little dudes, aren't they?) When I was finally convinced that the Evil One had left, I collapsed on the bank, watched by the still hungry FF.
What the heck. I tossed them some more krill and got myself a beer out of the fridge and sat down and congratulated myself on surviving the attack of the Beast of .5 Fathoms.
The Evil One has not been sighted since. I can only hope that I have convinced it that This Is Not The Pond For You and You Are Not Wanted Here. I rearranged some of the rocks so Evil Ones cannot sunbathe there, nor can they hide out and surprise those who enjoy ponds. A quick look in my books assured me that this was a garter snake -- lethal to FF, but not to NG.
Let this be a lesson to us all. Ponds, while nice, can harbor Not So Nice Visitors. Passports should be required, so we could examine them at the border and reject those we don't want. However, this is Nature, and it just don't work that way.